Legendary pro wrestling manager Bobby “the Brain” Heenan died Sunday from cancer complications at the age of 72, the WWE announced. Heenan was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer in 2002 and spent the last several years battling the disease, including losing the ability to talk after multiple surgeries on his tongue and the reconstruction of his lower jaw.
Heenan, born Raymond Louis Heenan, is considered by most experts to be the greatest pro wrestling manager of all time.
Heenan came to nationwide prominence as the manager of Ray Stevens and Nick Bockwinkel in the American Wrestling Assn. He also managed Bockwinkel when he became the league’s heavyweight champion.
But Heenan’s claim to game was his lengthy stint as a manager in the then-WWF, when he would send bad guy after bad guy to try and defeat WWF heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan.
Heenan managed Andre the Giant when Andre turned heel and challenged Hogan at a sold-out Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania 3. Other notables he managed in WWF were Rick Rude, Paul Orndorff, Mr. Perfect, King Kong Bundy, Ken Patera, Big John Studd and The Brain Busters.
Heenan retired as a manager in the early 1990s after suffering a neck injury from the many bumps he would take in the ring. He turned to commentating and called matches alongside Gorilla Monsoon.
Heenan later went on to become a commentator at rival World Championship Wrestling.
Heenan leaves behind a wife, Cynthia Jean, a daughter, Jessica, and a grandson, Austin.
For more on this story, read wrestling historian and reporter Dave Meltzer’s account of Heenan’s career here.