Who Is The Better Manager: Bobby Heenan or Paul Heyman?
Posted by Greg De Marco on 08.21.2014
Bobby Heenan was the best manager of all-time for over forty years, until Paul Heyman brought a resurgence to the role that none expected! But the question remains: Who is the better manager? 411’s Greg DeMarco takes a look!
The past decade saw the role of pro wrestling manager become all but obsolete. Paul Heyman brought it back, repaving the road that had become filled with potholes. Over the past two years he's been joined by Zeb Colter and Lana, but Heyman has distanced himself from the pack and now belongs among the best ever.
But how does he compare to the man many consider to be the best manager ever: Bobby "The Brain" Heenan?
This topic isn't an original, it's inspired by the members of Facebook's #1 Wrestling Group: YES! YES! YES! Click that link if you want to join! But it was a topic so intriguing that I decided to change my original plans for this article and go with something different.
If you've followed my work at 411Mania over the past four years (and if you haven't, click here), you know that I hate when a writer, fan, or anyone for that matter, poses a question without providing an answer. If you're gonna write, have a take! Be strong, be bold, back up what you have to say and put it out there.
There are two strategies to employ here: I can write the entire article first and provide my definitive answer at the end, or I can give you the answer now and tell you why.
Seems like Greg DeMarco is an "Option B" guy today:
Paul Heyman has surpassed Bobby "The Brain" Heenan as professional wrestling's greatest manager of all time.
And here's why...
Okay, okay, I'm kidding!
Before I look at what separates these two greats, I want to look at what makes them similar.
Bobby Heenan was a whopping 16 years old when he broke into the professional wrestling business in 1960. He retired 40-years later in 2000 (although he has made sporadic appearances since that time. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly) he maintained the same character since his debut—a big mouth talker who would run and hide the moment he was physically confronted. His first big time wrestling appearances were in the AWA, where the term "Weasel" and the Weasel Suit Matches first took place (the Ultimate Warrior would later bring these back in the WWF). He managed Nick Bockwinkel to his first AWA World Championship, and managed several tag team champions as well. Heenan eventually moved to the WWF, and eventually formed The Heenan Family. The Family had nearly 20 members during its existence, including such names as Paul Orndorff, Andre The Giant, King Kong Bundy, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard, Rick Rude, Curt Hennig and Ric Flair. Many times a wrestler wasn't so much feuding with the Heenan Family member as they were actually feuding with Bobby Heenan himself.
The WWE is also where Bobby Heenan established himself as a heel commentator, the only skill that was equal to his managerial abilities. Heenan's famous association with Gorilla Monsoon is still referenced by old school fans today, and the two grew to be great friends behind the scenes. Heenan eventually left the WWF and went to WCW, where he spent six years commentating on their Monday Nitro and Thursday Thunder broadcasts, among others.
Bobby Heenan retired from pro wrestling in 2000, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
Paul Heyman debuted in 1987, a full 27 years after Bobby Heenan. He cut his teeth around the independents for the better part of a year before becoming Pau E. Dangerously in Florida. He made his way to the AWA to manage the Original Midnight Express before taking that team to the NWA to feud with Jim Cornette's Midnight Express. He eventually moved into the role of color commentator.
In 1991 Heyman formed The Dangerous Alliance, basically giving purpose to the directionless Bobby Eaton and Arn Anderson, as well as Rick Rude, Steve Austin and Larry Zbyszko. Hearing those names today doesn't immediately strike one as a great stable combination, but much like the odd grouping that was The Heenan Family, it was Dangerously who made the group relevant.
After unceremoniously leaving WCW in 1993, Heyman made his way to Eastern Championship Wrestling, where he served as a manager until his increasing backstage roles caused him to spend less time appearing "on-stage" at ECW events. In 1994 Heyman's vision lead to Shane Douglas' infamous promo where he denounced the tradition of the NWA and rebranded the Tod Gordon owned promotion as Extreme Championship Wrestling. In doing so, Heyman created a true alternative for wrestling fans, one that caused a shift in the entire wrestling industry and is still remembered fondly today.
