Heenan (left) signing autographs alongside Larry Zbyszko.
|Birth name||Raymond Louis Heenan|
November 1, 1944 |
|Spouse(s)||Cynthia Jean (m. 1974)|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Bobby Heenan|
|Billed height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Billed weight||190 lb (86 kg)|
|Billed from||Beverly Hills, California|
Raymond Louis "Ray" Heenan (born November 1, 1944), also known as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, is an American former professional wrestling manager, wrestler and color commentator, best known for his time with the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He was known for his skill in drawing heel heat for himself and his wrestlers, and for his on-screen repartee with Gorilla Monsoon as a color commentator. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 by Blackjack Lanza.
- 1 Career
- 2 Personal life
- 3 In wrestling
- 4 Championships and accomplishments
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Heenan was born in Chicago on November 1, 1944. Always a fan of wrestling growing up in Chicago and Indianapolis, he started in the wrestling profession early on, carrying bags and jackets for the wrestlers, and selling refreshments at the events. Dropping out of school in the eighth grade to support his mother and grandmother, his first break in the wrestling business was as a heel manager and wrestler in 1965 when he was known as "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan. His gimmick over the years has more or less remained the same, a tough talking big mouth who cowered in fear when being physically confronted. At the time, heels were often given managers to speak for them in interviews, rile up the crowd during matches, and cheat on their behalf. He went on to manage some of the most successful wrestlers in the world, creating "The Heenan Family", a stable that existed in several different incarnations and wrestling promotions for over 20 years.
World Wrestling Association (Indianapolis)
In 1967, Heenan became a regular in the Indianapolis-based WWA promotion both as wrestler and manager. He initially managed Angelo Poffo and Chris Markoff. He later managed the Assassins (Guy Mitchell and Joe Tomasso), the The Valiant Brothers and The Blackjacks. He also occasionally wrestled with a storyline "brother" Guy Heenan. Starting in 1969, he also made occasional appearances in the American Wrestling Association. In 1974, he left the WWA. He attributed his departure from the WWA to a dispute with owner Dick the Bruiser over his pay for his participation in the first-ever wrestling event held at Market Square Arena, emphatically stating that he never returned to the promotion as a result.
American Wrestling Association
In his first appearance in the AWA in 1974, Heenan announced he was now to be known as "The Brain". He took up managing the team of Nick Bockwinkel and Ray "The Crippler" Stevens, a duo which became several-time AWA World tag team champions under his leadership. While Bockwinkel and Stevens feuded with The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser, Bruiser famously called him "Weasel"; this led to faces calling him "Weasel" throughout the rest of his wrestling career. The AWA was the starting point for his first Heenan Family, which consisted of Bockwinkel, Stevens, Bobby Duncum Sr., and Blackjack Lanza.
In 1975, with Heenan in his corner, Bockwinkel captured his first of several AWA World titles, ending the seven-year reign of perennial champion Verne Gagne. While Bockwinkel was AWA champion, in 1976, Lanza and Duncum captured the AWA World Tag Team Championship, making Heenan the first manager in history to simultaneously manage both a major promotion's singles and tag team champions.
In early 1979, Heenan left the AWA (suspended one year, in storyline) to work in Georgia Championship Wrestling, a tenure he has since said he did not enjoy due to his dislike of then booker Ole Anderson. He returned in late 1979 and resumed managing Nick Bockwinkel to renewed championship success, including against a young up-and-coming challenger named Hulk Hogan in 1983. He also managed Ken Patera following his return to the AWA in 1982. Patera later joined forces with Adnan Al-Kaissie when Heenan took some time off, a result of a serious neck injury he suffered in a match with Atsushi Onita while wrestling on an All Japan Pro Wrestling tour in 1983. Toward the end of his time in the AWA, he managed Masa Saito.
In September 1984, Heenan came out during an AWA interview with the Fabulous Ones and initiated a kayfabe brawl in the TV studio with them. Wally Karbo announced on the September 28th AWA broadcast that he had been (kayfabe) suspended indefinitely from the AWA as a manager and wrestler by AWA President Stanley Blackburn. In reality, he was leaving the AWA.
World Wrestling Federation
In 1984, Vince McMahon lured Heenan away from the AWA to manage Jesse "The Body" Ventura; however, after Ventura developed blood clots in his lungs, he was forced to end his active wrestling career. While most of the AWA talent left for the WWF in this time without giving proper notice (the AWA required departing talent to work a six-week notice for booking and syndication-based reasons, with most talent claiming that McMahon paid them extra not to work out their notices with the AWA), only Heenan worked out his notice in good faith to the Gagne family.
With Ventura unable to wrestle, Heenan instead became Big John Studd's manager in matches first against WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan and then in Studd's feud with André the Giant. He soon reformed the Heenan Family, which over the years in the WWF would include Studd, "Olympic Strong Man" Ken Patera, "Playboy" Buddy Rose, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, André the Giant, High Chief Sivi Afi, the Brain Busters (former Four Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), "Ravishing" Rick Rude, "King" Harley Race, the Islanders (Haku and Tama), Hercules, The Barbarian, Mr. Perfect, The Red Rooster, and The Brooklyn Brawler. As a manager, he was always one of the most hated men, often the most hated man, in the promotion.
Heenan once had a famous feud with André the Giant while managing Big John Studd about who was the true giant in professional wrestling (André was billed as being 7'4" (224 cm) while Studd was 6'10" (208 cm)), and famously challenged André to a US$15,000 bodyslam match against Studd at the first WrestleMania, where André had to retire from wrestling if he had lost the match. André dominated the Wrestlemania match with Studd, body slamming him at 5:54. André then took the bag with the $15,000 and started to throw it out to the crowd at Madison Square Garden before Heenan rushed in and snatched the bag before scampering away to the safety of the dressing rooms.
Heenan and the Heenan Family had a monumental feud with wrestling icon Hulk Hogan in the '80s, and Heenan managed two WrestleMania challengers to Hogan's title, King Kong Bundy in 1986, and André the Giant in 1987. While neither Bundy nor André would win the title at that time, André later bested Hogan for the championship on The Main Event on February 5, 1988, in a controversial win after he aligned himself with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. On an episode of Legends of Wrestling, Jim Ross claimed Heenan had received a six-figure payoff for his work in promoting the event—arguably the largest pay day in any managerial career.
After being derided by announcers for his first five years in the WWF (mostly by Gorilla Monsoon) for never managing a champion, WrestleMania V was promoted (mostly by Jesse Ventura and later Gorilla Monsoon) as Heenan's quest, and best chance since WrestleMania III to manage a champion. Heenan finally managed his first champion in the WWF when "Ravishing" Rick Rude upset The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Intercontinental Championship, a match Heenan insured Rude would win by holding Warrior's leg down so he could not break the pin. Shortly thereafter, he led the Brain Busters to the WWF World Tag Team championship. A few months later after the Busters had lost the titles back to Demolition, he led the Colossal Connection (André and Haku) to the Tag Team Championship when they defeated Demolition. Demolition would win the titles back in WrestleMania VI. Immediately after the loss, Heenan began blaming the loss to Andre the Giant going as far as slapping him. A few months after that, he led Mr Perfect to the first of two Intercontinental Championships.
Heenan also wrestled sporadically in his WWF run. In his in-ring debut at Madison Square Garden in November 1984, he pinned Salvatore Bellomo. Heenan's most notable victory came at WrestleMania IV, teaming with The Islanders to defeat The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware. The following year, he was defeated in 30 seconds by former client The Red Rooster at WrestleMania V. Heenan also had a famous feud with The Ultimate Warrior, who reintroduced Heenan to Weasel Suit matches, which Heenan had during his time in the AWA.
Heenan also had a parody talk show known as The Bobby Heenan Show, which was broadcast in four segments during the second half of WWF's regular weekly program Prime Time Wrestling. It was co-hosted by Jamison Winger and featured several very overweight women known as The Oinkettes.
As neck injuries prevented him from taking bumps the way he used to, Heenan retired from managing in 1991 to become a full-time "broadcast journalist" (see below). Nonetheless, Heenan crossed the line to managing sporadically. When the WWF signed Ric Flair, Heenan spent several weeks talking Flair up as "The Real World's Heavyweight Champion". He continued to act as an advisor to Flair during his 1991-93 WWF run (and coined the phrase, "That's not fair to Flair" and "You got to be fair to Flair"). Though he nominally managed Flair, Heenan's former protégé Mr. Perfect, who temporarily retired due to injury, would regularly accompany Flair to ringside as his "Executive Consultant". At the 1993 Royal Rumble, he introduced Lex "Narcissist" Luger to the WWF to exact revenge on his former protégé, Mr. Perfect.
