Bobby Heenan Interview
Summarized by Mike Siroky
Bobby Heenan was the featured guest on a weekend half-hour SportsChannel Chicago TV show hosted by a sports talk radio guy named Mike North. It was a fascinating half-hour.
Heenan basically stayed with a real-life interview, although on at least one point, he played company man with WCW.
Heenan talked about getting hooked on the the business when he attended a Chicago show as a 10-year-old. He said one of the wrestlers on the card lived in his apartment building and took the kids along to see the show. So, right there, he was doing real life instead of the normal pretense of being born as a rich kid in Beverly Hills, as has been presented in many of his incarnations, dating back to his managerial days.
Mike North, another regular guy from Chicago, seemed to know Heenan from way back and they traded stories about growing up in Chicago, especially about seeing the shows on the old DuMont TV network. Heenan said pro wrestling on TV started in Chicago because they already were drawing a big live crowd and already had the arenas well-lit, so the TV networks in the '50s could simply roll in the cameras and start the broadcast. It didn't cost the networks much and it was a show with a built-in audience.
That was something (the part about starting in Chicago) not many wrestling fans know. Heenan said he started as a wrestler (Beautiful Bobby Heenan) and then became a manager. Heenan said, since he knew he wanted to be a manager, he hooked up with Dick The Bruiser in Indianapolis and learned the trade. He also said he parted company with Dick the Bruiser when "he wanted about 70 percent of my money (earned) since I had started with him.''
He came up to Chicago and started with Verne Gagne, Bob Luce and the old AWA in Chicago. He didn't mention that one of his first tag teams featured Angelo Poffo, who is the father of Macho Man Randy Poffo, another Chicago kid. He did say he worked with Dick The Bruiser and The Crusher (he said Crusher is still alive; I had heard he died - Earl do you know for sure? Actually there was a "Crusher" Blackwell who died a while back - I'm not sure about the other Crusher), that he worked with the brothers Vachon, Mad Dog and Butcher.
He did say he moved on to the WWF and later parted company with them "because it was time to move on. I got nothing personal against Vince McMahon; it was just time to move on. I was tired of spending all week on the road and coming to New York every week. New York, it's still part of America but no one speaks English there.''
Throughout the interview, he told some other corny jokes like how his "palatial estate is on wheels and can be towed anywhere by a Yugo'' but he did really stay with a real life version of himself for the most part.
He said he has been happily married for a long while (another departure from the former persona as a playboy type, much like Rick Flair drops in and out of the character and his real life, depending on who is doing the interview). And he said they have one daughter, Jennifer, who is now 18.
He said they all life in Tampa. "And I get to be home four days every week. I love the South, I live in the South, so the WCW just fits me better.''
He said he severely injured his neck while wrestling in Japan in the late '80s when another wrestler came off the ropes and forced his neck to snap. He said he didn't realize he had broken vertebra for several years until the pain got so bad he had to have surgery because it was affecting his quality of life. He showed how he still has nerve damage in his right arm and hand.
He has had rib bones inserted to replace the damage vertebrae. But that injury moved him out of active wrestling and managing and into the announcing booth as a color commentary. "The play by play guys does the match and I fill the gaps,'' is how he described his job now.
He also kidded with North about how easy it is to make gobs of money just talking for a living, like North does. Heenan said the big difference between now and when he was active is the size of the participants. "Back then, a guy at 240 was a big guy. Now, a guy at 340 is just another guy in line. Plus, they've all learned gymnastics, how to move and they simply don't care what they do to their bodies.''
For a guy with replaced vertebrae, the message seemed clear: Take care of yourself, guys; no matter how big and bad you are now, it could hurt later on.
North asked him who he has enjoyed working with and who he absolutely despises in the business.Heenan said Blackjack Lanza was the guy with who he just clicked, that as soon as they met, he knew they'd have good run. And Lanza was Heenan's first big run in the old WWWF, even before Vince took over from his dad.
He said Hulk Hogan was just someone he despised. He said it was personal and business, that Hulk had messed Heenan over on some business deals they had signed and how it left him thinking the guy was not all fair. North tried to interject some humor at this point and said there are a lot of little Hulksters out there who would be disappointed to hear this.
