Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rest in Peace Bobby "The Brain" Heenan

Meeting the Brain in 1998
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I've just read from several sources that Bobby "The Brain" Heenan" has died. When I list my all-time favorites in professional wrestling, Ric Flair tops the list. But Heenan is not far behind the "Nature Boy." His work as a commentator and a manager was untouchable. 

Heenan, Studd & Patera
Courtesy: WWE
My first memories of Heenan were in his early days of the WWF. He was managing Big John Studd and Ken Patera as the trio feuded with Andre the Giant. Hulk Hogan and Hillbilly Jim eventually got involved and would throw the Brain around like a rag doll. His wit was quick and his ability to absorb punishment made him must-see TV for me. 

Bobby Heenan & Rick Rude
Courtesy: WWE
From Andre the Giant to the Red Rooster, Heenan gave all his family members a shine that some managers never had the ability to do. He made the Brooklyn Brawler a Superstar, took The Brain Busters to the WWF tag team titles and helped Rick Rude become Intercontinental Champion. Of course, there's Andre and Haku's title run too, his time with Mr. Perfect and his pair of IC title reigns and Heenan's role in bringing Ric Flair into the WWF and eventually winning the WWF Championship.

Heenan with Andre at WrestleMania III
Courtesy: WWE
Heenan convinced Andre the Giant to turn against Hulk Hogan and set up one of the biggest WrestleMania main events of all-time. Even though Andre came up short, it started a new chapter in the career of the Giant. Heenan played a big role in that story.

The Weasel!
Courtesy: WWE
He took years of bumps and abuse from the company's top good guys including Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Roddy Piper and The Ultimate Warrior. In fact, it was the Warrior who wrestled Heenan in a series of matches in which the loser would get stuffed into a weasel costume. Guess who won those encounters?  

I was heartbroken when Heenan left the WWF and signed with WCW. I enjoyed both promotions but was a WWF loyalist. However, it was Heenan's time in WCW that I got a chance to meet the legend. I was working in Florence, Alabama as a TV anchor and there was a Thursday Night Thunder happening an hour away in Huntsville. I talked with someone at WCW and was granted media access and the chance to interview several stars. One of them was Bobby Heenan. I was completely starstruck and nearly 20 years later wonder how I made it through the interview. I was a young journalist at the time and tried hard not to fanboy right there. That moment remains one of my favorite in my career.

WrestleMania 27
The Heenan Family
In 2011, I joined my friends Chad and Travis as members of the Heenan family at WrestleMania 27. I was the Brain, Chad was Rooster and Travis was Brawler. I still wear the jacket my mom made as a ring announcer in Stride Pro Wrestling. Fans call it the Bobby Heenan coat. Now it means even more to me.

This barely scratches the surface on my admiration for Bobby Heenan. I will have more in the coming days. Be sure to check out My 1-2-3 Cents on Facebook for updates. Rest in peace, Brain.

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