BOBBY THE BRAIN
Raymond Louis Heenan (November 1, 1944 – September 17, 2017), better known as Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, was an American professional wrestling manager, wrestler, and color commentator, best known for his time with the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He was known for his skill in drawing heel heat for himself and his wrestlers, and for his on-screen repartee with Gorilla Monsoon as a color commentator. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, by Blackjack Lanza. Wrestling journalists Dave Meltzer and Wade Keller noted that Heenan is generally considered to be the greatest pro wrestling manager of all time.
- 1Professional wrestling career
- 2Other media
- 3Personal life
- 4In wrestling
- 5Awards and accomplishments
- 8External links
Professional wrestling career
Early life and career
Heenan was born in Chicago on November 1, 1944. Always a fan of wrestling growing up in Chicago and Indianapolis, he started in the wrestling profession early on, carrying bags and jackets for the wrestlers, and selling refreshments at the events. Dropping out of school in the eighth grade to support his mother and grandmother, his first break in the wrestling business was as a heel manager and wrestler in 1965 when he was known as “Pretty Boy” Bobby Heenan. His gimmick over the years more or less remained the same; a tough talking big mouth who cowered in fear when being physically confronted. At the time, heels were often given managers to speak for them in interviews, rile up the crowd during matches, and cheat on their behalf. He went on to manage some of the most successful wrestlers in the world, creating “The Heenan Family“, a stable that existed in several different incarnations and wrestling promotions for over 20 years.
World Wrestling Association (1967–1974)
In 1967, Heenan became a regular in the Indianapolis-based WWA promotion both as wrestler and manager. He initially managed Angelo Poffo and Chris Markoff. He later managed the Assassins (Guy Mitchell and Joe Tomasso), The Valiant Brothers and The Blackjacks. He also occasionally wrestled with a storyline “brother” Guy Heenan, the aforementioned Guy Mitchell. Starting in 1969, he also made occasional appearances in the American Wrestling Association. In 1974, he left the WWA. He attributed his departure from the WWA to a dispute with owner Dick the Bruiser over his pay for his participation in the first-ever wrestling event held at Market Square Arena, emphatically stating that he never returned to the promotion as a result.
American Wrestling Association (1974–1984)
In his first appearance in the AWA in 1974, Heenan announced he was now to be known as “The Brain”. He took up managing the team of Nick Bockwinkel and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, a duo which became several-time AWA World Tag Team Champions under his leadership. While Bockwinkel and Stevens feuded with The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser, Bruiser famously called Heenan “Weasel”; this led to faces calling him “Weasel” throughout the rest of his wrestling career. The AWA was the starting point for his first Heenan Family, which consisted of Bockwinkel, Stevens, Bobby Duncum Sr., and Blackjack Lanza.
In 1975, with Heenan in his corner, Bockwinkel captured his first of several AWA World Heavyweight Championships, ending the seven-year reign of perennial champion Verne Gagne. While Bockwinkel was AWA Champion in 1976, Lanza and Duncum captured the AWA World Tag Team Championship, making Heenan the first manager in history to simultaneously manage both a major promotion’s singles and tag team champions.
In early 1979, Heenan left the AWA (suspended one year, in storyline) to work in Georgia Championship Wrestling, a tenure he later said he did not enjoy due to his dislike of then booker Ole Anderson. He returned in late 1979 and resumed managing Nick Bockwinkel to renewed championship success, including against a young Hulk Hogan in 1983. He also managed Ken Paterafollowing his return to the AWA in 1982. During AWA’s tour of Japan in 1983, Heenan suffered a neck injury that would limit his in-ring ability going forward.
In September 1984, Heenan came out during an AWA interview with the Fabulous Ones and initiated a kayfabe brawl in the TV studio with them. Wally Karbo announced on the September 28 AWA broadcast that Heenan had been (kayfabe) suspended indefinitely from the AWA as a manager and wrestler by AWA President Stanley Blackburn. In reality, he was leaving the AWA.
World Wrestling Federation
In 1984, Vince McMahon lured Heenan away from the AWA to manage Jesse “The Body” Ventura. While most of the AWA talent left for the WWF during this time without giving proper notice (the AWA required departing talent to work a six-week notice for booking and syndication-based reasons, with most talent claiming that McMahon paid them extra not to work out their notices with the AWA), only Heenan worked out his notice in good faith to the Gagne family.
