Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (born Raymond Louis Heenan on November 1, 1943 - September 17, 2017) was an American professional wrestler, manager, comedian and TV color commentator. He is best remembered for his time as the dominant manager, and later as a heel commentator, in the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) from 1984 to 1993, then as a commentator in World Championship Wrestling from 1994 to 2000, followed by sporadic wrestling appearances in other promotions (most notably TNA Wrestling and Ring of Honor, along with a few WWE appearances) since then.
Heenan began his career as a wrestler in 1965 in the American Midwest, but went on to his greatest successes as a manager, starting with the American Wrestling Association in 1969. In his heyday, Heenan was one of the most despised but intellectually smart wrestling managers in the business, who created his own heel stable known as the Heenan Family, which existed in the AWA, the WWF and other promotions in various forms from the 1970s to the 1990s.
In 1984, Vince McMahon lured Heenan away from the AWA to manage Jesse "The Body" Ventura; however he was forced to end his active wrestling career. While most of the AWA talent left for the WWF in this time without giving proper notice, only Heenan worked out his notice. With Ventura unable to wrestle, Heenan instead became Big John Studd's manager in matches first against WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan and then in Studd's feud with André the Giant. He soon reformed the Heenan Family, which over the years in the WWF would include Studd, "Olympic Strong Man" Ken Patera, "Playboy" Buddy Rose, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, André the Giant, High Chief Sivi Afi, the Brain Busters (former Four Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), "Ravishing" Rick Rude, "King" Harley Race, the Islanders (Haku and Tama), Hercules, The Barbarian, Mr. Perfect, The Red Rooster, 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 about who was the true giant in professional wrestling (André was billed as being 7'4" (224 cm) while Studd was 6'10" (208 cm)), 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. André dominated the Wrestlemania match with Studd, body slamming him. André then took the bag with the $15,000 and started to throw it out to the crowd at Madison Square Garden before Heenan rushed in and snatched the bag before scampering away to the safety of the dressing rooms.
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. While neither Bundy nor André would win the title at that time, André later bested Hogan for the championship on The Main Event on February 5, 1988, in a controversial win after he aligned himself with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. On an episode of Legends of Wrestling, Jim Ross claimed Heenan had received a six-figure payoff for his work in promoting the event—arguably the largest pay day in any managerial career.
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 as Heenan's quest, and best chance
since WrestleMania III to manage a champion. Heenan finally managed his first champion in the WWF when Rick Rude upset The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Intercontinental Championship, a match Heenan insured Rude would win by holding Warrior's leg down so he could not break the pin. Shortly thereafter, he led the Brain Busters to the WWF World Tag Team championship. A few months later after the Busters had lost the titles back to the tag team Demolition, he led the Colossal Connection (André and Haku) to the Tag Team Championship when they defeated Demolition. Demolition would win the titles back in WrestleMania VI. Immediately after the loss, Heenan began blaming the loss to André the Giant going as far as slapping him. A few months after that, he led Mr Perfect to the first of two Intercontinental Championships. In an planned match with Macho Man Randy Savage, Heenan said that Mr. Perfect was not going to wrestle Savage. Mr Perfect actually accepted it and Heenan said that he was talking and even slapped him as well.
Heenan also wrestled sporadically in his WWF run. In his in-ring debut at Madison Square Garden in November 1984, he pinned Salvatore Bellomo. Heenan's most notable victory came at WrestleMania IV, teaming with The Islanders to defeat The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware. The following year, he was defeated in 30 seconds by former client The Red Rooster at WrestleMania V. 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.
The Bobby Heenan Show
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. The show, premiering on July 10, 1989, lasted only a season. Heenan, convinced that he could star in his own show and get higher ratings than Prime Time ever could, quit Primetime and walked away. The guests ranged from elderly lady belly dancers, to hypnotists to porn stars. Most of the show was off-the-cuff, allowing Heenan to just react and say things spontaneously. Most of the guests that came on his show were not pre-interviewed or rehearsed with Heenan. The Oinkettes, who escorted guests to the couch were often insulted by Heenan. He'd ask things such as: “Do you ladies like any kind of sports?” At which time, one of the Oinkettes responded with: “I like weightlifting.” And in classic Heenan form, Bobby responded, “What are we talking here? Like Quarter Pounders or double cheeseburgers?” The show aired for 30 minutes, and was filmed in a studio in Stamford, Connecticut and the introductions were made by ‘Lord’ Alfred Hayes.
