Feels like only the other day I was writing the piece on Larry Zbyszko. As the guys said on the show, three weeks really isn’t enough time between WWE PPV’s. Anyway, I’m not putting this together to rant about WWE’s schedule or even the current product. It’s actually time to look at our next Superstar of the Month and frankly Curt Hennig is one of the most beloved wrestlers in the last couple of decades.
When his ring music hit with it’s distinctive sound you knew you were in for a treat of perfection (I had to get that out of the way at some point, figured I’d use it early).
Mr. Perfect’s Theme Song:
As with everyone we look at though, there’s always a story before they got to the WWE. So, sit back, grab a glass a wine, a beer, a pipe, a cigarette, set up your lap top at the waffle house, whatever it is that you enjoy whilst relaxing and enjoy this trip down memory lane and look at Curt rise from a second generation star to a world wide known superstar.
Born on March 28, 1958, Hennig came into the world in the famous wrestling state of Minnesota. The city of Robinsdale no less. If you look at the years surrounding him him at their high school, it is not an exaggeration to say he had future wrestling stars all around him. At home his father was Larry Hennig, away from home his father was Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig a feared yet loved big man in the world of professional wrestling.
After playing football at the University of Minnesota he got trained by Verne Gagne and his father, he was equipped with all the tools needed to start in the wrestling world. One place lists him as competing in 1979, although match records show him debuting in 1981 for Gagne’s American Wrestling Association. It’s noted that he started out as Cool Curt Hennig
Following a few months toiling away trying to further hone his craft in front of live audiences during the summer of 1981 he went to Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wrestling Federation (Now WWE) and toured the North East as a jobber, but all the time gaining further knowledge and valuable experience whilst staying away from his home territory of the AWA.
By the end of the year it was time to move on to Don Owen’s Pacific Northwest promotion. Starting out as a singles competitor he was not going to stand out in the territory that had a fair few big names at that time still in their ranks, and not too long after his arrival there, he started to team up with his father, the Axe, with the storyline of the Axe coming in to even up the odds and help his son out.
Curt & Larry Hennig Vs. Buddy Rose & Rip Oliver – April 1982:
Together they won tag-team gold on April 27, 1982 defeating Matt Borne and Rip Oliver, only to lose them 4 days later to the same team. The father and son team then split up and Hennig went back to performing in the middle of the card winning some, losing some until August when he left to go home.
Being back in the AWA was only temporary though and two months later in October of 1982 he was back in the WWF. This time whilst he still was not winning all the time, he was getting to really display the natural given ability he had in the ring against a great level of talent. WWE hold a snippet of the Tiger Mask Vs. Curt Hennig match from Madison Square Garden on November 17, here’s the link if you’d like to check it out:
Whilst he was still effectively jobbing to the stars, he was also given many draws or even wins against people of a equal standing to himself. Later in his run there in 1983, he also teamed with Eddie Gilbert sporadically. Here is a match of them two against each other from 1982 though. Followed by his last match in the WWF, until he returned as Mr. Pefect, against Jose Estrada.
Curt Hennig Vs. Eddie Gilbert – November 22, 1982:
Curt Hennig Vs. Jose Estrada – February 19, 1983:
Don Owen was calling again and it was time for Hennig to step up the ladder and enter into the upper card picture. Pretty much as soon as he entered PNW he picked up their heavyweight championship defeating the Sheik Ali Hassan.
Rare Curt Hennig Promo Challenging The Sheik For the Title:
It was a feud that just kept going. As you heard in the promo Buddy Rose was also involved and so was the Assassin.Whilst on Hennig’s side (The faces) you had Roddy Piper and Billy Jack Haynes. The six men would square off against each other in various singles and tag-team matches for the next few months. When it needed spicing up a bit more (And Roddy Piper leaving to go to the WWF), the heels turned on Buddy Rose.
Rose then joined forces with his former foe Hennig, and the Dynamite Kid was added to the team of heels. This whole time Hennig had managed to hold on to the championship, despite all the heelish tactics his opponents could muster. One of the most memorable matches he had from this time though was a Coal Miner’s Glove on a Pole match.