With Ventura unable to wrestle, Heenan managed Big John Studd in his feud against André the Giant about who was the true giant in professional wrestling (André was billed as being 7’4″ (224 cm) while Studd was 6’10” (208 cm)), and challenged André to a US$15,000 bodyslam match against Studd at the first WrestleMania, where André had to retire from wrestling if he had lost the match. André won the match and then took the bag with the $15,000 and started throwing it out to the crowd before Heenan snatched the bag.
Heenan reformed the Heenan Family, which over the years in the WWF would include Studd, “Olympic Strong Man” Ken Patera, “Playboy” Buddy Rose, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, André the Giant, High Chief Sivi Afi, the Brain Busters (former Four Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), “Ravishing” Rick Rude, “King” Harley Race, the Islanders (Haku and Tama), Hercules, The Barbarian, Mr. Perfect, The Red Rooster, and The Brooklyn Brawler. Heenan and the Heenan Family had a feud with Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, and Heenan managed two WrestleMania challengers to Hogan’s title, King Kong Bundy in 1986, and André the Giant in 1987. While neither Bundy nor André won the title at that time, André later bested Hogan for the championship on The Main Event on February 5, 1988, in a controversial win after he aligned himself with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Mike Johnson of Pro Wrestling Insider reported that Heenan had received a six-figure payoff for his work in promoting the event—arguably the largest pay day in any managerial career.
After being derided by announcers for his first five years in the WWF (mostly by Gorilla Monsoon) for never managing a champion, WrestleMania V was promoted (mostly by Jesse Ventura and later Gorilla Monsoon) as Heenan’s quest, and best chance since WrestleMania III to manage a champion. Heenan finally managed his first champion in the WWF when “Ravishing” Rick Rude upset The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Intercontinental Championship, a match Heenan insured Rude would win by holding Warrior’s leg down so he could not break the pin. Shortly thereafter, he led the Brain Busters to the WWF World Tag Team championship. A few months later after the Busters had lost the titles back to Demolition, he led the Colossal Connection (André and Haku) to the Tag Team Championship when they defeated Demolition. Demolition would win the titles back in WrestleMania VI. Immediately after the loss, Heenan began blaming the loss to Andre the Giant going as far as slapping him. A few months after that, he led Mr Perfect to the first of two Intercontinental Championships.
Heenan also wrestled sporadically in his WWF run. In his in-ring debut at Madison Square Garden in November 1984, he pinned Salvatore Bellomo. Heenan’s most notable victory came at WrestleMania IV, teaming with The Islanders to defeat The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware. The following year, he was defeated in 30 seconds by former client The Red Rooster at WrestleMania V. Heenan also had a feud with The Ultimate Warrior, who reintroduced Heenan to Weasel Suit matches, which Heenan had during his time in the AWA.
Heenan also had a parody talk show known as The Bobby Heenan Show, which was broadcast in four segments during the second half of WWF’s regular weekly program Prime Time Wrestling. It was co-hosted by Jamison Winger and featured several overweight women known as The Oinkettes.
Heenan retired from managing in 1991 to become a full-time “broadcast journalist”. Nonetheless, Heenan crossed the line to managing sporadically. When the WWF signed Ric Flair, Heenan spent several weeks talking Flair up as “The Real World’s Heavyweight Champion”. He continued to act as an adviser to Flair during his 1991-93 WWF run. Though he nominally managed Flair, Heenan’s former protégé Mr. Perfect, who temporarily retired due to injury, would regularly accompany Flair to ringside as his “Executive Consultant”. At the 1993 Royal Rumble, he introduced Lex “Narcissist” Luger to the WWF to exact revenge on his former protégé, Mr. Perfect.
In 1986, WWF owner Vince McMahon took full advantage of his microphone and comedic skills and Heenan became a color commentator in addition to his managing duties. He replaced Jesse Ventura on Prime Time Wrestling and All American Wrestling, aired on the USA Network, teaming up with Gorilla Monsoon. He also replaced Ventura to team up with Monsoon on the syndicated All-Star Wrestling, which was replaced in the fall of 1986 with Wrestling Challenge. Heenan and Monsoon’s usually-unscripted banter was very entertaining, and inspired many classic moments. Heenan, calling himself a “broadcast journalist”, openly rooted for the heels while they cheated or did something under-handed and referred to the fans of the face wrestlers as the humanoids, and babyface wrestlers, especially jobbers, as “ham-and-eggers.” Another classic moment between Heenan and Monsoon occurred repeatedly when Heenan went on a long rant supporting the heel wrestlers, until an exasperated Gorilla Monsoon would say either, “Will you stop?”, “Give me a break!”, or a sarcastic, “Please!”.
