If you ask any wrestling fan from the decades of the 70's through the 2000's who the funniest man in professional wrestling history was, they'd all tell you the same answer. You loved to listen to him on commentary, you loved to see him get beat up as a manager, and you loved when he'd lace up the boots and wrestle from time to time as well. Of course, the next inductee of the Wrestling Epicenter Hall of Fame is the one and only Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.
Bobby Heenan was born on November 1, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois. At a young age, he fell in love with the sport of
professional wrestling. Getting involved any way he could, Heenan would carry bags for the wrestlers and sell
refreshments at the matches. He'd eventually end up involved in the show as a tough talking, yet cowardly, manager of
multiple stars. In fact, this is what he'd become iconic for in the years that followed.
In 1967, Heenan applied his "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan managerial skills in the Indiana based WWA initially managed
Angelo Poffo and Chris Markoff. He later managed the Assassins (Guy Mitchell & Joe Tomasso), the The Valiant
Brothers and The Blackjacks. It was during thsi time Heenan perfected his craft as a male manager who could
occasionally wrestle. In fact, he became one of the focal points of the WWA promotion. But, after a discrepancy in pay
from WWA owner Dick "The Bruiser", who ironically gave Heenan the "Weasel" name that fans jeered at him for the
remainder of Heenan's career, Heenan opted to leave the promotion for good and headed to the AWA in Minnesota.
In 1974, Bobby stepped away from the "Pretty Boy" name and instead went with the name that would follow him
throughout his career, "The Brain". The irony in the fact Bobby Heenan used the name "The Brain" and was considered
among the sharpest and smartest minds in professional wrestling is he left school in the 8th grade to tend to his mother and grandmother.
In the AWA, Bobby Heenan would launch his "Heenan Family" stable and managed multiple big name superstars including Nick Bockwinkel, Ray "The Crippler" Stevens, Bobby Duncum Sr, Blackjack Lanza, and others. He'd manage these men to several championships including Nick Bockwinkel holding the AWA World Title on a number of occasions.
Bobby had a brief stint outside the AWA in 1979 with a storyline of a suspension from the promotion. During that time, Heenan appeared for the Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion which was a part of the National Wrestling Alliance. The move did not last very long at all and Heenan returned to the AWA by the end of 1979.
In 1983, a young wrestler famous for appearing in the Rocky III movie started working in the AWA. With a massive physical frame and infectious charisma, he soon started to challenge Bobby Heenan's managed Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World Heavyweight Title. Of course, the wrestler was Hulk Hogan. Hogan would defeat Bockwinkel in various ways but never would be granted the World Heavyweight Title as Heenan would find a way to have the belt returned to his man, Bockwinkel. But, when Hulk Hogan left the promotion to return to the then WWF, World Wrestling Federation, the wrestling world was about to get turned on its ear.
Due to his experience with Bobby Heenan in the AWA, Hulk Hogan had high praise for Heenan backstage. So, it wasn't long before
Bobby's long stint in the AWA would come to an end as he'd join the WWF which was starting to take over and become a national
company as opposed to the regional territories discussed earlier.
When asked in a 2003 interview with our radio show, Bobby Heenan said he left the AWA because it was creatively over. He called the
promotion "All the World's Assholes" and "Alzheimer's Wrestling Association." But, it is doubtful even the "Brain" himself knew what
incredible fame and fortune would await him by making this move.
Heenan continued his "Brain" character, which the fans still jeering "Weasel" at him, as a heel manager for the "Heenan Family"
throughout his stint in the WWF. He had successes early as managers were becoming more and more popular. Heenan shined at
the top of the heap with fellow managers Jimmy Hart, Miss Elizabeth, Lou Albano, Mr. Fuji, and Johnny Valiant all around. Other managers, such as "Superstar" Billy Graham, Kim Chi, and Oliver Humperdink would appear for short stints through the years. But, Heenan would always remain at the top of the pack of the most hated managers by the fans.
