Ten years ago the pro wrestling world lost one of its all-time greats. Former WWF intercontinental and AWA world heavyweight champion Curt Hennig passed away leaving a wrestling legacy that still has fans ten years later recognizing the greatness that was Mr. Perfect.
I became a fan immediately. There was something different about Curt. He was fast, athletic, and had a natural charisma about him that some of the headliners didn’t even have. That is why I was excited when Pro Wrestling USA hit the air and I could see Curt every week on WPIX channel 11 out of New York and then later on AWA wrestling on ESPN.
Watching Curt morph from preliminary matches, to mid-cards, to high mid-cards, and eventually the headline spot in the AWA was tremendous. I don’t think anyone had any real idea how great of a heel he would actually become. The shame of his AWA title run is that it came a year late and we never got the chance to see how good he could have been as the top dog when the AWA was still hot.
Curt was part of a groundbreaking era in the WWF. Say what you will about Vince McMahon JR’s obsession with muscled monsters but it was Vince JR. that opened the door for the athletic wrestlers of that time that probably wouldn’t have had a chance to headline in his father’s company. Curt along with Bret Hart, the British Bulldogs, the Rockers, Randy Savage, and Ricky Steamboat brought a new, high impact, fast-paced style to WWF fans that the company had only seen on rare occasion.
Unfortunately Curt never got the big run against Hulk Hogan on pay per view. They did have a series in Madison Square Garden that was fantastic. I had the honor of interviewing Curt on my Pro Wrestling Radio show a few years before he passed away. I asked him about this and unlike others who may have been bitter, it was just part of the game to Curt.
“Yeah, well we had a program that lasted six, seven months at longest, but it wasn’t like it could have been is what you are saying I guess. I don’t know, I just. During that time, you are working so hard, you’re hitting that weight room, you don’t realize what is really going on around you sometimes. It’s a road thing.”
It sounds cliché to say this about a guy that is no longer here but my interview with Curt was truly one of my highlights of a decade plus of radio shows. For one thing, I was a huge fan so I was ecstatic to talk to one of my favorites. Two, the guy couldn’t have been cooler (Remember “Cool” Curt?) He was charming, funny, and had the same charisma on the phone as he had in the ring. Talking to Curt in setting up the interview was just as much fun as the actual interview.
Curt rarely if ever gets credit for training one of the biggest superstars in the history of the pro wrestling business. I remember talking to Curt a few times as he was on his way to training Brock Lesnar. Here is what Curt said about Brock’s chances of making it in pro wrestling back in 2000, well before Brock ever stepped into a WWE ring.
“I think he’s going to do great. We train him here at Brad Rhenigans school in Hamil, Minnesota, he’s got a great attitude, he’s a stud, he learns fast and he’s had popularity here in Minnesota. He’s the first national champion in fifty years as a heavyweight, so it’s a big deal here in Minnesota. He’s got recognition around here, he’s got the right frame of mind set to be a major star and a force in the WWF. No doubt.”
Regardless, I think I represent many wrestling fans and pro wrestlers that miss Curt Hennig. He may be gone for ten years but the WWE Hall of Fame wrestler will certainly never be forgotten.
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