Witty Heenan ‘peer­less’

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OBITUARIES -

BOBBY Heenan, whose quick­wit­ted in­sults and pro­mo­tional an­tics as a pro wrestling man­ager, com­men­ta­tor and oc­ca­sional grap­pler made him one of the most re­viled – and pop­u­lar – fig­ures in his busi­ness, died from com­pli­ca­tions from throat can­cer. He was 72.

His death was an­nounced by the WWE en­ter­tain­ment com­pany.

Heenan was a so-so wrestler but as a pro­moter he had few equals. He lived up to his nick­name as “The Brain” by fash­ion­ing out­landish meth­ods to gain at­ten­tion for his wrestlers and their bouts.

Sport­ing a blond pom­padour and se­quined jack­ets with his mono­gram, Heenan passed him­self off as a dandy.

He ap­peared to take of­fence to his less gen­er­ous moniker, “The Weasel”, as he in­sulted op­pos­ing wrestlers, fans and the cities where the matches took place.

It was all a cal­cu­lated ef­fort to gen­er­ate “heat”, or the drummedup an­i­mus that would draw peo­ple to the arena. Wrestling fans were so caught up in the ri­val­ries they never knew his life was some­times in ac­tual dan­ger. He es­caped thrown chairs and at­tacks and at least one shoot­ing, in which sev­eral spec­ta­tors were wounded.

Heenan be­gan his ca­reer in wrestling when it was an al­most un­der­ground en­ter­prise. Later, as part of the WWF (World Wrestling Fed­er­a­tion) and its sub­se­quent in­car­na­tions, he helped build it into a huge spec­ta­cle, fill­ing are­nas and TV screens and mak­ing its most cel­e­brated per­form­ers stars in the le­git­i­mate en­ter­tain­ment world.

Over the years, Heenan worked with many of the big­gest names in the in­dus­try, in­clud­ing An­dre the Gi­ant, Ric Flair, Rav­ish­ing

Rick Rude, Paul “Mr Won­der­ful” Orn­dorff, Big John Studd and the tag team of Black­jack Mul­li­gan and Black­jack Lanza.

In the 1980s, Heenan helped pro­mote the pop­u­lar WrestleMa­nia events of WWE’s pre­de­ces­sor, the WWF. WrestleMa­nia III drew a crowd of 93 173 to the Pon­tiac Sil­ver­dome in Michi­gan to watch Hulk Hogan de­fend his ti­tle against An­dre the Gi­ant.

Heenan’s hype-filled pre­match in­ter­views were of­ten as en­ter­tain­ing as the matches them­selves. Speak­ing to an­nouncer “Mean” Gene Ok­er­lund, Heenan likened the An­dre-Hogan bout to a cat lurk­ing in­side a bird cage with a ca­nary. (As if there were any doubt, Heenan’s client, An­dre, was the cat, leav­ing a trail of the Hulk­ster’s feathers be­hind.)

“I won­der if we could talk wrestling here, in­stead of ca­naries,” Ok­er­lund said.

“Sure, we can talk about what­ever you want to talk about,” Heenan replied, “but don’t talk to me about it.”

“In wrestling, Heenan was peer­less,” com­men­ta­tor David Bix­enspan wrote on the sports web­site Dead­spin.com.

Heenan was born in Chicago on Novem­ber 1, 1944.

He be­came en­am­oured of wrestling as a child and left school in the eighth grade to work as an as­sis­tant at wrestling venues in Chicago and later In­di­anapo­lis.

He called him­self “Pretty Boy” Bobby Heenan when he started wrestling in his teens. By 21, he was man­ag­ing other wrestlers, be­stow­ing the name “The Brain” on him­self.

Heenan of­ten re­ferred to his wrestlers as “the fam­ily”, re­sist­ing the com­mon term “sta­ble”.

He con­tin­ued to ap­pear in the ring, of­ten blood­ied in bat­tle, un­til break­ing his neck in Ja­pan in

1983. His later role as man­ager was hardly a desk job.

In ad­di­tion to en­dur­ing cat­calls and curses, he was some­times pulled into the ring dur­ing bouts, tossed across the floor and sub­jected to rit­ual hu­mil­i­a­tion be­fore be­ing res­cued by his brawny brethren.

He was in­ducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

Sur­vivors in­clude his widow Cyn­thia, a daugh­ter and two grand­chil­dren. – Wash­ing­ton Post

Bobby Heenan was re­viled but very pop­u­lar in pro wrestling.

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