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Bobby Heenan

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Raymond Louis Heenan (November 1, 1944), better known as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (or derisively as Bobby "The Weasel" Heenan), is a former American professional wrestling manager and color commentator, best known for his time with the American Wrestling Association (AWA), World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). 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. One of the greatest talkers in the history of professional wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly WWF) has described Heenan as "one of sports-entertainment's best loved legends".

Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 by Blackjack Lanza.

Career

Early career

Always a fan of wrestling growing up in Chicago and Indianapolis, Heenan started in the wrestling profession early on, carrying bags and jackets for the wrestlers, and selling refreshments at the events. Heenan entered the wrestling business as a heel manager in 1965. His gimmick over the years has 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. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan went on to manage some of the most successful wrestlers in the world, creating "The Heenan Family", a stable that existed in several different reincarnations and wrestling promotions for over 20 years. Heenan did not like the term "stable", stating that it should only refer to a place to keep horses.

American Wrestling Association

In 1969, Heenan joined the American Wrestling Association (AWA) as a manager and occasional tag team partner of The Blackjacks, eventually moving on to managing Nick Bockwinkel and Ray "The Crippler" Stevens, a duo which became several-time AWA World tag team champions under Heenan's leadership. The AWA was the starting point for Heenan's 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 titles, 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 title, making Heenan the first manager in history to simultaneously manage both a major promotion's singles and tag team World champions. While Bockwinkel and Stevens feuded with The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser, Dick the Bruiser famously called Heenan "Weasel"; this led to faces calling Heenan "Weasel" throughout the rest of his wrestling career.

In early 1979, Heenan left the AWA to work in the National Wrestling Alliance's Georgia Championship Wrestling group (the kayfabe reason for his departure being given as a one-year suspension from the AWA). He returned in late 1979 and resumed managing Nick Bockwinkel to renewed championship success, including against a young up-and-coming challenger named Hulk Hogan in 1983. Heenan also managed Ken Patera after Patera came to the AWA in 1982, but Patera joined forces with Adnan Al-Kaissie after Heenan suffered a serious neck injury while wrestling in Japan in 1983 and had to take time off.

World Wrestling Federation

Manager

In 1984, Vince McMahon lured Heenan away from the AWA to manage Jesse "The Body" Ventura; however, after Ventura developed blood clots in his lungs, he was forced to end his active wrestling career. Heenan instead became Big John Studd's manager for his feud with André the Giant, and he soon reformed the Heenan Family. Over Heenan's WWF career, the Heenan Family included Studd, Ken Patera, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, André the Giant, High Chief Sivi Afi, The Brain Busters (former Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Harley Race, The Islanders (Haku and Tama), Hercules, The Barbarian, Mr Perfect, Terry Taylor, and The Brooklyn Brawler. As a manager, he was always one of the most hated men, often the most hated man, in the promotion. Heenan once had a famous feud with André the Giant while managing Big John Studd, and famously challenged André to a $15,000 bodyslam match against Studd at the first WrestleMania, where André had to retire from wrestling if he had lost the match.

Heenan and the Heenan Family had a monumental feud with wrestling icon Hulk Hogan in the '80s, and Heenan managed two WrestleMania challengers to Hogan's title, King Kong Bundy in 1986, and André the Giant in 1987. André did not win the title at that time, but later bested Hogan for the championship in 1988 in a controversial win after he aligned himself with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. Heenan also had a famous feud with The Ultimate Warrior, who reintroduced Heenan to Weasel Suit matches, which Heenan had during his time in the AWA.

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 WMIII to manage a champion. Heenan finally managed his first champion in the WWF when "Ravishing" Rick Rude upset the Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental title. Shortly thereafter, he led the Brain Busters to the WWF World Tag Team championship giving Heenan not only the gratification of managing a champion, but managing two champions at the same time, equalling a feat achieved two years earlier by Jimmy Hart. A few months later, he lead Colossal Connection (André and Haku) to the WWF Tag Team Championship. A few months after that, he lead Mr Perfect to the first of two the Intercontinental Championships. In a year and a half, Heenan went from having managed no champions to having managed two tag teams to two World Tag Team championships and two wrestlers to three Intercontinental championships.

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 very overweight women known as The Oinkettes.

As neck injuries prevented him from taking bumps the way he used to, Heenan retired from managing in 1991 to become a full-time "broadcast journalist" (see below). Nonetheless, Heenan crossed the line to managing sporadically. When the WWF signed Ric Flair, Heenan spent several weeks talking him up as "The Real World's Heavyweight Champion" (then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion) due to Flair's no compete contract with WCW. He continued to act as an advisor to Flair during his first WWF run (and coined the phrase, "That's not fair to Flair" and "You got to be fair to Flair"). At the 1993 Royal Rumble, he introduced "Narcissist" Lex Luger to the WWF to exact revenge on his former protege, Mr Perfect.

