Mr. Perfect: A Look at the Life and Times of Curt Hennig

Matthew HesterSenior Writer IAugust 21, 2010

Today I decided I would write about one of my favorite grapplers growing up. This man I feel is someone that you really can’t measure by title reigns.

Though I will say the man I am referring to does have enough of those to quench your thirst (if that is important to you), I think more importantly he should be judged by the kind of person he was, and how he affected those people after he left us.

This man I am referring to is none other then Curt Hennig, better known to the wrestling world as "Mr. Perfect."

I will admit that it is hard to write any tribute, never mind a tribute to a person of this guy's magnitude. As anyone who has written a tribute or life story knows it takes a lot of researching and fact checking.

Well I have to say there was a lot on Mr. Perfect. I have learned so much more going in to this project then I thought I knew, and that is always a reward in itself.

Curt Hennig was a good friend to the people that knew him. He was a good family man as he was known for bragging about his wife and kids to the boys in the back.

To say that Hennig was a hard worker would be an understatement. He has more often times than not put others before his own needs.

I'm sure Bret Hart and many others would testify to that statement.

With all that said, I hope my tribute is accurate, compelling, and more importantly fitting to a man that we will remember as "simply perfect."

Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig, was born on March 28, 1958, in Robbinsdale, Minn. His father Larry "The Ax" Hennig was a well-known grappler for the AWA.

That in itself paved the way for what was to be come of Curt. His father noticed that even at the young age of six, Curt Hennig was taking an interest in his father’s craft, so he started to show him some basics of the business.

As Curt got older, though, he grew away from his love of wrestling. In fact, he went on to become a standout football player, and wound up playing for the University of Minnesota.

It was then by a chance of fate, that he would wind up finding his true calling in the squared circle. Curt had hurt his knee playing football, so he had to have surgery.

It was after his surgery he decided to go to Verne Gagne’s wrestling camp just to rehab. Verne pushed him hard. He was forced to do 500 squats a day, and run miles upon miles to get his leg in shape.

It was then Verne and some other recruiters took notice in Hennig. Knowing who his father was, it seemed like a perfect fit.

His father never pushed him, though; in fact it has been said many times by Hennig that the business was rarely talked about in the house.

"We really never talked about the business around our house," Hennig recalls. "My dad went and did his job, and came back home, and we were a family. We separated the two." -Curt Hennig

In 1979, a green Curt Hennig made his start in the AWA at the same promotion that made his father famous. In the beginning, though, some in the business blamed his fast success, accusing Hennig of ridding his dad’s coat tails.

He quickly debunked those theories with his hard work ethic in the ring and the desire to learn and improve in his craft.

In his early days of the AWA, he wrestled under the name "Cute" Curt Hennig as a babyface. The promoters knew they had an instant talent on their hands.

He stayed in the AWA for a few years before being drawn over to the WWWF in 1982. He did feud a bit with "Playboy" Buddy Rose but was mainly used as a jobber.

Not liking where his career was going, he left WWWF in 1984. He went back to the AWA. iIt was then his career really started to take off.

He quickly became the AWA's top rising star. He eventually teamed up with a young Scott Hall to defeat "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin and "Mr. Electricity" Steve Regal.

Curt spent some time tagging, but didn't reach the height of his AWA career until going solo in 1986. He quickly rose through the ranks, and in 1987 beat Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA Heavyweight Title.

Though there was some controversy regarding the bout, he would keep it and retain the title for over a year before dropping the strap to Jerry Lawler.

In 1988 he would make his return to the WWF—this time as a heel. Vince McMahon would give Curt his new name, "Mr. Perfect."

McMahon also spent weeks building him up with the promos that we all love and remember.

My personal favorite was the one where Hennig throws a football and catches it again.

Curt Hennig became an instant hit in the ring and on the stick. The vast majority of his promos went along the lines of making himself look perfect. At the same time he would be insulting the crowd in the process.

