*Exclusive* Interview with the legendary Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
Reported by Ryan Droste of WrestleView.com
» On Friday, November 15, 2002 at 12:09 AM EST
Interview with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
Conducted On: November 14th, 2002
Conducted By: Ryan Droste of WrestleView.com
Today, I had the pleasure of talking to one of the biggest names the wrestling business has ever seen for a good 30 minutes. Bobby was one of the nicest, and definitely one of the funniest guys I've ever had a chance to talk to. He talked about a lot of interesting things over the course of the interview. Everything from WCW, WWF, his great friend Gorilla Monsoon, his book, and even a project he has with a few other people for after the first of the year which is kind of secret right now. The project sounds promising though, and Bobby says it's something that will be interesting for the whole country.
Ryan Droste: My first question is, first and foremost, how is your health doing?
Bobby Heenan: Well I'm feeling pretty good everyday. I still have trouble saying some words with my speech. That's because the radiation, ya know, on the back of my throat swells my tongue. Kind of like making out with Mr. Ed.
Ryan Droste: *laughs* Well it's good to hear that your doing alright.
Bobby Heenan: Yeah.
Ryan Droste: Are you happy with the way your book turned out, and is there anything that didn't get in the book that you wish did?
Bobby Heenan: Well, I'm very happy. The book is in its third printing. All the autograph sessions I've done, in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, and 2 in Tampa have been very successful. Steve Anderson and I are going to put out another book in a couple of months. When i wrote this one with him, I had 600 pages. There's only 190 pages in the book, with pictures. So I've got...40 years. Things I can't talk about. Hulk Hogan writes the forward for me in it. Said some very nice things...matter of fact, he said the nicest things that anyone has ever said about me in the business.
Ryan Droste: What made you want to get into the wrestling business?
Bobby Heenan: Well, in 1954 I was ten years old. And my mother managed the hotel, and in the hotel lived the wrestler named Zach Melkoff (sp?). He was also a park district policeman in Chicago. Chicago had Chicago cops on park district. They worked the parks. We used to call them squirrel chasers. He was a wrestler, big guy, used to lift rocks and stones at the beach. So he took me and a bunch of kids to Mirigolds one night in Chicago. And, I sat down, I was sitting in the bleachers and I saw all these wrestlers come out. The heels would tell the people to shut-up, and they'd get louder. And the heels would get madder, and they'd get louder. And finally he'd kick something, and they'd go nuts. And I thought to myself, wow. Here's a guy that tells the people to shut-up, and they won't listen to him. And he keeps getting madder and the people keep getting louder. And I said wait a minute, now he's controlling them. This is great. If I could do this...this is fun. Because I liked entertaining. (inaudible) And I said my god, and I was hooked from that moment on. I just wanted to entertain.
Ryan Droste: Is there anything that you did in your career in wrestling that if given the chance again you would do differently?
Bobby Heenan: Yes. I would have complained more. I would have. I never complained in the business. I would have complained more about money, and how I was paid compared to who I managed. Because they always paid the man I managed more than me. Because their mentality was "Well he's working, your managing." Wait a minute...it's all theater. I'm just playing the part of the manager, as he's playing the part of the wrestler. If you want to see wrestling, go to Iowa State. If you want to see pro wrestling, turn the TV on. I'm playing the part. And i'll guarantee you something, most of the guys I managed, I was over more than they were.
Ryan Droste: Yeah, that's true.
Bobby Heenan: And they made more money than me. And another thing I would have changed is, I'd have had us some health insurance. I'd have had us some benefits. I'd have had us a pension. I'd have had us some union help. The reason I went...one of the reasons I went to WCW from Vince, was because they offered insurance. If you were unemployed, you have Turner. And I had no insurance all those years in the business. Now was an oppurtunity to be closer to my daughter, who was going to the University of Alabama, and I was living in Tampa. If i could work Atlanta, I could drive there once a week and see her instead of once every 6 weeks. Plus, I would have insurance. And i broke my neck in '83, in Japan, and I didn't know it. I thought I had pinched a nerve, but i couldn't take it anymore. That's why in '91, I retired from managing, Mr. Perfect. And I just couldn't take bumps anymore. I just couldn't react on the floor anymore. I just couldn't work anymore. So, that's why I went to Turner, because they have insurance.
