Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan, widely considered the greatest manager in the history of the business, has passed away at the age of 72. Heenan had been contending with ongoing health issues since first contracting cancer fifteen years ago, and news of his death was made public on WWE.com earlier this afternoon.
Born Raymond Louis Heenan in Chicago, Illinois, the legendary manager enjoyed over four decades in the industry, first starting out as an in-ring competitor in Indianapolis' WWA, before alighting on success as the manager of Blackjack Lanza. It was clear Heenan's true calling belonged on the sidelines, and he soon became one of the most notorious - and effective - managers in the north-east.
Vince McMahon didn't hesitate in drafting Heenan over to Stamford as part of his AWA talent raid in 1984, first pairing 'The Brain' with Jesse Ventura. He quickly became one of WWF's most prominent figures, famously leading Andre the Giant out for his titanic clash with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III, arguably the company's most famous match of all time.
Heenan's unmatched gift of the gab on the ring apron was in just as much evidence when he transitioned to an announcing position, striking up a memorable rapport with his on-screen rival but close personal friend Gorilla Monsoon. The pair's exchanges were as crucial to WWF's boom period as anything which occurred in the ring.
A persistent neck injury saw Heenan quit taking wrestling contracts as he gradually became a full-time commentator, but not before he unforgettably cheered Ric Flair to Royal Rumble glory. 'The Brain' called time on his WWF career in 1993, accepting a big-money move to an ambitious WCW a year later, where he remained as a lead colour man until the company's crippling financial issues forced his release at the turn of the century. It was clear Heenan's heart was never in the job, particularly following the death of his old colleague Monsoon in 1999. Bobby never returned to the announce desk full time after his Atlanta departure, but did make one final, satisfying appearance in the booth for WrestleMania X-Seven's gimmick battle royal.
Heenan was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002, and battled the illness frequently in the decade that followed. He was inducted into WWE's Hall of Fame in 2004 before necessary reconstructive jaw surgery left him struggling to speak.
Fans were grateful Heenan received that last opportunity to be correctly honoured by a business to which he'd given so much. Despite his illness, none of 'The Brain's trademark electric wit was absent in one of the wrestling industry's best ever speeches.
WhatCulture.com sends its most heartfelt condolences to Heenan's wife, family, and friends.