ROH: Cornette-Heenan Shoot


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Straight Shootin' with Jim Cornette & Bobby Heenan

Review by Mike Rickard II

"Sometimes it is a great joy just to listen to someone we love talking." - Vincent McNabb

Epic is the moment when legends meet. Whether it’s fictional giants such as Elric and Conan, Batman and Superman, or real-life legends such as Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant getting together, there’s a once in a lifetime feeling that you get that is electric. Such is the scope of the meeting presented on Ring of Honor’s Shoot DVD featuring Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Jim Cornette. ROH has teamed up two of the greatest talkers for a three hour conversation that has got to be seen to be believed.

When compiling any list of the greatest managers of all time, Jim Cornette and Bobby are sure to be found on anyone’s short list. Until very recently, managers served an important role in professional wrestling- doing the talking during promos for wrestlers who weren’t much behind the microphone and instigating the fans to the point where they would buy tickets to see the manager and his wrestler get their comeuppance. While there have been scores of managers in the history of professional wrestling, very few have come close to Heenan and Cornette when it comes to managerial adeptness. Furthermore, Heenan and Cornette have achieved success outside their roles as managers, Heenan in his role as a broadcast journalist and Cornette as a booker and trainer in Smokey Mountain Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling.

Bobby Heenan learned the ropes as a wrestler first before achieving fame as a manager. Heenan managed in many areas and distinguished himself wherever he appeared. Heenan achieved his first major success during his long run in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) where he became well known as “the Weasel”, the manager that fans loved to hate. Heenan managed AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkel and AWA Tag Team Champions the Blackjacks, amongst others, annoying fans with his interference in matches and constant insults directed at fans (or humanoids as he liked to call them). Heenan was a top star in the AWA when he jumped ship to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) during the early 1980’s and his career reached even greater heights, receiving national exposure as Vince McMahon turned the WWF from a regional into a national promotion. In the WWF, Heenan managed such superstars as Big John Studd, the Mighty Hercules, King Kong Bundy, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Ken Patera, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Andre the Giant, and many others. After Jesse Ventura’s success as a heel color commentator, Heenan was put behind the microphone and he formed a legendary announcing tag team with Gorilla Monsoon. Eventually Heenan retired from managing and focused all of his energies on announcing. After a pay dispute with Vince McMahon, Heenan left for rival World Championship Wrestling where he announced for several years. Heenan recently successfully battled throat cancer and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame last year.

Jim Cornette started working in wrestling when he was a teenager. His first brush with fame was in the Memphis area where he managed alongside Jimmy “Mouth of the South “ Hart. Cornette would go on to fame as the manager of the Midnight Express, during the Golden Age of tag team wrestling in the 1980’s. As heel color commentators became vogue in the 1980’s (thanks to the efforts of Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan in the WWF), Cornette began working as a color commentator in World Championship Wrestling while continuing to manage the Midnights. He eventually started his own wrestling promotion Smokey Mountain Wrestling but despite his best efforts, he was unable to make it a financial success. After the demise of Smokey Mountain Wrestling Cornette managed several WWF superstars during the mind 1990’s such as Yokozuna and Owen Hart. Later on, Cornette went on to work behind the scenes in the World Wrestling Federation as a talent scout. He currently runs the WWE’s farm league Ohio Valley Wrestling. Throughout his career, Cornette has achieved notoriety as someone who is never afraid to speak his mind and whose razor sharp wit has destroyed many an opponent during a verbal battle.

For those unfamiliar with shoot videos, the premise is fairly simple. You get a wrestler and they basically sit down and begin talking about their career. They are usually very candid affairs giving wrestlers a chance to step outside of their character and give very insightful looks into their careers. Shoot videos have become very popular and several websites offer their own shoot videos. As long as a performer isn’t an active WWF wrestler, there’s a good chance they have done a shoot video.

When you consider that both Heenan and Cornette are fantastic talkers, a shoot video with the two of them seems like a surefire hit whether you’re a student of wrestling or someone who likes to hear funny, interesting stories. However, wrestling history is full of surefire pairings that have fizzled such as Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair, WWF vs. WCW, and Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg. Fortunately, Ring of Honor’s Straight Shootin’ with Jim Cornette and Bobby Heenan DVD succeeds where the above pairings failed. This DVD features both men sharing memories, observations, and opinions on the always fascinating world of professional wrestling.

From the moment the DVD starts, it’s clear that both men have a lot of respect for each other but they don’t let this professional respect turn the video into a three hour mutual admiration society meeting. Instead, they share and compare road stories, drawing on the vast wealth of experience they each have built up. It makes for compelling viewing because not only do you have two of the greatest minds in the business but you get their perspectives from different phases in their careers as well as the different eras and territories they worked through.

