AS I SEE IT - 2/13/2003:
Fan thoughts on the passing of Curt Hennig
by: Bob Magee
We all lost another great one with the passing of Curt Hennig this Monday in Florida.
AS I SEE IT's flagship site, PWBTS, featured a lot of comments and reports on the death of Curt Hennig from people within those in the wrestling business. I thought it would be much more appropriate to get the thoughts and feelings of fans about the passing of this great talent.
Here are two Hennig memories of mine that most people outside Philadelphia won't recall...
I remember seeing Curt Hennig in one of my favorite venues, the ECW Arena...as one of the few bright spots of the Main Event Championship Wrestling fiasco on August 11, 2001, working Chris Harris.
Hennig evidently expected the worst from the notorious ECW Arena crowd, and had a surprised look on his face as the crowd popped like crazy for him at his introduction, and all the louder as he snapped off each of his trademark spots throughout the match. He left the Arena with a smile on his face.
I was also there for Hennig's final time in the Arena, as he worked for 3PW on October 19, 2002 against Jerry "The King" Lawler in an old-school match with Lawler going over. In a sad irony, this was the 3PW Rocco Rock tribute show where a banner with "Rocco Rock - Ted Petty 1953-2002" was unveiled on the wall of the ECW Arena.
I asked people from the various sites that carry AS I SEE IT to send in their thoughts. I expected many responses...but was pleasantly surprised to receive far, far in excess of the number I thought I would...coming from all over the United States, the UK, Canada, and from as far away as Italy... the largest response to anything related to AS I SEE IT since this column started in 1997...a testament to what many of you felt about Curt Hennig.
Thanks for allowing me to share in all of your memories. Because of space, I've included only some of the e-mails I've received. Even if your thoughts weren't included, I appreciated reading them all.
Here are some of those thoughts:
Steve Goss shared the following:
"Somewhere, in a box of old treasures tucked away in a dusty corner, there is a program from a live WWF -- yes, 'F' -- house show in the old Hartford Civic Center. The performer we would all hear later in life espouse his perfection was a 'preliminary' wrestler in those days. A jobber named 'Young Curt Hennig' whose primary purpose in life -- at the time -- was to put the Killer Khans and (still fat) Magnificent Muracos of the world over. By simply 'doing the job.'
As we grew, so did this 'young' man...into, quite simply, one of the best and most gifted, if underrated, in-ring performers of our modern time. With the rise of Rick Rude, Mike Rotunda, Barry Windham, Rick Martel, and Curt Hennig, professional wrestling entered its transition time -- an era when pure athleticism and the ability to entertain dominated over the size of the man in the fight. And yet, no one even then knew how good these guys could be.
Curt Hennig could have been as much a man of ego outside the ring as his 'Mr. Perfect' character was in the ring. But Curt never forgot where he came from...and never failed to honor the business. Even though he didn't always get first-class material to work with -- even though the pain was sometimes more than a common man could have gotten out of bed with -- Curt Hennig did what fans expect when they see 'Wrestling' on the marquee. Quite simply, he entertained. He 'did the job.'
He was, in many of the best ways, 'perfect.'
Go with God, 'young' man...
Rick, Brian, Rodney [Anoia] and Owen have an empty locker waiting for you."
From Mimmo Pisconti of Italy's Totalwrestling.it:
"...A big man, a big wrestler, a big champion. All Italian wrestling fans remember him with sadness, cause he leave an empty place in our hearts, hard to forget, for us. His death is a suddenly death, a death that leave the sign. Our web site remembered him with a biography, a tribute for his wonderful life...He left us without warning, but he will stay forever in our hearts. Forever 'Perfect'".
From Dave Cousins:
"I'd like to take a second to remember Curt Hennig, and also Mr. Perfect (The two were the same, but different) We know his background- second generation wrestler, amateurs standout, all that stuff. As a young kid, I remember watching Curt and another second generation wrestler, the late Eddie (before the "Hot Stuff") Gilbert wrestling as a tag team. I sat by the TV, hoping they'd win the WWF tag titles from Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito...little did I know that Hennig would be a world champ one day.
