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Bobby Heenan

Bobby Heenan in August 2003.
-- photo by Steven Johnson

REAL NAME: Raymond Louis Heenan
BORN: November 1st, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois
6'0", 190 pounds
ALIASES/ NICKNAMES: "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan, The Brain, the Weasel

Although he was announced as being from Beverly Hills, Bobby Heenan actually grew up in Chicago, watching wrestling as a fan of Buddy Rogers and the Crusher. And although he is best-known among modern fans as a manager and a "broadcast journalist", he began his wrestling career as an in-ring competitor.

After working behind the scenes in Indianapolis (carrying ring jackets and selling cokes), in 1965, he made his wrestling debut at the age of 17 against Calvin "Prince" Pullins, wrestling as "Pretty Boy" Heenan for Dick the Bruiser's promotion and later, fueding with Pepper Gomez.

While Heenan would never be classed in the same categories as the all-time greats when it came to his wrestling skill, it was his ability on the microphone that would lead him to fame. He soon left the wrestling behind and became a manager.

By the early 1970s, Heenan was leading the Heenan Family, which included Ray Stevens, Bobby Duncam, Sr., Blackjack Lanza and Dick Warren. However, the crown jewel of the Heenan Family was AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkle. On November 8, 1975, Heenan led Bockwinkle to the first of three AWA World Championships, with a victory over Verne Gagne. A year later, on July 23rd, 1976, Heenan led Lanza and Duncum to a victory over the Crusher and the Bruiser to win the AWA Tagteam titles.

In January, 1979, however, Heenan left the AWA, suspended for a year so AWA storylines told, and travelled to Georgia Championship Wrestling to manage there. The Heenan Family then consisted of Lanza, Ernie Ladd, Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie, later Demolition Ax) and Killer Karl Kox. Heenan stayed in Georgia less than a year, returning to manage Bockwinkle in the AWA.

In 1984, Heenan became just one of the many AWA superstars lured away to the WWF by Vince McMahon. Heenan's first charge was to have been future fellow commentator, Jesse "the Body" Ventura. With Ventura's career coming to a close due to blood clots, Heenan was instead paired with Big John Studd.

Soon, the WWF saw the formation of a new Heenan Family, beginning with Studd and including Ken Patera and the Missing Link (Dewey Robertson). Heenan led Studd and Patera into a fued against Andre the Giant, cutting the Giant's hair and leading to a match at the inaugural Wrestlemania. After Patera's arrest, Heenan traded the Missing Link to Jimmy Hart for King Kong Bundy.

Wrestlemania II in 1986 saw Heenan lead Bundy into a steel cage match against WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, just one of many times that Heenan would be in a challenger's corner for a match against Hogan. Although Bundy lost on that occassion, Heenan's effort to unseat Hogan remained undeterred.

1986 saw Heenan come to manage Harley Race, Hercules Hernandez and Paul Orndorff. By this time, Heenan was becoming a fixture at the commentator's desk, joining Gorilla Monsoon on Wrestling Challenge, among other WWF programming. For a short time, USA Network even ran "the Bobby Heenan Show".

In 1987, Heenan was seen as the mastermind behind Andre the Giant's turn against Hulk Hogan. This led Heenan into the main event at Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silverdome. It seemed as though Heenan might finally have found the man to beat Hogan, but it was not to be.

With Heenan still managing Andre towards another shot at Hogan, he also took on the managerial duties for "Ravishing" Rick Rude and the Islanders. In late 1987, Heenan sold the services of Andre to Ted Dibiase and it would be Dibiase that would "manage" Andre to a brief WWF title reign.

At Wrestlemania IV, Heenan would be forced into the ring as he and the Islanders battled Koko B. Ware and the British Bulldogs in a six-man tagteam match that came about after the Islanders kidnapped the Bulldogs' mascot, Matilda. Heenan came prepared, dressing up in a dog handler's outfit as he and the Islanders defeated Ware and the Bulldogs.

Heenan began managing Andre again shortly after Wrestlemania IV, and was in the corner of the Megabucks (Andre and Dibiase) at SummerSlam 88. In late 1988, with Heenan managing Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, aka the Brainbusters, he also took on the task of managing Terry Taylor who he renamed "the Red Rooster" and constantly downplayed his ability until finally "the Rooster" snapped and attacked Heenan. This led to the Brain being actively involved in a match at Wrestlemania for the second straight year, but this time came out on the losing end as the Red Rooster got the victory.