Listening to both men speak it’s fascinating to note some of the parallels in how they broke into the business. Both were running errands for wrestlers, basically acting as gophers before they were got their respective breaks into the business. Neither man got rich at first but you can see their love for the business. As Heenan points out during the video, what other job are you told that you will get beat up, have to fend off crazy fans, drive hundreds of miles in your own car from town to town, pay for your own food and lodging, have no health insurance, and get paid peanuts only to ask “where do I sign?”

The DVD doesn’t follow any structured format other than to let both men speak their minds. Both Heenan and Cornette discuss a variety of subjects from their experiences around the world. At times one man will focus on telling a story while the other listens or asks questions of them. At other times, they both go back and forth exchanging their viewpoints on a particular subject. However for two guys known for their big mouths, they rarely talk over each other.

This brings up a sensitive subject. Not too long ago, Bobby Heenan was diagnosed with throat cancer. While he was successful in battling the cancer, his fight took a tremendous toll on his body, particularly his voice. What’s the point of watching a shoot DVD if you can’t understand what someone is saying? I’m happy to say that there are very few instances where Heenan is difficult to understand and that while Heenan’s speech may be slightly impaired; his wit is as razor sharp as ever.

A topic frequently discussed is how angry fans would try to attack wrestlers. With all of the security at ringside now, it’s hard to picture what things were like twenty and thirty years ago. Heenan and Cornette describe how things were considerably different twenty and thirty years ago. Wrestlers were lucky to have any police protection and when they did, it was often of little use since the police believed wrestling was real and they frequently let the heels fend for themselves. Angry fans were not above taking things to extreme levels such as shooting at wrestlers or stabbing them (Heenan points out how some fans would go so far as to soak a knife in animal parts to make sure that any wound inflicted would become infected).

Watching the tape, you’ll learn how Cornette first started using his signature tennis racket and why he switched from wooden to metal rackets after several unfortunate incidents with angry fans (the wooden rackets were far too flimsy to hit someone with). He talks about his early days as a manager in the Memphis wrestling territory working with Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart and what things were like trying to break into wrestling. You’ll also see how Heenan left the AWA after years working for Verne Gagne and the advantages and disadvantages he found in managing compared to wrestling. He provides insight into what makes an effective manager and how the art of managing can increase the fans enjoyment of a match. Both men are very vocal in pointing out how the WWE is missing out on a great opportunity by diminishing the role of the manager in professional wrestling.

Part of the appeal of a shoot video is that it gives the wrestler a chance to express their true opinion without protecting kayfabe. Heenan and Cornette are not shy about sharing opinions on some of the greats and not-so great wrestlers that they worked with and what they thought made someone a success in the business. You may be surprised to hear what both men thought of some of the wrestlers they managed. They are equally candid in expressing their views on what can be done to improve wrestling today and in what worked yesterday and whether or not it would work today. Neither man is afraid to defy conventional wisdom and I think fans will be shocked to hear their opinions on Broadways and blading.

Overall, the DVD comes highly recommended. The video and audio are of good quality (something that ROH needs to improve in their wrestling event videos) and the only technical drawback is that there are no chapters or title menu for the DVD. The only other drawback to the DVD is that there is no structure or organization to the materials discussed. This isn’t an interview, this is a 3 hour filming of two greats shooting the breeze The producer makes little effort to guide the direction of the conversation and but with one or two exceptions, asks no specific questions of either man. For example while Heenan briefly talks about the death of WCW, he doesn’t really go into any specific details about what he felt led to the company’s ultimate failure. Watching the shoot video, you start to wonder what kind of details a good interviewer could have elicited from Heenan and Cornette.

Despite the lack of structure, the shoot video is still a lot of fun and it is a must see for any fan of wrestling, especially fans of Heenan and Cornette. However, even if you’re not familiar with Heenan and Cornette’s work, you’ll find yourself entertained by their stories. Both men know how to spin a tale and this DVD shows why both men were so successful behind the microphone whether they were managers or commentators. Most fans should have a lot of fun watching this meeting of the minds. One of Heenan and Cornette’s strongest beliefs is that you can’t understand the business unless you’ve been in it but after watching these two legends, I have a feeling you’ll come away with a greater appreciation of what it’s like to be a performer in the world of professional wrestling even if you’ve never stepped into the squared circle.

You can purchase the ROH: Cornette and Heenan Shoot DVD by clicking here.

Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.