Heenan, still suffering from the broken neck he received ten years earlier and unable to cope with the long working hours, decided to leave the WWF at the end of 1993. He was given an on-air farewell by Gorilla Monsoon on the edition of December 6, 1993 of Monday Night Raw, broadcast from the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York. Monsoon who, in kayfabe, was fed up by Heenan’s constant insults, literally threw him and his belongings out of the arena and onto the street. Heenan mentioned that the idea was his and Monsoon’s. Afterwards, Heenan stated that he and Monsoon embraced each other and wept for over an hour in the hotel where they both were staying. Later, in an interview, Heenan recalls the incident saying he chose Monsoon to throw him out of the WWF seeing it as appropriate. He also poked fun at Monsoon saying he ate the bananas that Monsoon brought as a going away gift for Heenan.
Heenan’s original plan was to retire, spend time with his family, and relax, but he was contacted by WCW soon after he left the WWF. He was unsure at first, but accepted their offer once he found out that WCW provided lighter work schedules and health insurance. Heenan also cited the short driving distance between WCW’s home base of Atlanta and his daughter’s school in Alabama.
World Championship Wrestling (1994–2000)
On January 27, 1994, Heenan made his debut in World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He was originally brought in to replace Jesse Ventura, his former client, as the color commentator for WCW Saturday Night and eventually took over Ventura’s position as the company’s lead commentator, replacing him for pay-per-view events and on the syndicated WCW Worldwide and Clash of the Champions events produced for TBS. When WCW Monday Nitro premiered in September 1995, Heenan left Saturday Night to work on the new show full-time and joined former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael as an analyst alongside play-by-play man Eric Bischoff. Heenan said he was uninspired in WCW due to the negative work environment, which he later described as night and day compared to the WWF, and due to conflicts with Bischoff and Tony Schiavone.
In 1996, Heenan made a one-off return to ringside at The Great American Bash as the manager of two of his former clients, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, in a tag team match against his broadcast colleague McMichael and then-Carolina Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene. Heenan was instrumental in convincing McMichael to turn on his partner, which enabled Flair and Anderson to win the match, and fill the open spot in The Four Horsemen that Brian Pillman left behind when he departed the company earlier in the year.
Starting in late January 2000, WCW replaced Heenan on Monday Nitro and pay-per-view events with Mark Madden. Heenan continued to commentate on Thunder along with Mike Tenay until April 2000. The two were then joined by Tony Schiavone in April 2000. Heenan was then replaced by Stevie Raybeginning in July 2000 on Thunder. Heenan was then only seen with Scott Hudson on Worldwide until he was released by WCW in November 2000.
Heenan appeared for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) on the December 3, 2005 episode of TNA Impact!, He made a brief appearance to start the show, saying he came to watch TNA. On the following episode of Impact!, Heenan appeared alongside Chicago White Sox catcher A. J. Pierzynski and strength coach Dale Torborg when they presented TNA wrestlers A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin, and Sonjay Dutt with autographed gifts from the team. They were interrupted by The Diamonds in the Rough. At the Turning Point pay-per-view, Heenan provided commentary for the Six Man Tag Team Basebrawl match between The Diamonds in the Rough and the team of Sabin, Torborg and Dutt. On the September 7, 2006 episode of Impact!, Heenan appeared making a bid to manage “free agent” Robert Roode.
He was one of the speakers on “Mr McMahon appreciation night” in his last WWE appearance in 2007.
Heenan was honored by the Pro Wrestling Report at the annual Blizzard Brawl event on December 5, 2009 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as he was given their Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to this, The mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, declared December 5, 2009 to be “Bobby Heenan Day”.
He has written two career memoirs, 2002’s Bobby The Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All, and 2004’s Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches which has an introduction by Ric Flair. Both books were co-written by Steve Anderson.
In 2004, he joined former WCW commentators Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko in providing commentary for the video game Showdown: Legends of Wrestling. After his Hall of Fame induction, Heenan provided comments for use in WWE documentary releases. In December 2010, WWE released a retrospective two-disc DVD on Heenan’s career.