Ryan Droste: What was the one single greatest wrestling event that you were a part of in your opinion?
Bobby Heenan: Oh, WrestleMania 3. Yeah, ya know, I don't care if it's ever...if somebody else draws 200,000 people. This was the first one. This was the biggest one in the history of the business. And there were three people in the main event.
Ryan Droste: And you were one of them.
Bobby Heenan: I know. Going out in the cart, I thought to myself, I didn't realize how many people were there, I thought to myself, "There are millions and millions of people watching this right now. And this is the first. The first ever, anything like this, in the history. 93,000 people. Millions at home." I said, "My god, I'm part of history."
Ryan Droste: What were some of your favorite segments which you got to do on the Bobby Heenan Show?
Bobby Heenan: There was only 4 shows. They were all fun to do. They were all fun to do. It's kind of hard to make people laugh when you don't have an audience, because you can't time yourself. But I had Alfred there to help me laugh and Jameson, it was ok. But my most fun, best experience I've ever had in my life, was the years I worked with Monsoon.
Ryan Droste: Prime Time?
Bobby Heenan: Prime Time, yes. And the pay-per-views. That was the most fun I've had in my life. I had some good times in the AWA on trips with the guys in the car, with Stevens and Lanza and Bockwinkel and Duncam, and guys like that. But...and Raschke...but nothing like with Monsoon. He was...we just laughed constantly.
Ryan Droste: What were your first impressions of the WCW when you arrived there?
Bobby Heenan: I thought to myself, they must spend some money, because they got Hogan, they got Savage, they got myself, they got Okerlund, they got all these lucha libres, they got Hall and Nash. So Bischoff must be into Ted's wallet. Along with Jane. So I said, I'm gunna see how this stuff goes. I got my insurance. And then after a cuople months, I just saw that Heenan shut-up, take your check every 2 weeks, bank it, you got your insurance, and ride it out. Nothing is gonna change here. This is a hillbilly organization. If it would have been on the air another year, we would have been poppin outta the corner with Buck Owens down on wrestling hee-haw.
Ryan Droste: *laughs* Totally different than the WWF.
Bobby Heenan: Oh I'll tell ya the difference. The difference is Vince McMahon gave birth to the WWF. That's his baby. He cut the string, he slapped her on the ass, he brought her to life. And he's going to fight for her. Bischoff wasn't a wrestler, he has no history in this business if nothing. He worked for Verne Gagne for a little bit as an announcer, but he wasn't raised or brought up in this business. He wants to be a game show host, really that's what he wants to do. Or write a game show. He wants produce stuff like that. And Russo, he knew nothing about the business. Just a guy from New York City who rides the subway. What does he know? But they thought they knew everything. For 83 weeks we were number one at one time. That's only because of who we had and we were different. And people were turning back and forth to watch. I counter fix that, is if you had over 10, 15, 20 years like McMahon has. Just for a year, anyone could have done that if they open up Ted's wallet. But the secret is, to be successful and to really be good, is longevity. Now where are they know?
Ryan Droste: Not Around.
Bobby Heenan: Not Around. Where is the world champion David Arquette? Where is Buff Bagwell's mother, they still defending the tag team belts? I mean stupid stuff like that. And then they turn around and beat Goldberg? And the Bobby Heenan character, they want him to be more like John Madden? I mean....it was doomed. They're lucky they got what they got out of it. Really, and working with Tony Schiavone, he wouldn't talk to ya. No one was pleasant or polite there. No I'm saying no one, there were a lot of good people there. A lot of good people. But they had no control over anything. The people that had control, didn't know and didn't care. That was it. Or they'd still be in business.
Ryan Droste: Did the WCW ever consider using you as a manager, possibly for someone like Flair, whom you managed before?
Bobby Heenan: I told them because of my neck, I wouldn't work anymore.
Ryan Droste: Oh okay.
