Rest in peace, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
[November 1st, 1944 - September 17th, 2017]
“Ya listen to me, you’ll go to the top! You don’t listen to me, you’re never heard from again!"
He was a pioneer of professional wrestling mouthpieces. He could do it all, from wrestling to managing to commentary to interviews and everything between. He took relatively unknown wrestlers and turned them into legendary fixtures in only a few minutes. He could turn a nation of millions on someone they loved simply by shaking their hand. Although it’s been a long time coming as he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002, nobody expected the legend to go home, but as of September 17th, 2017, Bobby "The Brain” Heenan was taken from this world.
Although people generally despised Heenan, when the man spoke, the people listened. His one-liners were legendary, and his vouching for anyone meant that said wrestler was someone to keep an eye out for. Bobby Heenan began his career in wrestling in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1961, managing Angelo Poffo (father of Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo). As time went on, Heenan became a fixture that fans loved to hate in the AWA where he began managing Ray “The Crippler” Stevens and the legendary Nick Bockwinkel. During a feud with Dick The Bruiser, Heenan was insulted by The Bruiser and called a “weasel”, a nickname that would stick throughout the rest of his career. In 1975, Heenan managed Bockwinkel to his first AWA World Heavyweight Championship.
After leaving the AWA in 1984, Heenan traveled to New York City where he began working for the WWF. It was there that he managed Big John Studd, Ken Patera, Buddy Rose, Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, The Brainbusters, Rick Rude, Harley Race, The Islanders, Hercules, The Barbarian, Mr. Perfect, The Brooklyn Brawler, and of course, Andre The Giant. Heenan led Andre to the ring in what may have been the most famous match of the 1980s at WrestleMania 3, where Andre was bodyslammed by Hulk Hogan.
When a professional wrestler aligned themselves with “The Brain”, their career took off, as the world’s greatest wrestling manager made them a star by talking them up while everyone else fought to get a word in edgewise. It was his career as a manager that made it so easy for “The Brain” to work as a commentator, teaming with Gorilla Monsoon in a beloved duo that fans adored. Heenan also worked as a commentator for WCW from 1994 until 2001.
Bobby had a certain air about him that fans loved to detest. When he stood from his chair at ringside, fans came alive to alert the ref that “The Brain” was about to cheat. When he would hear a smattering of fans chanting ‘Weasel! Weasel!’, Bobby would simply turn his head, and with that, the rest of the fans would join in, chanting against the manager. Bobby’s legacy stands as a personality that fans of all ages will remember forever, both as a manager and as a hero to so many wrestlers, commentators, and managers for years to come. With his family around him, Bobby passed away at the age of 73, and if the way that several wrestlers and wrestling fans are honoring him on social media is any indication, he’ll never, ever be forgotten.
Rest in peace, Bobby Heenan.