Family and friends
Heenan was married to the former Cynthia Jean Perrett (known as Cindy) from June 21, 1978 until his death. Together they had a daughter, Jessica Ida Heenan (married name Solt, born 1978). He also had two grandchildren.
Although on-screen they were often at odds, Heenan was actually very close with his WWF broadcast partner Gorilla Monsoon. He was also close friends with Gene Okerlund. Various other people involved with the wrestling business, including Jim Ross, on-screen adversary Hulk Hogan and Ted DiBiase, noted their close friendships with Heenan on their Twitter accounts after he died.
Health and death
In January 2002, Heenan announced that he had throat cancer. Heenan later recovered from throat cancer, but lost a great deal of weight, dramatically changing his appearance and voice. Following early treatments, he spoke in a soft, high-pitched tone which contrasts noticeably with the tone fans were accustomed to hearing him use as a color commentator. He went from 231 pounds (105 kg) to 190 pounds (86 kg) or even less.
In December 2007, Heenan had reconstructive surgery on his jaw, after the first surgery was unsuccessful. He was placed in a medically-induced coma and was slowly brought out. In the second half of January 2008, he had come out of his medically induced coma. Though not yet able to speak, he was communicating with his eyes. He had several more surgeries to reconstruct facial features. In October 2008, it was reported that he was able to speak a few sentences before getting tired. In February 2009, it was reported that he was still relearning how to speak clearly and out of the hospital.
On December 11, 2009, Heenan was hospitalized at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida after an examination of his rebuilt jaw found an infection that needed to be treated. By 2010, his jaw infection was completely eradicated. In 2010, he broke a hip and his shoulder in a fall and recovered within a few months.
According to an interview given by Jim Ross in October 2013, Heenan was “hanging in there” and continuing to have trouble speaking as a result of tongue cancer treatments. In April 2014, while in Las Vegas to attend a wedding, he fell out of bed and broke a shoulder. In May 2016, he fell again and broke a hip.
On September 17, 2017, Heenan died at the age of 72 while surrounded by family at his home in Largo, Florida. His cause of death was organ failure due to complications from the throat cancer which had been in remission since 2004.
- Wrestlers managed
- Nick Bockwinkel
- Ray “The Crippler” Stevens
- Angelo Poffo
- Bobby Duncum Sr.
- Big John Studd
- Ken Patera
- King Kong Bundy
- André the Giant
- “Ravishing” Rick Rude
- “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff
- Harley Race
- Hercules Hernandez
- The Barbarian
- “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig
- The Red Rooster
- The Brooklyn Brawler
- Ric Flair
- Lex Luger
- The Missing Link
- King Haku
- Buddy Rose
- Butch Reed
- Colt Cabana
- Jimmy Jacobs
- Nigel McGuinness
- CM Punk
- Baron von Raschke
- Ernie Ladd
- Dick Warren
- Jon “Jumbo” Bailey
- Killer Karl Kox
- Masked Superstar
- Tag team managed
- Nick Bockwinkel and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens
- The Blackjacks (Blackjack Lanza and Blackjack Mulligan)
- The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard)
- The Colossal Connection (André the Giant and Haku)
- The Islanders (Haku and Tama)
- The Assassins (Guy Mitchell & Joe Tomasso)
- The Valiant Brothers
Awards and accomplishments
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Iron Mike Mazurki Award (2004)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Pro Wrestling Report
- Lifetime Achievement Award (2009)
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2010
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Bobby Heenan with Steve Anderson. Bobby The Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All. Triumph Books. 2002. ISBN 1-57243-465-1
- Bobby Heenan with Steve Anderson. Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches. Sports Publishing. 2004. ISBN 1-58261-762-7
- Genzlinger, Neil (September 18, 2017). “Bobby Heenan, Professional Wrestling Personality, Dies at 72”. New York Times.
- “Bobby Heenan’s SLAM! Profile”. SLAM! Sports. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- “Bobby Heenan’s OWW Profile”. Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- Meltzer, Dave (September 17, 2017). “Bobby Heenan Passes Away At 73 Years Old”. Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- Keller, Wade (September 17, 2017). “Bobby Heenan: Remembering the greatest and explaining why he is widely regarded as the greatest at what he did”. Wade Keller Hotline. – via PWTorch.com (subscription required)
- “Beyond the Ring”.
