Friday, September 22, 2017

The Brain Was the Greatest Ever

No one did it better than The Brain. No one.
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was a manager. He was a color commentator, a studio host, a roast comedian, and contrary to some reports, a wrestler. He wasn't unique in that he wore all those hats during his career, one that spanned over four decades. It was that he excelled in all areas. He was the quintessential wrestling personality, which for a dumpy kid with a lisp from the Midwest might seem an extraordinary feat. Self-professed pundits beat people over the head with this cudgel that look is the most important thing in wrestling, but honestly, what wrestlers got over on looks alone? Fuck, Hulk Hogan was balding before he got the rocket of Hulkamania shoved up his ass. It's about connecting with fans, and if you find someone better than Heenan at that, then my first inclination will be to call you a liar.

NXT In 60 Seconds

SURprisE
Photo Credit: WWE.com
then

now

the brain, forever.

Mauro Ranallo: Fans and humanoids alike, we've got another great hour from Full Sail for you tonight.  In the main event, Moustache Mountain goes up against Not reDRagon and Aleister Black finally speaks!

Learning to Live with Smackdown

"I, Shane McMahon, condemn..." that entire promo, yeesh
Photo Credit: WWE.com
This week on Smackdown I'm learning to live with:

This Week's McMahon-igans
I wasn't feeling the upcoming Hell in a Cell match featuring Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens when it was ostensibly about McMahon keeping his job. I'm feeling it even less given that the match has nothing to do with that and everything to do with McMahon family honour. Ah yes, the McMahons, such classic good guys that we should cheer for.

Bobby Heenan's Hall of Fame Speech

A hall of fame worthy man if ever one existed
Photo Credit: WWE.com
In 2004, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan had already fought one round of cancer into remission. He was frail and gaunt, but he still had the spark of life in him. Also in that year, WWE thought it a good idea to bring back the Hall of Fame to coincide with WrestleMania XX. The first class back contained several luminaries: Superstar Billy Graham, Junkyard Dog, Harley Race, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Don Muraco, Sgt. Slaughter, Tito Santana, Big John Studd, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. But the crown jewel of that class was Heenan. It had to be.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Twitter Request Line, Vol. Cruiserweight

Would I let my kids partake in such violence?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
It's Twitter Request Line time, everyone! I take to Twitter to get questions about issues in wrestling, past and present, and answer them on here because 140 characters can't restrain me, fool! If you don't know already, follow me @tholzerman, and wait for the call on Wednesday to ask your questions. Hash-tag your questions #TweetBag, and look for the bag to drop Thursday afternoon (most of the time). Without further ado, here are your questions and my answers:

This question is difficult to answer for two reasons, but I would lean no. Right now, I'm against either of my kids playing football because the CTE risks are off the charts. Obviously, if either one wanted to play (especially my daughter because of the opportunities to dissolve gender hierarchy), I probably would let them under protest because they are, ultimately their own lives. Wrestling carries a similar risk, but at the same time, the siren call of doing something like English-style grappling or a lighter-bumping repertoire might make it a little more easy to palate. The second reason would be that I love wrestling more than any other pastime activity by a large margin. It would give me endless thrills to see either one of my kids make it to a major company on national television as a wrestler, even with all the red flags. Ultimately, I would be against it though for their own safety, but again, their lives are their own. I just gotta hope for the best, y'know?

From the Archives: The Gimmick Battle Royale

A gimmick welcome home for two iconic voices
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Bobby Heenan was best known as a commentator for his call on the 1992 Royal Rumble match. His 60+ minute partisan cheer session for Ric Flair will go down as one of the greatest pieces of character enhancement and frantic vocal performance in a wrestling setting in history. I'm not highlighting that match here because I didn't have time to watch it and give it its due. You can actually check out @wrestlefeed's tweets from last night, because he watched the whole event and live-tweeted it. Honestly, it's one of the greatest matches of all-time, even without Heenan's commentary, but The Brain pushed it over the top. It deserves nothing more than a dissertation and analysis and high praise, and I will need time to rewatch it so I can give it the treatment that it is owed to it.

Gorilla and The Brain: Your Two Favorite Uncles

Undeniably the two best uncles you'll ever have in wrestling
Screen Grab via YouTube
When Bobby "The Brain" Heenan made his big rise to fame in the '70s and early '80s, it was as an easily-hateable villainous wrestler/manager hybrid. He was so good at getting under your skin that he was almost exclusively utilized in getting the big antagonists over, whether in the territories, the American Wrestling Association, or WWE. It was because of this exceptional ability that Heenan was asked to work as a color commentator not too long after he arrived in Vince McMahon's newly-national promotion, and from that chair, he added new dimensions to his act. But it was also in that seat, whether as a color commentator, a roundtable guest, or a studio host, that he revealed another proclivity, one that ran almost paradoxically to his traditional role as a venomous, lawyer-like megaheel, and that was as a beloved funnyman. All it took was pairing him with Gorilla Monsoon to do it.

