Where do you even start with Heenan? He was around for so long that it’s almost impossible to pick a place. Let’s go with the Hogan feud, which was probably Hogan’s biggest story throughout the 1980s, or at the very least the longest running. The idea here was the key to the whole thing: Hogan wasn’t fighting a single wrestler but rather an idea. Heenan and his Heenan Family wanted to take the title from Hogan no matter what the cost. It was Heenan that Hogan had to defeat rather than an opponent and that opened a lot of doors.
That meant that Heenan could be around for a very long time and that’s exactly what he did. Heenan was a thorn in Hogan’s side for years, sending opponent after opponent against him, capped off by the final boss of Andre the Giant. That was probably the biggest moment of Heenan’s career, but you could really argue that it was the culmination of the huge story of Heenan vs. Hogan rather than Andre vs. Hogan. Even though that was the big match at the end of the run, the two of them weren’t done yet.
We’ll jump ahead to 1994 when Heenan is now the heel color man for World Championship Wrestling. It’s announced that Hogan is showing up and in his first match, he defeats Heenan’s old client Ric Flair to become the WCW World Champion. The sound of Heenan’s voice as he’s nearly in tears over Hogan winning the title is great as he finally escaped from Hogan’s shadow and now it’s starting all over again.
That brings us to “Bash at the Beach 1996” when Hogan comes out in the big six man tag, presumably to save WCW. Of course he was the third man, but Heenan knew it was coming. When Hogan was coming down the ramp, Heenan asked “but whose side is he on???” Somehow Heenan was right and had been right about Hogan all along. For YEARS he had told everyone that Hogan was just in this for himself and was a lying no good human being. It was a minor point but Heenan wound up being the smart one when everything came together at the end.
Moving on, there’s a match you might not have heard of from Madison Square Garden on November 26, 1984 when Heenan was in a rare solo effort. That night, he actually pinned Salvatore Bellomo completely clean in the middle of the ring by reversing a sunset flip. Heenan actually won multiple matches in the WWF, including his final match ever in 1991 at a house show against Mr. Fuji, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the only recorded instance. It’s hardly a big deal but HEENAN PINNED SOMEONE CLEAN. That’s below jobbing to the Brooklyn Brawler.
Heenan’s in-ring career might not be the most fondly remembered in the world but the fact that he could get in there and take a beating every now and then (see “Survivor Series 1989” for example) was a nice bonus. While Heenan was someone who could talk a great game, he was also someone who could be beaten down when the time called for it. That adds a very helpful dynamic to his character which you don’t get too often today.
Sometimes it helps to have someone just take a beating. Heenan is the kind of guy who you wanted to see get what was coming for him and if he had to get punched in the face, so be it. That’s almost a lost art anymore as wrestlers almost always talk for themselves (save for Paul Heyman Guys) or have managers who are wrestlers a lot of the time. There’s something so satisfying about seeing Heenan bouncing off a steel cage (only the blue one of course) or selling a beating from Hogan or Ultimate Warrior. He could sell the heck out of it like few others could ever pull off.
Finally of course we have the big part of Heenan’s character: that comedic timing, which very well may be the best of all time. I’m not going to just list off a bunch of lines that Heenan said over the years because A, we would be here all night and B, just reading the lines isn’t going to capture the delivery, the timing or the perfect way that Heenan would say everything.
Heenan was one of the rare entertainers who could do just about anything. He could do physical comedy (see the camel entrance at “Wrestlemania IX”), be put into some weird situation that he turned funny (the “Prime Time Wrestling” days with Gorilla Monsoon) or the way too long list of one liners that he would throw out, either in support of his own guys or when he was scared to death of someone.
One major thing that people might not notice though is the way Heenan looked during all of his segments. You could see the wheels turning in his eyes as he was coming up with one liners as fast as anyone else. The key to the whole thing was Heenan didn’t have to think about these things and just knew how to get a funny response out there as fast as he possibly could. It made him look smarter (you know, because he was the Brain) but also made you chuckle so much that you would forget what a horrible person he was a lot of the time.
Obviously I can’t do any justice to everything Heenan did either on commentary, in his promos or just being on camera doing something odd. He was a one of a kind talent and one of the best performers that has ever lived. Some people are just naturally funny, which is where Heenan excelled. There have been a ton of performers over the years who have tried to emulate Heenan and no one has been able to come anywhere close. You can’t imitate that kind of ability and it’s really hard to imagine anyone ever coming close to what he did.
Above all else though, I’ll remember Heenan’s time with Monsoon. They’re quite possibly the best combination of all time (I could go either way with Monsoon and Heenan or Monsoon and Jesse Ventura) and you could see the chemistry and friendship there. Whether it was Monsoon throwing Heenan out of the building, shooting him in the old west or just threatening his life in general, Monsoon brought the best out of Heenan and vice versa.
When Heenan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, he said that he wished Monsoon was there. They’re together again now and you can imagine the arguments they’ll be having forever.
It’s a shame to see him go but I’ll never stop laughing, along with the other humanoids.
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