Bobby Heenan: I came back with that XWF a couple times with Perfect. Just to play around and get a trip to Orlando for a couple days and get out of the house. But I wouldn't do that regularily. I don't want to be tied down. I wouldn't mind working for McMahon as a good will ambassador or a meeter and greeter. But I don't want to be connected on air with the product right now, and I don't want to be on a schedule where I have to do something every week. Because I don't wanna do it, and I'm not going to do it.
Ryan Droste: Who would you say were your favorite people in wrestling to work with?
Bobby Heenan: Oh God...you know, it's easier to tell you who I didn't like. I didn't like Bruiser Brody and I don't like the Ultimate Warrior. Other than that, I never had a problem with anybody in the ring or outside the ring. Rick Rude didn't like me. He thought I was trying to steal his heat. What he didn't understand was, if I had heat, he had heat. But everyone has their own agendas I guess. I didn't care, it was just an acting job for me.
Ryan Droste: What was the Ultimate Warrior like?
Bobby Heenan: He wasn't raised as a wrestler. He wasn't in the business because he loved wrestling. He was a guy who used to work out and he thought this was easy money. He had a great body, and his paint looked good, and his hair was long. It all stopped there. Once the bell rang, it was over. He just...he just wasn't an athletic kind of guy to me. He looked like he was clumsy all the time and he wouldn't listen. You'd tell him not to clothesline because I got a bad neck. I jumped up on the apron, I told him to come from behind and run me into the post. So he runs from behind and clotheslines me. I said,"hey" in the dressing room, I said, "Hey why'd you do that?" I said, "I wasn't prepared for the bump." "Because I never know where I'm gonna be." Just disrespectful people. Where is he now?
Ryan Droste: He tried a wrestling school, but that didn't work out for him. *laughs*
Bobby Heenan: He should attend it.
Ryan Droste: *laughs* I'm a pretty big Bret Hart fan so I wanted to ask you about this. What were your thoughts about what happened with him at the Survivor Series in Montreal in 1997? And what did you think of the way WCW handled bringing him in?
Bobby Heenan: This is the way I understand it, I wasn't there. Now Bret Hart had control of his character. They wanted him to drop the belt to Shawn Michaels. He said he would do it in the States, but he wouldn't do it in Montreal. Vince had two finishes, he gave Bret and Shawn a finish, and then he also gave Shawn and Hebner a finish. And they double crossed Bret Hart. Bret got mad, and punched Vince in the mouth, and then came to WCW, right?
Ryan Droste: Yep.
Bobby Heenan: Bret Hart I like. I like Bret Hart. He's a nice, nice guy. I know the whole Hart family. But Bret, come on. If you thought for one moment that McMahon wasn't going to run his control, and you really had complete control...I wouldn't give anyone complete control...McMahon has to look out for what is best for his company. And he felt, as owner, that he had to make a decision...he thought that putting the belt on Shawn Michaels was the best move for his company. And you didn't want to do it. So, they doubled crossed you. You should have just gone out there and put Shawn over and not worried about a thing. I know you don't like him, and I understand that, but you still have to understand something. Your not going to get ahead of the guy that owns the belt. Your not gonna get ahead of the guy that owns the company. Your just not. And if you thought for a minute you really had complete control...you had complete control because he allowed you to have it. Now he didn't want you to have it, so you don't have it. And that's what happened. And I like Bret, it was just a bad move on his part I thought, but that's his business. He's a grown man. He has to be happy or suffer with the decisions in life he makes. With myself, I don't care if you win or lose, I don't care about personalities. Like Monsoon told me, if your in this business for anything else than money your a fool. I've never won a title in my life, or had one. It's just more crap to carry...but you never had complete control. Believe me. The only guy that ever had complete control was Hogan and Andre. Because two reasons...they needed Hogan and you couldn't control Andre, so that's the difference right there...As far as the WCW's use of him, ridiculous. He just had this big thing with Vince, about them double crossing him for the World's title, and they bring him in and give him the U.S. title. That means about as much as half of the tag team title Mrs. Bagwell had. So they should have made a big deal about what he did to McMahon and everything and how they double crossed him. They could have let him go after the real world's belt...there's a lot of ways you could have done it. Nooo...let's give him the Georgia T.V. title.
Ryan Droste: Yeah, I never understood why when he first came in they didn't have him go up there with Hogan.