Here is an example of a typical Mr. Perfect promo:

"This issue a lot of you people out there must be eating your hearts out. Why? Because of me, Mr. Perfect. Every time you see me, you know, deep down in your hearts, you can never be perfect like Curt Hennig. And, by the way, that's spelled H-E-N-N-I-G. With two Ns, you boobs."

Where Hennig really gained his respect was in the ring, though.

His reappearance in 1988 had him surrounded by mostly juiced-up muscle heads. He quickly became one of the WWF’s main ring generals. He was known for getting many stiffs and rookies through matches.

On an interesting note, during his return Hennig was not sure what to call his finishing move. It was referee Jim Korderas who told Hennig, "Why don't you call it the Perfectplex?"

He had a style and flair in the ring that most consider unmatched. You knew when he stepped in the ring you were going get 100 percent every time.

He remained undefeated for over a year, rolling through all the babyfaces until he finally ran into Hogan. It was then he got his first taste of defeat.

This feud started in 1989 with Hennig destroying Hogan’s title in the locker room. They finally met in the 1990 Royal Rumble where the Hulkster dumped him.

This may just be my opinion but this was one of my favorite Mr. Perfect moments. I truly hated Hulk Hogan, even back then.

His first one-on-one defeat on TV came to him courtesy of good old Brutus Beefcake.

Shortly after that he was teamed with Manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. These two became a hit right from the get-go.

With Heenan's snide humor and arrogance, combined with Perfect's Cockiness and ring work, they would become a Perfect match up.

With Heenan at his side, these two went to go on and have some classic moments in and out of the ring.

The pinnacle of their success came in 1990 though, when Perfect went on to beat Tito Santana in a tournament for the IC title. Perfect went on to hold that title for four months before dropping the belt to the "Texas Tornado" Kerry Von Erich.

Mr. Perfect would later regain the belt on Saturday Night’s Main Event. This was very rare at the time, because the IC title was still considered a major title then. It wasn't very often a title was dropped on regular TV.

He went to hold onto the belt going all the way into the summer of 1991, when fate would deal Hennig a near-fatal blow.

In a weird accident where the turnbuckles were not lined up right, Hennig was thrown into them hard. This caused him to have a bulged disk and broken tailbone. The doctors weren't sure if he would ever to be able to lace up the boots again.

To make matters even more complex, he was supposed to drop the belt to Hart at SummerSlam. He was still rehabbing and could barely move. So he asked Vince if he could film a segment where he would forfeit the title to Hart.

Vince was not too happy with this idea, so he asked Hennig to wrestle one last time even if it was a three-minute squash.

Hennig agreed to this, but instead of a three-minute job match, he went on to wrestle a 15-minute match with Hart in what some consider one of the best matches in WWF history.

Although these guys wrestled many five-star matches before that match, in my opinion that was one of the best they had.

After SummerSlam, Curt Hennig came back in 1991, not as a wrestler because he still couldn't compete. Instead, he would come back with Bobby Heenan as a ring consultant for Ric Flair.

During this time as consultant, he delved in to the world of announcing. He wasn't the most successful announcer, but he did coin a name that is still used today. He gave Shawn Michaels the name "Heartbreak Kid."

In 1992 Flair and Razor Ramon were supposed to meet Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior, but in a strange turn of events the Ultimate Warrior quit.

Some say he was fired, but in any case they needed some one to fill in.

This led to a new twist in the story line, where Curt Hennig became baby face and he teamed with Savage. His turn on Heenan was a truly classic promo that is still shown today. They went on to beat Flair and Razor by disqualification.

Two months later, he went on Raw and beat Flair in a loser must quit match. This by some is considered one of Hennig's most profiled wins in his career.

He went on to have a few meaningful matches in 1993. He, like many, was ultimately bumped to mid-card status.

When the steroids scandal hit the WWF, Hennig disappeared, many say to avoid the scandal, though that was never confirmed.

In 1994, he came back as a referee in the title match between Lex Luger and Yokozuna. He disqualified Luger, which was supposed to set up a feud between the two. But his injuries to the back threw him on the shelf again, so he had to retire.

He took over commentary for the WWF for a couple years, but he was never satisfied with that role. He decided he would attempt another comeback.