Commentator

In 1986, 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", shamelessly rooted for the heels while they cheated or did something under-handed and referred to his audience as "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 Gorilla Monsoon, exasperated, finally erupted, "WILL YOU STOP??? "

Heenan, still suffering from the broken neck he received ten years earlier and unable to cope with the long working hours, left the WWF at the end of 1993. His 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 schedule and health insurance. Also, his daughter went to school in Atlanta where WCW was based.

He was given an on-air farewell by Gorilla Monsoon on the December 6, 1993 edition of Monday Night Raw who, in kayfabe was fed up by Heenan's constant insults, threw him and his belongings out of the Westchester County Center and onto the sidewalk of White Plains, NY. Heenan mentioned that the idea was his and Monsoon's. Afterwards, Heenan states that at the hotel he and Monsoon embraced each other and wept for over an hour. In an interview later 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.

World Championship Wrestling

In 1994, Heenan joined WCW as a full-time commentator. He served as color commentator on WCW flagship shows Monday Nitro and Thunder, as well as the Clash of the Champions specials and many pay-per-views. Heenan acted as the heel of the broadcast team, cheering on the heel of the fight and making excuses for them when they cheated. Heenan was largely 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 Eric Bischoff and Tony Schiavone.

In 1995, Heenan had neck surgery.

Heenan made one return to ringside at the 1996 edition of the Great American Bash, leading Ric Flair and Arn Anderson to victory over Steve McMichael and Kevin Greene and also conspiring with Anderson and Flair to bring McMichael into the fold.

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 Ray beginning in August 2000 on Thunder. Heenan was then only seen with Scott Hudson on World Wide until he was released by WCW in November 2000.

Post-WCW career

Heenan kept busy after being let go by WCW, providing commentary to the Gimmick Battle Royal match at WrestleMania X-Seven and lending his talents to smaller promotions.

In 2001, Heenan worked briefly as a "sports agent" in the X Wrestling Federation with Curt Hennig under his tutelage.

He has written two career memoirs, 2002's Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All, and 2003's Chair Shots & Other Obstacles: Winning Life's Wrestling Matches which has an introduction by Ric Flair. Both books were co-written by Steve Anderson.

In 2004, Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame shortly before WrestleMania XX. In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute to his late broadcast partner and real-life close friend, tearfully saying "I wish Monsoon were here."

Heenan made a brief appearance between matches at the actual WrestleMania XX broadcast; while Jonathan Coachman was "searching" the backstage area for The Undertaker, he investigated some noises to discover aged female wrestlers Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah. Heenan and "Mean" Gene Okerlund appeared moments later in a disheveled state; Coachman implied that the four had been involved in a sex act of some sort. Heenan also appeared in interviews for The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD in 2005.

Heenan is still involved in wrestling on a limited basis, giving interviews and making sporadic appearances. In February, 2001, Heenan did color commentary for the Women of Wrestling Unleashed pay-per-view. In 2004 he returned to the spotlight, feuding with fellow managerial legend Jim Cornette in Ring of Honor.

On April 2, 2005, Heenan inducted his former protege Paul Orndorff into the WWE Hall of Fame and on April 1, 2006 Heenan inducted Blackjack Mulligan and Blackjack Lanza and on March 31, 2007 Heenan inducted Nick Bockwinkel.

Heenan's latest appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment occurred on the June 11, 2007 episode of Monday Night Raw (also billed as the WWE Draft 2007). Heenan was featured in a taped segment giving his thoughts on Mr. McMahon for "Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night".

He also has aired specific spots on the WWE programming, urging WWE fans not to smoke.

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling

Heenan appeared for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) towards the end of 2005 on TNA Impact! 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 which led to a second appearance.

On September 6, 2006, Heenan made another appearance on an episode of Impact! making a bid to manage "free agent" Robert Roode.

Controversy

Brian Pillman incident

At one notable Clash of the Champions event broadcast live on TBS on January 23, 1996, Heenan screamed, "What the fuck are you doing?" when Brian Pillman grabbed him by his neck, which he had surgery on not too long before, during Pillman's "loose cannon" gimmick. Heenan returned to the air later and apologized for his audible cursing on air. According to Heenan, Pillman apologized to him for the incident backstage, citing he did not know of Heenan's history of neck problems beforehand, and more specifically that Heenan had been labeled "no-touch" by management because of his injuries.

Heenan, in later interviews, explained that the reason for his outburst was that he did not know it was Pillman who was grabbing him, despite video footage clearly showing that the expletive was said directly to Pillman's face. Since Heenan was watching the ringside monitor (which displays the match as it is broadcast on television), he stated that, despite the clear evidence, he did not know that Pillman was behind him, and figured a fan had jumped the guard-rail and attacked him. The language was edited out of all WCW tapes, but can be heard in the 2006 DVD release on Pillman's career.

