Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan

There has been a decent amount of buzz in online wrestling circles as of late that Paul Heyman's last two years of exquisite manager work for Brock Lesnar and CM Punk has propelled into the very top with one other man as the best wrestling manager of all time. That other individual is the subject of today's blog entry which is for the documentary WWE put out in 2010 simply titled Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (trailer).

I feel ashamed it has took me four years to get around to this since I purchased it shortly after its release, and secondly because the main documentary feature is only 55 minutes long, about a good half hour shorter than the average WWE documentary. Nonetheless, WWE managed to cram enough extras on here to make it a two disc set. I have always liked Bobby's manager work and despised him like most other kids I grew up with, but I was just a kid when he was wrapping it his best work in the federation years in the late 80s and early 90s and remember him as more of an announcer in the early years of RAW and on Nitro.

I have some pros and cons with the feature. It starts off well, telling of Bobby's origins growing up in Chicago and first breaking into the AWA for his near decade long run there through 1984. Other than some brief clips in past WWE documentaries I never saw much of Heenan's career in AWA so it was a nice treat to see WWE give an adequate amount of time featuring the highs of Bobby's career there. WWE tracked down former AWA allies and foes such as Greg Gagne, Baron Von Raske and Nick Bockwinkel to share some classic Bobby stories like the birth of the weasel suit and how hometown crowds were eager to rip into him whenever he sporadically stepped into the ring there.

A good chunk of the rest of the feature is on his decade run in the then-WWF through 1993. It covers the rise of Heenan's stable throughout the 80s that fans came to recognize as "Heenan's Family" and featured a lot of the top villains of the 80s such as Big John Studd, Mr. Perfect and Andre the Giant. A lot of attention is focused on him managing Andre in the main event of Wrestlemania III against Hulk Hogan. I completely forgot about The Bobby Heenan Show, which was Bobby's own late night talk show that consumed a half hour of the old Prime Time Wrestling show in the early 90s for a few months. Vince McMahon went on to say here it was "ahead of its time," and if you call a half hour of fat girl jokes ahead of its time I guess you are correct with WWE's logic because that is one of the pillars for the humor they use on their programming today. I am not kidding, for the whole duration of them highlighting The Bobby Heenan Show, it primarily consists of Heenan bullying and berating women of size.

To put things on a brighter note, they transition to show the awesome on screen chemistry between Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan from their time doing play-by-play and announcing on Prime Time Wrestling. The feature does a nice job covering Bobby doing mostly commentary for his last couple of years in the WWE until Gorilla got promoted to on screen WWE President and threw him out of the company, literally, on one of the last RAWs of 1993 in a classic RAW moment.

The feature does a disservice to Bobby's run in WCW. He made his debut there in February 1994, and was with the company until he was let go shortly before it was acquired by WWE in March of 2001. For the seven years he spent there he was mostly an announcer as he hung up his managing jacket by this point, but for his seven year run there the documentary only dedicates two minutes to it. I should not be surprised because WWE usually shortchanges stars in documentaries when it comes to covering WCW portions of their careers. These two minutes mostly featured Bobby's wife and daughter saying Bobby had a terrible time there and the company was unprofessional to him. I have no idea how WCW treated Bobby behind the scenes, but I do know that Bobby was not on the level there either with him being notorious for drinking during telecasts and being drunk by Nitro main events and jumping the gun on the call where Hulk Hogan made his legendary turn and joined the nWo in 1996.

Obviously those lows are not covered here, but I have seen WWE tastefully treat past controversies and lows in other wrestler's documentaries with class, but as the case is here, they decide to hide the lows and instead focus on the highs. I will give WWE the benefit of the doubt though in this circumstance, because Heenan has been fighting cancer for over a decade now. He was not interviewed for this DVD because by this point in 2010 the cancer treatments were taking a heavy toll on him, if you Google a recent picture of Bobby you can see for yourself, but I tip my hat to the man for sticking it to cancer since 2000. After covering his battle with cancer the documentary closes with his WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2004, and his peers closing with some kind words for him.

There are a boatload of extras on here. On the first disc is an hour worth of extra funny stories from his wife and daughter. There are also a couple of classic sketches in their entirety with Gorilla Monsoon, like the two showing off their pro golf tips with Sean Mooney and a riot of a sketch where the duo teamed up in Busch Gardens to search for, you guessed it, the Bushwackers. The second disc features five matches with Bobby Heenan, three of them being old school bouts from the AWA which were fun to watch with them being from a different time and era, along with him getting walloped by the Ultimate Warrior in one of his early WWE matches. WWE decided to include the entirety of the 1992 Royal Rumble match on here so we can witness the dynamic chemistry of Bobby and Gorilla on commentary for an hour, and the two are on top of their game here in easily one of the best Royal Rumbles yet where Ric Flair went the distance and wrestled for over an hour to emerged out of it as new WWF Champion. The extra features wrap up with Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund making their WWF returns at Wrestlemania X-7 in 2001 where they announce the infamous 'Gimmick Battle Royal' where the entrances are more entertaining and longer than the actual match itself!

Obviously I am at a crossroads on this DVD, on one hand it does a solid effort at covering his career through his WWF run, but as I stated above hides some nasty lows on Bobby's career, but for understandable reasons. If you do not mind avoiding the negatives and want more of a positive look at one of wrestling's all time best managers then WWE's Bobby "The Brain" Heenan gets the job done just fine. As for me, well, I'm a Paul Heyman guy.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
Warrior Week on WWE Network
WWE Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

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