Maverick Deals:The Brain

“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. 

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Maverick Deals: Lost Summer

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Thursday, August 31, 2017. 10:30am.

As much as I would love to join my wife and son for a late morning nap, I’m antsy. There are too many thoughts rolling around in this crazy head of mine. I decide to put my sneakers on get some fresh air. The only thought I had at the time, that I could understand anyway, was “Go take walk.”

It was always burned into my mind that once September hits, summer is over. This year’s installment went by faster than any I can remember. I feel like last week the Yankees were in 1st place, Aaron Judge was the MVP and Rookie of the Year, it was Memorial Day and we were about to debut on the Tapped Out Network. When I woke up this morning, the Yankees were clinging to a Wild Card slot, Aaron Judge strikes out more than I did in college, the NFL season starts in a week, and the podcast is on an island once again. What the hell man?!

I feel like this summer passed me by like a stranger in a crowd. There were no trips to the beach, no concerts attended, and no rounds of golf.(That last one hit me hard as I stroll by the 5th on the course I live near.) It was my first summer as a dad and all I had to show for it is 3 months chock full of hollow plans. Yet when I think about where I started in May, and where am I as August draws its last breath, it might have been the summer I needed most.

(At this point I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What’s this have to do with wrestling?” Relax, we’re getting there)

It took me way too long to realize how much pain I was in, 24/7, both mentally and physically. For years I have battled anxiety and depression. This is a phrase that gets kicked around a lot these days, thankfully. When I was 12 I was just “shy” and “distracted”. At 36, it’s a legitimate illness that is a daily fight for millions everywhere, and thankfully much more socially acceptable. Stress was my downfall earlier in the year. Sure it’s the normal stuff, working 60 hours a week at my restaurant, being a new parent, and living far away from friends and family all factor in to your stress levels. It was also the pressures of turning what was once a hobby and a passion, that now had become work. Putting out a quality wrestling podcast, week in week out, is difficult enough. Having a contract with a network, meeting deadlines, as well as trying to keep things fresh in a saturated market, is a pressure unto itself. That pressure ultimately brought me to my knees, but it wasn’t the only thing.

I was physically breaking down over the course of the spring and summer. What started as the occasional sore back from 20 years in the restaurant business, was now constant and severe pain. I could barely move, yet I did nothing to take care of it. The combination of the anxiety and the physical pain was more than I could handle. I broke down. At one point, during an episode, I thought I was having a heart attack. It was at that point I knew I had to get my head right first, and the rest would fall into place. There is a line in “The Matix” given by Morpheus that says, “The body cannot live without the mind.” I was living proof of that.

I thank God every day for my wife. She is the most caring badass of a person I know. She found a medical doctor who specializes in treating anxiety and depression. Yes there are people like this out there! We put together a plan, and over the last few months, with the right medicine and diet, I haven’t felt this good in a long time. The same goes for my back issues too. The anxiety I deal with makes it difficult for me to make phone calls. Once I was able to calm those nerves, I called my chiropractor. It turns out I had a pinched nerve in my back, that was just getting worse and worse. After weeks of therapy, I am feeling great again. I am back to exercising regularly, and I am hoping pick up those golf clubs that are collecting dust in my closet very soon. I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: There are people all over the place willing to help you. They have these jobs so they can do just that. The most important thing you can do in life is ask for help. Nobody can do anything alone. With so many remarkable people in the world, there is bound to be one out there that will have the life jacket waiting for you. It’s never too late, I can promise you that.

Which finally brings us back to why you all know who I am, and listen to our podcast: Wrestling. Throughout all of my troubles, and as I mentioned before, we had a short stint on the Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast Network. We couldn’t have been more excited to work with and connect with such great people. Unfortunately, not everything you do in life works out, and my co-host, Chris, and I thought it would be in our best interest to move on and leave the network. The notion of feeling like I failed at this game killed me. I had let something that should have been fun, consume me. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. During our hiatus, I put wrestling, something I love dearly and have tremendous passion for, off the side. I barely watched any wrestling on TV. I couldn’t even turn on a wrestling podcast. I had no desire to even record my own. It felt like I was going through a breakup. I wasn’t going to be ready, until I was ready.

Our first show back will drop this Monday, September 4th. Sure it was the second attempt at this episode, but damn it felt good to be back behind a microphone. It felt right again. I know in my heart of hearts that we will be stronger than ever, and I hope each and every one of you enjoys the ride with us. In hindsight, maybe this summer wasn’t lost after all. Maybe I just needed go through all of this muck, and come out a stronger person on the other side. I needed to find what got me into this podcast racket to being with. It all starts with a passion, a passion I had lost at some point during the Summer of ’17. Yet as the calendar turns to fall, it is a passion that burns once again.