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LOUNGE VAULT: Not-so Perfect Career of Curt Hennig (1988-1994; 1996; 2002)

Feb 14, 2004 - 12:00:00 AM
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By Octavio Fierros, PWTorch.com Historian

LOUNGE VAULT: Not-so Perfect Career of Curt Hennig (1988-1994; 1996; 2002)
Column Date:
February 14, 2003
Website: Now-defunct 1stSourceWrestling.net

Note: It was just like yesterday when we heard the sad news regarding Curt Hennigs death. Im still amazed that the list still goes on with numerous deaths almost every month in the world of wrestling. Last year, I decided to write a column on Curt Hennigs career in the WWE. I wished I had more AWA and WCW reference in the column, but I was a WWF fan for life. I wrote this column for the now-defunct 1stSourceWrestling.net, which was run by T.S. I never got the chance to thank TS for the opportunity he gave me for writing for the site. Hey, T.S, if you are reading this, I want to thank you for the opportunity.

I say what I say I am and I say I'm perfect!

Curt Hennig, during his WWF days, using his gimmick to "perfection".

Not-so Perfect Career of Curt Hennig (1988-1994; 1996; 2002)

It's hard to select a team of great technical wrestlers today. However, we didn't find it very hard to pick one of the best athletes from yesterday. Curt Hennig was just like his wrestling nickname, "perfect" in every aspect of his wrestling style. He had the wrestling skills, the interview skills, and during his first WWE tenure, he gave it 100% in and out of the ring. He was one of the hardest workers during his prime and never failed to provide a good match. He had his memorable moments in the WWE and he was remembered for his classic match against Bret Hart in front of the Madison Square Garden crowd in August 1991. Don't get me wrong. He had some bad moments as well. Hennig received tons of criticism during the "Flight from Hell" just about a year ago when the WWE was coming from England. So, how did his WWE career ended? Well, let's take a look at a "Not-so Perfect Ending to Curt Hennig's WWE Career".

After wrestling in the AWA (American Wrestling Alliance) for several years (in which he won World and Tag Team Titles there), Curt Hennig signed with the WWF in 1988. This was a time in which the AWA was on a verge of shutting down and when the NWA was the only hope for wrestling other than the WWF. There were other wrestling territories out there, but the WWF was just dominating under the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, and other popular brand names. Hennig had just turned heel in the AWA and since the WWF loved his cocky character, they turned him into an arrogant "Mr. Perfect". The gimmick was well...perfect for him because he had the motivation. He had the charisma. Mr. Perfect soon became a true heel in the WWF and quickly established himself as one of the best heels in the company. Prior to his debut, Hennig made several vignettes to prove that he was perfect at everything. At one point, he was perfect in basketball shooting, making mid-court and backward shots. By the time viewers were watching him in his vignettes, he made his in-ring debut, and quickly drew boos from the crowd due to his arrogant persona. That was amazing for a wrestler who was barely coming in the big leagues, especially the WWF. After wrestling the likes of Blue Blazer (RIP) and Terry Taylor (Red Rooster), Mr. Perfect reached to top level status and challenged Hulk Hogan to a match during late-1989.

Mr. Perfect started a feud with Hulk Hogan. Hogan came out on top, as expected, but Perfect did everything in his power to frustrate the WWF World Champion. Perfect always had a manager. His first manager was Lanny Poffo, who played The Genius and "Leapin'" Lanny Poffo (Randy Savage's brother) in the WWF. Both drew tremendous heel heat before entering the ring. Poffo had some hilarious poems before his matches to draw heat. During an episode of "Main Event", Mr. Perfect destroyed the WWF World Title belt (the infamous Hardcore Title belt) to gain even more heel heat. At the Royal Rumble '90, Mr. Perfect was eliminated by Hulk Hogan. Perfect was the last one out of the ring during that Rumble match.

After a short feud with Hogan, Mr. Perfect went on to start a feud with Brutus Beefcake. Perfect was billed as "Goldilocks" because Beefcake was looking to cut his hair. Mr. Perfect vs. Brutus Beefcake was one of the strong undercard matches for WrestleMania VI. Beefcake cut part of Perfect's hair after the match to end the feud. Shortly after The Ultimate Warrior won the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan, he had to relinquish the IC Title. A tournament for the vacant title took place. Mr. Perfect reached to the finals of the tournament against Tito Santana. Before the match, Perfect shocked the world by announcing his new manager, Bobby Heenan. During Hennig's matches, Heenan was billed as the "perfect manager". Heenan helped Perfect win his first ever singles title in the WWF. For some odd reason, Perfect lost the IC Title four months later to Kerry Von Erich (RIP) at SummerSlam '90. Perfect didn't have the IC Title, so he went after the WWF World Title again, this time against The Ultimate Warrior. They never wrestled one-on-one on PPV, but at one point wrestled in house shows and Saturday Night's Main Event. Hennig recaptured the IC Title since he couldn't beat The Warrior. Thanks to Ted DiBiase, Perfect won the belt back from Von Erich. Perfect entered 1991 as IC Champion.

