Nick: I’ll tell you what I’ve always loved about Bobby Heenan: how right he was about Hogan. You can’t trust a guy like that.
Dave: Oh, absolutely. It’s what makes the “Whose side is he on?!” thing almost not the worst spoiler ever.
Nick: We’ve talked about this a bunch — because we both love Bobby Heenan — but it would have been out of character for him to assume he was there to help WCW. He didn’t necessarily have to say anything at all, in terms of expectations “oh, thank God Hogan’s here!” wouldn’t fit. It would have seemed like he was lying.
Dave: Yeah, his position had always been that Hogan was a selfish egomaniac. At best he would just roll his eyes and go, “Great, this asshole.”
Nick: He inverted the face-heel dynamic, at least in the sense that he was one of the first guys who was genuinely so good at being bad it was possible to be a fan of his performance, and not just “he’s funny!”. You came to see Bobby Heenan be Bobby Heenan in the way you came to see Hogan Hulk-Up and do the Leg drop
Dave: Yeah, Bobby Heenan “showing ass” was one of the main attractions of the golden eras of both the AWA and WWF. You wanted to see his smart-alecky schtick, and then you wanted to see him in the weasel suit.
Nick: I think that’s what made him different from Heyman or Ventura, who we will be talking about later this month. Heyman may be close to him as a manager, and Ventura as a commentator, but neither of them were nearly as versatile.
Dave: Definitely. Ventura needed to be the tough, cool guy to keep his heat. Bobby would let you get over on him much, much more. And, as I alluded to in this week’s Better Know, Heyman wasn’t nearly as effective a heel as Heenan because he literally couldn’t sell as well. Bobby Heenan taking a bump was something you’d pay for. Paul Heyman taking a bump is something you watch peering out between your fingers.
Nick: Though I think both have the partners in crime dynamic with the guys they manage.
Dave: No doubt. Both of them can work being “the brains of the operation” really well. But another reason I believe Heenan is far superior is that he could manage Hercules or The Red Rooster, whereas Heyman couldn’t get heat on Curtis Axel.
Nick: DAVID. HOW TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY THIS: THE RED ROOSTER MADE HIS OWN HEAT. I’m just a Taylor-Made Man fan, dyed-in-the-wool.
Dave: Sorry, sorry. I forgot how over he was with all the chicks in the henhouse, or whatever his catchphrase was.
Nick: But, yes, you are right. And again, it’s important to not forget how good he was a commentator as well. The ’92 Royal Rumble is obviously his Citizen Kane.
Dave: Oh yeah. His reaction when Flair is the Third Man (in the ‘92 Rumble) might be the definitive moment of the heel color man.
I know this is a polarizing opinion, but he carried Monsoon, who was, let’s face it, not very good.
Nick: I don’t know if it’s that Monsoon isn’t very good or, hampered by only working with either Sean Mooney/Lord Alfred Hayes — who make JBL sound like Gordon Solie — or Bobby/Jesse — who made Monsoon look like JBL — through no real fault of his own. They made EVERYONE look like that, though.
Dave: They were a tremendous team because they had natural candor that made it seem like they liked each other on some level, even though one was a heel and one was a face. Whereas for as chummy as JBL and Cole seem, I would rather watch a wrestling match on mute than hear them call it. Heenan’s commentary was a big part of matches like Solie or Lance Russell.
Nick: And he was always on, but not in an overbearing way. The character was him, he wasn’t playing someone. And you could tell. You could tell he was actually friends with the people he was working with.
Dave: Yeah, definitely. He felt like a carney in a good way. He knew his act, and you could tell he had spent years refining it, but at the same time, he didn’t feel insincere… even though his character was supposed to be insincere. He gave the most honest portrayal of dishonesty that I can think of.
Nick: Which, honestly, is probably the nicest thing you could have ever say about him.