In 1986, WWF owner Vince McMahon took full advantage of his microphone and comedic skills and Heenan became a color commentator in addition to his managing duties. He replaced Jesse Ventura on Prime Time Wrestling and All American Wrestling, aired on the USA Network, teaming up with Gorilla Monsoon. He also replaced Ventura to team up with Monsoon on the syndicated All-Star Wrestling, which was replaced in the fall of 1986 with Wrestling Challenge. Heenan and Monsoon's usually-unscripted banter was very entertaining, and inspired many classic moments. Heenan, calling himself a "broadcast journalist", openly rooted for the heels while they cheated or did something under-handed and referred to the fans of the face wrestlers as the humanoids, and babyface wrestlers, especially jobbers, as "ham-and-eggers." Another classic moment between Heenan and Monsoon occurred repeatedly when Heenan went on a long rant supporting the heel wrestlers, until an exasperated Gorilla Monsoon would say either, "Will you stop?", "Give me a break!", or a sarcastic, "Please!".
Heenan, still suffering from the broken neck he received ten years earlier and unable to cope with the long working hours, decided to leave the WWF at the end of 1993. He was given an on-air farewell by Gorilla Monsoon on the December 6, 1993 edition of Monday Night Raw, broadcast from the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York. Monsoon who, in kayfabe, was fed up by Heenan's constant insults, literally threw him and his belongings out of the arena and onto the street. Heenan mentioned that the idea was his and Monsoon's. Afterwards, Heenan stated that he and Monsoon embraced each other and wept for over an hour in the hotel where they both were staying. Later, in an interview, Heenan recalls the incident saying he chose Monsoon to throw him out of the WWF seeing it as appropriate. He also poked fun at Monsoon saying he ate the bananas that Monsoon brought as a going away gift for Heenan.
Heenan's original plan was to retire, spend time with his family, and relax, but he was contacted by WCW soon after he left the WWF. He was unsure at first, but accepted their offer once he found out that WCW provided lighter work schedules and health insurance. Heenan also cited the short driving distance between WCW's home base of Atlanta and his daughter's school in Alabama.
World Championship Wrestling
On January 27, 1994, Heenan made his debut in WCW. He was originally brought in to replace Jesse Ventura, his former client, as the color commentator for WCW Saturday Night and eventually took over Ventura's position as the company's lead commentator, replacing him for pay-per-view events and also taking over Ventura's spot on the syndicated WCW Worldwide and Clash of the Champions events produced for TBS. When WCW Monday Nitro premiered in September 1995, Heenan left Saturday Night to work on the new show full-time and joined former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael as analyst alongside play-by-play man Eric Bischoff.
As he had before, Heenan acted as the heel of the broadcast team, cheering on the heel of the fight and making excuses for them when they cheated. Heenan said he was uninspired in WCW due to the negative work environment, which he later described as night and day compared to the WWF, and due to conflicts with Eric Bischoff and Tony Schiavone. In 1995, Heenan had neck surgery.
In 1996, during a live broadcast of Nitro on April 1, Heenan made an announcement stating "tonight is going to be my last night on Nitro. I'm retiring from wrestling and I'm retiring from broadcasting". Before the show went off the air, Heenan shook hands with his co-commentators and said his farewells, only to point out that it was just an April Fool. Later that year, Heenan made a one-off return to ringside at the Great American Bash as the manager of two of his former clients, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, in a tag team match against his broadcast colleague McMichael and Carolina Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene. Heenan was instrumental in convincing McMichael to turn on his partner, which enabled Flair and Anderson to win the match, and fill the open spot in The Four Horsemen that Brian Pillman left behind when he departed the company earlier in the year.
In July 1996, Heenan became a tweener for the first time in his career. He began to favor the babyfaces when they went against the NWO while still favoring heels in any other match.
Starting in late January 2000, WCW replaced Heenan on Monday Nitro and pay-per-view events with Mark Madden. Heenan continued to commentate on Thunder along with Mike Tenay until April 2000. The two were then joined by Tony Schiavone in April 2000. Heenan was then replaced by Stevie Ray beginning in July 2000 on Thunder. Heenan was then only seen with Scott Hudson on World Wide until he was released by WCW in November 2000.
Brian Pillman incident
During the Clash of the Champions event on January 23, 1996, broadcast live on TBS, Heenan screamed, "What the fuck are you doing?" as Brian Pillman had grabbed him by his neck, which he had surgery on not too long before, during Pillman's "loose cannon" gimmick. Heenan promptly left the broadcast area and headed backstage but soon calmed down and returned to the air to apologize for his language. According to Heenan, Pillman apologized to him for the incident backstage, citing he did not know of Heenan's history of neck problems beforehand, and more specifically that Heenan had been labeled "no-touch" by management because of his injuries.
