(Full Disclosure: Our poll completed 9/14/2017 just three days before the untimely death of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan at the age of 72)
They were the men and women behind the superstars of professional wrestling. The people that often represented the talent who for the most part needed a stronger voice. A voice that would raise the ire of the fans and bring even more notoriety to the villains(heels) of the ring. A mentor that would pull every trick in the book and every mind game known just to see their client’s hand raised in victory. That’s the role virtually every manager has portrayed in the wrestling world but when it comes to being the best, who’s voice of guidance proved to be the winning formula above all others?
The goal of the wrestling manager clearly is to bring more attention to those that they are paired with. Whether it be through a threatening, self-promoting and vilified interview(promo) that negatively resonates with the audience watching on television or the mannerisms and actions portrayed at ringside that would give a majority of the audience the impetus to cheer for those the manager’s forces are battling against and to ultimately provide continual ill will to that conniving individual and the evil doers that he or she represents. The cream of the managerial crop gets this done and has fans and viewers alike showering them with boos, hatred and in the end a continual audience that will keep returning week after week just to see the good guys(faces) win.
Names like “Sensational” Sherri Martel, Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman), Paul Bearer/Percy Pringle (William Moody) and Jim Cornette have repeatedly gained the ire of the audience and in many ways helped redefine the role of the wrestling manager within the context of providing both in and out of the ring attention. Sometimes their work has been so brilliant it has brought more attention upon themselves than the men and women they managed but in turn on more than one occasion elevated that wrestler or tag team to heights they would have never reached on their own. but when the best was voted upon, the one name that continually was shouted out did a masterful job of doing both at the same time.
Whether it be through his promos touting his latest acquisition, how great his stable continued to be or what his crew would do to their next opponent Bobby “The Brain” Heenan continually proved why he was the very best at “getting over” what needed to be done be it wrestler, storyline or upcoming match. He would go to great lengths to entertain like few else could and if the situation called for shouting out in retaliation against the fans, pulling an underhanded move or taking one heck of wicked “bump”(choreographed fall or blow from another wrestler) Heenan proved he was more than willing to be up for the challenge. His utter brilliance in making the audience despise his every move whether it be him asking to being billed from Beverly Hills or finding any way possible to squirm out of a difficult situation even garnered another nickname than just “The Brain”. That other moniker followed him throughout his career that proved he was getting the job done as the chants of “weasel” would periodically be heard throughout arenas around the world.
Heenan’s body of work upon his passing was recognized throughout the industry as not only being that of the best managerial act but one of if not the greatest all around performers this industry will ever know. Wrestling luminaries, journalists and peers such as Chris Jericho, Jerry Lawler, Dave Meltzer, Gene Okerlund, Jim Ross and even Cornette himself all voiced their respect for Bobby as being one of the true greats of the profession. Those compliments are but a few of many who hold’s Heenan’s work as a performer, manager, color announcer and comedic foil for Gorilla Monsoon and many others for decades as setting such a high standard that few will ever come close to achieving.
While the coincidence of the vote by wrestling purists and his untimely passing cannot be ignored, the sheer admiration mentioned by those voting can seemingly be thought of as timely well wishes before Heenan decided to take one last journey into the night. Sure his career for the most part was met with boos and hatred by the audience but in the days following his death one cannot help but smile to see only his greatness was now realized and the appreciation for his talent came in from far and wide away. If that was his plan all along then there’s no denying then that he was truly “The Brain”.
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