Years passed, we got cable and ESPN, and that introduced me to Hennig again- tagging still but now for the AWA, with "Big Scott Hall" as the announcers said. I was happy when those two won the AWA tag titles, dropping them later to Jimmy Garvin and Steve Regal. Then one evening I watched an epic between Nick Bockwinkel and Henning - the first match I had ever seen that lasted to entire TV time limit. Just classic hold for hold, counter for counter, I ain't jumping around and there's no choke slams here WRESTLING!!!!! It was great- no other words needed."
From Michael Alva:
"Who could forget the memories of seeing Mr. Perfect walk out into the arena with his towel, spit the gum out and whack it away?
Who could forget the vignettes of Mr. Perfect slamming a home run, or tossing the ball into the basket....backwards and from far away?
Who could forget him turning on Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan to partner up with Randy Savage, being the 'Perfect Partner?'
Who could forget his classic match with Bret Hart at SummerSlam?
Who could forget the classic screwjob against Lex Luger during Wrestlemania X for 'shoving' the ref?
It's clear Heaven needed yet another champion.
I, for one, will never forget the entertainment Curt Hennig brought into my home and into my life. He will be sorely missed by not only those in the business, but those out of the business as well."
From Brian McDonnell:
"When I heard the news of his passing, I was shocked and saddened to say the least. The thought flashed into my head as the wrestler who I loved when I was a kid was now gone.
There was something about Curt Hennig and his Mr. Perfect character that I loved. Maybe it was the cocky demeanor that he displayed, maybe it was the patented gum swat, which I for one still do to this day. Maybe it was the behind the back towel toss, or maybe it was his classic move, the Perfectplex. Or maybe it was those cool vignettes hyping his debut.
This was a man who could put on a good match no matter with what opponent. When he made his return to WWE around this time last year, I was that youngster once again, cheering for the one I grew up cheering. All the things I loved those years back were back once again. Even though Curt was a little older, his skills maybe a tad off, he still entertained me through and through.
Wrestling has lost another mainstay, the perfect mainstay that is. I thank Curt Hennig for all the memories he gave me in the WWF's glory days. God rest his soul in heaven. "
The following thoughts were sent in by Scott Yeazle:
"I was shocked to find out yesterday about Curt Hennig. He was one of the best the State of Minnesota had to offer. I love the gum thing that Curt did while coming to the ring. In the next few weeks, you will hear about people talking about Curt on radio shows. Please, please, listen to the shows and listen to how great the man Curt Hennig was. He will always be the PERFECT wrestler.
Thank you Curt for all the memories and for being one of the reasons I am here as a fan and soon a promoter..."
These comments from Bobo Brown:
"...It was in 1986 when I first heard the name 'Cool' Curt Hennig on AWA television programming. Having seen him wrestled on AWA television, defending the AWA World Title against many challengers until his May 1988 defeat to Jerry "the King" Lawler, I knew he would see greener pastures. Not long after that, Curt was doing promos for Vince McMahon's Titan Sports.
Living up to this 'Perfect' image, he demonstrated playing basketball, shooting pool, darts, bowling the perfect game, and not too long after, he showed the fans that he was all business in the ring. Wrestling many of the WWE's top stars of the day, and eventually winning the Inter-Continental Championship by defeating Santana in the tournament finals in April 1990.
With Bobby Heenan in his corner, Curt defended the title, winning it back a few more times during his stay with the WWF. He feuded with the late 'Texas Tornado' Kerry Von Erich, Bret 'Hitman' Hart, Big Bossman, Shawn Michaels and even served as 'Executive Consultant' for the 'REAL' World Champion Ric Flair.
Battling back injury, Hennig was back in the ring doing what he did best. He had proven that like his father Larry 'the Ax' Hennig, he was a fighter, and had a never surrender attitude...
When I received the phone call about his untimely death, I was stunned, and saddened that another great performer in the pro wrestling industry had gone to their 'reward'.