Heenan, in later interviews, explained that the reason for his outburst was that he did not know it was Pillman who was grabbing him, as he was looking at Eddie Guerrero (Pillman's opponent) in the ring. Since Heenan was watching Guerrero on the ringside monitor (which displays the match as it is broadcast on television), he stated that he did not know that Pillman was behind him, and figured a fan had jumped the guard-rail and attacked him.
Bobby Heenan provided commentary to the Gimmick Battle Royal match at WrestleMania X-Seven alongside long-time friend and colleague "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Heenan also lent his considerable talents and experience to smaller wrestling promotions.
He has written two career memoirs, 2002's Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All, and 2004's Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life's Wrestling Matches which has an introduction by Ric Flair. Both books were co-written by Steve Anderson.
In 2004, Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame shortly before WrestleMania XX. In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute to his late broadcast partner and real-life close friend, tearfully saying "I wish Monsoon were here."
Heenan made a brief appearance between matches at the actual WrestleMania XX broadcast; while Jonathan Coachman was "searching" the backstage area for The Undertaker, he investigated some noises to discover aged female wrestlers Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah. Heenan and "Mean" Gene Okerlund appeared moments earlier in a disheveled state; Coachman implied that the four had been involved in a sex act of some sort. Heenan also appeared in interviews for The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD in 2005.
Heenan is still involved in wrestling on a limited basis, giving interviews and making sporadic appearances. In February 2001, Heenan did color commentary for the WOW Unleashed pay-per-view. In 2004 he returned to the spotlight, feuding with fellow managerial legend Jim Cornette in Ring of Honor. Also in 2004 he joined former WCW commentators Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko in providing commentary for the video game Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.
On April 2, 2005, Heenan inducted his former protégé Paul Orndorff into the WWE Hall of Fame and on April 1, 2006 Heenan inducted Blackjack Mulligan and Blackjack Lanza and on March 31, 2007 Heenan inducted Nick Bockwinkel.
Heenan appeared for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) towards the end of 2005 on TNA Impact! alongside Chicago White Sox catcher A. J. Pierzynski and strength coach Dale Torborg when they presented TNA wrestlers A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin, and Sonjay Dutt with autographed gifts from the team. They were interrupted by The Diamonds in the Rough which led to a second appearance.at Turning Point (2005), Heenan provided commentary for the Six Man Tag Team Basebrawl match between The Diamonds in the Rough and the team of Chris Sabin, Dale Torborg and Sonjay Dutt.
Heenan's latest appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment occurred on the June 11, 2007 episode of Monday Night Raw (also billed as the WWE Draft 2007). Heenan was featured in a taped segment giving his thoughts on Mr. McMahon for "Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night".
Heenan was honored by the Pro Wrestling Report at the annual Blizzard Brawl event on December 5, 2009 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as he was given their Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to this, The mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, declared December 5, 2009 to be "Bobby Heenan Day".
On April 17, 2010 Heenan appeared at TNA Lockdown fanfest.
WWE released a retrospective two-disc DVD set of his career on December 28, 2010.
Heenan has been married to Cynthia Jean (known as Cindy) since 1974. Together they have a daughter, Jessica Ida Heenan (married name Solt, born 1978). He became a grandfather when his grandson Austin was born in 2008.
Although on-screen they were often at odds, Heenan was actually very close with his WWF broadcast partner Gorilla Monsoon. He was working for WCW when Monsoon died on October 6, 1999 and reportedly insisted WCW announce the death of his friend on the air despite Monsoon having never worked for WCW. On the October 11 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, he and Tony Schiavone announced Monsoon's death. During his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech, he said Monsoon's presence was the only thing missing from the occasion.
In January 2002, Heenan announced on his website that he had throat cancer:
|“||I just want to let all the wonderful "humanoids" out there know how grateful I am for the good wishes...
Yes, I do have throat cancer, but I plan on beating this too.
Heenan later recovered from throat cancer, but lost a great deal of weight, dramatically changing his appearance and voice. Following early treatments, he spoke in a soft, high-pitched tone which contrasts noticeably with the tone fans were accustomed to hearing him use as a color commentator. He went from 246 pounds (112 kg) to 190 pounds (86 kg) or even less.