Curt Hennig Vs. The Assassin – July 9, 1983:
With the story still burning on nicely, it was time for Hennig to drop the heavyweight championship to Dynamite Kid, that took place on September 7, 1983. When he couldn’t regain the title, he and Buddy Rose went after the tag-team gold in the territory and defeated Rip Oliver and the Assassin to get them on November 5.
Just a few days later on November 12 the Assassin came back at them with Dynamite Kid as his partner this time, defeating Rose and Hennig for the tag-team titles.
PNW Tag-Team Championship
Curt Hennig & Buddy Rose (c) Vs. The Assassin & Dynamite Kid – November 12, 1983:
By the end of the year the feud was dying out with people leaving the company and also just the fact it had run it’s natural course, and probably then some thanks to the change of talent half way through. Hennig would pick up the tag gold again with Pat McGhee and win the Salem championship, but for all intents and purpose this run in PNW had also run it’s course.
In April of 1984 he returned back to the AWA. What a way to return too, he went to a time-limit draw with the great Billy Robinson. For the several months that’s how his schedule went, he traveled the huge circuit that was Minnesota going to draws with a lot of established stars such a Larry Zbyszko, Steve Regal and the aforementioned Robinson. Occasionally they would there would be a win or loss thrown in there too.
Larry Hennig made an appearance by Curt’s side again and the two started teaming together sporadically in the fall of that year. In between the tag matches Curt continued to either draw top names, or beat lesser names. The teaming with Larry increased as 1985 dawned and a feud with the Road Warriors really picked up seeing a series of matches between the two teams.
Curt & Larry Hennig Vs. The Road Warriors – April 27, 1985:
Precious Paul Ellering was a constant thorn in the side of the father-son team and eventually Curt and Larry enlisted the help of Sgt. Slaughter leading to a huge blow off match inside of a steel cage on May 8. Shortly after Curt went back to PNW for a one off appearance for the Don Owen 50th Anniversary Show. When he came back he continued teaming with Larry, but as the year carried on the two would slowly stop their alliance.
Rightfully so too, the rub from his father had taken him as far as it could. What he needed was to carve a name for himself, and in the fall of 1985 he found a partner who could help him do just that, Scott Hall. On January 8, 1986, the duo had worked their way through the ranks sufficiently and they defeated Jimmy Garvin and Steve Regal for the AWA World Tag-Team Championship.
AWA World Tag-Team Championship
Jimmy Garvin & Steve Regal (c) Vs. Scott Hall & Curt Hennig – January 8, 1986:
Hall and Hennig held the titles until May 17. During that time they took on all comers and it would be arguably one of the best known teams of the AWA, Buddy Rose and Doug Somers, who eventually dethroned them. They couldn’t do it without very questionable circumstances though. The sound quality isn’t brilliant for the video, but that doesn’t matter, watch it in silence. You don’t need the sound to let their moves draw you into the match damnit.
Scott Hall & Curt Hennig (c) Vs. Doug Somers & Buddy Rose – May 17, 1986:
They never did regain the tag-team championship in the return matches with Somers and Rose. That was a blessing in disguise for Hennig though, he had bigger fish to fry. The biggest fish in the territory for that matter. In the month before he ended this run in the AWA Curt Hennig went toe-to-toe with Nick Bockwinkel, the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, even scoring a couple of victories by pin fall.
AWA World Heavyweight Championship:
Nick Bockwinkel (c) Vs. Curt Hennig – December 25, 1986:
Curt Hennig was to the orient and their All Japan Pro Wrestling promotion run by Shohei Giant Baba. The tour lasted from January 2 to February 20 and it saw him pick a win up over the Sheik, as well as step in the ring against the like of Jumbo Tsuruta, Hiro Saito and Toshiaki Kawada.
Curt Hennig & Frankie Lancaster Vs. The Great Kabuki & Tiger Mask II (Mitsuharu Misawa) – February 2, 1987:
His feud with Nick Bockwinkel was awaiting him on return and the two picked right back up where they left off. Then on May 2, 1987 Curt Hennig reached the pinnacle of his career up until that point when he defeated the AWA World Heavyweight Champion to win the title. Sadly I can’t find a video of this match online for your viewing pleasure. There was a little controversy though surrounding Larry Zbyszko interfering in the encounter.
