Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, born Raymond Louis Heenan passed away on Sunday, September 17th at the age of 72 after battling throat cancer for 15 years. He is generally considered by fans and peers as the greatest pro wrestling manager of all time, but to me, he was so much more.
Bobby was the greatest all around performer in wrestling history. He could wrestle with the best of them, manage better than anyone ever, and was an all time classic on the microphone. His microphone skills transcend pro wrestling. He is admired by many in Hollywood as one of the great TV comedians. His one liners were on par with the likes of the late great Don Rickels. If wrestling didnt have the stigma of low brow entertainment he would have surely been a consistent comedic character on main stream TV.
To me, he was Charlie Chaplain, The Three Stooges, Johnny Carson, and Howard Cosell all wrapped in one. He could make you laugh, piss you off, and most importantly make you watch and buy tickets. When Vince McMahon needed to turn Andre The Giant heel to take on Hulk Hogan and fill up the Pontiac Silverdome for Wrestlemania 3, they tapped Heenan to be his manager. They ended up breaking the indoor attendance record (kinda, many dispute the actual attendance) with over 93,000* fans in one of the most famous events of all time.
Every time the superman Hogan needed a villain to sell tickets with, they tapped Heenan, to be his Lex Luthor. Paul Orndoff, King Kong Bundy, Andre, Mr Perfect, and so many more were attached to Heenan and their common goal was to end Hulkamania. We always bought it because he was that good.
Despite being the most hated man in wrestling, he could always make us laugh. On Primetime Wrestling with Gorilla Monsoon they were always far more entertaining than the matches. They reminded me of Mystery Science Theatre, the matches didnt matter, you just wanted to hear them go after each other. On commentary, he was second to none. He was so damn funny, often times you paid more attention to what he said than the actual match, but more often than not he made it better.
Ill never forget when Shawn Michaels turned on Marty Jannetty in the infamous Barber Shop angle, none of us knew what was coming, but when HBK hit the superkick, Bobby said “I knew he was gonna do that!”. Then when Shawn threw him through the window, he said “did you see that? He tried to jump out of the window!”.
When Bobby went to WCW he wasnt the same guy. You could tell he didnt want to be there. He usually seemed disinterested, but even that made him funny. He once laughed through an entire Hacksaw Jim Duggan Match, in his defense, it was terrible. He often demoralized lucha libre guys, gave away finishes, and even once did an entire Road Wild ppv drunk. But when he was on, there was no one better.
Goldberg really reinvorgorated him. He nicknamed him “Da Man” and often said he would return to managing for him. He was a huge part in getting Goldberg over to the audience the way he did. It was very rare for a heel like Heenan to praise a babyface the way he did, and it meant a lot. Heenan always considered Goldber losing as the beginning of the end of WCW. So do I.
In 2004 he was inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame. For the most part that Hall of Fame is bullshit, but you could tell it meant alot to him. I consider his speech to be the greatest in the history of that event. Bobby Heenan HoF Speech
The last few years of his life were very difficult. Due to the after effects of cancer his lower jaw had to be removed. His greatest gift, his voice was taken away. But he still enjoyed life as best he could. He made the rounds at conventions, writing down one liners to make the other wrestlers laugh. He would even grunt out sentences to wife Cindy and have her translate jokes for him. He was an entertainer til the day he died. RIP Bobby The Brain Heenan.