Mr Perfect Curt Hennig | Remembering Perfection Personified

He was what he said he was …..absolutely perfect. Mr Perfect Curt Hennig was the perfect combo of technique and charisma that does not often come along. His matches with the likes of Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, and Bret Hart are wrestling clinics. He had the innate ability to make fans despise him or love him. He also made any opponent he stepped in the ring with a better competitor after their match. Born into the business Curt Hennig carved a legacy that very few superstars have matched. He was one of the few competitors that did not need the World Heavyweight Title to become legendary. On the Anniversary of his passing, let’s take a look at perfection. 

Born for the Business  

Curt Hennig was born and bred in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. His father was Larry The Axe Hennig. Larry was a main eventer in the American Wrestling Alliance. Truly Curt Hennig was born into the business.  Curt attended Robbinsdale High School with a virtual who’s who of the late 80’s roster. His best friend was none other than Rick Rood. While Rick had not found his “ravishing “side yet and Curt was not a perfectionist, the two hit it off and became inseparable. In 1980, Curt made his AWA debut under the name “Cool” Curt Hennig.  Even then, he had the smirk that was part of the Mr. Perfect persona. 

In 1982, Curt Hennig made his way to Pacific Northwest Wrestling. There he teamed with his father, winning the NWA Pacific Northwest Wrestling Tag Team Championship.  In 1984 Curt returned to the American Wrestling Alliance. There he won the AWA Tag Team Title with   Big Scott Hall. Scott Hall has stated that Curt was “the most unselfish person he’s ever met.”  He also mentioned the Curt liked to play practical jokes. One particular practical joke was shaving off an eyebrow while one of the boys were asleep. Waking up with one eyebrow was a common thing if Curt Hennig was around. 

On January 18, 1986, Hennig and Hall became the AWA  Tag Team Champions by defeating  Gorgeous Jimmy Gavin and Mr Electricity Steve Regal.  Hennig later went to singles competition and defeated Nick Bockwinkle to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship at Superclash 2 on May 2, 1987.  However, he didn’t do it alone. Larry Zybsko helped him win the title, causing him to become a heel in the process.   Curt Hennig finally lost his AWA Championship to Jerry Lawler on May 9, 1988.

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig
World Wrestling Federation 

In 1988 Curt Hennig started appearing in a WWF ring.  The WWF saw potential in Curt but felt he was missing something. That something was a dose of perfection. On September 11, 1988, the first Mr. Perfect vignettes started airing on WWF television. These involved Curt performing impossible sports feats. He was sinking three-point shots with his eyes closed. Hennig bowled a perfect 300 game. He threw a hail mary pass and caught it himself. Last but not least, he would hit home runs while being endorsed by Wade Boggs. He was absolutely perfect.  It wasn’t long before Mr. Perfect had a perfect undefeated streak. 

In 1989 The Genius Lanny Poffo began accompanying him to the ring. Mr. Perfect began to challenge WWF Champion Hulk Hogan.  On the May 25, 1989, episode of Saturday Nights Main Event, The Genius faced  Hogan. Hogan ended up losing this match because of interference from Perfect. During the match, the duo stole the WWF Championship and destroyed it with a hammer after losing to Hogan by disqualification. He then set his sights on Brutus “The Barber Beefcake” at WrestleMania VI.

Unfortunately, during the match, he hit his head on the ring post during a slingshot knocking him unconscious. That was enough for Beefcake to pin Mr. Perfect, officially ending the undefeated streak. On 4/28/1990, he lost to Hogan with a leg drop. After losing his undefeated streak as well as coming off on the losing end of his rivalry with Hogan, Perfect dismissed The Genius.

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Photo / Pinterest

The Perfect Intercontinental Champion

After The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI to become the new WWF Champion, The Intercontinental title was up for grabs in a tournament.  On May 9, 1990, Mr. Perfect challenged Tito Santana in the finals.  Just as Santana was getting ready to defeat Mr. Perfect, Bobby The Brain Heenan ran down to ringside. He distracted Tito Santana enough that Mr. Perfect rolled him up for the win with a small package.  Mr. Perfect had traded in a Genius for a Brain. He was also now the Intercontinental Champion. 

Through the summer of 1990, with his “perfect manager,” Mr. Perfect ran through the competition. However, on August 27, 1990, a perfect storm was coming. Kerry Von Erich, the Texas Tornado, defeated Mr. Perfect and won the title. After months of being defeated by The Tornado, Mr. Perfect regained the Intercontinental Championship on November 24, 1990. On the April  27, 1990 Episode of Saturday Nights Main Event, he won a 20 man battle royal.  

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig
Excellent Perfection

Bobby Heenan retired as a manager and was now solely in the broadcasting booth. Mr. Perfect chose a manager by the name of Coach to take Heenan’s place. Perfect was suffering from some back issues and was out of action for a few months. That summer, a Hitman set his sights on the WWF Intercontinental Title. Bret “Hitman” Hart had begun a successful singles career. Hart was on a roll. His excellence of execution-style was catching on with the WWF fans. Mr. Perfect returned to the WWF on August 26, 1991, at Summerslam. This match would arguably steal the show.

