I’m quite late — two months!?! — in getting up another post about the late Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and the mark he left on the fans in Boston during his WWF heyday in the 1980s.
The first time I ever saw Heenan live was at the old Boston Garden, when he appeared as a manager at a house show in March 1987, just a few weeks before WrestleMania III.
Heenan managed Hercules and Paul Orndorff, who teamed up with Adorable Adrian Adonis to face Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Billy Jack Haynes in an elimination match. It remains one of my favorite personal matches I ever saw live, largely because it was allegedly Piper’s Continue reading
I distincitly remember watching a Madison Square Garden house show in 1984 that was being broadcast (I think) live on the USA Network.
Hulk Hogan was set to face Big John Studd.
Suddenly I saw in a big surprise: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was standing next to Studd. Way back then, there was no internet covering wrestling and I had not yet subscribed to insider newsletters, so I had no clue Heenan was coming in.
Heenan — who died on Sunday at age 72 — had finally defected to the WWF from the AWA. Studd won the match by countout, starting a long partnership between he and Heenan, and launching Heenan’s career as one of the top managers in the WWE.
Heenan’s real first name was Raymond, although many also remember Continue reading
I like to think of myself as having a vivid memory of 1980s WWF wrestling, and I can recall most angles and wrestlers from that decade. The last time I was truly surprised by something I never knew from that era was the original Royal Rumble that One Man Gang won in St. Louis.
But my friend, Ed, who is another long-time fan, mentioned to me a card he had just learned of from the early ’80s at the Hartford Civic Center that featured an unusual array of steel cage matches.
I’m not sure how or why I’ve never run across this, but sure enough, the great The History of WWE website lists the results as part of a show called “Steel Cage Turmoil,” which took place on November 23, 1984.
The highlight was a 19-match steel cage gauntlet, in which the winner of each contest kept advancing until they lost or won the whole thing. In the end, Big John Studd beat Continue reading
This year marks the 30th anniversary of WrestleMania 2, a lousy card that took place on April 7, 1986.
I’m not sure what to say about this show. Having just rewatched it recently on the WWE Network, Mania 2 was just as bad today as I remembered it back in the day. Even by 1980s standards, the matches felt rushed and there was no showstealer that you’d expect to see today.
This may have been the worst WrestleMania ever, with the only possible competition being WrestleMania IX.Embed from Getty Images
The event — which took place on a Monday night — emanated from three arenas: Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY; Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) outside of Chicago; and Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Vince McMahon — who clearly believed Continue reading
Let’s continue my look back 30 years ago to the original WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden by running down the big matches on March 31, 1985. Please check my prior posts in this series about the build-up for WrestleMania and a review of the preliminary matches on the supercard.
- Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo to win the WWF Tag Team Title – The match was short, but all action and was probably the best in-ring performance of this Mania. Captain Lou Albano accompanied the babyfaces to the ring, while Classy Freddie Blassie managed Sheik and Volkoff. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, on color commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, actually claimed Volkoff was a former Olympian. There were some great, simple spots in the match, including Sheik accidentally dropkicking Volkoff (I’m not sure I ever saw Sheik do another dropkick since then) and a high backdrop by Rotundo. Fans at the time buzzed about the ending, when Sheik broke Blassie’s cane over Windham’s back, leading to the title change. Interesting to note that Rotundo performed in the original WrestleMania, and this year his son, Bray Wyatt, faces the Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
- Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge – The rules were simple: If Andre slammed Studd, he would win $15,000 in cash in a duffel bag; if Studd wasn’t slammed, Andre had to retire. As you might imagine, this was the typical slow match these two often did, with the prerequisite
rest holdbearhug from Andre. The slam came out of nowhere, and then Andre attempted to throw the cash to the crowd, but Studd’s manager, Bobby Heenan, ran up and stole the bag from Andre. The crowd went nuts at the end of the match after getting the slam they wanted.
In my prior post, I looked at the seeds planted in 1984 that began the push towards the original WrestleMania, as well as the build-up for the main event. Now let’s remember the actual card as we approach March 31, 2015, which will be 30 years after the first Mania.
The show took place at Madison Square Garden, beginning (ahem) at the ripe time of 1 p.m. Yes, you’d be home for dinner after the first WrestleMania. Here’s a rundown of the preliminary matches on the card:
- In a surprise that I forgot about until I recently rewatched the event on the WWE Network, Mean Gene Okerlund sung the National Anthem. That’s quite a gap between Okerlund and Aretha Franklin two years later.
- Tito Santana defeated the Executioner – These days, it seems so odd that a WrestleMania opened with a series of jobber matches, but times have changed. The funny part about this match is that the Executioner was actually the late Playboy Buddy Rose under a hood. The mystery of this strange masked man was explained in Rose’s obit in the Wrestling Observer: Apparently Rose was set to come back to the WWF to feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat with Bobby Heenan as his manager, so the WWF didn’t want Rose losing as himself at WrestleMania. Unfortunately for Rose, shortly before he was to shoot an angle with Steamboat after Mania, officials found him passed out in a dressing room, and he got canned.
Watching Paul Heyman these days reminds me of two of the greatest WWE managers in history, and both of those guys played huge roles in wrestling in the 1980s: Captain Lou Albano and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Continue reading