Thank you for the memories Curt, your career was 'ABSOLUTELY PERFECT!'".
From Sean Leonard:
"Curt was one of the greatest, not to mention the greatest IC champ of all time...and he wouldn't be afraid to tell ya'. Hell, just ask Brock Lesnar.
But much like the others, Curt was taken too young. His Summerslam match against Bret Hart was a classic, his match with the Blue Blazer (who was also sadly taken from us) was also a wonderful match. Many wrestlers come along that are good, few that are great, but only one was 'Perfect.'"
From "Random Hero" from Canada:
"I truly am sad to hear of Curt Hennig's passing, he was underappreciated everywhere he went.
Except for one single night.
Luckily, I was there that night, and from reading people's reactions to Curt's death, I bet they wish they were there too. The show was WCW Invasion, a rather forgettable night, whose only memorable moment was the Hart/Benoit title match.
However, I remembered that night for a different reason.
That night Curt Hennig faced off against Buff Bagwell in a retirement match. According to WCW bookers, this was a no-brainer, with the fans cheering Bagwell, who would send Hennig off into the sunset, another buried legend. The bookers were wrong.
It should be known by now, in Toronto, all bets are off. All match long we cheered Hennig on, and when he lost, we gave him a massive standing ovation in appreciation of what he had done. He felt it, you could tell. He was genuinely moved by our reaction, as were the bookers, who kept him around after all despite his "retirement". I was proud of what we did that night, I felt we extending his "televised" career. However, after yesterday's news, I feel even prouder that we gave him the sendoff he deserved. RIP Curt Hennig, I'm glad I was able to tell you in person what you meant to me."
From "ChristianCage777" in the UK:
"I started watching wrestling, WWF in general, around the time of the first WrestleMania. I've watched wrestling non-stop since that time, through the ups and the downs. I saw the Pay Per View debut of Mr. Perfect. Since I was too young to recognize good wrestling style, and too young to cheer for the heels, Mr. Perfect was not one of my favourites in his early days of the WWF...
...[Then came] Summer Slam 1993, the Palace of Auburn Hills, outside of Detroit, Michigan. I was there with my cousin to watch the event, LIVE. It was a wonderful night for me, the first time I had ever attended a WWF Pay Per View event. The match between Mr. Perfect and Shawn Michaels finally took place, and I was there to see it...
...I was shocked and saddened to see the news of Curt Hennig's death. I felt it couldn't be true....but sadly, it was. I will miss Mr. Perfect, not so much that I felt he would ever become a wrestling superstar again..but just for the fact that the man who I had cheered for so loudly, the man I wanted to be when I played wrestling with my cousin on his trampoline, was no longer around to give me that feeling when I read his name on a wrestling marquee. I will always have the memories though. Thank you Curt Hennig for those memories."
"I received the news that men such as Lou Thesz and Wahoo McDaniel with a sort of distant empathy, because I had seen so little footage of them and knew so little of them.
But Curt Hennig? I grew up watching the man.
I laughed at his over the top character as a child when the lines were perhaps more rightfully divided. It's not fair that a man so healthy should depart when he still had so much to give...I defended Hennig against all of the 'smart marks' who said he was past his prime. He was a human being, not canned goods to be thrown away because his value was lessened by a handful of fickle internet fans.
I loved Curt Hennig and his passing has truly touched me in a sad way. I never got to see him perform live and I will always regret that. Whomever chooses to honor him in the coming years, through film, tribute shows or video packages, it can never be too much to honor this fallen icon.
It was said that Curt started a fight with Brock Lesnar on the plane ride back from Europe. Here's hoping he's picking fights even higher up now, smacking his gum and catching his towel behind his back. I hope he's ribbing everyone from Owen Hart to Dave Williams of Drowning Pool. You will be missed more than you could have ever imagined, Curt. After all, you were the 'perfect performer'. Goodbye..."