Bobby Heenan: Don't know that either. They never told us anything. Sometimes they wouldn't give us formats until the second or third match. And then the girl...the girl that was so stupid...I told her this I don't know how many times, and everybody knew it. She just didn't do it to me, she did it to everyone. She'd give us the formats, which is maybe 5 sheets right? She'd put the staple in the lower right hand corner. It was like reading a Japanese-Jewish newspaper. I said no, top left hand! She always put it down there at the bottom. Put it in the fucking middle. I'm not kiddin ya...these were people that had positions, and were making money with a major television company. Turner and AOL. Time Warner. But these morons...we were doing more business than the Braves, than the Hawks, than the hockey team, than Andy and Mayberry...and any programming that Turner has.
Ryan Droste: That's pretty bad.
Bobby Heenan: And what happened to it? We allowed it to go down the toilet. And a lot of good people...I'm not talking about only wrestlers...people that worked for the company, to lose their jobs. I lost another year's pay and my health benefits.
Ryan Droste: Not a good company.
Bobby Heenan: No, and they replace me...because they said...the rumor was I wasn't prepared to work. He wanted a younger look, more MTV. So he traded me for Madden.
Ryan Droste: *laughs* Boy that was not a good move.
Bobby Heenan: No, you got Stevie Ray, Madden, and Tony out there. Only one guy has been in the ring, and he shouldn't have.
Ryan Droste: *laughs*...Did you enjoy working with Gene Okerlund, and do you guys still keep in touch?
Bobby Heenan: Yeah, Gene lives about 50 miles from me. I don't see him that much, he's busy and I've been busy with publicity for the book and stuff. But we talk every month for about a half hour or so, just see what we're up to. Yeah he's alright, I enjoy working with him...he was a lot like Monsoon. We never had to rehearse anything, we just did it.
Ryan Droste: Would you say that Monsoon was your favorite to do announcing with then, probably?
Bobby Heenan: He was my favorite human to be with.
Ryan Droste: How do you feel about wrestling managers, especially the males, not having a place in the business in recent years.
Bobby Heenan: Well...I don't know why they don't have a place. I guess it's one more guy you have to pay. That's why. And he feels (Vince)...he feels his company, he feels they're doing what the people want. They want all that T&A. But i'm tellin ya...if im gonna be handcuffed, if I'm gunna be in a room seeing a girl naked handcuffed to a goat wearing miracle whip, it's gunna be in my room. I don't want to see it on T.V. And that stuff doesn't appeal to me. I like wrestling where you beat the (inaudible), you jump down, you do your interview, the guy comes out, you make the match, wait a minute you have some stipulations, you do the interviews, you have the match, you screw'em, you come back in a tag, come back in a cage, you work a years program, you create every week something...let's try this, that's what's fun. We had another thing, we had the Nitro Girls and they were really gettin over. I used to do on sales, tickets, a month before we go to the town. We were selling out every place went.There were guys standing in line with flowers for the Nitro Girls. And then they made them workers. They don't know how to work. They wanted to be dancers or models. They didn't want to take a hurricanrana. No. You can't do it, but that's just the way that went. Experience.
Ryan Droste: If you were starting your own wrestling company and you had to pick 5 people, past or present, living or dead, to be in your company, who would they be and why?
Bobby Heenan: Well...one guy I'd pick would be Buddy Rogers. Buddy Rogers was smart. He knew how to get himself over. He knew everything backstabbing way to do it. He could do it...he was smooth, he was really good. Yeah. He used to have this guy named Billy Darnell, and you know you get your guys legs underneath your arms and you give them that giant swing?
Ryan Droste: Yeah.