For the next year and a bit Hennig took on seemingly everyone in the AWA including people such as Greg Gagne, Tommy Rich, Wahoo McDaniel, Baron Von Raschke, Jerry Blackwell, Boris Zhukov, and Jerry Lawler. In the middle of the reign he also took a short tour of AJPW again, and met a Japanese legend.
Curt Hennig Vs. Jumbo Tsuruta – January 6, 1988:
Jerry Lawler would be the man to take the strap off of Curt Hennig on May 9, 1988. Hennig was off to the WWF and the AWA were trying out a more in depth working relationship with the CWA in an attempt to stay relevant in the ever changing scene of professional wrestling. I couldn’t find the match by itself, however, this Jerry Lawler documentary from 1988 has the full match in there, starts at 24 minutes in approximately.
AWA World Heavyweight Championship
Curt Hennig (c) Vs. Jerry Lawler – May 9, 1988:
Once in the WWF he was quickly repackaged as Mr. Perfect. Does anyone not remember how he debuted in the WWF during the summer of 1988? If not here are some of the vignettes that aired prior to his arrival, and if you do remember them, I know you want to watch them again, they really were great.
As a competitor Mr. Perfect impressed everyone, as he stayed in the company his character evolved from being Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig to just being Mr. Perfect. His ring attire changed too, he’d always just worn trunks but started to wear the double strap tights, and added a towel to his assemble to complete his new look. From his debut in 1988 he would remain undefeated (on television) until April 1, 1989. Yet, not really finding himself in any solid feuds, just going out and showing off his ability.
Team Andre Vs. Team Roberts – Survivor Series 1988:
Mr. Perfect Vs. Blue Blazer – Wrestlemania V:
Mr. Perfect Vs. Bret Hart – April 29, 1989:
Along the way he picked up the managerial services of The Genius Lanny Poffo, that alliance would be fairly short lived though. At the end of 1989 he had a short feud with Bret Hart, but it didn’t go anywhere. The Royal Rumble in 1990 saw Perfect be the final man left other than the winner, Hulk Hogan. Shortly after with Bobby Heenan at his side, Perfect won the WWF Intercontinental Championship in a tournament for the vacant championship.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Mr. Perfect Vs. Tito Santana – April 23, 1990:
With gold around his waste it was time for Hennig to really shine. To this day people still consider him one of the greatest WWF Intercontinental Champions of all time. Several months later he would exchange the championship with the Texas Tornado, only to win it back in November of that year, thanks to Ted DiBiase who had paid off the ring announcer.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Texas Tornado (c) Vs. Mr. Perfect – November 19, 1990:
Until August of 1991, Perfect held the championship and he did what he did best while holding it. He made everyone who stepped in the ring against him as a challenger look better than they’d ever looked before in their careers. Here are a selection of matches from his reign. Bobby Heenan stopped being a manager in 1991, and The Coach (John Tolos) took over the duty for him.
Mr. Perfect (c) Vs. Roddy Piper – January 25, 1991:
Mr. Perfect (c) Vs. Shawn Michaels – March 11, 1991:
The Farewell to Bobby Heenan & Arrival of the Coach – June 15, 1991:
Mr. Perfect (c) Vs. British Bulldog – June 18, 1991:
Bret Hart was the man to take the title from Mr. Perfect at the 1991 Summerslam event. Curt had been suffering from back problems for quite a while and needed to take some time off to rehab his back, and at times it was questionable if he would ever be able to return. Even with all that playing on his mind and the poor condition of his back he still went out there and put on a match that is still heralded as one of the best in Summerslam history to this day.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Mr. Perfect (c) Vs. Bret Hart – Summerslam 1991:
Toward the end of 1992 Mr. Perfect attempted a come back, he had been doing commentary in the mean time, originally coming back aligned with Ric Flair, Scott Hall and Bobby Heenan, only to turn face on them when the Ultimate Warrior left the company and the WWF needed a replacement for him for the big Survivor Series match.
