As a tiny, wrestling watching kid, Bobby Heenan was a hard guy for me to wrap my head around. On one hand he was this terrible man who kept getting other terrible men to attack all my heroes, but as somebody who was also drawn to comedy and broadcasting from a very early age, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him because he was an absolutely hilarious guy who could talk like nobody’s business. It didn’t help that one of the terrible men he managed was Big John Studd, who I got to meet when I was seven years old and who to this day is still way up there at the top of the list of the nicest famous people I’ve ever met, even though he wasn’t supposed to be because wrestling was real.
But all of that said, any bit of internal conflict that may have existed in my brain didn’t matter, because Bobby Heenan was special. He was so fantastic at his job that it was easy to laugh at all of his jokes but still hate him at the same time. His lines about the Big Boss Man’s mother often had me rolling, for instance, but I still kind of hoped Boss Man would slap the piss out of him one day.
Everybody has their favourite Bobby moment. Yours might even be in that tribute video up there. As for me, there are two that come to mind immediately.
First, there’s the Barbershop window.
Yes, this was mainly about the Rockers splitting up and was a pretty heavy angle by WWF standards, but I’ll never forget Bobby’s commentary. “Jannetty tried to dive through the window to escape!” is one of my favourite lines ever. But even as ridiculous as it was, it somehow fit perfectly. It takes talent to pull something like that off, and nobody could do that sort of thing quite like The Brain.
And then there’s the 1992 Royal Rumble match. If you have the Network, go back and listen to Bobby. The way he lives and dies with everything Ric Flair does is incredible, and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that it required almost as much energy as actually being in the ring.
Whatever your best memory is I hope you treasure it, because I doubt we’ll ever see anyone else like Bobby Heenan. People say it all the time, but he really was one of a kind. I don’t know if heaven is a real place, but if it is, any minute now I expect to hear Gorilla Monsoon yelling “Will you stop!” from all the way there.
Rest well, Brain.