In 1987, Bobby Heenan began managing Andre the Giant. As the manager of Andre the Giant, Heenan was the evil seed that helped to coax Andre the Giant to do bad things to WWF Champion Hulk Hogan including ripping the shirt, and the cross, off Hulk Hogan's neck on an episode of Roddy Piper's "Piper's Pit". It was clear that the face-off between Andre and Hogan would take place in Pontiac, Michigan at the Pontiac Silverdone. What was not clear is just how huge the event would be.
Over 93,000 fans gathered to see Heenan manage Andre the Giant against Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania III while millions more watched on home and have since seen the event on videotape, DVD, and on the WWE Network. The Silverdone, the then home of the Detroit Lions football team, set in-door attendance records that would stand for over 20 years before the Final Four finals at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas topped it in 2011. It remained the highest attended WrestleMania until WrestleMania 32 topped it at the same stadium in 2016. But, without WrestleMania III, WrestleMania 32 would never have been possible.
Andre the Giant would capture the WWF Championship from Hulk Hogan in 1988 with Heenan in the Giant's corner. The belt was sold to "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase which was over-ruled by kayfabe President of the WWF Jack Tonney. So, Andre's reign was very short. But, Heenan absolutely did manage a WWF Champion, regardless how brief the reign may have been.
Heenan would go on to manage many stars who would hold titles throughout the remainder of his managerial career in the WWF. Some of those
names include "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Haku, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, the Brooklyn Brawler, The Red Rooster, Ric Flair, and "Mr. Perfect" Curt
After Andre the Giant feuded with the Ultimate Warrior, Bobby Heenan briefly reprised his "Weasel Suit" match from the AWA in a losing effort to the
Ultimate Warrior. Strangely, perhaps due to the fact that it was with the WWF and was a more global promotion, this "Weasel Suit" match was more
well remembered than the one Heenan famously had in the AWA with Greg Gagne.
Bobby Heenan started becoming more involved with broadcasting as the years went on. In
1987, Heenan began hosting Prime Time Wrestling withGorilla Monsoon. If Bobby Heenan
is considered the most funny man in wrestling history, Gorilla Monsoon's "straight man"
approach to Heenan's incredible comedic timing and one-liners is at least in part to thank for
that. The duo would film TV together for years and produced memorablemoments that the
wrestling industry still fondly reflects upon to this day.
Heenan began calling Wrestling Challenge as well as hosting Prime Time Wrestling and evan began announcing many of the WWF pay per view events with either Vince McMahon or Girlla Monsoon at his side. His involvement in managing became less and less and eventually stopped all together shortly after he began managing Ric Flair in 1992 handing over the managerial duties to "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig.
In 1993, Bobby Heenan made his grand entrance to WrestleMania IX riding a donkey backwards. It should be noted the theme of the show was
Roman times due to it being held at Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After launching RAW and calling the first several months of the flagship show of the WWF that continues to the day of this posting, Heenan left the
WWF to take some time off. When asked how he'd like to go, he asked that Gorilla Monsoon throw him out the back door. That is exactly how they
did it. Heenan told us in a 2003 interview that he met with Gorilla after the show as he went to his hotel room and he had bananas. He called down
to Gorilla's room and said, "Hey you big ape, I've got bananas!" He says the two cried and hugged for a long period of time.
In 1994, Bobby Heenan surfaced in WCW, World Championship Wrestling. He walked out of the entrance ramp and was greeted by "Mean" Gene Okerlund who had worked with Heenan in the AWA and the WWF. He was brought in to do commentary and was regularly paired with Tony Schiavone. It was not long after Heenan arrived that an influx of former WWF talent showed up in WCW due to the fact that Ted Turner was putting his money behind the WCW promotion and wanted to make it competitive with the WWF. Stars such as Hulk Hogan, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, and others joined WCW in the following months and immediately, WCW was taken more serously than ever before.
When asked about the reason he joined WCW, Heenan said he suffered a broken neck wrestling in Japan and WCW medical would cover his surgery. He also said it was a lighter work schedule and he wasn't doing anything after WWF anyway so he took the big pay check.
In 1995, WCW Monday Nitro was launched from the Mall of America in Minnesota. Heenan called the action on a night that ran unopposed with the WWF RAW show and it did huge numbers. Heenan would go on to call Nitro until April of 2000 when he was replaced by Mark Madden who was a Pittsburgh area sportscaster. They told Heenan they wanted to go with a "new look". Madden was notably overweight and was not exactly screaming MTV in the looks department. Heenan joked, "That's a good look!"