Mr. Perfect & Randy Savage Vs. Ric Flair & Razor Ramon – Survivor Series 1992:
It seemed like Perfect was back and better than ever and may finally be getting the main event push in the WWF that so many people thought he deserved. A deeply intense with feud ensued into the new year. Keeping Perfect firmly in the spotlight and at the top of cards. Everything was cut short when Flair decided to leave the WWF though, and Mr. Perfect gave him a boot out the door in a loser leaves town match.
Loser Leaves Town
Mr. Perfect Vs. Ric Flair – January 25, 1993:
After a failed feud with Lex Luger, Mr. Perfect kind of floundered as a babyface. Younger guys were getting the push over him. There were a couple of memorable matches during this time of his career in 1993 though.
Mr. Perfect Vs. Shawn Michaels – Summerslam 1993:
Mr. Perfect Vs. Bret Hart – King of the Ring 1993:
Perfect would stay in the WWF until 1996, but, his in-ring days there were behind him. He took back up at the commentary booth, and occasionally acted in an angle such as being the special guest referee in the Lex Luger Vs. Yokozuna Wrestlemania X match. Before he left he would be the mentor to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, his departure made that short lived though. Fans fondly remember Perfect on the commentary booth though, he was as naturally gifted there as he was in the ring.
It was 1997, where else was Curt Hennig going to go but World Championship Wrestling, run by Eric Bischoff at the time. Back under his real name entering as a member of the WCW roster, he quickly became associated with the Four Horsemen in their war against the NWO. Then in a ‘shock’ turn of events he actually joined the NWO turning his back on Ric Flair and the other members of the Horsemen.
Team NWO Vs. Team Horsemen – Fall Brawl:
Not too long after Hennig picked up the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship defeating Steve McMichael on September 15, 1997. On December 28, 1997 he lost the title to Diamond Dallas Page immediately following a feud with Ric Flair.
WCW United States Heavyweight Championship
Curt Hennig (c) Vs. Ric Flair – World War 3:
1998 was a disastrous year for Curt Hennig stuck in limbo as a character not really fitting in with the current scene of WCW and the NWO factions now split up and feuding with each other. Then personally he was dealing with a bad knee injury that caused him to miss several matches and eventually step away altogether to try and once again recover from an injury.
When Curt returned in WCW he was turned into some what of a comedy character I guess you could call it as he put on the cowboy boots, jeans, and frilly shirts to form the West Texas Redneck’s with Bobby Duncum Jr., Barry Windham, and Kendall Windham. Together they put together a music video for WCW.
Rap is Crap:
February 21, 1999 saw Hennig and Barry defeat Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko to win the WCW World Tag-Team Championship, they would only hold the titles for less than a month though before dropping them to Konnan and Rey Mysterio Jr. This was all part of an angle containing Master P and his group of wrestlers the No Limit Soldiers, the feud literally went nowhere though.
WCW World Tag-Team Championship
Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko (c) Vs. Curt Hennig & Barry Windham – February 21, 1999:
Hennig went on to flounder some more, retire after a match with Buff Bagwell, and returned later in 2000. Here he had one last half decent run as he helped give a rub to Shawn Stasiak as the two squared off against each other over who would be called the Perfect One, Stasiak won the feud and Hennig then took the youngster under his wing until he ran his contract out and left WCW.
Curt Hennig Vs. Shawn Stasiak – Slamboree 2000:
Curt would continue to compete in independent promotions and make a briefly succesful return to the WWF and a debut in TNA. Almost right up until his tragic death Curt continued to compete in the ring, through all the injuries that had piled up and addictions that he suffered from, he just kept doing what he knew, wrestle. When he did pass it was felt by the whole wrestling world, it’s arguable that no longer term heel had ever been as beloved as Curt Hennig.
A video of his 2002 Royal Rumble return:
His career stand up there with anyone else from the same era and his in-ring performance has to be considered when you think of the greatest wrestlers of the 1980’s, he could talk at a level above most too and commentated as good as anyone else also, he truly was the full package.
Mr. Perfect Raw Tribute aired shortly after his passing on February 10, 2003:
– By Jimmy Wheeler