“I’m a legend in this sport…if you don’t believe me, ask me.”
-Raymond Louis “Bobby” Heenan, 1944-2017
I have been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to live through some of the greatest decades in the history of the sport. I was a child of the 80s, so I experienced Hulkamania to its fullest. I was in high school from the 1995-99, so my formative years were spent discussing Raw and Nitro Tuesday mornings in Home Room during the height of the” Monday Night Wars.” During those memorable times there were countless performers that entertained me. Yet as I look back, very few made me laugh and enjoy wrestling more than Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
There will always be the great debates when it comes to the best of all time, especially when it comes to managers. If you gave me 100 ballots I would put Heenan #1 a hundred times. I will fully admit to my New York bias on this one. Growing up in the Northeast it was all WWF all the time. My earliest memories of Heenan the manager came from his time with Andre the Giant. As a kid I knew I was supposed to hate Bobby and his Heenan Family but for some reason I couldn’t. Plus Andre was awesome, how could you hate who he was hanging out with?! They made me smile too much. I still rooted for the Hulkster without question, but my Saturday mornings were always a little brighter if The Brain was on my TV. Even when he was running with Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair, in all the bleach blonde glory a Clorox factory could handle, you couldn’t help but adore him. He was the “weasel”, but I didn’t care. He represented the worst of the worst, and he managed to make you question your morality with his hijinks. He was brilliant. He was “The Brain.”
By the time I became a teenager Heenan was now a full time commentator for WCW. If you ask me, the greatest 3 man announce team ever was Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes, and Bobby Heenan. They brought out the best in each other. Schiavone played the professional play by play announcer. Dusty was the expert color man who could break down a match to a fine powder. Then there was Heenan. He provided the most integral part of wrestling, the entertainment. He would crack jokes about anything and everything going on in the ring. As an announcer he poked holes in everything a babyface did. He would once again make you question, “Should I really cheer for this guy? Brain may have a point!” One of the more famous instances of this was during Bash at the Beach 1996, the notorious “Hostile Take Over” match. Everyone sat at the edge of their seat, wondering who the 3rd man to join the Outsiders was going to be. Hulk Hogan marches out, ready to save the day! Heenan was the only one to question his motives, asking, “Yeah but who’s side is he on?!” We soon found out who’s side he was on didn’t we? Over the years that comment has been a topic of debate. Did Heenan give away the finish? Hardly!! He did what he had been doing for years at that point. He made us question the purity of our beloved heroes. Only this time, he was right!! When you can manipulate an audience like that, it speaks to the ungodly talent a human can possess. Bobby Heenan had all of us in the palm of his hand. The only choice you had was to accept it, and enjoy the ride.
I got to see Bobby Heenan in person once. It was at Wrestlemania 20 in New York. He was one of the inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame that year, before that was really a thing. I hadn’t seen him on TV in a while, and I knew he had been sick. The words were slightly slurred, but that guy could soften the hardest of hearts. There was a backstage skit involving him, Gene Okurland, Moolah, and Mae Young. 4 legends mixed with the allusion of old fogey group sex was a pleasant bit of comic relief during a long night. When they brought out the entire HOF class later in the evening, you still heard a smattering of “Weasel” chants aimed at Bobby. Yet you knew it was all out of love and respect. Bobby Heenan was one of a kind.
It has been a tough week for all wrestling fans, especially for old timers like me. I avoided most of the articles and the tributes, because I wanted to remember Bobby Heenan through my own heart, not someone else’s eyes. He embodied what professional wrestling should be…..fun. Unfortunately, the “fun” is something sorely missing from today’s WWE. The announcers try too hard to be real broadcast journalists. The fans take their passion and opinions WAY too seriously. There is a severe lack of personality behind the beards and wet heads. There is a void in the world of wrestling, and it grew bigger this week. It’s time for us to have some fun again. That’s how we all can honor the legacy of Bobby Heenan. Inspire us, Brain, the way you always could. We love you, and need you now more than ever.