A BOBBY HEENAN TRIBUTE
When you think of inspirational heroes, you picture New York City firefighters, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even Superman. No offense to civil rights icons, fire people and fictional comic book characters, but as a future comedian, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was my hero growing up. I memorized Heenan’s one-liners, I imitated his delivery, and I even got my first laugh from adults by telling one of Heenan’s jokes 15 years before I even knew I wanted to be a comedian.
Bobby Heenan initially gained a reputation with fans as a dastardly manager who would do anything to win his client a match or weasel his way out of a beating. But it was his mouth and more specifically his brain that made Heenan and his clientele successful. Heenan could work the microphone like a select few could, and boy could he sell a show in anywhere in the wrestling world. From St. Paul, Minnesota to San Francisco, California to New York, New York. Bobby Heenan could draw everywhere, and better yet, he could incite a riot in any wrestling territory on any given night, if he wanted to.
The Blackjacks, Nick Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens, Andre the Giant, Paul Orndorff, Rick Rude, Haku, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, & Ric Flair were just a few proud members of the Heenan Family. “The Manager of Champions” made every match he was at ringside for matter. And he made championship matches legendary (see the white tuxedo at WrestleMania III). Whether it was managing the heavyweight-wrestling champion of the world, the very best tag team or a savage king, “The Brain” is thought by the majority of professional wrestlers and pro wresting fans as the greatest wrestling manager to ever live. But there was one thing Heenan may have done even better than managing, color commentary.
As a broadcast journalist, Heenan was untouchable, is, and will always be untouchable. But it was with was with his most memorable broadcast partner where Heenan truly shone. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan & Gorilla Monsoon, known as the consensus greatest commentary team in pro wrestling history have the reputation for a reason. Heenan was the comedic relief. He would always conveniently miss the bad guys cheat, make fun of the crowd favourites and their “humanoid” fans, and he would outright cheer for the villains. Gorilla was the corny good guy straight man. Always cheering on the heroes and condemning the villains, while also keeping Heenan in line with his classic, “WILL YOU STOP!” Even Virgil matches were a pleasure with this commentary team on-duty. On WWF Prime Time Wrestling, Heenan & Monsoon further developed their chemistry with hilarious interviews, skits and on-location “reports”. The day Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan parted ways as a commentary team in the World Wrestling Federation it was hard to remain a wrestling fan (thank you Bret & Owen). Monsoon died at the age of 62 while Heenan was working for World Championship Wrestling. And you could tell by Heenan’s genuine reaction that he truly miss Monsoon. In WCW, Heenan was unhappy, but well paid. Although he never lost his sharp wit and hilarious mannerisms, it got to the point where it seemed as if all he did was make fun of his broadcast partner Tony Shiavone.
On his website in 2002, Heenan announced that he had throat cancer. He said, “I just want to let all the wonderful “humanoids” out there know how grateful I am for the good wishes…
Yes, I do have throat cancer, but I plan on beating this too.
If the late, great Gorilla Monsoon couldn’t shut me up, cancer isn’t going to either…” Heenan has had several surgeries to remove the cancer and repair his jaw. This has done damage to Heenan’s voice and his jaw. Heenan is also much thinner as a result.
Whether he was in a backstage interview, plotting and scheming at ringside, taking a beating from the beloved fan favourite, delivering more laughs per minute than the funniest of comedians, or helping out his family, Bobby Heenan is my hero and he should be your hero too.
– Sean Carleton
Championships and accomplishments:
Cauliflower Alley Club
Iron Mike Mazurki Award (2004)
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
Manager of the Year Award (1972, 1976, 1989, 1991)
Stanley Weston Award (2012)
Pro Wrestling Report
PWR Lifetime Achievement Award (2009)
Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
Class of 2006
St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame
Class of 2010
World Wrestling Entertainment
WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2004)
Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)