Remembering Bobby Heenan
This article is weeks late, it’s been quite a busy time, but I wanted to pay tribute to the great Bobby ‘The Brain” Heenan, who passed away on 17th of September, 2017. There have been a lot of tributes that have reflected on Bobby Heenan as a talented, hilarious, witty and crafty artist, from his years as a colour commentator and co-host of Prime Time Wrestling alongside his partner Gorilla Monsoon. For my tribute, I will reflect on Heenan’s time as a manager in the 1980s.
For years, people have debated the question, “Who was Hulk Hogan’s greatest rival?” My own answer to that assessment would be, Bobby Heenan. The Hogan/Heenan rivalry started in early 1980s, AWA, just as Hogan had become the most popular wrestler in the promotion following his portrayal of the flamboyant, gigantic Thunderlips in the movie, Rocky III. Bobby Heenan and his Heenan Family stable were put on notice when Hogan became top contender to the AWA World Championship, which was held by Heenan’s client, the astute gentleman, Nick Bockwinkel. Hogan had tried on many occasions to part the wily Bockwinkel from the AWA gold, but due to reasons that included Heenan’s determination to interfere in the matches, disqualification endings and the referee even overturning one decision that had Hogan return the AWA belt to Heenan’s camp, Hogan was never able to attain the AWA gold.
So when Hogan jumped to the WWF and captured the WWF Title from the Iron Sheik in January 1984, Bobby Heenan was not too far behind and later showed up in the WWF. The scenario had changed, Hogan was the defending champion and Heenan was on the attack. Upon his arrival to the WWF, Heenan created a new Heenan Family and stacked it with talent which initially began with Big John Studd, Ken Patera and Adrian Adonis. The Heenan Family aimed their efforts at Hogan and his friend Andre the Giant from ’84 to 1986. Throughout the rest of the ‘80s Heenan would add more members to his Family to continue his evil campaign at killing Hulkamania and capturing the WWF gold. These members included Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, Hercules, Harley Race and King Haku. But the one addition that Heenan managed to lure into his Family and that really shook Hogan was Andre the Giant.
In later years, I saw how significant Bobby Heenan was to the Hogan/Andre rivalry and WrestleMania III build up. I feel that the Andre and Heenan pairing was a perfect fit because the Hogan/Andre hype grew from a backstory with roots that were planted in the origins of the Hogan/Heenan AWA rivalry. It looked as if Heenan had followed Hogan from the AWA to the WWF, and that the WrestleMania III main event was a momentous chapter to their feud. To me, the WrestleMania III main event was more Hogan vs. Heenan than it was Hogan vs. Andre.
The Heenan/Hogan rivalry comes out of a ‘80s cult action film where the main antagonist (Heenan) is a greedy business man who has a diverse fleet of fighters at his disposal. Heenan’s time and resources are put into gaining possession of material gold, and he does not rest until all the prize is in his grasp. Heenan’s part is what helped maintain Hogan’s spot as a defending World Champion and headliner, and to a greater degree, Heenan’s talent helped sustain WWF’s success, creatively in his various roles as a manager, television host and colour commentator. I would even say that a lot of the Austin/McMahon were taken from Heenan/Hogan. There were other managers that played a role in the chase to dethrone Hulk Hogan, but Bobby Heenan was the OG, Hogan’s first enemy. Thank you, Brain
RIP Bobby Heenan