Two second-generation wrestlers would give their all at Madison Square Garden.  The match was a back and forth contest of can you top this. At the finish of the match, Perfect arrogantly went for a leg drop on Hart one too many times and was caught with the Sharpshooter. Bret “Hitman” Hart was the new Intercontinental Champion. Looking back on that moment, Mr. Perfect was injured. He knew he could not continue. He also had nothing but respect for the Excellence of Execution.

In Bret Hart’s book My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, he recounts Curt Hennig’s respect.

“If there was ever chemistry between two wrestlers, there was none better than that between me and Curt, who insisted that night that I kick out of the perfect plex, Something he had never done for anyone else. If I had to work with anyone it would be Curt.” 

In a shoot interview, Curt Hennig said his standout match would be with the Hitman. They had the same mindset and same background. He further stated out of all his matches; his favorite was with Hart. 

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig
The Perfect Executive Consultant

Shortly after the match at Summerslam, Mr. Perfect retired from the ring. On November 23, 1991, he returned as Ric Flair’s Executive Consultant. He also became Vince McMahons’ co-host on WWF Superstars. He was instrumental in helping Ric Flair win the  WWF Heavyweight Championship.  Flair lost the title to Macho Man Randy Savage at Wrestlemania XVII. Summerslam 92 was all about mind games. The main event was the newly crowned WWF Champion Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior.  In the weeks leading up to that match, Mr.Perfect would convince Savage that he was in the Ultimate Warriors corner and vice versa.

In actuality, Perfect and Flair were trying to make both superstars paranoid. Eventually, the paranoia was too much for Savage to bear. He lost the title to Ric Flair, who in turn was defeated by Bret Hart. Survivor Series 1992 was building to a tag team match between Savage and Warrior against Flair and Razor Ramon. At the last minute, Ultimate Warrior left the WWF. On the November 16, 1992, episode of Primetime Wrestling, Macho Man asked Mr.Perfect to be his tag team partner at Survivor Series. At first, Mr. Perfect laughed off the idea.

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Photo / WWE

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig & Bobby Heenan
A Perfect Tandem

As the show progressed, he changed his mind due to Bobby Heenan’s degrading remarks. Perfect accepted the challenge and poured a pitcher of water over Heenan’s head to seal the deal. On November 25, 1992, The Perfect Team of Macho Man Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect defeated Razor Ramon and Ric Flair at Survivor Series. In 2003 Savage even wrote a tribute rap to Mr. Perfect on his album Be A Man called ‘My Perfect Friend “. The hook on the rap is, “Can’t explain this pain never felt like this, Mr. Perfect, don’t you know you will be missed.”

On January 25, 1993, episode of Monday Night Raw, Perfect challenged Flair to a loser leaves town match. He defeated Flair with the Perfectplex. As a result, the nature boy left the WWF. On June 13, 1993, At the King of the Ring semifinals, He had arguably his best match with Bret “Hitman” Hart. The two stars picked up right where they left off. This would have been a main event anywhere in the world. After several near falls, Hart rolled up Mr. Perfect and advanced to the finals. Although beaten, Curt Hennig’s respect for The Hitman was apparent as he gave him a handshake after the match. 

The Perfect Game Plan 

Shortly after that match, Mr. Perfect disappeared for a while. Finally, at Wrestlemania X, he was chosen as a special guest referee for the WWF Championship match between Yokozuna and Lex Luger. He disqualified Luger when Luger grabbed him, trying to get his attention. Due to his back injury, he never got to start a rivalry with Luger. The angle was thrown out. Hening took another year off to heal. He returned as strictly as a  color commentator. Mr.Perfect then began to steal Hunter Hearst Helmsley’s valets. Every time Hunter was distracted in the ring. He would walk down to ringside and walk away with Hunter’s date. He also helped Marc Mero win the intercontinental title tournament.

On October 21, 1996, Monday Night Raw episode, HHH challenged Mr. Perfect to a match. He attacked Perfect backstage, causing an injury.  Due to this injury, WWF Intercontinental Champion Marc Mero stepped up to take on Helmsley instead.  Mr. Perfect did commentary for the match.  Eventually, HHH grabbed a steel chair. Mr. Perfect ripped the chair away from HHH. To everyone’s surprise, he hit Marc Mero with the chair. Helmsley covered Mero and became the new Intercontinental Champion. It was the perfect ruse. Mr.Perfect was now HHH’s mentor. Unfortunately, shortly after this angle, Curt Hennig left the WWF.

