Sports entertainment lost one of its best and brightest of all time Sunday with the passing of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan at 72.
Also known as “The Weasel,” Heenan played about every part there is in pro wrestling, from competing in matches in the 1970s to primarily managing and commentating in the ’80s and ’90s…Chances are if you were a young fan of Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior, you didn’t trust this guy.
And how could you? He managed hated thugs like “Ravishing” Rick Rude and King Kong Bundy, cheated the good guys out of titles any chance he could, and turned Andre the Giant into a bad guy just like the rest of them. He earned his “Weasel” nickname every chance he could when he managed the loathed “Heenan Family” stable of grapplers.
The ‘villain manager’ role was one of the most important roles in sports entertainment at the time and he played it better than anyone else in history…Rest assured if Heenan was at ringside against one of your favorites, you kept your eye on him and yelled at the TV when he tried to intervene on behalf of his clients.
But be that as it may, you also probably got great enjoyment from watching the guy no matter the circumstances, and that’s because … Even in a sport that tried to get youngsters to buy in and believe these guys really hated each other … “The Brain” was just too darn likable to hate, in or out of the ring.
This was especially true when the good guys got hold of him or one of his own wrestlers, like the aforementioned Andre, decided they’d had enough of the Weasel:
And while he’ll always be remembered as one of the best managers, Heenan shone especially behind the mic and did so most next to his perfect playful foil, the great ‘Gorilla’ Monsoon. Monsoon played the straight man to Heenan’s weasel act perfectly, delivering the classic “Would you stop!?” line anytime Heenan got out of line.
Wrestling is largely show business, but like any sporting event there are sometimes “dud” events or matches. Not all pay-per-views successfully put the “entertainment” in sports entertainment with their in-ring products, but viewers could count on being entertained with Heenan at the mic.
Learning a wrestler had graduated from North Dakota State, he might drop a line like, “North Dakota State? What do you have to do there to graduate? Milk a cow with your left hand?”
Or, commenting on ‘Texas Tornado’ Kerry Von Erich’s intelligence, it could just as easily been Don Rickles or Rodney Dangerfield saying, “He’s the only guy I know who can hide his own Easter eggs.”
Rest in peace, Brain…From all your ‘humanoids’ in St. Louis.