I Double Dare You

Imagine them, but covered in gak
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Wrestling was so big in the 1980s that it was everywhere: music videos, movies, sporting events, and even children's game shows. Double Dare was one of Nickelodeon's flagship programs. For those who don't remember or who are too young to recall, it was a game that tested both the brain and the body. The physical challenges often involved sticky substances or other gross-out things. Many a kid got slimed on the soundstage, and guess what, during one episode, so did Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pro Wrestling SKOOPZ on The Wrestling Blog: Vol. 3, Issue 4

A SPECIAL BRAIN EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER
Photo Credit: WWE.com
HELLO everyone and welcome to an exciting yet SOMBER edition of Pro Wrestling SKOOPZ here on The Wrestling Blog. That's right, Bobby Heenan has died, and OL' HORB FLERBMINBER is sad about it. Word on the street is that Ryback found out from Mickie James, who read it in Cody Rhodes' latest Facebook post which cross-referenced a dream The Maestro had about The Bandersnatch and Martin Luther King, Jr. having a conversation that was word for word Bobby Heenan saying, and I quote, that "Pro Wrestling SKOOPZ is my FAVORITE dirt sheet and also why do I have six hands?" EAT YOUR HEART OUT, BRUCE MITCHELL.

Heenan and Hogan, Rivals for Eternity

Hogan and Heenan for better or worse had an inexorable link in their careers
Screen Grab via WWE.com
One of the most infamous nights in pro wrestling history was Bash at the Beach '96, when Hulk Hogan turned his back on World Championship Wrestling to join what would be known as the New World Order with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. While the act came as an utter shock to most fans, Bobby Heenan asked on commentary "What side is Hogan on?" when he came sauntering out to apparently help the WCW team of Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger. Some blamed Heenan for blowing the moment, but most people were savvy enough to know history between the two, that Heenan always knew Hogan was bad and this was finally the moment that his point of view and wrestling narrative lined up truthfully.

Heenan and Bockwinkel: Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team

Heenan and Bockwinkel, a verbal duo none could match
Screen Grab via TJR Wrestling
I talked yesterday about how putting Bobby Heenan with established talkers feels like a violation of conventional wisdom, but that in reality, it's adding strength to strength. Heenan was paired with some of the best promo men in history, Rick Rude and Ric Flair in WWE most notably. However, while his work in Vince McMahon's house of cartoon wrestling will be remembered the most warmly because of who came out the as the survivor of all those promotions from the '70s and '80s, Heenan's peak may have come as Nick Bockwinkel's manager in the American Wrestling Association.

Your Midweek Links: Missin' You, Brain

The King, forever and a day
Photo Credit: WWE.com
It's Wednesday, which means it's the median between the beginning and end of the week, but also the first Wednesday you'll spend no doubt since the wrestling world lost Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. While everyone is sad, and rightly so, it also has given people the chance to write some great stuff about him in tribute. And hey, the world continues to turn, and people are writing about other good stuff too. Give them all reads, c'mon!

I'd be remiss just to link to one piece about Bobby Heenan on TWB this week, so the whole Brain Week tag is here for you to click and check out. Keep checking back on this tag, as more stuff will drop today through Friday to help you cope with the loss of a veritable wrestling legend. [The Wrestling Blog]

I also wrote about how WWE's current practices of absorbing up top talent from outside its sphere and not utilizing their abilities when they get there is killing the overall business. [The Wrestling Blog]

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

When Bobby Heenan Turned Mr. Perfect Face in One Night

Drinks are on Heenan, courtesy of Mr. Perfect
Screengrab via WWE.com
The 1992 Survivor Series was technically headlined by Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, a battle between the WWF World Champion and the Intercontinental Champion, but the show's most-hyped match was to be a tag match featuring Ric Flair and Razor Ramon taking on "The Ultimate Maniacs:" Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior. But due to a failed drug test and subsequent missed house shows, the Warrior parted ways with the company, just nine days before Survivor Series. Vince McMahon and his cohorts were scrambling for a replacement. It would have to be someone big to even remotely fill the Warrior's tassled shoes.

Bobby Heenan Goes NUCLEAR on Jumbo Tsuruta

A true dynamic duo
Photo via Kentucky Fried Rasslin
A lot of tributes, including some found here on TWB, focus on Bobby Heenan's heft as a comedic personality, and they're all well-intentioned. Heenan was a master of not only wit, witticism, and the art of the roast, but also of comedic timing, both physically through body language but also through his underrated ability to take a bump, which he employed masterfully from his time as a wrestler through his tenure as a manager until he couldn't do it anymore. Heenan was great at constructive comedy, not the "comic" relief Vince McMahon puts on today that either doesn't get anyone over, or if it does, leads him to believe those wrestlers aren't worth anything else1.

Corey Graves and Bobby Heenan's Legacy

He's not the next Heenan — he's the first Graves — but he's certainly carrying on Heenan's legacy
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Bobby Heenan changed the game when it came to color commentary. While it's unknown if he was the first ever partisan commentator who sided with heels, antagonists, and villains, he felt like he was treading new ground when he assumed the chair. As part of the greater blanket of kayfabe, television and closed circuit commentary featured two men who were analytic and objective, hallmarks of greater sports commentary, like with the classic Bob Caudle/Gordon Solie booth down South. Whether or not Heenan was first feels irrelevant, as he was so great that all others are benchmarked against him, for better or worse.