In Memorium: The Life and Legacy of Bobby Heenan

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Photo: WWE

The wrestling world was shattered Sunday evening with the announcement that WWE Hall of Famer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, widely regarded as the greatest manager in pro wrestling history, passed away following lengthy battles with throat and tongue cancer, as well as multiple jaw infections. The exact cause of death has not been revealed. Heenan was 73 years old.

Raymond Louis Heenan was born November 1, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, but to the world he was known as Bobby, a career sports entertainer, from wrestler, to manager, to announcer. As a wrestler, he was known as “Pretty Boy” Bobby Heenan when he debuted in 1960. By 1967, he was both a wrestler and a manager, initially handling the tag team of Angelo Poffo (Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo‘s father) and Chris Markoff in Dick The Bruiser‘s promotion, World Wrestling Association (WWA). He would also manage the Blackjacks (Mulligan and Lanza) and the Valiant Brothers.

In 1974, he moved to the AWA, where he created his first variation of his stable, The Heenan Family, when he took on the managerial duties of Nick Bockwinkel and Ray “Crippler” Stevens, also adding Bobby Duncum and Blackjack Lanza. In 1975, he guided Nick Bockwinkel to his first AWA World title run and in 1979, his world champion Bockwinkel entered a feud with a young Hulk Hogan, setting up a lifelong feud against the Hulkster, in the AWA, WWF and WCW.

In 1983, Heenan was part of a large exodus of AWA talent to the WWF, as Vince McMahon Jr. began to take over the company from his ailing father, Vince McMahon Sr. Heenan was instantly pushed as the top heel manager of the company, with his new Heenan family constantly challenging Hulk Hogan for this WWF World title. During his WWF career, his Family included Andre The Giant, Harley Race, Ric Flair, The Brainbusters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard), “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Lex Luger, Haku, King Kong Bundy and more. His draw was so immense, that his managerial presence made huge stars out of such previous journeymen as Big John Studd, Hercules Hernandez, The Barbarian and The Brooklyn Brawler. His final client in the WWF was the introduction of “The Narcissist” Lex Luger in 1993.

Photo: WWE

In 1986, Vince McMahon began to put Heenan on commentary as the heel announcer, replacing Jesse “The Body” Ventura next to Gorilla Monsoon. The iconic duo are often regarded by most as the best commentary duo of all time. He would hold that position until his retirement in 1993 and departure from the WWF. In 1994, he was talked out of retirement by WCW and returned as a commentator only. He would become a vital part of WCW Monday Nitro and would remain with WCW until 2000, when he was released shortly prior to the WWE taking over in 2001.

Photo: WWE Network

Bobby Heenan continues to remain the standard bearer for heel commentators and managers alike, and his legacy will remain forever in the heart of pro wrestling, with performers and fans alike.

The Wrestling world was suitably shocked and saddened by the industry’s loss.

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Jamie Greer is the Managing Editor and lead writer for Last Word on Pro Wrestling. A lifelong wrestling fan who started with the WWF in the early 80’s, he now follows everything from the smallest indie to WWE. He’s also written for WrestleZone, The Windsor Star, Windsor Independent and other publications. He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and son.

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