From Chris Pearcey:
"...I was 11 and saw for the first time the extremely arrogant, pompous ass by the name of Mr. Perfect with his "Perfectplex"... Years went by and my interest in wrestling went away and then on day on TNT I saw the NWO raising havoc on Nitro and I was hooked again. Then yesterday I heard the news and it hurt, it really did.
Now sitting here thinking about it...When I was 11, I never thought they were real people. This time I have feelings... not about a character, but because one of the best heels in the business is gone and I thought how much he will be missed."
Fred Marvel of Philadelphia sent in the following:
"...I was a huge fan of Randy Savage, Brutus Beefcake and Hulk Hogan as a kid. I hated Mr. Perfect. I cheered so hard for anyone to beat him and end his 'undefeated' streak. But when he turned face and teamed with Savage at Survivor Series '92, that was amazing. Basically, he was one of the most entertaining wrestlers EVER. He made you both hate him and love him. I was at the 3PW show in October when he fought Jerry Lawler. On entertainment value alone, that is one of my favorite matches I have ever seen live."
Russel Francisco of Jersey City, NJ said:
"...I didn't know Curt Hennig the man, so I can only speak as a fan who watched him on WWF television. Mr. Perfect was the first heel I ever cheered for....I was in 6th-7th grade during those days, so it was odd for us to cheer for the heels back then.
But Mr. Perfect brought in a new brand of heel that made me cheer for some reason. His heel charisma was a new standard-setter. If you look nowadays, there's a whole lot of Mr. Perfect in guys like Shawn Michaels, for example. Curt Hennig was a terrific performer with great athleticism, and could work the crowd without saying a word (bubble gum spit and slap anyone?).
In a sense, he revolutionized the wrestling heel...he was a cool heel, and the rest, as they say, is history. I wish he could've ended his time back home in WWE. And I hope WWE pays a proper tribute to Mr. Perfect. My thoughts to his family. Godspeed Curt Hennig, and thank
you for the great, great memories."
From Rob Barnett:
"Today, I sit at my computer in sadness [about] one of the men I grew up watching on TV. Hennig...played such a wonderful heel with Flair in WWF in '92, and made me hate him so. I couldn't stand this guy in the West Texas Rednecks, a rap-hating group in WCW from late '98 to early '99, consisting of leader, Curt Hennig, Barry Windham, Kendall Windham, Bobby Duncum Jr, and Curly Bill (Virgil from WWF.)
I loved to hate this man so much, and he will be missed more than many in my book. I sit in tears, as we have lost a great person.
These thoughts came from Kathy Fitzpatrick:
"I just wanted to pass on some thoughts on the passing of 'Mr. Perfect' Curt Hennig. I want to extend my personal sympathies to the Hennig family.
I was lucky enough to meet Curt a number of years ago. I was introduced to him by my friend Sherri Martel. He was always nice and would always remember me as a friend of Sherri's.
I have an old picture of Curt with Eddie Gilbert, probably taken when they were in their early 20's. After Eddie passed away, I always wanted to show it to Curt but, it seemed I never got the chance either because of one reason or another. When I heard of Curt's death, all I could think of how ironic that within a week will be the anniversaries of Eddie, David Von Erich, and Kerry Von Erich's passings.
My prayers go out to the Hennig family."
From Sean Salisbury:
"...Time and fate are unfair mistresses. In the end, and I guess this is the end, Curt Hennig was a man who deserved better. And in the hearts and minds of every wrestling fan who ever appreciated a true heel, he will finally get what he deserves: a place of honor."
From "Jayxsweetchin" over in the UK:
"Living all the way over in the U.K., where wrestling is not as hot as it should be, the thousands of us that love the sport and try everything to get ahold of it are devastated at losing another one of the 'favourites'. I wasn't sure what to write..I just felt that the voice from the U.K should be heard and you should know that we are just as saddened by this as fans from another country.
A favourite Mr Perfect moment - it was a King of the Ring match up from a few years back against Bret Hart...it was awesome.
R.I.P - let it be a long time before we lose anymore.
A big Amen to that, Jay.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)