Incredibly enough, Mr. Perfect kept the IC Title for the first eight months of the year. During commentary, Heenan trashed Big Bossman's mother during his matches. Eventually, Bossman found out that Heenan was insulting his mother. Bossman had to go through the entire Heenan Family in order to get an IC Title shot against Hennig. Finally, the two collided at WrestleMania VII. Bossman won the match via DQ, which means that Perfect retained the title. Heenan took a break from managing and "Coach" took over to manage Perfect. Coach was no Bobby Heenan, so his character completely flopped when he also managed The Beverly Brothers. All of a sudden, Mr. Perfect started having back problems. His wrestling was limited and couldn't wrestle in full capacity. Despite his back injury, Mr. Perfect wrestled his best WWF match against Bret Hart at SummerSlam '91. This was a classic match and it launched Bret's singles career. On the other hand, it ended Perfect's temporary career.

Mr. Perfect was still in good terms with the WWF. He had two choices. One was to join Vince McMahon on commentary and the other was to manage. Well, he did a little bit of both. When Ric Flair made his debut for the WWF, Perfect jumped for the opportunity to perform his manager skills. Hennig was billed as "executive consultant" for Flair and both were over as heels. Both had a heck of a chemistry because of their tremendous mic skills. Perfect was the perfect heel because he made you wonder how much you hate him. During Ric Flair's WWF Title match at WrestleMania VIII, Perfect drew great heel heat by feuding with Randy Savage and Elizabeth. After Flair lost the title that night, Perfect was finding tons of excuses, one of them was that Savage did hold Flair's tights. Perfect was doing the whining for Flair. Contrary, Flair was only seeking revenge. And he did. Flair won the WWF Title back from Savage five months later in September 1992.

Come to think of it, Mr. Perfect was always a step behind The Ultimate Warrior prior to this point. Not this time. Vince McMahon realized that Hennig was a valuable and loyal player. In fact, Hennig was ready for an in-ring return. The Warrior left the WWF so Perfect jumped at the opportunity to take his place. The Warrior was going to feud with Flair at Survivor Series '92. The WWF needed a strong babyface to replace The Warrior. They risked it by turning Perfect babyface for the first time since his AWA days. The gimmick worked. During Prime Time Wrestling, Heenan was making fun of Randy Savage because he didn't have a tag team partner for Survivor Series against Ric Flair and Razor Ramon. (It was scheduled to be The Warrior, but due to contract problems, he left the WWF). Perfect volunteered to team with Savage. Heenan laughed at Perfect, because he knew he couldn't wrestle. Hennig got up, poured water at Heenan, signifying that he just turned face and decided to join Savage at Survivor Series '92. This was Perfect's first WWF match in 15 months and from there he decided to return to the ring full-time.

Mr. Perfect was still a face, but I liked him better as heel. He was still doing his usual routine, spitting his gum on the air and slapping it. His towel behind his back move too. Hennig was instrumental for ending Ric Flair's career in the WWF when he defeated him in a "Loser Leaves Town" match during the third episode of Monday Night Raw. Without Flair, Perfect's stock was dropping because he failed to deliver as a face. He started a feud with Lex Luger and it completely failed. He had good matches, but not as good when he was a heel. He did have a good match with Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam '93, but that was his last chance to steal the show like he did two years ago in the same event. Perfect took some time off again after Survivor Series '93 and returned months later.

Without any hints of a return, Mr. Perfect came back as referee at WrestleMania X. His return was temporary because, again, had some injuries. Perfect was the "perfect referee" during the Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna match. Even though Perfect called it down the middle, he disqualified Luger because he touched the ref twice during the match. Perfect turned heel again during that time, but his stint didn't last long and never got to wrestle Luger in 1994.

Mr. Perfect returned as color commentator again in 1996. He participated in the Shawn Michaels vs. British Bulldog (RIP) main event at the 1996 King of the Ring as referee. Perfect played the "tweener" part during this brief stint. It was clear that Hennig was babyface during Fall of 1996. Perfect vowed to help Marc Mero during his matches after he captured the IC Title in a tournament final against Faarooq. At the same time, Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H) was bringing beautiful women to the ring. Perfect would always distract Hunter by grabbing the ladies and taking them to the back. A storyline swerve took place on November 1996 when Hunter defeated Marc Mero for the IC Title. Perfect turned on Mero and became Hunter's assistant, similar to Ric Flair's sidekick few years back. By this time, the WWF gave Mr. Perfect an option: Come back and wrestle or leave the WWF. Perfect did show interest in returning to wrestling again. He was scheduled to face Steve Austin at the 1996 Survivor Series. He was just part of Plan B just in case Bret didn't return.

Shortly after a storyline swerve against Mero, Mr. Perfect pulled a real swerve on the WWF. He left the WWF without any notice and signed with WCW. It was known that Curt Hennig was not happy with the WWF so he left for better competition in WCW. Well, that's what he thought. Hennig signed with WCW in a time when they were hot. He was part of the NWO briefly.

Hennig returned to the WWE six years later at the 2002 Royal Rumble. Hennig lasted a long time in the match and was part of the final four. Hennig was released months later after a controversial "Flight from Hell" when the WWE was on United Kingdom tour. Hennig wrestled in the independent scene and the NWA TNA.

We all remember Curt Hennig from his WWF days as Mr. Perfect. Yeah, he won the IC Title twice during his career. Yeah, he won the AWA Title as a young Curt Hennig. He was one of the best athletes in pro wrestling. Unfortunately, Curt ended his life on a not-so-perfect note. We will remember Mr. Perfect as the only man to come to the ring, throwing a towel behind his back and catching it. We will remember Mr. Perfect for everything he did in wrestling.

Goodbye Mr. Perfect.

RIP

Curt Hennig

1958-2003

***

You can send your favorite Mr. Perfect memories to: ofierrostorch@hotmail.com


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