The Heenan Family

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The Heenan Family
Members See Below
Debut 1969
Disbanded 1991
Years active 1969-1991
Promotions AWA

The Heenan Family was a stable of heel wrestlers managed by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan beginning in the 1970s. Heenan managed wrestlers under the Heenan Family name in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the National Wrestling Alliance's Georgia Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The term "stable" refers to a group of wrestlers in an ongoing alliance, often under a single manager. Heenan notoriously disliked the term, stating that "A stable is a place where you keep a bunch of fly-infested horses", and instead referred to his collective wrestlers as his "family". The name moved with him, and changed members frequently.


American Wrestling Association (1969-1979)[edit]

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, a professional wrestling manager, debuted in American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1969, where he began managing teams like The Blackjacks (Lanza and Mulligan), the team of Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens, and Bobby Duncum, Sr. forming the first version of Heenan Family. Heenan led his members to many title reigns, including the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and the AWA World Tag Team Championship before leaving AWA in 1979 to join Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW).

Georgia Championship Wrestling (1979)[edit]

In GCW, Heenan formed his second version of Heenan Family, where Blackjack Lanza remained in the stable, while Heenan received new members in Masked Superstar, Killer Karl Kox, Professor Toru Tanaka, and Ernie Ladd. He also led this version to numerous title reigns before he was fired by GCW.

Return to AWA (1979-1984)[edit]

After his firing from GCW, Heenan returned to AWA, where he reformed Heenan Family with Nick Bockwinkel. The stable got its newest member, Ken Patera in 1982, but Patera left the group in 1983 when Heenan suffered an injury in Japan.

World Wrestling Federation (1984-1991)[edit]

Heenan made his debut appearance in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in September 1984, seconding Big John Studd to the ring. While Jesse Ventura was originally supposed to be the first member of the WWF version of the Heenan Family, he was forced to retire due to health problems. Studd officially became the first member of the WWF version of the Heenan Family and wasn't long before Patera joined the fold.

The Heenan Family's first target was André the Giant, with whom Studd had been embroiled in a bitter feud over who was the true "giant" of wrestling. The Heenan Family scored the first major victory in the feud when Heenan helped instigate a 2-on-1 attack on André, an incident that resulted in Studd and Patera cutting André's famous locks of hair. André regained the upper hand, prompting Heenan to bring King Kong Bundy into the Family. Bundy, along with Studd, continued to make life difficult for André, who turned to Hulk Hogan and Tony Atlas for assistance.

Studd and Bundy also formed a successful tag-team, though they never seriously challenged for the WWF World Tag Team Championship, instead concentrating on Heenan Family feuds with André and Hogan. In 1986, as part of a storyline explaining André's leave of absence from the WWF (due to health problems and a tour of Japan), the Heenan Family campaigned to have André suspended for failing to show for matches against Studd and Bundy, and later to require a lifetime suspension from the WWF if they could prove a masked man competing as the "Giant Machine" was André.

In addition to André, WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hogan was another frequent target of the Heenan Family (though in real life the pair were friends and when he was leaving the AWA Heenan had actually called Hogan about getting work in the WWF who then suggested him to WWF owner Vince McMahon). Early on, Heenan turned to Studd, Bundy and Hogan's on-again, off-again friend "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff to win the title from Hogan, but they were all unsuccessful. In early 1987, Heenan appeared to score a major coup for his stable when André turned heel and challenged Hogan for the title at WrestleMania III. In what was billed as the biggest title match in wrestling history, Hogan was successful in his match against André in front of a reported 93,173 fans at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.

After going more than four years without winning any of the WWF championship (World Heavyweight, Intercontinental or Tag Team), the Heenan Family got its first title when "Ravishing" Rick Rude (with help from Heenan) upset The Ultimate Warrior to win the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania V. Shortly thereafter, he led the Brain Busters (former Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) to the WWF World Tag Team Championship with a win over Demolition (Ax and Smash) on Saturday Night's Main Event, giving the Heenan Family two champions at one time. Late in 1989 after Demolition had regained the titles from the Brain Busters, The Colossal Connection (André and Haku) defeated Demolition. Demolition then regained the titles at Wrestlemania VI in Toronto, Canada. In the spring of 1990, the Heenan Family got its fourth title when "Mr. Perfect" defeated former champion Tito Santana and won a tournament to fill the vacant Intercontinental Championship. Going into the match, Perfect had told that he would have a "new" manager with the surprise that it was Bobby Heenan who came to ringside midway through the bout and distracted Santana enough to allow Perfect to get the win.

The Heenan Family officially came to an end in June 1991 when Heenan became a full-time broadcaster (in reality he retired as a manager due to lingering effects of a broken neck suffered in 1983 and being an announcer offered a less strenuous travel schedule as well as no longer taking bumps). However, he would go to associate with Ric Flair when he came to the WWF soon after. Heenan was to have been on the road with Flair for 6 months, but told in his WWE Hall of Fame speech that he went to Vince McMahon after only a month and said he couldn't do it, that Vince had teamed him with Larry Flint and that he simply couldn't keep up with Flair's party lifestyle, though he would continue to heavily support Flair in his commentating with his catch line being "That's not fair to Flair" when he was getting beat up in the ring. Later Heenan also introduced Lex Luger in January 1993 and was known as his advisor, though he did not appear as his manager.

Other wrestlers who were part of the Heenan Family, at one time or another, were Ken Patera, Paul Orndorff, Adrian Adonis, The Missing Link, "The King" Harley Race, The Islanders (Haku and Tama), Hercules, The Barbarian, The Red Rooster, and The Brooklyn Brawler. Several of them -- most notably Hercules and Race -- challenged Hogan for the WWF Heavyweight Championship, while others played key roles in various mid-card and main-event storylines.


AWA members[edit]

WWA members[edit]

NWA Georgia members[edit]

WWF members[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0.