RIP Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
|Bobby "The Brain" Heenan & Gorilla Monsoon, likely seconds before Monsoon yelled "Will you STOP?!" at Heenan.|
So yeah, he was amazing television. He was, without question, the greatest heel manager in professional wrestling history - this is not up for debate - and on the short list for greatest commentators, too, particularly when teamed up with Gorilla Monsoon. They played their parts well, Monsoon always the babyface-supporting play-by-play guy and Heenan the quintessential heel color man, and their banter was epic... not a wasted line, every word advancing the narratives while also setting up and delivery the best bad jokes imaginable. Gorilla and the Brain weren't just a legendary announce team, but one of the great unheralded comedy duos of the 20th century, at least by my reckoning. Theirs was the sort of on-screen animosity that can only be fueled by a great offscreen friendship, and it was both wonderful and heartbreaking to watch Bobby say goodbye to Gorilla on episode of WCW Monday Nitro years later, and pay further tribute to him in his WWE Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Prime Time Wrestling, the show that used to air on Monday nights on the USA Network, was a far cry from Raw - just Gorilla and Brain sitting in a studio introducing pre-taped matches recorded badly at house shows from around the country and often featuring guys you barely ever heard of - but on the whole was still a more satisfying watch than Raw is some weeks even now, and that's entirely because of Heenan and Monsoon. It was appointment television for me when I was a kid, and I would beg my mom to let me stay up to watch at all as often as I could get away with it.
A few years ago, I had the chance to meet Bobby Heenan in person at a New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame fan event. He had had a ton of health problems due to throat cancer and some related issues, and at that point most of his jaw had to be removed and he was unable to speak. It was sad, and such cruel irony that a man who made his living largely through talking (and at length) no longer could, but I couldn't pass up the chance to meet him. I went up, happily paid for an autographed photo (I picked a picture of him and Gorilla to sign) and explained to him just how much I loved to hate him as a kid, how that eventually made me realize how big a fan I really was, and everything I said above about Prime Time, and I finished with a simple "thank you." He couldn't speak, but... and I know this sounds cheesy as hell... I could see in his eyes that despite it all, he was clearly still The Brain through and through. We ended with a handshake... and let me tell you, for such an obviously infirm guy he still had a decent grip, too, which continues to prove that any wrestler you can name is way tougher than any so-called "real" athlete, sonny jim.
So once again, Brain, thank you for everything. You kept us humanoids entertained, even (probably because) you were the biggest weasel of all.
|You'd have to be a real ham-&-egger not to acknowledge his genius, humanoid.|