Throughout the history of pro wrestling bookers and promoters have always tried to come up with new, creative and innovative ideas to generate interest in their product. Some ideas have not only succeeded but flourished. Others were DOA from the get go. Those are the focus of the series of posts titled ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ which today looks at the short-lived Bobby Heenan show.
With the tremendous on screen chemistry between Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon on the predecessor to Monday Night Raw…Primetime Wrestling…Vince McMahon had an idea to expand the show’s success. He decided to give Bobby Heenan his own segment after Primetime was over. Now while the initial idea to split up the team of Heenan and Monsoon certainly wasn’t a great one, the segment they gave ‘the Brain’ certainly was.
It was all set up via kayfabe with Heenan tired of Gorilla Monsoon’s insults and feeling he was the true star of Primetime Wrestling. Heenan was convinced that he could star in his own show and get higher ratings than Primetime ever could. Bobby Heenan then quit Primetime and walked away. That set up ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper to replace Heenan and allow Heenan’s new show to film and debut.
The debut of the new ‘The Bobby Heenan Show’ debuted on July 10th, 1989. It aired directly after Primetime Wrestling which was now cut from a 2 hour show to a 90 minute show with Heenan getting the last 30 minutes of airtime. Now if you think the Bobby Heenan Show was going to be a generic interview program with Bobby interviewing various wrestlers much like the old Tuesday Night Titans show did, you would be sorely mistaken.
The only thing reminiscent of TNT was the studio which was the same one that Titans used at Titan Towers in Stamford, Connecticut and the introductions were made by ‘Lord’ Alfred Hayes who was the old TNT sidekick. Other than that, this was a much different type of show.
The Bobby Heenan Show was in fact a REAL talk show with real guests. It strayed far away from pro wrestling and instead focused on bizarre, yet real life people with odd occupations. The guests ranged from old lady belly dancers, to hypnotists to porn stars. What made the show so good, was the fact that most of it..if not all was all ad libbed. Vince McMahon loved Heenan’s ability to fly off the cuff and just react and say things spontaneously. Most of the guests that came on his show were not pre interviewed or rehearsed with Heenan.
Instead, the guests would come out and they allowed Bobby to react and work on the fly with them. For instance, when he was interviewing a dull hypnotist, Bobby pretended to fall asleep while he was talking. He also thought adult film star Heather Hunter was an actress that starred with Eddie Murphy in the movie, Coming to America when in reality she was in the porn parody Coming ON America.
Aside from all the oddball guests, the Bobby Heenan Show also had its fair share of oddball characters a part of every show. For example, there were the Oinkettes…a trio of obese women who would escort the guests to the talk show couch. To show Heenan’s great knack for comedic timing, when talking to the Oinkettes, Heenan asked: “Do you ladies like any kind of sports?” At which time, one of the Oinkettes responded with: “I like weightlifting.” And in classic Heenan form, Bobby responded, “What are we talking here? Like Quarter Pounders or double cheeseburgers?” It was that kind of quick wit that made the Bobby Heenan show so special.
Lastly, but certainly not least…we mustn’t forget Bobby’s sidekick named Jamison Winger. Initially, Bobby Heenan was told that Jamison was a former employee of NASA and a former rocket scientist. In reality, Jamison Winger was an actor named John DiGiacomo. Without meeting DiGiacomo before the tapings…Bobby needed to interact with this man who was playing a complete nerd. The chemistry, while not at the level of Heenan/Monsoon was still extremely strong and played well off each other.
The chemistry was so strong, that rival promotions like the Global Wrestling Federation (GWF)in 1992, tried to copy the gimmick. Gary Hart was paired with an assistant simply named “Sebastien” who was this nerdy character that followed Hart around like a puppy dog. Also, when Bobby Heenan went to WCW in 1994, WCW wanted to bring John DiGiacomo with him as his sidekick. According to DiGiacomo however, he declined the offer because of work in New York City.
Surprisingly, despite the offbeat quirkiness of the show…it only lasted just 4 episodes and was cancelled due to lack of interest from viewers. I guess fans were expecting something with a WWF theme and what they got was a little too ahead of its time. Either way, the Bobby Heenan Show to me…was pure gold!
You can read all previous ‘Great Ideas That DIdn’t Last’ pieces here.