We’ve lost one of the greats. And truly, it feels like we’re running out of greats. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan passed away on Sunday, and he will be sorely missed in a profound way. As arguably the greatest manager and commentator of all time, it’s not as if WWE is upholding his legacy. Even the term “manager” almost feels like a dirty word at this point. WWE shies away from utilizing a mouthpiece these days, presumably to teach talent how to talk on their own.
Unfortunately, some wrestlers don’t have the gift of gab. No matter how much you cultivate it, sometimes that land is just Baron (and yes, that is a shot at Corbin). This is also the problem with a guy like Roman Reigns. While he has entertaining matches, his persona can’t quite live up to his own hype. He could use a Heenan speaking for him, but the powers that be are too hell bent on making the big dog bark. It’s as if they don’t see how well it worked for Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar. Heyman, of course, also being in the running for greatest manager of all time, alongside Heenan.
As far as the commentary front, WWE is doing alright. Cory Graves does Heenan’s legacy proud as a great heel color commentator. But it’s getting to the point where so many commentators and commentary teams are interchangeable that no one can build a rapport quite like Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon. No commentary team in history has matched the dynamic of Monsoon/Heenan. At least on Smackdown, we currently have the old NXT team of Graves, Philips, and Saxton back together. Chemistry is everything. But at some point, the WWE lost sight of how important commentary really is. Just the tone of what you’re watching is affected so much directly from commentary. What would the Attitude Era have been without the voice of Jim Ross, for example? Everything that’s happening in the ring is emphasized by what you hear. It can be what makes or breaks a great match.
Bobby Heenan was also great at pointing out flaws in babyface superstars like Hulk Hogan. It probably wouldn’t fly under the current WWE regime, but it was always fun to hear Heenan call out the Hulkster on his hypocrisy as a cheating hero. We also see Graves as a similar voice of reason, but Heenan was unabashedly anti-face and always hilarious. He was the kind of heel that forced you to like him, before it was cool to do so.
And finally, where have all the stables gone? The Heenan Family was one of the greatest factions in wrestling history, proving to be a great incubator for talent like Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, The Brainbusters, and Andre the Giant; just to name a few. Some of these people were great talkers on their own, but with the aid of the managerial skills of Bobby Heenan, they were taken to new heights and usually groomed to be main eventers. I don’t see how it would hurt, even to have someone like Lana controlling a faction of superstars who could use that extra bump in their careers. But no, she became a wrestler and has been used sparingly. Whether that was her choice or not, her talents lie as a manager.
In the memory of Bobby Heenan, bring back the manager-run stable. Help some of these superstars who so desperately need to get over by giving them a proper mouthpiece. If Roman Reigns had a manager speaking for him, I have no doubt he would easily become a fan favorite. As Paul Heyman dictates, you have to accentuate the positives and hide the negatives. If someone can’t wield a mic, promote them as a strong, silent type. Not everyone has to be The Rock.
The wrestling world just needs a young and healthy Bobby Heenan. But alas, he is not with us anymore. One of the last true legends is back alongside his friend and partner Gorilla Monsoon, undoubtedly commentating what Terry Funk referred to as the great battle royal in the sky.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke