Bobby Heenan, Professional Wrestling Personality, Dies at 72

He saw his first match as a boy, and the attraction was immediate. “I was 10 years old, and I went to the Marigold Arena in Chicago, and I was hooked, just like that,” Mr. Heenan said at his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

He began hanging out at wrestling events in Chicago as a teenager, carrying wrestlers’ jackets, selling soda and doing other odd jobs; the wrestler Dick the Bruiser (Richard Afflis) was a particular mentor.

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Bobby Heenan in an undated photo.

Credit
WWE

When someone did not show up one day, the young Mr. Heenan donned a mask and took part in a match. By the mid-1960s he was in the ring as a wrestler himself. He often employed a shtick that involved a lot of talk but an aversion to actual physical contact.

Mr. Heenan began managing other wrestlers early in his career, and in the bluster-filled world of professional wrestling, that did not mean merely scheduling their matches; it meant brashly talking them up and taunting their opponents.

His wrestlers were generally “heels” — the villains in the matches — and so he came in for a fair amount of taunting himself. Detractors called him Weasel and were quick to chant that name when he turned up at ringside or in the announcers’ booth.

Mr. Heenan was a natural showman, and his career as a manager was rivaled by his career as an on-camera commentator. He was a fixture on “WWF Superstars,” “WCW Monday Nitro” and assorted other series. He appeared in countless wrestling videos. For years on “Prime Time Wrestling” and other outlets, he formed a memorable commentary team with the former wrestler Gorilla Monsoon, who died in 1999.

Mr. Heenan loved to take sides and show off his penchant for sarcasm. In a deadpan interview with the sportscaster Bob Costas in 1989, his target was Hulk Hogan, who at the time held a world championship belt that Mr. Heenan wanted in his camp. How would he describe Mr. Hogan’s fans?

“I’m talking about the people that wear a brown sock and a white sock and got a pair at home just like them,” he said. “Those are the kind of people he appeals to.”

When Mr. Costas referred to his roster of wrestlers as a stable of talent, Mr. Heenan was quick to correct him.

“No,” he said, “a stable is where you find fly-infested horses. I have a family.”

In a video made for Mr. Heenan’s…

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