- “Bobby Heenan’s 411Mania Profile”. 411Mania.com. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- Johnson, Mike (September 17, 2017). “Looking back at the illustrious career of Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan”. PWInsider. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- Heenan, B: “Bobby The Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All.”, page 32. Triumph Books, 2002.
- Van Der Griend, Blaine (September 17, 2017). “Former wrestling manager Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan dead at 73”. Toronto Sun. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA DVD
- “WrestleMania Results”. WWE. Archived from the original on March 31, 2008. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- “Powell’s WrestleMania 6 review: Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship and Intercontinental Championship, Ted DiBiase vs. Jake Roberts, Andre the Giant and Haku vs. Demolition for the WWF Tag Titles”. Pro Wrestling Dot Net. April 5, 2014. Retrieved September 18,2017.
- “It’s time for the Bobby Heenan Show”. ddtdigest.com. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- Sullivan, Kevin (2010). The WWE Championship: A Look Back at the Rich History of the WWE Championship. New York: Gallery Books. ISBN 1439193215.
- WWE.com Archived December 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Heenan, B: “Bobby The Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All.”, page 90. Triumph Books, 2002.
- Heenan, B: “Bobby The Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All.”, page 94. Triumph Books, 2002.
- “Bobby Heenan Interview”. gerweck.net. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved August 24,2007.
- Heenan, B: “Bobby The Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All.”, page 97. Triumph Books, 2002.
- “2007 Wrestling Almanac & Book of Facts: Great American Bash 1996”. Wrestling’s Historical Cards. Kappa Publishing. 2007. p. 144.
- “Ring of Honor – All-Star Extravaganza II Results”. Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- “TNA Prime Time Special Results 12/8/05”. Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- “Official Results From Thursday’s Impact! On SpikeTV”. tnawrestling.com. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
- Martin, Adam (November 28, 2009). “Bobby Heenan to get lifetime award”. WrestleView. Archived from the original on September 27, 2012.
- Leeper, Justin (June 24, 2004). “GameSpy: Showdown: Legends of Wrestling”. GameSpy. Archived from the original on December 16, 2005. Retrieved February 24,2015.
- Heenan, B: “Bobby The Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All.”, page xi. Triumph Books, 2002.
- Okerlund, Gene. “I love this man. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan GOpic.twitter.com/ceApWTTImr”.
- “WWE, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan & More Comment on Bobby Heenan’s Passing – 411MANIA”. 411mania.com.
- WWE News: Royal Rumble Tickets, Bobby Heenan Health Update Archived December 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- “Bobby Heenan breaks hip and shoulder, fractures pelvis”. PWInsider. July 29, 2010. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- “Jim Ross Q&A: Bobby Heenan Update, Taking Pay Cuts In WWE, Brawl For All – SEScoops”. October 26, 2013.
- “WWE Hall of Famer Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan reportedly hospitalized”. Fox Sports. May 4, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- “WWE Hall of Famer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan passes away”. WWE. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
- Guzzo, Paul (September 17, 2017). “Wrestling star Bobby “The Brain” Heenan of Largo is dead at 72″. Tampa Bay Times.
- Paul Guzzo (September 18, 2017). “Wrestling legend Bobby “the Brain” Heenan of Largo dies at 72″. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
- Ross, Jim (July 31, 2012). “Jim Ross on Bobby Heenan, Gorilla Monsoon”. WWE. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
- Wrestling 93: Rulebreaker, Spring 1993 Issue, Article “Bobby Heenan and Lex Luger: The Total Package of Brain and Brawn!”, pp.48-51.
- Robertson, Dewey; Meredith Renwick (2006). Bang Your Head: The Real Story of The Missing Link. ECW Press. p. 134. ISBN 1-55022-727-0.
- Varsallone, Jim (September 17, 2014). “RIP: A life look at WWE Hall of Famer Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan”. Miami Herald. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- James Dixon; Arnold Furious; Lee Maughan (2013). Tagged Classics: Just The Reviews. Lulu.com. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-291-42878-0.
- Delong, Kate (September 17, 2014). “TMZ: WWE Hall of Famer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan dies at 72”. fox6now.com. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- “2012 The Year In Wrestling”. Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Vol. 34 no. 3. March 2013. pp. 43–44.
- “Bobby “The Brain” Heenan”. Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on May 5, 2016.
- “Hall of Fame”. St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- “Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame”. Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- Meltzer, Dave (January 19, 1998). “Jan. 19, 1998 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 18th Annual Newsletter Awards Issue”. Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
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