Color Commentating on Wrestling
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." Nonetheless, Heenan crossed the line to managing sporadically. When the WWF signed Ric Flair, Heenan spent several weeks talking Flair up as "The Real World's Heavyweight Champion." He continued to act as an adviser to Flair during his 1991-93 WWF run (and coined the phrase, "That's not fair to Flair" and "You got to be fair to Flair"). Though he nominally managed Flair, Heenan's former protégé Mr. Perfect, who temporarily retired due to injury, would regularly accompany Flair to ringside as his "Executive Consultant." At the 1993 Royal Rumble, he introduced Lex "Narcissist" Luger to the WWF to exact revenge on his former protégé.
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, 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," openly rooted for the heels while they cheated or did something under-handed and referred to the fans of the face wrestlers as the 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 an exasperated Gorilla Monsoon would say either, "Will you stop?", "Give me a break!", or a sarcastic, "Please!"
Heenan, still suffering from the broken neck he received ten years earlier and unable to cope with the long working hours, decided to leave the WWF at the end of 1993. He was given an on-air farewell by Gorilla Monsoon on the December 6, 1993 edition of Monday Night Raw, broadcast from the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York. Monsoon who, in kayfabe, was fed up by Heenan's constant insults, literally threw him and his belongings out of the arena and onto the street. Heenan mentioned that the idea was his and Monsoon's. Later, in an interview, 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.
Soon after he left the WWF he was contacted by World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He was unsure at first, but accepted their offer once he found out that WCW provided lighter work schedules and health insurance. Heenan also cited the short driving distance between WCW's home base of Atlanta and his daughter's school in Alabama.
Heenan with WCW
|“||And for those of you that dropped out of high school, remember the famous phrase: Do you want fries with that?||„|
|~ Bobby Heenan|
On January 27, 1994, Heenan made his debut in WCW. He, again, was brought in to replace Jesse Ventura, his former client, as the color commentator for WCW Saturday Night and eventually took over Ventura's position as the company's lead commentator, replacing him for pay-per-view events and also taking over Ventura's spot on the syndicated WCW Worldwide and Clash of the Champions events produced for TBS. When WCW Monday Nitro premiered in September 1995, Heenan left Saturday Night to work on the new show full-time and joined former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael as analyst alongside play-by-play man Eric Bischoff.
As he had before, Heenan cheered on the heel of the fight and made excuses for them when they cheated. Heenan said he was 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 Bischoff and Tony Schiavone. In 1995, Heenan had neck surgery.
In 1996, during a live broadcast of Nitro on April 1, Heenan made an announcement stating "Tonight is going to be my last night on Nitro. I'm retiring from wrestling and I'm retiring from broadcasting." Before the show went off the air, Heenan shook hands with his co-commentators and said his farewells, only to point out that it was just an April Fools joke. Later that year, Heenan made a one-off return to ringside at the Great American Bash as the manager of two of his former clients, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, in a tag team match against his broadcast colleague McMichael and Carolina Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene. Heenan was instrumental in convincing McMichael to turn on his partner, which enabled Flair and Anderson to win the match, and fill the open spot in The Four Horsemen that Brian Pillman left behind when he departed the company earlier in the year.
In July 1996, Heenan became a tweener for the first time in his career. He began to favor the babyfaces when they went against the NWO while still favoring heels in any other match. 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 Schiavone in April 2000. Heenan was then replaced by Stevie Ray beginning in July 2000 on Thunder. Heenan was then only seen with Scott Hudson on World Wide until he was released by WCW in November 2000.
Brian Pillman incidentDuring the Clash of the Champions event on January 23, 1996, broadcast live on TBS, Heenan screamed, "What the fuck are you doing?" as Brian Pillman had grabbed him by his neck, which he had surgery on not too long before, during Pillman's "loose cannon" gimmick. Heenan promptly left the broadcast area and headed backstage but soon calmed down and returned to the air to apologize for his language. 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, as he was looking at Eddie Guerrero (Pillman's opponent) in the ring. Since Heenan was watching Guerrero on the ringside monitor (which displays the match as it is broadcast on television), he stated that he did not know that Pillman was behind him, and figured a fan had jumped the guard-rail and attacked him.
Later Career & Retirement
Bobby Heenan provided 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 Xcitement 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 WOW 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 passed away on September 17, 2017, at age 73 due to organ failure and complications from throat cancer.
- WWE released a retrospective two-disc DVD set of his career on December 28, 2010.
- On April 17, 2010 Heenan appeared at TNA Lockdown fanfest.