In December 2007, Heenan had reconstructive surgery on his jaw, after the first surgery was unsuccessful. He was placed in a medically induced coma and was slowly brought out. In the second half of January 2008, he had come out of his medically induced coma. Though not yet able to speak, he was communicating with his eyes. He had several more surgeries to reconstruct facial features. In October 2008, it was reported that he was able to speak a few sentences before he gets tired. In February 2009, it was reported that he was still relearning how to speak clearly, out of the hospital and planning to attend some Major League Baseball spring training sessions. He accompanied Gene Okerlund to the WWE Hall of Fame the day before WrestleMania XXV.
On December 11, 2009, Heenan was hospitalized at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL after an examination of his rebuilt jaw found an infection that needed to be treated. As a result, he missed his scheduled appearance at the K&S Wrestlefest event in New Jersey. By 2010, His jaw infection was completely eradicated. In 2011, he broke a hip and his pelvis in a fall and recovered within a few months.
According to an interview given by Jim Ross in October 2013, Heenan was "hanging in there" and continuing to have trouble speaking as a result of tongue cancer treatments. In April 2014, while in Las Vegas attending a wedding, he fell out of bed and broke a shoulder and in May 2016, he suffered another fall and broke a hip.
- Bobby Heenan with Steve Anderson. Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All. Triumph Books. 2002. ISBN 1-57243-465-1
- Bobby Heenan with Steve Anderson. Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life's Wrestling Matches. Sports Publishing. 2004. ISBN 1-58261-762-7
- Wrestlers managed
- Nick Bockwinkel
- Ray "The Crippler" Stevens
- Angelo Poffo
- Bobby Duncum Sr.
- Adrian Adonis
- Big John Studd
- Ken Patera
- King Kong Bundy
- André the Giant
- "Ravishing" Rick Rude
- "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff
- Harley Race
- Hercules Hernandez
- The Barbarian
- "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig
- High Chief Sivi Afi
- Red Rooster
- The Brooklyn Brawler
- Ric Flair
- Lex Luger
- The Missing Link
- King Haku
- Don Muraco
- Buddy Rose
- Butch Reed
- Colt Cabana
- Jimmy Jacobs
- Nigel McGuinness
- CM Punk
- Baron von Raschke
- Ernie Ladd
- Dick Warren
- Jon "Jumbo" Bailey
- Killer Karl Kox
- Nikolai Volkoff
- Masked Superstar
- Austin Idol
- Ron Bass
- Tag team managed
- Nick Bockwinkel and Ray "The Crippler" Stevens
- The Blackjacks (Blackjack Lanza and Blackjack Mulligan)
- The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard)
- The Colossal Connection (André the Giant and Haku)
- The Islanders (Haku and Tomah)
- The Assassins (Guy Mitchell & Joe Tomasso)
- The Valiant Brothers
Championships and accomplishments
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Iron Mike Mazurki Award (2004)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2010
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- "Bobby Heenan's OWW Profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- "Bobby Heenan's IMDB Profile". IMDB.com. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
- "Bobby Heenan's 411Mania Profile". 411Mania.com. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 32. Triumph Books, 2002.
- The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA DVD
- "WrestleMania Results". WWE. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- "It's time for the Bobby Heenan Show". ddtdigest.com. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- WWE.com Archived December 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 90. Triumph Books, 2002.
- Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 94. Triumph Books, 2002.
- "Bobby Heenan Interview". gerweck.net. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 97. Triumph Books, 2002.
- "Bobby Heenan's SLAM! Profile". SLAM! Sports. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- "Ring of Honor - All-Star Extravaganza II Results". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- "No "Weasel-ing" out for Heenan". WWE. Archived from the original on 2007-05-28. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- "TNA Prime Time Special Results 12/8/05". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- "Official Results From Thursday's Impact! On SpikeTV". tnawrestling.com. Retrieved 2007-08-24.
- "BLIZZARD BRAWL CELEBRATES THE BRAIN". GLCW. Retrieved 2011-07-31.
- Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page xi. Triumph Books, 2002.
- WWE News: Royal Rumble Tickets, Bobby Heenan Health Update Archived December 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Ross, Jim (July 31, 2012). "Jim Ross on Bobby Heenan, Gorilla Monsoon". WWE.com. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
- Wrestling 93: Rulebreaker, Spring 1993 Issue, Article "Bobby Heenan and Lex Luger: The Total Package of Brain and Brawn!", pages 48-51.
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