Bobby Heenan: Well Rogers would let them go. And you'd go over the top rope and into the crowd. He always told the guy that he slipped. But that's what got Rogers over, and this poor guy, he couldn't remember his name. But...Rogers was cool. So I'd take Buddy Rogers as one. Then I'd take Vince McMahon...Then I would take Pat Patterson. There's three. Patterson's got great ideas. And then I would take...then I would take Monsoon. The last guy....my last guy...I think I'd take Red Bastien, so we could just sit in the room and talk. And I'd throw Ray Stevens in there too, and then just sit in the room and come up with the program. That's what I would do
Ryan Droste: It'd be a heck of a lot better than WCW *laughs*
Bobby Heenan: Oh well *laughs* you know...they had guys there...they had 3 or 4 guys booking at the same time. And no one knew what was going on my friend. It was...all I could think there and think of was every two weeks, get your check, go home. I tried to be as professional as anybody, but I just lost my desire. When the guy on top don't care...and Ted wasn't even there. He didn't even know wrestling was on, probably. He doesn't even know who Jane was. Ya know, there was just something that was wrong. I'll tell ya what it was like....lets say your sister is a prostitute. And shes makin all the money, and you live in a big house, and everything is going great. You kinda don't tell people how you make your money. That's what happened in WCW. We were makin more money for Turner than anyone, but they didn't want to let anyone know wrestling was doing it. So that's what happened.
Ryan Droste: The next thing I want to do is just some name association where I'll say someone, just give a little opinion of them.
Bobby Heenan: Sure.
Ryan Droste: First one is Ric Flair.
Bobby Heenan: Tremendous entertainer.
Ryan Droste: Andre the Giant.
Bobby Heenan: An awesome human being.
Ryan Droste: Hulk Hogan.
Bobby Heenan: The best the business has ever had.
Ryan Droste: Gorilla Monsoon.
Bobby Heenan: The best friend a man could have.
Ryan Droste: Mike Tenay.
Bobby Heenan: A very good friend. Everyone should have Mike as a friend. A guy that really loves what he does, and puts all his juices into it. He really is a good person.
Ryan Droste: Tony Schiavone.
Bobby Heenan: Who?
Ryan Droste: Tony Schiavone.
Bobby Heenan: Who?
Ryan Droste: *laughs*
Bobby Heenan: You know everytime you say Tony Schiavone...you know what the first that goes through my mind?
Ryan Droste: What?
Bobby Heenan: *Bobby flushes the toilet*
Ryan Droste: *laughs* Alright, Bret Hart.
Bobby Heenan: Dedicated.
Ryan Droste: Owen Hart.
Bobby Heenan: A tragic loss.
Ryan Droste: Shawn Michaels.
Bobby Heenan: A good wrestler. I don't know him that well.
Ryan Droste: Eric Bischoff.
Bobby Heenan: Lucky.
Ryan Droste: And the last one, Vince McMahon.
Bobby Heenan: Genious.
Ryan Droste: NWA TNA, did they ever contact you about doing anything for them?
Bobby Heenan: No.
Ryan Droste: Alright, and my last question, what are the chances of seeing you back on TV in the WWE one day?
Bobby Heenan: Well...that all depends on money. Like I said, hey, I'm not in this to be a fool. I'm in this to make money. And I don't want a schedule where I have to work once a week. Like, they do RAW on Monday night's and Tuesday they do Smackdown. So let's say I'm involved. That's only two days a week right? No. That means I gotta leave Sunday, to go for Monday. And if we finish up Tuesday in like Seattle, well then Wednesday I don't get home until 5 'o clock. Now I got four days of my life gone. I don't wanna do that anymore. So I don't really think that you'll be seeing me on...at the WWE...but you never know. There is a project I'm putting together, for after the first of the year, Myself and a couple other people. I can't talk about it, but it's going to be wrestling related, but it won't be wrestling matches. I think it will be interesting for the whole country.
Ryan Droste: Well, it's a pleasure to actually be able to talk to you. I've watched you for so many years.
Bobby Heenan: Well thank you, thank you, and I hope this interview does some good for you. The book is "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All."
Ryan Droste: I'm going to have to check that out.
Bobby Heenan: And if you can't....it's at Walden book stores, all the book stores...if some of the book stores don't have it, it's in it's third writing. So if they don't have it, tell them you want it, or you can get it on amazon.com
Ryan Droste: Alright.
Bobby Heenan: Get a couple of them, they're fat free.
Ryan Droste: *laughs* Alright, well thanks again. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Any questions or comments on this interview may be sent to Droste@wrestleview.com. Also, if anyone out there is interested in Bobby's book, "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All", you can check it out by CLICKING HERE.