Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bobby The Brain Heenan

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 279 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: February 14 2011

As the title suggests, this two-disc set looks at the career of Bobby Heenan, the greatest manager and one of the greatest announcers in wrestling history.

Heenan's success relied on his pest-like heel tactics on behalf of his clients, his first-class promo skills, the huge bumps he would take to make the babyfaces look good and - of course - his quick wit and stand-up comedy-level sense of humour and delivery. He was tailor-made for the eras in which he worked, having gotten his start in the early 1960s, then staying in the AWA for many years at the side of legendary AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkel, before his legendary run in the WWF. He began announcing full-time in 1991, and after a lengthy stay in WCW, he returned to the WWF for one night only to call the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven.

A relatively short documentary covers Heenan's life and times, with only a minor focus on his pre-WWF days. His stint in the World Wrestling Federation is covered extensively, but it still feels like even this section should be longer. For instance, we get a strong analysis of his fantastic presenting combination on Prime Time Wrestling with Gorilla Monsoon and their unmatched chemistry, but a chapter on The Bobby Heenan Show - a gimmick talk show during PTW - receives almost as much air time as his managerial highs and lows in the WWF (and certainly more than his runs elsewhere, including the AWA).

His WCW commentary run is covered fairly quickly, before we jump to Heenan's unfortunate health troubles as he was diagnosed with throat cancer in the early 2000s, and has suffered a catalogue of problems since. He returned to conduct a classic speech upon his induction into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2004, but by the end of the decade, his greatest gift - his voice - had been taken away. Heenan sadly remains in poor health, having recently suffered a fall, but he battles on today.

As well as his family, other contributors to the documentary include Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson, the late Nick Bockwinkel, Arn Anderson and others. And while it definitely should have been at least 20-30 minutes longer, the main feature does contain plenty of entertaining archive footage, largely based on the quick wit and magnetic heel heat of The Brain. As good as Paul Heyman is today, even Heyman the manager cannot compare to the legend that is Bobby Heenan, as the evidence here shows.

The DVD includes bonus stories (including a funny tale by Bockwinkel concerning a live interview on AWA television), some very entertaining segments involving typical Heenan/Monsoon interplay, a few rare Heenan matches (Heenan vs. Ultimate Warrior with a Weasel Suit stipulation is the highlight, although it is weird to see heel manager Heenan actually pick up a cleanish victory in one of the earlier bouts) and two bouts which are here for Heenan's commentary, the 1992 Royal Rumble match (featuring the greatest ever heel commentary performance from The Brain) and the aforementioned Gimmick Battle Royal from WM X7. The DVD is rounded off by Heenan's brilliant HOF 2004 speech, one of the best ever Hall Of Fame moments.

A DVD on a non-wrestler is always a tricky one to pull off, simply because it cannot rely on the strength of the matches. This DVD does a decent job at preventing such flaws by keeping the Heenan-as-a-wrestler matches to within an hour or so of air time, as the two most memorable bouts on the release only involve Heenan from the announce booth. The bonus stories, segments and the HOF speech add further weight to this DVD. Unfortunately, though, the documentary is too short and lacks context in some sections (such as Heenan's WCW run), as well as lacking depth and time in the key chapters. With a 90-minute documentary and some more segments, this could have been a really strong DVD but, as it is, the set is just okay. It's entertaining, no question - it has to be with Heenan as the focus - but it needed more time and additional material for this release to be a perfect tribute to the legend that is Bobby The Brain Heenan, the greatest manager ever, the greatest heel announcer of all-time, and arguably the funniest wrestling personality that ever lived.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

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