Heenan said they could just take their little hands, reach up and turn Hulk off whenever he was on TV if they were disappointed. At this point, it seemed still to be on a real-life interview as Heenan sincerely seems to think he has been cheated contractually by Hulk at some point in a real business deal and simply does not like the real Terry Bollea.
Then Heenan swerved for what was one of the few times in the interview when he went with the WCW party line about how Hulk and Eric Bishoff had conspired to end WCW, as if that was real and not some long made-for-TV story line at work. The line is thin between the TV script and Heenan's dislike of the character as well as the real person that portrays Hulk Hogan.
Heenan also mentioned the January Nitro in Chicago and gave the date of the June Nitro back in Chicago He was a pretty good TV professional here, not mentioning any of the talent or the plot lines because he knows all too well they can change in a month and have changed since January.
He was very smooth and very real, except for the WCW/nWo tripe He ended by saying he loved the business as much as ever. That kid who first saw wrestling at age 10 is still inside and still as fascinated by the workings of the pro game. "I had a helluva run in the '60s, the '70s, the '80s and I'm still on a helluva run,'' Heenan said. He said he could do this until he was 90, just like George Burns was still talking on TV when he died.
It was a pretty good interview and not much seemed fake. I think the idea he and the host were comfortable with each other came across on the show well and put him at ease which made it a great interview for those of us who have watched Heenan since the early days.
Mike Siroky has followed wrestling since 1969 in Chicago, when he bought the first color TV his family had ever owned. When he lived in the South for five years, he too (like myself) got hooked on the best announcer in the business, Gordon Solie. He is a newspaper editor and currently works at The South Bend Tribune.
IronMan: The Legend of the Road Warriors
Part 8: Samoans, Skyscrapers, Steiners and Doom
by Ervin Griffin Jr.
April 2, 1989 will be one of those days the Road Warriors would rather forget. Almost six months after they brutalized The Midnight Express for the NWA World Tag Team Titles in New Orleans, LA, the Warriors returned to defend the title in this same city against Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and Mike Rotunda at the Superdome. The match was even until the end when the Warriors put Rotunda in the "Doomsday Device" (Yes fans, I finally acknowledged the true name of their finisher. Your e-mails were not in vain.). As Hawk went for the pin, referee Teddy Long claimed he couldn't make the pin because of an earlier shove by Animal. This turned out to be a ploy because the second Williams rolled up Hawk for the pin, Long made THE fastest three-count I have ever seen!!!!
Williams and Rotunda were the new champs but had to face the Warriors at WrestleWar '89 in Nashville, TN with Nikita Koloff as the special referee. Again, the Warriors should've had the victory after the "Device" was applied (this time on Williams) but Kevin Sullivan and Danny Spivey interfered by attacking Nikita, causing their team to lose the match by DQ and lose the NWA titles. In case your wondering what I meant by that last statement, the NWA stripped Williams and Rotunda of the NWA Tag Titles immediatly after that match because of Sullivan and Spivey's actions on Nikita. This pretty much led to the breakup of the Varsity Club as Williams soon left the group and feuded with them.
Meanwhile, the NWA held a tournament to crown new tag champions. The Warriors faced two of the "Original" Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes/Terry Gordy) in the first round. It was this duo (not the Hayes/Jim Garvin combo) that eliminated the Warriors with some unexpected help from some old rivals of Hayes' in World Class Championship Wrestling. They were the Samoan Swat Team (Samu/Fatu). The Warriors later got their revenge as they helped the Midnight Express (the very team that they virtually murdered seven months before to win those belts) defeat the SST.
The SST would strike two blows to the Warriors during June and July of 1989. First, they attacked the Warriors' manager, Paul Ellering, during an interview. But the worst was yet to come in July as the SST, along with the Freebirds, ganged-up on the Warriors while they was wrestling in a cage match against Garvin and Gordy. They handcuffed Animal to the top rope and beat Hawk into oblivion!!! Animal watched helplessly as Hawk bleeding all over the place!!! I would dare say this was the worst beating the Warriors have ever taken, PERIOD!!! This promted the Warrior camp to challenge The SST and the Freebirds to the WarGames match. It was signed for July 23, 1989 at the Great American Bash: The Glory Days (looking back, they didn't know how appropriate that title would be years later but they truly were glory days). The Warriors got Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and The Midnight Express to help them in this war. The Warriors' entrance on the Harley's was one of the better one's that I have ever seen. I'm no biker but I was impressed. Anyway, the Warriors' team won when Hawk made Garvin submit to neckbreaker manuvear. I should also note that this event marked the first PPV appearance of The Skyscrapers ("Dangerous" Dan Spivey/"Sycho" Sid Vicious).
Meanwhile, the Warriors continued to battle the Samoans in single, tag team and eight-man tag team matches. Interesting to note that their partners in many of those eight man's were The Steiner Bros. (Rick/Scott). A team that would go on to be great rivals of the Warriors in the "future." Anyway, the Warrior/SST feud ended in September of 1989 at The Clash Of The Champions VIII in Columbia, SC. The Warriors got the pinfall after the "Device" put down Fatu for the pin. You would think that after a brutal feud like this that Hawk and Animal would get a well-deserved rest, right? Wrong!!! They almost immediately were challenged by The Skyscrapers.
Once again, a powerful team had come to challenge for the unofficial crown of the Roadies as "The Most Awesome Team In The World." They had a series of matches throughout late-September and most of October but their first national confrontation took place at Halloween Havoc '89: Settling The Score in Philedelphia, PA. I still have the original PPV broadcast of the event and it still feels like it happened yesterday. Anyway, the Warriors won this encounter by DQ after about 10-12 minutes of brutal action. Also on this card, another future rival made their first appearance. It was the team of Doom (Butch Reed/Ron Simmons) and they were managed by Woman at that time. They also wore masks as well.
The next Warrior/Skyscraper collision was scheduled for Starrcade '89: Future Shock in Atlanta, GA. It was going to be part of a round robin tournament called the "IronTeam" tournament. It also featured Doom and the Steiners. But in November of 1989 at The Clash Of The Champions IX: New York Knockout in Troy, NY, Sid suffered a punctured lung after Scott Steiner put him in his "blockbuster suplex" (a bodyslam/flipover combination). Sid was unable to compete and the Skyscrapers were forced to forfeit the tourney.
The Warriors, meanwhile, defeated Doom but lost to the Steiners by pinfall. Still, they won the tourney by defeating The Samoans (A full detailed description could possibly be found in Earl's back issue section. The original story appeared in December of last year.). The Warriors, however, could not shake the Skyscrapers as Teddy Long (the 'scrapers' manager) brought in "Mean" Mark Callous to take Sid's place. This, by the way, is the reason for the on/off feud between Sid and Mark Callous (aka The Undertaker). This version was not as powerful but made up for it with better wrestling skills. They laid the Warriors out at The Clash Of The Champions X in Houston, TX after the Warriors won the match by DQ.
The Warriors challenged The Skyscrapers to a Chicago Street Fight at WrestleWar '90 in Greensboro, NC on February 26. The 'scrapers accepted but Spivey left Callous high and dry and Long (not wanting to forfeit another big card) got some sh*tty masked man to take his place!!! Needless to say, the Warriors made short work of them. But, wouldn't you know it, another power team comes to challenge the Warriors!!! This time, it is the team of Doom, now managed by Teddy Long at this point. They confronted the Warriors after the street fight match and they got it on right then and there. The Warriors got the better of this encounter but this is one of the few feuds of the Warriors that really ended undecisive because both Doom and the Warriors got their share of wins and losses. Wanting to go on to new challenges, the NWA released the Warriors from their contract in June of 1990. Their last televised appearance was in a match against Arn Anderson and Barry Windham of the Four Horsemen. They won by DQ.
Next: The WWF Days
If you have a question, comment, criticism, or just want to talk pro wrestling, please e-mail me at email@example.com
That's it for this edition. I will be back on Monday night with the regular Monday Night Wars issue. Until then...
Anyway, that's the way I see it...
editor Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
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