Wrestlemania V wasn't all bad for Heenan, however, as he led Rude to the Intercontinental Championship over the Ultimate Warrior, Heenan's first championship in the WWF. Later in the summer of 1989, Heenan's Brainbusters defeated Demolition to win the WWF Tagteam Championship. After Demolition regained the Tagteam titles (and Anderson and Blanchard departed the WWF) Heenan teamed Andre and Haku and on December 13th, the newly formed "Colossal Connection" won the WWF Tag belts under Heenan's direction.

The Colossal Connection would lose the Tagteam titles back to Demolition at Wrestlemania VI, on April 1st, 1990 in Toronto. After the match, Heenan berated Andre for his part in the loss. Andre took acception to that and belted Heenan, walking out on his now former manager. Heenan would regroup, signing Curt Hennig (aka Mr. Perfect) and helped him defeat Tito Santana in the finals of the Intercontinental title tournament.

In the summer of 1990, Heenan once again was in the corner of Rude as he battled the Ultimate Warrior, only this time it was for the WWF World Championship. Rude would later fued with the Big Boss Man over comments that he and Heenan made about the Boss Man's mother. With Rude departing the WWF, however, Heenan would be forced to answer to the Boss Man in the ring himself.

By the summer of 1991, Heenan's neck injuries forced him to give up his role as a manager and instead Heenan stuck to his role as a commentator or "broadcast journalist" as he wished to be called. Before he stepped away from ringside, he would play a major role in introducing former NWA and WCW World Champion Ric Flair to the WWF and managed him in several matches against WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. After leaving ringside in favour of "Executive Consultant" Curt Hennig, Heenan would continue to be referred to as Flair's "Financial Advisor". Heenan would celebrate with Flair and Hennig after Flair's victory in the 1992 Royal Rumble.

At the end of 1993, Heenan left the WWF after being asked to take a substantial pay cut by Vince McMahon. The WWF set up an angle where Monsoon, frustrated by Heenan's antics, threw Heenan and his belongings out of the arena. Heenan soon signed with WCW because of a lighter travel schedule. Heenan spent the bulk of his WCW career as a part of the broadcast team with the likes of Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko. He courted controversy when, during a 1996 Clash of the Champions telecast, he uttered the "F-word" when Brian Pillman grabbed him and pulled his coat over his shoulders.

Heenan remained at the commentary desk, watching and commentating as WCW rose to its greatest heights, saw the introduction of the N.W.O. and finally, as it began its descent towards eventual oblivion. In November 2000, he received his release from WCW, as the company replaced him with Mark Madden.

In 2001, Heenan returned to the WWF and worked commentary for the gimmick battle royale at Wrestlemania X-7. He also joined Lee Marshall as a commentator for the Women of Wrestling pay-per-view. Later that year, he was diagnosed with throat cancer but embarked on a battle against the disease with humour and courage. In 2002, he teamed with Steve Anderson to write his autobiography Bobby the Brain Heenan: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All, following it up a year later with Chairshots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life's Wrestling Matches.

In March 2004, Bobby Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, appearing at Wrestlemania XX, both during the introduction of the other Hall of Fame inductees and in a backstage skit involving the Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young and Mean Gene Okerlund. A month later, he was the MC at the annual Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas, and was honored by his peers with the Iron Mike Mazurki Award.

Even as he continues to be semi-active with the Ring of Honor organization, Heenan's honors are a fitting tribute to the man who will be fondly remembered as one of the most entertaining men, both in terms of being a manager and a commentator, in the history of the business.

-- compiled by John Milner

BOBBY HEENAN STORIES

  • Jan. 3, 2010: Heenan DVD a must-have
  • Dec. 6, 2005: Heenan announced as 2006 PWHF inductee
  • April 18, 2004: Heenan given CAC's top honor
  • April 4, 2004: Heenan book a gem
  • March 9, 2004: New book, Hall of Fame excites Heenan
  • Feb. 8, 2001: Bobby Heenan - Food for thought
  • Nov 1, 1997: Heenan refuses to take sides