Post-WCW career

Bobby Heenan kept busy after being let go by WCW, providing commentary to the Gimmick Battle Royal match at WrestleMania X-Seven alongside long-time friend and colleague "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Heenan also lent his considerable talents and experience to smaller wrestling promotions.

In 2001, Heenan worked briefly as a "sports agent" in the X Wrestling Federation with Curt Hennig under his tutelage.

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, Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame shortly before WrestleMania XX. In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute to his late broadcast partner and real-life close friend, tearfully saying "I wish Monsoon were here."

Heenan made a brief appearance between matches at the actual WrestleMania XX broadcast; while Jonathan Coachman was "searching" the backstage area for The Undertaker, he investigated some noises to discover aged female wrestlers Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah. Heenan and "Mean" Gene Okerlund appeared moments earlier in a disheveled state; Coachman implied that the four had been involved in a sex act of some sort. Heenan also appeared in interviews for The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD in 2005.

Heenan is still involved in wrestling on a limited basis, giving interviews and making sporadic appearances. In February 2001, Heenan did color commentary for the Women of Wrestling Unleashed pay-per-view. In 2004 he returned to the spotlight, feuding with fellow managerial legend Jim Cornette in Ring of Honor. Also in 2004 he joined former WCW commentators Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko in providing commentary for the video game Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.

On April 2, 2005, Heenan inducted his former protégé Paul Orndorff into the WWE Hall of Fame and on April 1, 2006 Heenan inducted Blackjack Mulligan and Blackjack Lanza and on March 31, 2007 Heenan inducted Nick Bockwinkel.

Heenan appeared for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) towards the end of 2005 on TNA Impact! 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 which led to a second appearance.

On September 6, 2006, Heenan made another appearance in TNA on an episode of Impact! making a bid to manage "free agent" Robert Roode.

Heenan's latest appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment occurred on the June 11, 2007 episode of Monday Night Raw (also billed as the WWE Draft 2007). Heenan was featured in a taped segment giving his thoughts on Mr. McMahon for "Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night".

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".

On April 17, 2010 Heenan appeared at TNA Lockdown fanfest.

WWE released a retrospective two disc DVD set of his career on December 28, 2010.

Personal life

Bobby married Cynthia Jean on September 14, 1966. Together they have a daughter, Jessica Heenan-Solt.

Although on-screen they were often at odds, Heenan was actually very close with his WWF broadcast partner Gorilla Monsoon. Heenan was working for WCW when Monsoon died on October 6, 1999 and Heenan reportedly insisted that WCW announce the death of his friend on the air despite Monsoon having never worked for WCW. On the October 11 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, Heenan and Schiavone announced Gorilla's death, with Heenan giving him a goodbye before leaving the broadcast booth in tears. During his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech, Heenan stated that Monsoon's presence was the only thing missing from the occasion. Heenan is also good friends with Gene Okerlund.

He also, despite being at odds with him, has been friends with Hulk Hogan for a long time. Hogan even wrote praises for Heenan in his autobiography, Bobby The Brain: Wrestling Bad Boy Tells All.

Battle with throat cancer

In January 2002, Heenan announced on his website that he was battling throat cancer:

Quote1
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...
Quote2

Heenan has since largely recovered from throat cancer, but lost a great deal of weight, dramatically changing his appearance, and suffered a drastically changed voice: Heenan now speaks in a softer, higher-pitched tone in comparison to the strong, rugged tone fans were accustomed to hearing him use as a color commentator. Heenan went from being 246 lbs. to being 190 lbs. or even less. These drastic differences led to rumors that Heenan was terminally ill, most (if not all) of which have since dwindled.

In December 2007, Heenan had reconstructive surgery on his jaw, after the first surgery was unsuccessful. Heenan was placed in a medically induced coma and was slowly brought out. In the second half of January 2008, Heenan had come out of his medically induced coma. Though not yet able to speak, he was communicating with his eyes. He has more surgeries to come, but they are plastic surgeries to reconstruct facial features. The reconstructing of his jaw is complete. In October 2008, it was reported that Heenan was then able to speak a few sentences before he gets tired. In February 2009, it was reported that while Heenan is still relearning how to speak clearly, he is now out of the hospital and plans on attending some Major League Baseball spring training sessions. Heenan accompanied Gene Okerlund to the WWE Hall of Fame the day before WrestleMania XXV.

On December 11, 2009, Bobby Heenan was hospitalized at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL after an examination of his rebuilt jaw found an infection that needed to be treated. As a result, Heenan missed his scheduled appearance at the K&S Wrestlefest event in New Jersey.

By 2010, Heenan's jaw infection was completely eradicated. He appeared at TNA Lockdown fanfest on April 17, 2010.

On December 28, 2010 WWE will release a retrospective two disc DVD set of his career.

Books

• 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

Wrestlers managed

Championships and accomplishments

  • Iron Mike Mazurki Award (2004)

See also

External links

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