Cellular phones are becoming such an integral part of our everyday lives these days. We rely on them for so much…keeping up on social media, keeping in touch with family and friends, getting sports scores, weather updates and important news tidbits all on the go. Most of the time, it’s great to be up on everything going on in your world all on this singular device you can keep in your pocket. Tonight wasn’t one of those times for me.
After leaving work tonight, I made a stop for a soda at a 7-Eleven for the ride home. Just before putting the car back in gear to leave, I checked my phone and saw a notification from Google telling me that legendary wrestling manager and commentator, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan has passed away at the age of 73. Boy can that put a real damper on your day. And I’ll say this…I’ve been looking for a reason to write another one of these columns recently and coming up empty, but while I’ve now found a reason to write one, I really hate that I have to add yet another entry to my “Career Retrospective/Tribute” section here.
Not gonna lie…most of Bobby’s career, I got to witness by going back and watching old VHS tapes, DVDs and watching stuff on the WWE Network years later, but that’s not to say that I didn’t know who the man was! By the time I had started watching, he had already left the WWF and most of my memories of watching him live was when he was sitting at the commentary table on the WCW Monday Nitro set, and while he still got his quips in here and there, it’s my understanding that while he was getting paid well working for Turner, he certainly wasn’t enjoying himself and was just doing the job for the paycheck.
It’s my understanding that the WWF had moved on in terms of it’s commentary team and wasn’t really interested in Bobby’s services by that time. But in looking back at his lengthy time with the WWF, an amazing almost 10 years of managing and commentary can be found on the WWF Network as he first started with the company in 1984 and left in 1993.
I’m not going to do a in-depth look at his career here as I’d rather just touch on what he meant to the wrestling world in general and give a few fun memories of a guy whose antics I loved to watch and whose quips on commentary were far too amazing that went WAY over most kids’ heads back in the day.
During his time managing wrestlers, he became a cornerstone for the WWF as he managed some of the biggest names of his time there. Guys like Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard), “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Haku, Big John Studd, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig…the list goes on and on. It’s a literal who’s who of the wrestling world.
Later on, he blessed us with his commentary and was even given his own “Bobby Heenan Show” which was such cringe tv…I think he tried to make every audience member as uncomfortable as possible while also being a funny host who embraced all the lewdness with his “Oinkettes”, his awkward sidekick Jamison all the while shoot interviewing some truly oddball, bizarre people that would range from an elderly belly dancer to porn stars…all the while, he would seemingly just run with this thing on the fly and ad-lib it all to make this a truly amazingly watchable show. If you haven’t seen it, I believe it is on the Network and is certainly worth seeking out!
And who can forget all his time as a co-host on Primetime Wrestling, Monday Night Raw’s predecessor? His interactions with Gorilla Monsoon was stuff of legend! Gorilla always played the straight man to Bobby’s over the top persona. I’ve gone back to watch a lot of that old footage and have found myself skipping through matches just to get back to the two of them sitting there in the studio going back and forth.
Other times, on commentary at ringside, he would throw in his quips about the babyface in the ring or rag on Bret Hart’s parents, Stu & Helen Hart long before Jerry Lawler took a crack at them. One time, even yelling at Stu to wake up. Also, during the Barbershop segment where Shawn Michaels put Marty Jannetty through the window, he quipped “Oh I knew he was going to do that”. And who can forget his exit from the company, when Gorilla Monsoon came down to ringside, grabbed Heenan by the collar of his jacket, dragged him backstage and threw him out of the building along with his little duffel bag, with Heenan worrying about his “belongings”.
Later on, on Nitro he still was the king of one-liners, but his heart just wasn’t in it by then and you could sort of tell while watching. But there was always one thing that fans didn’t like that he did during his WCW days and that was his questioning which side Hogan was on when he seemingly came down to the ring at Bash at the Beach to help WCW to defeat Hall & Nash. Knowing Heenan and how he had ALWAYS hated Hogan storyline-wise, in my eyes, he was still playing his character perfectly.
It was great to see him return to the WWF at WrestleMania 17 to sit at ringside to help on the commentary team for the Gimmick Battle Royal along with “Mean” Gene Okerlund and later, after his first bout with throat cancer in 2002, it was so rewarding to see him be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Sadly, Gorilla Monsoon had already passed away and Bobby mentioned in his acceptance speech how he wished Monsoon was there that night.
Bobby Heenan was a heck of a performer and a personality that sadly is now gone…like so many other personalities from my childhood, another chunk of my youth is gone and while I’m sad tonight, I’m also grateful to have been able to go back and experience so much of this amazingly funny man’s career.
Thanks for all the memories Bobby, there will never be another one like you.