Considered by many to be not just one of the greatest wrestling managers of all time but also one of the most entertaining, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan has become a bit of an institution in the world of 'sports entertainment.' The WWE has decided to honor the man with his first ever DVD collection entitled, simply and appropriately enough, Bobby. This two disc set, like many WWE releases that focus on one particular star, includes a main feature biography/documentary piece and then a collection of bonus clips from throughout Heenan's career. Let's start with the main feature.
The documentary begins by giving us a bit of background information on Heenan, exploring his roots and talking about his family environment when he was growing up. From here we segue fairly quickly into how and why he got into wrestling in the first place from his Chicago area upbringing to his early days in the AWA league. Heenan would quickly climb the ranks thanks to his 'weasel' persona and by the time he'd made his way into the WWE (then the WWF), he had a pretty good name made for himself. It was all small time until this point, however, for as the eighties rolled in and Heenan's WWF star rose, he'd wind up managing a veritable stable of some of the biggest 'bad guy' wrestler's in the history of the league.
With Heenan's star firmly entrenched in the mind of the populace, he would wind up getting spun off into various skits and interludes, and eventually wind up a commentator alongside the late, great Gorilla Monsoon where the pair would soon become widely regarded as the greatest commentating duo ever thanks to their frequently hilarious back and forth and clever banter. Heenan's sense of humor would serve him well over the years, from his short lived TV show to his exit from the WWE to his stint in the WCW. The feature wraps up by touching on Heenan's health issues and his battle with throat cancer before finishing off with a look at his induction into the WWE Hall Of Fame.
Featuring plenty of interesting and amusing archival clips and interviews with the likes of stars Nick Bockwinkel, Baron Von Rachke, Ken Patera and Greg Gagne, Arn Anderson and Heenan's daughter who is tears up quite frequently while talking about her father's health problems and who goes into some interesting detail about her own time in the WWF as a plant in the crowd for various 'bad guy' wrestler's to poke at. All under her father's watchful supervision, of course, but as someone who remembers some of these bits from the eighties when they first aired, they sure were effective marketing tactics - how better to get a kid to hate the bad guy then to have the bad guy make a mean comment to a kid in the crowd?
What really shines through in this feature is Heenan's wicked sense of humor. The man has a very quick wit about him and he was never afraid to play just a little bit nastier than some of the other WWE celebrities. While he stopped short of ever going too far, his (obviously fake) sexist jabs at overweight women on his talk show or his digs at Gorilla Monsoon or Mean Gene Okerlund are always very funny and the feature speculates that, had he been given the right opportunity, he could have been on the same level as Leno or Letterman on the talk show circuit. Oddly enough, Heenan himself isn't really interviewed for this feature (though he's all over the extra features), which is a shame, but this is still a pretty rewarding watch. If there's one major flaw it's that the feature is only fifty minutes long. With a career as long and as storied as Bobby Heenan's, it could easily have been twice that long and still remained an interesting and entertaining watch. The early years are glanced over very quickly as are the AWA and WCW years and obviously the focus is on his eighties glory days, but there's more to Heenan's story than that which could and should have been covered better than it has been. The end result? What's here is good, but it had the potential to be great and given Heenan's importance it's a true shame that it didn't hit that level.
The video presentation, though interlaced, looks pretty decent. Some of the earlier matches and archival clips are on the soft side and aren't quite as clean and colorful looking as the later day content is but this is generally quite a respectable looking presentation. As is often the case with wrestling DVDs, there are times where the lights over the ring make skin tones look a bit off but this isn't a fault of the transfer or the authoring, it's simply the way the material has always looked. Nothing here really looks worse than when it was broadcast on television, and to some eyes it might even look a little bit better.
The same comments apply to the audio on this release - some of the earlier stuff sounds a bit flat, but most of the newer stuff sounds just fine. Everything comes at you by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and aside from one or two instances where some of the archival clips have a small amount of audible distortion, there aren't any issues worth complaining about here. There are no subtitles or alternate language options provided.
The WWE has put a fair bit more effort into the extras on this disc than they typically do. The first disc in the set contains the following extras:
The Executioners / AWA Manager of the Year 1976 / AWA All-Star Wrestling - 12/25/1976 / The Wrestling Bear / Centerfold / "Honey, I'm Home!" / The Other Weasel Suit / "I Am Not A Weasel" / Tuesday Night Titans - 10/2/1984 / Bobby Heenan And Gorilla Monsoon go to Busch Gardens / Prime Time Wrestling - 12/12/1988 / Get Your Popcorn Ready / Golfing Tips with Bobby Heenan And "Mean" Gene Okerlund Sterling Farms Golf Course - 10/1991 / Bobby's Big Entrance WrestleMania IX - 4/4/1993 / Gorilla Monsoon Fires Bobby Heenan RAW - 12/6/1993 / The Humor of Bobby Heenan / A Farewell to Gorilla Nitro - 10/11/1999 / The Wedding Eulogy / "Freakish Noises" WrestleMania XX - 3/14/2004 / Bobby Heenan's Induction into the WWE Hall of Fame WWE Hall of Fame - 3/14/2004
Disc two also contains a wealth of extra features, laid out as follows:
Battle of the Managers Bobby Heenan versus Lord Alfred Hayes / AWA St. Paul, MN - 1/13/1980 Weasel Suit Match / Bobby Heenan versus Greg Gagne AWA St. Paul, MN - 8/17/1980 / Handicap Match Hulk Hogan versus Nick Bockwinkel And Bobby Heenan AWA - St. Paul, MN - 5/2/1981 / Bobby Heenan versus Salvatore Bellomo Madison Square Garden - 11/26/1984 / Weasel Suit Match Bobby Heenan versus Ultimate Warrior WrestleFest `88 - 7/31/1988 / The Royal Rumble Match Royal Rumble - 1/19/1992 With Commentary From Bobby Heenan And Gorilla Monsoon / Gimmick Battle Royal WrestleMania XVII - 4/1/2001 With Commentary From Bobby Heenan And Mean Gene Okerlund
There's a lot of great material included here, much of which shows off Heenan's wit and biting sense of humor better than the documentary itself does. Clips from his various appearances throughout his career certainly shed some light on this as does the bit where Heenan is shown golfing with Monsoon - of course he cheats, but you knew that already. His interplay and back and forth with Monsoon gets a good bit of coverage here, as it should, and it's touching to see Heenan, back on his feet after a battle with throat cancer, admitting to missing his friend while accepting his introduction into the WWE Hall Of Fame. Some more context and commentary would have been welcome
This is a good set overall, but really, the documentary piece itself is simply way too short to really do justice to Heenan's career. What's there is good, but it could easily have been twice as long and remained just as entertaining and interesting. Thankfully, the wealth of extras in this set do help to make up for the short feature. Fans of the WWE's 1980s glory days already know they want this, and it's with good reason that this set comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.