Put down your burritos and your beers and listen up, humanoids. I may be a print, digital journalist and not a famous broadcast journalist but even I know there are certain things you can debate in pro wrestling.
You can argue about who the best tag team was. (The Road Warriors.) You can debate the greatest hard-core wrestler. (Mick Foley.) You can squabble about who is the best wrestler in the world today. (Kenny Omega.)
What is not up for debate is who the greatest manager and colour commentator was, is or ever will be. That would be Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Case closed. Inside the locker room, at ringside or at the announce table, he had more hits than Elvis, ham and eggers.
Growing up as a wrestling fan in the 1980s, Heenan was a hero of mine for one reason above anything else. He didn’t just want to beat Hulk Hogan. He wanted to kill Hulk-a-Mania dead and was willing to do anything to accomplish that goal. Like he always said, he knew all about cheating. He had six very successful marriages.
As Hulk Hogan embarked on his four-year reign of terror as WWF World Heavyweight Champion, haters like myself who had grown tired of Hogan’s sugary gimmick and predictable matches, rallied behind anyone who gave us a glimmer of hope. Bobby Heenan and his Family did just that. Whether it was King Kong Bundy, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Harley Race, King Haku or the legend who would eventually get the job done, Andre the Giant, if they were guided by Heenan and supported by the Family, you knew they would at least give Hogan a run for his money and the beating of his life.
Just as Roddy Piper’s contributions to the success of the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling / Hulk-a-Mania era are sometimes not fully appreciated, neither are Heenan’s. Heenan’s obsession with The Hulkster ultimately made him Hogan’s arch-nemesis after his feud with Piper had run its course.
To put it in simple terms for you, the unwashed masses, Hulk Hogan was Superman and Bobby Heenan was Lex Luthor. Without Heenan, Hulk-a-Mania would never have been successful as it was. Heenan was the ultimate heel that fans loved to hate. They hated him so much they dogged him with chants of “Weasel! Weasel!” wherever he appeared. Heenan did what few managers ever accomplished in the history of wrestling and that is to become just as popular and just as important as the in-ring talent to the product and to the fans.
While his contemporaries like Jimmy Hart, Mr. Fuji, Slick, Elizabeth and Paul Bearer would all come into their own in various ways, it was Heenan who was rightfully seen and portrayed as the elite manager of the era in the WWF. In the all-important follow-ups to the very first WrestleMania, it was Heenan and his Family who headlined WrestleMania 2 and WrestleMania 3 with his stable members King Kong Bundy and Andre the Giant challenging Hogan in the main event matches.
Heenan’s leadership would eventually bring the Intercontinental Championship to the Family when “Ravishing” Rick Rude beat The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania V. Truth be told, Heenan was just as responsible for the win as Rude since it was Heenan who held the Ultimate Dummy’s leg so he could not kick out of Rude’s pin.
As the replacement for Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan became an announcer in 1986 teaming with Gorilla Monsoon to create the greatest commentating duo in wrestling history. Their peerless chemistry is often imitated but has never been duplicated… ever.
Heenan’s sharp wit, tongue and intelligence made him into the character he played. Heenan was so good that when he and his microphone moved to WCW, he never lost a step. He was just as good with Tony Schiavone as he was with Monsoon.
Whether he was a manager or a commentator, even those who hated The Brain persona respected Raymond Louis Heenan, the man, for all he contributed to the pro-wrestling industry. He set the standard as a legendary manager, a legendary commentator… and if you didn’t believe him, you could ask him yourself.
As a Heenan fan, I was only too proud to be called a humanoid, a ham and egger and to hear all about Greco-Roman hair pulls, taking people out back and waffling them with a tire iron, how Koko B. Ware’s hair was “Afroturf”, how money can’t buy happiness but giving anyone 50 bucks will make them smile, how trailer homes are condominiums in Tupelo, how the state of New York should have The Bushwackers legally condemned and how a friend in need is a pain in the neck even though Heenan’s monitor always seemed to be conveniently on the fritz and no matter how many times Gorilla Monsoon shouted… Will you stop!
Bobby Heenan wasn’t just The Brain to me. He was a bona fide genius in every way.