The work Heyman did behind the scenes in ECW is never truly appreciated. He got wrestlers to risk their lives (more than normal), take on backstage roles and do so for very little pay—and very little pay that was often late. And when ECW went belly-up, it was Paul Heyman who landed on his feet.
Paul Heyman joined the WWE in 2001 as a surprise replacement for Jerry Lawler. Heyman only held the color commentator position from March to November (with a few weeks off to lead The Alliance in the Invasion angle), but is remembered as one of the very best behind the desk.
Heyman soon returned to managing in 2002 when he became the "agent" for, wouldn't you know it, Brock Lesnar! He'd actually turn on Lesnar to manage The Big Show and and turn on Show to manage Kurt Angle.
Heyman was General Manager of Smackdown and the major storyline impetus behind Chris Benoit choosing to challenge for Raw brand superstar Triple H's World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 20. Heyman also held the creative keys on Smackdown, and is credited with creating the "Smackdown Six" in Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit. Heyman was a huge part of ECW One Night Stand, which eventually lead to the return of ECW as a WWE brand—something WCW has never done.
Heyman was gone from the WWE in 2006, and stayed away for nearly six years. He returned in 2012 as the advocate for—you know who—Brock Lesnar. He would also be aligned with CM Punk during Punk's monumental WWE Championship run, as well as Curtis Axel, Ryback and Cesaro. Today he remains only the personal advocate to Brock Lesnar, while also loosely tied to Cesaro.
In selecting Heyman as the best over Heenan, I need to show you some criteria...
Both Paul Heyman and Bobby Heenan managed mega stars, with Heyman being paired with Rick Rude, Steve Austin, CM Punk and Brock Lesnar while Heenan was with Andre The Giant, Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy, Paul Orndorff and Curt Hennig. He was the heel counterpart to Hulk Hogan for most of Hogan's first run atop the WWE, managing Orndorff, Bundy and Andre The Giant against the company's biggest star.
Advantage: Bobby Heenan
Wining the category is actually a loss, so any advantage here goes to he who managed fewer failures. Except both men had a few. Heenan had the likes of "The Red Rooster" Terry Taylor, The Brooklyn Brawler and The Barbarian. For Heyman you need look no further than Curtis Axel and Ryback, who have thrived as a tag team without Heyman. And don't forget, Heyman managed Randy Rose!
This is sure to be a controversial area, as Heenan was one of the most brilliant commentators of this (or any) generation. Heyman didn't commentate nearly as long as Heenan, but I actually consider him to be the better color commentator, if only slightly. But you factor in Heenan's longevity and I simply cannot pick for this category.
Impact On Wrestling
Bobby Heenan was one of the most influential managers and commentators of his time. So many aspiring managers named him as an inspiration, allowing him to have an impact so few in the business can boast. But it pales on comparison to the impact made by Paul Heyman. Heyman changed the role of manager more than once, and he spearheaded a little something called ECW—a company that changed wrestling forever.
Advantage: Paul Heyman
Being a heel manager means cutting effective promos all the time. And I mean ALL THE TIME! I've seen Heenan cut 4 or 5 promos during old school WWF pay-per-view events, and doing each with ease. Yet Paul Heyman has him beat. Heyman cut great promos with a brick phone in one hand, he cut great promos as the cult leader for ECW, and he has cut some of the best promos of any career during his most recent WWE run. Believe it or not, this area isn't as close as you'd think.
Advantage: Paul Heyman
Ladies and Gentleman, his name is Paul Heyman, and he is the greatest manager of all time. And he ain't done yet.
In a shocking turn of events, I'm willing to admit that my opinion isn't the end-all-be-all for this topic. You, the fan, have a voice in this argument, and can share it both in the comments section below and in this handy-dandy poll question!
You know my answer, what's yours???
Greg DeMarco is a wrestling fan of over 30 years and has also worked on the independent circuit as a promoter, announcer, character and booker. Greg a weekly contributor at 411Mania.com, applying his opinionated style to the world of pro wrestling on Sundays and Thursdays.
He began writing for 411Mania in October 2010 and has been pissing readers off ever since!