By Haydn Gleed
I was eight years old when I was first introduced to Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. It was at the tail end of the Heenan Family before Bobby became a full time “broadcast journalist”. The Heenan Family was embroiled in a feud with one of my favorites at the time, the Big Boss Man. We all know a friend who is a bad loser. Well, Bobby was a bad winner. He would gloat and proclaim half truths after his heel wrestler would win due to some form cheating and I hated him.
The one liners on commentary will forever stay in my mind. From “He’s fallen and he can’t get up” dripping in mock concern to the racially insensitive in 2017 “hey, how are you” being what Bobby would state as how Tatanka said hello in his Indian tribal chant. On the playground of my school as my buddies and I would be wrestling during playtime (don’t try this at home kids!), I would pull off a great basic wrestling hold (like a headlock on the ground), stand up and start doing an Indian war dance while chanting “hey, how are you, hey, how are you” while my pal would be on the ground looking at me like I was insane. Hey, I was young and impressionable.
As Heenan moved over into the commentary box full time, the magic and chemistry that was on display between he and Gorilla Monsoon was second to none. Longtime readers of Prowrestling.net will remember that I used to write retro articles where I reviewed early ’90s shows. As I was watching these shows, I remember thinking to myself that the commentary had aged well. Sure, the way that the wrestling was presented by the commentators is different, but the banter between Gorilla and Bobby still had me laughing. People from my generation have a fondness for Monsoon. In retrospect and without rose colored glasses, it is slightly mis-placed, but I feel it was the influences and genius of Heenan that have a large part of those fond memories for Monsoon.
But you also respected what Heenan would say even if you didn’t always agree with him. Being an idiot Brit, and I know this is going to be hard to believe, in 1991 I had no idea who Ric Flair was. Being an eight or nine year-old kid with very limited access to wrestling, I couldn’t point out Flair in a lineup. But when he was coming into the WWF, because Bobby said this was the man and someone to respect, I found myself influenced to believe him and look forward to this big star’s debut.
As I started to grow up, not only did I go back and watch Heenan’s early run in the then WWF, I started to develop an appreciation for how brilliant he was as a manager. I remember from the age of 10 until I was 12 not having any other birthday or Christmas presents other than past WrestleManias, SummerSlams, Royal Rumbles, and Survivor Series on VHS. Although I respected the heel work of Big John Studd, Andre the Giant, and Rick Rude, I hated them more because they were associated with Heenan. The Weasel holding onto the boot of the Ultimate Warrior from ringside at WrestleMania 5 still stands out in my mind as one of those moments where I wanted the heel and his manager to have the living crap beat out of them for a stunt. I was totally invested thanks to the work of Heenan.
As a teenager I would clamor for any 1980’s wrestling I could get via tape trading, and I always looked forward to getting some footage of Booby doing his thing in the AWA. As the tapes I could get were never in chronological order, I wasn’t watching the full story of feuds, but I always felt that you could give me a video with a Heenan promo and I would know what was going on straight away and be totally invested in the match or feud that was being promoted. Not only did he make you hate him, he did it in an entertaining way which was the true brilliance of the man.
For me, Bobby Heenan is one of the reasons that 26 years after I first started watching the crazy world of professional wrestling, I’m still here and even writing about it. There are very few wrestlers or personalities that I wish I could meet, shake hands with, and thanks, but Bobby is one of those people. I wanted to write this blog not as a full rundown of his career or necessarily to point out how truly talented the man was, but share some of my own memories that center around Bobby Heenan. I’m sure everybody of the 30-plus year old club of wrestling fans has also been thinking of these happy memories in the days since his sad passing.
To finish, I want to offer my condolences to his family and to say my thoughts are with them during this time. Thank you for the memories, Bobby.
Twitter: @haydngleed email: firstname.lastname@example.org