Professional wrestling legend Bobby Heenan, best known for his role as a heel manager in the WWE, has passed away at 73 years old. Heenan had been battling serious health problems for around fifteen years now, including a battle with throat cancer in 2002. “The Brain” managed some of the most iconic names in the history of the pro wrestling. Names like Ric Flair, Rick Rude, and Andre The Giant have all been part of the famed “Heenan family” of wrestling.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer has the details.
“Raymond Louis “Bobby” Heenan, generally considered the greatest pro wrestling manager of all-time, passed away this afternoon.
He had been battling serious health issues for many years after contracting cancer first in 2002. Heenan was 72.
Heenan started as a wrestling fan in Chicago.
He started under the name Pretty Boy Bobby Heenan for Dick the Bruiser’s WWA promotion in 1965, and became known nationally a few years later as the manager of Blackjack Lanza. The Lanza & Heenan act was big in the AWA, WWA, and St. Louis.
Heenan was so much a part of making Lanza one of the country’s top heels that Sam Muchnick, who hated the idea of wrestling managers and wouldn’t use them, made an exception for Heenan, who is believed to have been the only heel manager ever to work for the St. Louis Wrestling Club.
Heenan was a regular foil of Bruiser & Crusher, while working with teams like Angelo Poffo & Chris Markoff and The Assassins, and later the Blackjacks, with Blackjack Mulligan joining Lanza.
He was already a key player in the AWA, but got even bigger in 1974 when he returned to manage Ray Stevens & Nick Bockwinkel, the AWA tag team champions. In the AWA, because of Larry Hennig being Pretty Boy Larry Hennig, he had to get a new nickname, and became Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan was billed from Beverly Hills, California, since Bockwinkel was billed from Southern California and Stevens from San Francisco.
He also managed Bockwinkel all over the world during his tenure as AWA champion, Lanza & Bobby Duncum as tag team champions, Stevens & Pat Patterson as tag team champions, and many others before leaving in 1984 to join the WWF, where he started as the manager of Jesse Ventura.
Heenan would be high on the list, with Bockwinkel, Verne Gagne, Crusher, and Mad Dog Vachon, as the most valuable performers in the history of the AWA.
Heenan was the top manager in the WWF, and later became a heel television announcer, most notably working with Gorilla Monsoon.
He also managed Andre the Giant when Andre did his heel turn and had his famous match at WrestleMania III with Hulk Hogan that is often considered the most famous pro wrestling match ever held in the United States.
Due to neck injuries stemming from a match in Japan, combined with all the crazy bumps he took, Heenan retired as a manager, with Ric Flair as his last protege. He remained an announcer with WWF until 1993, when Vince McMahon decided against renewing his contract and he went to WCW, where he was a lead announcer during the heyday of Monday Nitro before being released from the company in 2000, when the company was in a heavy cost-cutting mode.
Heenan’s health issues date back 15 years when he was first diagnosed with throat cancer. He also had issues in 2007 and 2008 after reconstructive surgery on his jaw. He had fallen many times in recent years and suffered broken hips on more than one occasion. In 2014, he broke his shoulder while in Las Vegas to attend the wedding of Mike and Karen Tenay’s son Eric.
Heenan’s wit was incredible, even through recent years, and he easily could have been a Ted Knight-level actor/comedian on television even if WWF’s attempts like the Bobby Heenan show were not a big success.”