?Are there any swamps in Oklahoma? Yes, there is. It’s called Tulsa.?
?I know all about cheating. I?ve had six very successful marriages.?
?North Dakota State. What do you have to do there to graduate? Milk a cow with your left hand??
Any of the above quotes sound familiar? If not, one can safely assume, without snobbery, that you?re a child of the ?attitude? era and know nothing that went before it. Except Hulk Hogan, of course. The above snippets are taken from THE greatest manager that sports entertainment has ever seen. He managed such greats as Andre the Giant, ?Ravishing? Rick Rude, The Blackjacks, Mr.Perfect, Ric Flair and erm? The Red Rooster. You could say he managed a ?family? of superstars throughout his storied 40 year career. Known to babyfaces as ?weasel? but known to everyone as ?The Brain?, I am of course talking about the legendary Bobby Heenan.
Of course there has been a plethora of managerial greats in the world of wrestling. Both Jimmy and Gary Hart automatically spring to mind. As does tennis racket wielding Jim Cornette and his ankle shattering plunge from the scaffolding at Starrcade ?86. However, no one transcended the art of wrestling management quite like Bobby Heenan.
Often a wrestler may be paired with a manager so they have someone who can mask their inadequacies on the microphone or to add drama to their otherwise tedious matches. This couldn?t be said of Heenan. Ok so not every in ring talent Heenan took under his Heenan Family umbrella was a Hall of Fame candidate, but my word, when you?re chosen to be the manager of Ric Flair upon his arrival in your company, you?re no run of the mill manager I can assure you.
That was the beauty of Heenan. Ric Flair is an unsurpassed individual who could wrestle a mop and make it entertaining and would leave you hanging on his every word in interviews. So why exactly would such a perfectly rounded individual need a manager? Because Bobby Heenan is the Ric Flair of wrestling managers. When you saw him at work you knew you were watching the best. He never had an off night, no matter how little or large his part in the evening may be. By simply accompanying a superstar to the ring, Heenan made you take notice. It might have been through a simple gesture to an audience member or a quick pre match promo, it didn?t matter, if you saw Bobby Heenan on a wrestling show, you were hooked on him.
Heenan would take a legend like Flair or Rude and accentuate everything you hated about them, and then make you hate him for it. He was just as underhanded as Flair and twice as arrogant as Rude. As Andre’s manager you would have been mistaken for thinking it was Heenan himself who was seven feet tall the way he threw his weight around when with the giant. Then to ensure he had your undivided attention, he?d take to the commentary booth and continue to chastise our beloved heroes whilst upholding the despicable values his clients portrayed. In 70’s and 80’s wrestling it was enough to make fans swear blind at their television sets.
During the 80’s, as Hulkamania was runnin? wild, his most notable feud wasn?t with Andre or Paul Orndorff or Roddy Piper, it was against Heenan. ?The Brain? managed King Kong Bundy unsuccessfully against Hogan at WrestleMania II and then turned his attention to Andre in his bid to uproot Hogan’s WWF Title reign heading into the biggest PPV event in wrestling history, thus turning one of the industry’s greatest babyfaces heel. And who can forget the reaction of the Pontiac Silverdome fans at WrestleMania III as a defeated Heenan and his prot?g? Andre were pelted with garbage as they made their empty handed exit from the arena. Would Andre have received the same treatment were he flying solo? Oh Hell No!
What made Heenan such compelling viewing wasn?t just his potent combination of cowardly mannerisms and an acidic tongue, it was the fact he was so damn funny. Behind the commentary booth he remained in full heel mode but would make a quip about a town or a wrestler’s appearance and you couldn?t help but laugh, which would infuriate this writer because as a devout Hulkamaniac and then Warriorhead I should have despised Heenan for plotting against my idols, but such was ?The Brain’s? charisma that you couldn?t help but appreciate his humour. It took me over half an hour of trawling through Bobby Heenan quotes to narrow it down to the above four that began this column. I could have quite easily chosen a couple of dozen and spent the best part of a week laughing myself dry at his witticisms.
In a day and age where both great managers and great announcers are at an all time premium, it is with great eagerness that I will create an hour for myself in the day and treat myself to the 1992 Royal Rumble match. Despite Ric Flair’s heroics in the ring, which would see him win the Rumble match after entering number three and thus taking the WWF Title at the same time, it is not the reason why I continuously come back to this specific match. Nor is it the manic double elimination of Randy Savage and Jake Roberts as their memorable feud intensified. It’s not even the rising tensions between Hulk Hogan and his then friend Sid Vicious. No, it is off camera where the magic in this match lies. For an hour or more Raymond Louis ?Bobby The Brain? Heenan produces the most spellbinding, perfect and dare I say divine sixty minutes of commentary ever heard by wrestling ears. He works harder than any of the thirty men involved in the match to make you care about the action in the ring. I implore anyone, wrestling fan or otherwise, to watch this match. It is essential viewing. Scratch that? it is essential listening.
I think I can safely say that I and every wrestling fan around the world who has been lucky enough to witness Bobby Heenan do what he does best, hope the great man makes a full recovery from the traumatic illnesses he has endured over the past few years and can live out his final years in happiness, safe in the knowledge that he has brought hilarity and anger in enormous equal measures to millions of people. And when the day does finally come when ?The Brain? visits that place upstairs, I?m sure his old friend Gorilla will be waiting for him at the announce booth, headset in hand, just waiting to yell ?WILL YOU STOP?!?
Until next time,