In the world of pro wrestling, there was the always outspoken manager-turned-commentator Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and then there was everybody else. And wrestling fans around the world are now mourning the death of a legend, as Heenan passed away this weekend at the age of 73.
It was revealed on Sunday, September 17, that Bobby Heenan had died, succumbing to a long and hard battle with throat cancer that started all the way back in 2002. It's a testament to the entertainer's verve and moxie that he conquered the illness for as long as he did, and even though Heenan wasn't seen as frequently around a wrestling ring in the last 15 years, his impact on the sport will never be forgotten.
It was his former WWE (then-WWF) colleague "Mean" Gene Okerlund who first shared the news of his death on social media.
The Brain was born on November 1, 1944, with the given name Raymond Louis Heenan. He first got into the wrestling biz in 1965, working under the nickname "Pretty Boy" and kicking off a career-long gimmick of talking big and then not being able to put his money where his mouth was. From 1967-1984, Heenan worked with the World Wrestling Association and the American Wrestling Association, both as a wrestler and as a heel manager, working with fellow squared circle icons like Angelo Poffo (Randy "Macho Man" Savage's father), Dick the Bruiser, Nick Bockwinkel, Ken Patera and more. In 1983, that he suffered a severe neck injury that put actual wrestling on his back burner in future years.
It was in 1984 that he got hired on with the then-WWF by Vince McMahon, where he kicked off his legend-making streak as one of the most camera-ready managers in all of wrestling. Just about every "bad guy" in the organization was led to the ring by Bobby Heenan at least once, from King Kong Bundy to "Ravishing" Rick Rude to Andre the Giant and everyone in between. And his talents on the mic were impressive enough to land him a faux talk show -- called "The Bobby Heenan Show," because what else? -- and it was around that point in the mid-1980s when he took over as a color commentator with Gorilla Monsoon, and Heenan's bias for heel wrestlers made their back-and-forth as enjoyable as the action in the ring.
After being literally thrown out into the street by Gorilla Monsoon in 1993 in a most hilarious (and planned) exit from the WWF, Bobby Heenan sidestepped an intended retirement goal and joined the WCW for a six-year stint that few would say was as enjoyable as his earlier years. (Heenan included.) He sat alongside Eric Bischoff and Steve McMichael for the popular Monday Nitro run, and after he was later bounced around between different shows, the WCW released him in 2000. He later appeared on a couple of different PPV events for the WWE and WOW, and appeared a couple of times within TNA-branded events. He also got to have a brief feud with former WWE manager Jim Cornette for Ring of Honor.
As one can imagine, social media was home to dozens of saddened posts from wrestlers young and old that paid respects to Bobby Heenan, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame back in 2004. Everyone from "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase to Cody Rhodes to Taz to Hulk Hogan shared kind and inspirational words. Perhaps no one said it best than Ric Flair, though.
Bret Hart, another wrestling legend who left the sport too soon, gave an impassioned series of tweets in memory of his former colleague.
Goodbye to another friend. Bobby Heenan has been my hero these past few years. How he battled cancer with such defiance and courage in recent years has mystified me. He was always sharp as a tack, and whether anyone, including him ever knew it, he was the absolute toughest man the wrestling world ever knew. Rest in peace Bobby, nobody will ever forget all that you gave.
And here's one from former WWE and WCW announcer Tony Schiavone.
We here at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to Bobby Heenan's family and friends during their time of mourning. There will never be anyone else like The Brain, something that's worth mourning and celebrating all in one feeling.