Sadly, it never happened, as someone in the company leaked this info to Lloyd's of London. This lead to Hennig losing his insurance money from Lloyd's, but more importantly he lost his faith in the WWF.

He left the company right after that, many thought for good.

Curt Hennig made his debut in WCW in 1997. A lot of fuss was made of this at the time, because WCW was on the warpath stealing talent from the WWF.

The big fuss with Hennig, though, was who would he join WCW or NWO. Flair was trying to recruit Hennig into the Four Horsemen as Arn Anderson’s replacement.

This dragged on for a while until Hennig did join the Horseman. At Fall Brawl, he turned on them in a setup for the NWO.

After Hennig joined the NWO, he went on to win the U.S title shortly after. During his run as U.S champ, he defended the belt against guys like the Giant, Flair, DDP, and a few others. He dropped the belt to DDP at Starrcade shortly after.

His injuries started to act up again, so he was unable to compete for a while. Hennig was on the shelf most of the time in WCW; he was mainly used as a face for the camera.

He did have one more successful run in WCW but not in singles. Hennig would wind up teaming with Barry Windham and win the tag belts in 1999.

Master P was doing some promo work with WCW at the time; Hennig became the leader of the West Texas Red Necks.

They even recorded a song that got some real radio airplay. This song was called "Rap is Crap."

Curt Hennig’s contract was up in 2000; he left WCW for good after that.

In 2001, he joined the X Wrestling Federation. This federation mainly had guys Vince didn't want; they folded only after a year. He did have one notable match with Hogan...a match he lost.

In 2002, he made his WWE comeback at the Royal Rumble. This was supposed to only be a one-night deal, but he turned enough heads to be offered another contract.

He wound up only having a few matches with the likes of Kane, Stone Cold, and a couple others.

He was fired after a prank gone wrong when he put shaving cream on Brock Lesnar's head. This led to a fight on the plane and Hennig was let go.

After that he went on to do some Indy shows. The most noted one was with Jimmy Hart's All-Stars.

He was scheduled to do some signings. When he never showed up, they went to his hotel—that is where they found Curt Hennig’s body.

On Feb. 10, Curt "Mr. Perfect " Hennig left this world. He also left behind his wife Leonice and four children.

He was known by many as kind man who always had time for his fans. He was also known for being a loving husband and father.

Curt Hennig, I bid you well in that big ring in the sky; you are still missed by many.

I will post his obituary and some quotes for you to read:

Curt Michael Hennig

Curtis Michael Hennig "Mr. Perfect", age 44, of Champlin.

Survived by loving wife, Leonice; children, Joe, Amy, Kaite and Hank; parents, Larry & Irene; brothers and sisters, Randy (Nanette), Sandra Scepurek, Susan Strain (Miles), Jesse (Kara); father-in-law & mother-in-law, Dr. Lloyd Leonard (Geraldine); many nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

Mass of Christian Burial 11 am Monday at the Church of St. Stephen, 5th & Jackson St., Anoka. Friends may gather one hour prior to Mass at church, and 1-6 pm Sunday, with a 6 pm prayer service at the Washburn-McReavy Seman Chapel, 1827 Coon Rapids Blvd., Coon Rapids.

In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to the family to establish a trust for the children. Washburn-McReavy Seman Chapel 763-767-1000


Minneapolis Star Tribune

"I was numb, shocked (hearing of Hennig's passing). I couldn't believe it. I'd known him too long and he was too young."-Eric Bischoff

"I don't think that anyone who ever met Curt will forget Curt."-Steve Lombardi

I could be having the worst day of my entire life and behind the scenes Curt Hennig would be making me laugh all day long."-Ric Flair

"Curt had a very serious side. There wasn't a day that went by that he wasn't talking about his kids and his wife, and he always had a whole wallet full of pictures to show you."-Brock Lesnar

"Curt Hennig will be remembered for his humor, for his ungodly athletic ability, and for his personality. But the one thing that stands out to me is how much he loved his family."-Bruce "Brother Love" Prichard

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