Welcome to Slammer Jabber, your weekly look at all things professional wrestling from the past seven days. In a slight departure from our usual format, this week's Slammer Jabber is going to be mostly devoted to taking a look back at the momentous career of the late great Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, who passed away earlier this week. Before we get started with the main event, let’s have a quick look at this week's TV.
Raw this week was a decent go-home for No Mercy on Sunday. The sit-down interview between Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar was fine, if not a bit underwhelming, although Strowman brutalising Enzo Amore was a great way to make Strowman look intense and impressive and ready for Lesnar. It did nothing for Enzo ahead of his match with Neville on Sunday, but I can’t say that match is much of a priority for me with poor Neville being lumbered with Enzo. Neville's match with Gran Metalik was pretty good, except for a little mask-based issue, but you can’t have it all. Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss was a bit disappointing, bearing in mind it lasted all of two minutes, and was a glorified set up for the women's title match and to get Bayley involved in a big return in her hometown. Still, Bayley being added to the match on Sunday certainly introduces some interesting potential variables.
The angle and match with Kurt Angle, Jason Jordan and The Miz continued, and The Miz was once again excellent. I'm not sure how good a match Miz and Jordan will have, but the six-way match on Raw that Jordan won to get the title sot was very good, I also liked that it hinted at what might happen when The Miz-tourage eventually comes to an end. The three-way tag match was fine, and built well to the PPV match for the titles, while Bray Wyatt vs Dustin Rhodes was just there, and did little to make me interested in Wyatt vs Finn Balor on Sunday. Finally, Roman Reigns provided the biggest highlight of the show by cutting a fantastic promo on John Cena, milking the crowd for a big reaction and even getting in a line about Alex Riley (a quick internet search should give you that if you want the full story). Much better from Roman, and provided a nice final push to what should be a corking match on Sunday.
A good show, and a good build to what I expect to be an excellent PPV.
This week's Smackdown was a slow week, but quite necessary after last week's madness with Vince McMahon and Kevin Owens. The opening segment with Shane McMahon was a good response, and it made Shane seem credible in terms of his reaction to last week. Equally Owens' response via satellite was excellent, and kept this feud bubbling along nicely. The segment with the women's division was well done, and the main event with Charlotte, Tamina Snuka, Becky Lynch and Naomi was a really good watch. Natalya vs Charlotte makes sense as a logical feud and the story with Charlotte given her father's recent health issues is the obvious direction to take. The Tye Dillinger/Baron Corbin/AJ Styles angle did nothing really for anyone involved. Corbin especially looked bad coming out of this.
Dolph Ziggler continues doing his weird tribute act thing, but I'm not sure why. It’s dreadful and not eliciting any sort of proper reaction from the audience. The New Day vs The Hype Bros was very good for what it was and at least hinted at a future heel turn for Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder. Jinder Mahal's segment was a mess, a racist mess and I don’t really want to say any more on it. Just terrible, and hopefully he drops the belt to Shinsuke Nakamura at Hell in a Cell, because this was disgraceful, and not in a good heel heat sense, but in a legitimately disgusting sense. Finally, Randy Orton vs Aiden English was surprisingly good, with English getting way more offence than I expected, and the Rusev match immediately afterwards told a nice story with Orton. Plus Rusev is just amazing, dancing around celebrating. Superb stuff.
A decent show, solidly building things up for Hell in a Cell. Unlike Raw often does, this is not something you would confuse with a go-home show and it a defined part of a slow simmering build to the PPV.
RIP Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
Our main focus this week, is the passing of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Few names are as synonymous with the peak of professional wrestling's popularity as Heenan, and his role is integral in the growth of the industry. From his time in the AWA managing Nick Bockwinkel, a man who didn’t need a manager to talk for him but for whom Heenan was still able to manage to add something credible to the overall presentation; as well as guiding the careers of legends such as Ray Stevens, Bobby Duncum Sr, and Blackjack Lanza under the banner of the Heenan Family, a stable name that he would carry with him throughout his managerial career. Moving from the AWA in 1984 Heenan would manage a litany of high profile wrestlers including Big John Studd, Ken Patera, King Kong Bundy, Paul Orndorrf and many others in his early days with the promotion. However, perhaps Heenan's greatest moment as a manager came when he provided the motivation for Andre the Giant to turn on long-time friend Hulk Hogan leading to the monumental game-changing main event of Wrestlemania 3. Heenan provided a brilliant foil for Hulk Hogan as the underhanded "weasel" who had turned the gentle giant to the dark side (in reality Andre needed someone to talk for him in order to carry the promotional end of the feud, and Heenan was the ideal choice). Heenan would go on to manage multiple stars throughout the glory years of the Hulkamania era, including Rick Rude, The Brain Busters, Mr Perfect, Haku, Hercules, The Barbarian, Harley Race and many others. Heenan was the perennial manager of heel champions and his role in the history of the company is etched in stone.
Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was a phenomenal manager, but his commentary work may be what he is best remembered for. From 1986 to 1991 he provided commentary on various WWE shows, as well as taking a starring role on the flagship WWE show Prime Time Wrestling as an in-studio guest. Following his retirement as an active manager in 1991 he went full-time as a "broadcast journalist", as well as moonlighting as an advisor to "Nature Boy" Ric Flair and his executive consultant Mr Perfect during that time. There are so many notable and interesting moments from Heenan's tenure with WWE as an announcer, but the ones I remember most vividly are when he was paired with the late, great Gorilla Monsoon. The pairing of the two is legendary, and events like Wrestlemania 8 (one of the very first shows I ever saw), and their hi-jinks on Prime Time were some of the most entertaining work the company has ever produced. It was just pure magic. No event exhibits this chemistry between the two than the Royal Rumble 1992, with the main event providing arguably the most memorable and most historic rumble match in company history. Heenan’s call of that match, unashamedly biased towards Ric Flair, and overjoyed when his man won the match is a joy to watch even now, and is probably Heenan at the peak of his powers. Heenan would go on to great things later that year as the catalyst for Mr Perfect's heel turn, which could have felt forced or rushed (in reality it very much was, due to the unexpected departure of the Ultimate Warrior from the company following a failed drug test), playing a blinder in both the 1993 Royal Rumble match and Flair vs Perfect in a loser leaves town match the following night, as well as getting involved with the unveiling of "The Narcissist" Lex Luger. Heenan's role would be somewhat reduced in the following months but his attempts to get into the building for Raw in various skits were superb, as was his entrance on a camel at Wrestlemania 9. There are just so many moments from his WWE tenure that echo in my memories.
Heenan's move to WCW in 1994 (after a really fun and very fitting angle where Gorilla Monsoon kicked him out of the company) was less spectacular and over the years it became clear that Heenan had lost his passion and was phoning it in somewhat. However, even a half assed- Bobby Heenan was better than most commentators in WCW, and his calls of the iconic Hulk Hogan heel turn at Bash of the Beach 1996 and Goldberg's first world title win was still big moments, and his voice is all over those happenings. Perhaps his most poignant moment on WCW television came as he gave a moving tribute to former broadcast partner and close friend Gorilla Monsoon when he passed away. Heenan would cease working actively on-air with WCW in 2000, being replaced by the dreadful Mark Madden, but the writing was on the wall for WCW anyway. Although Heenan would not end up as part of WWE on a regular basis after WCW closed its doors in 2001 it was fantastic to have him do once call on the Gimmick Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 17.
Unfortunately Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002 and has spent much of the past 15 years on and off battling ill health, including having to have his jaw partially removed. He still remained in good spirits by all accounts, right until the end and he passed away earlier this week. Anyone who has seen pictures of Heenan or met him in person over the past few years can of course attest to the decline in his physical state, and it has been really sad to see. However, throughout he seemed to have retained his trademark sense of humour. Perhaps the last truly great moment from Heenan came at the 2004 Hall of Fame ceremony, where he was being inducted. If you've never seen his induction speech, it really is worth your time, as it is perhaps one of the most hilarious, touching and memorable moments from any year WWE have done the HoF.
For me, Heenan will be remembered as the single greatest announcer of a generation, with great wit and brilliant timing a staple of his work. In many ways Heenan was the voice of my childhood, the sarcastic, quick voice of WWE and the perfect in to the yang of Gorilla Monsoon. His calls of the aforementioned Royal Rumble 1992, Wrestlemania 8 and 9, Summerslam 1992 alongside Vince McMahon, and countless other events were part of my upbringing. I would watch tapes form that era over and over , obviously this was in the pre-internet and WWE Network days and access to wrestling was finite. However, Heenan was the always on blinding form and a part of my personal favourite broadcast team of all time. An entertainer like no other, be it for "ham and eggers" or "humanoids", "The Brain" is the best ever and will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace.
Well that is it from me for this week. I will be back at the same time next week with all the news from Raw and Smackdown, the fallout from No Mercy, as well as whatever other stories break in the next week. In the meantime, keep it locked here at Screenjabber for all the best movie, Blu-ray, DVD and video game reviews, as well as all the latest news, podcasts, competitions and more. Until next time, so long folks.