In 1996, Brian Pillman was wrestling Eddie Guerrero on a Clash of the Champions. Heenan was grabbed from behind by Pillman, who was playing a borderline crazy character at the time. Heenan screamed, to a live audience, "What the fuck are you doing?" The call was not censored. Heenan would go on to pace the aisle and apologize a lot after returning to the announce table. Heenan explained that the move was not planned and he worried about his neck injury.
Later in 1996, Heenan would manage Ric Flair and Arn Anderson against Steve "Mongo" McMichael and Kevin Green in a Wrestlers versus Football Players match... Heenan justified managing by instead calling himself the "Coach" of the team.
At Bash at the Beach 1996, Hulk Hogan turned heel and joined the Hostile Takeover of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. The faction was renamed the "New World Order" that night. Long after the event, it was revealed that many were upset with Heenan for saying the line, "Yeah, but whose side is he on?" when Hulk Hogan came out to make the save for the WCW good guys of Sting, Luger, and Randy Savage. There has been many debates on social media over if the call was botched or not. The call was, however, removed from an nWo videotape released in 1999. But, remains on all releaes of the memorable moment since. You be the judge.
WCW would not only compete with the WWF but topple it in the ratings for nearly 2 years in 1997 and 1998. But, once 1999 came, WCW was out of ideas. The popularity of the invading New World Order had faded and story wise, the company had no logical next steps. Goldberg, a wrestler who squashed nearly every opponent he faced and created a massive win streak, was the company's last hope. But, he was defeated by the wrestler that was presently booking at the time. It seemed to be the last straw for the masses of WCW fans.
At Halloween Havoc 1999, wrestling diva Madusa poured WCW Nitro cologne over Heenan's head. While the incident seemed to
be in line with classic Bobby Heenan moments, Heenan expressed displeasure with it in later interviews saying they had a "Big
boobed blonde lady pour cologne on me. That wasn't funny."
When Gorilla Monsoon died in later 1999, Bobby Heenan started the episode of Nitro with a greeting to his former colleague. "You
know those Pearly Gates up in Heaven? Well, they're now known as the Gorilla Position", Heenan said with tears in his eyes.
Bobby Heenan was released from his WCW deal over the summer of 2000. The company, which had begun cost cutting
measures, would release many highly paid talents over the remaining months of operations before it was sold to Vince McMahon
and the WWF on March 26, 2001.
In February of 2001, Heenan would return to wrestling pay per view calling WOW Women of Wrestling Unleashed with fellow AWA and WCW alumni Lee Marshall. Heenan mused to us in our 2003 interview, "It was the first time I ever looked up someone's trunks during a match."
At WrestleMania X7 just days after the closing of WCW, Bobby Heenan called the "Gimmick Battle Royal" with Gene Okerlund.
Bobby Heenan released his autobiography in September of 2002 looking back at stories from his incredible career. The book, still available at stores and online, was simply titled, "Bobby the Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All". It sold incredibly well.
Bobby Heenan was diagnosed with a muscle issue with his voice while still working with WCW in 1999. But, the disease seemed to get worse as time went on. By 2002, Heenan was noticably struggling with his words. It was later diagnosed to be cancer.
One of Heenan's final announcing jobs came for Aclaim's Legends of Wrestling 3 video game. Paired with Larry Zbyszko and Tony Schiavone, Heenan brought out his bag of tricks and delivered some signature one-liners for the commentary portion of the game. The game was released but the production company folded upon release and no talent was paid for their part in the project.
In 2004, Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He told a crowd during his acceptance speech that wrestling had given him a better life
than he ever could have imagined. He also mused that if you are lucky enough to truly understand pro wrestling, you'd have something you could
love for a lifetime.
Heenan did offer a few unfavorable remarks about the Ultimate Warrior in a 2005 DVD release the WWE put out called the "Self Destruction of the
In 2009, WWE released a DVD featuring the Best of Bobby Heenan. Sadly, Heenan's speaking abilities took such a hit that he could not contribute to
the project for a documentary.