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig
World Championship Wrestling 

Like many superstars of the late ’90s, Curt Hennig left WWF for its rival promotion WCW. WCW offered higher paychecks with more days off. Curt Hennig made his WCW debut on June 30, 1997, on Nitro. On July 13, 1997, He was chosen as Diamond Dallas Page’s mystery partner vs. NWO.  However, Curt Hennig was not to be trusted, as Page found out. Hening was now the number one free agent in WCW. Two main groups wanted his services, the Four Horsemen and the nWo. Hennig agreed to become a member of the Four Horsemen, taking an injured Arn Anderson’s spot.

Recently on Arn Anderson’s podcast, AA spoke about how special Curt Hennig was,

“I think everyone knew just how special Curt was, I don’t know that he got his due, he should have been World Champion at some point, and that’s the reason I pushed for him to be a Horseman because he was that talented.”

Hennig joined the rest of the Horsemen on September 14, 1997, at  Fall Brawl War Games in a match against the New World Order.  Before the match, Hennig was jumped by the nWo and injured his arm. He slammed the steel cage door into Ric Flair’s head during the match, allowing the nWo to get the victory. The nWo plan worked perfectly. 

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig
The Wrestler that Made Minnesota Famous 

As the newest member of the New World Order, Curt Hennig claimed he destroyed The Four Horsemen.  On the September 15, 1997, episode of Nitro, Curt Hening defeated Mongo McMichael for the United States Championship. He held the title for three months until being defeated by DDP at Starrcade. Curt Hennigs best friend Rick Rude arrived in WCW and joined the NWO. The two started a rivalry with the Hart Foundation.  Curt Hennig and  Bret Hart even had a match at Uncensored on March 15, 1988.  He submitted in the Sharpshooter. Hennig’s back and knee injuries were becoming worse. 

Once again, the perfect wrestler had to take time off. He returned at  Starrcade on December 27, 1998, helping Eric Bischoff defeat Ric Flair.   On February 21,199, At Superbrawl IX, he teamed with Barry Windham winning the vacated WCW Tag Team Championship.  The duo only held the title for a month before being defeated. After the defeat, Hennig, Barry Windham, Kendall Windham, and Bobby Duncam Jr. formed the West Texas Rednecks. Mainly this group was formed to antagonize the unsuccessful Master P and no limit soldiers. Their single “Rap is Crap” caught on with WCW fans.

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig
Instead of being hated, the fans loved them. 

The Rednecks disbanded, and Curt went back after the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Hennig said that he was told by “the powers that be” that he would retire if he lost any match. In the second round of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship tournament, Hennig was defeated by Buff Bagwell.  A month later, he was reinstated and actually joined Creative Control. Throughout 1999, he wrestled part-time. His last major WCW rivalry was with Sean Stasiak. Stasiak started calling himself “the perfect one,” and Hening took offense to that. On May 7, 2000, He lost to Stasiak at Slamboree. Curt Hennig’s contract expired, and he left WCW. 

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Photo / WWE

The Perfect Return 

On January  20, 2002, Mr. Perfect returned to the WWE at the Royal Rumble. Curt Hennig looked like he never left. WWE fans everywhere were wondering if Mr. Perfect was going to win and main event, Wrestlemania. He was one of the final three superstars left. However, this night belonged to HHH. The WWE fans welcomed Mr.Perfect back with chants of “You’ve still got it.” The truth was Mr. Perfect never lost it.  The perfect performance at the rumble earned him a full-time contract. He was back where he belongs. Unfortunately, on May 7, 2002, he was released from his WWE contract after allegedly having a physical encounter with Brock Lesnar on an airplane. This altercation was dubbed “The plane ride from hell.”

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling 

On October 9, 2002, Curt Hennig made his TNA debut as a mystery partner of Syxx Pac and B.G. James against Ron Killings, Jeff Jarrett, and Brian Lawler. He pinned TNA Champion Killings, earning a title shot. Jeff Jarrett interfered in that match, causing a disqualification.  This led to a feud with The King of the Mountain Jeff Jarrett. Hennig received several matches against Jarrett but came up short every time. Curt Hennig’s last  TNA match was January 8, 2003, when he defeated David Flair in an Axehandle on a pole match. Unfortunately, this would be his last match ever. On February 10, 2003, Curt Hennig was found unconscious in his hotel room in Brandon, FL. He was pronounced deceased. He was only 44 years old. 

Curt Hennig’s legacy will never be forgotten. Both TNA and WWE aired tributes to the man who was considered absolutely perfect. TNA framed his singlet as a tribute to the fallen athlete. On March 31, 2007, WWE inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame. His wife Leonice and his four children accepted the award. Leonice Hennig even signed a legends contract on his behalf. His son Joe Hennig has continued his father’s legacy in the ring as Curtis Axel. Curt Hennig and Curtis Axel are the only father and son in WWE history to both become Intercontinental Champion.

There will never be another Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig.

His ability in the ring remains unmatched. His charisma is unparalleled. Many superstars called Curt Henning their ‘perfect friend”.  His family called him the ‘perfect father and husband.” Fans all around the world called him the “perfect superstar.” He made an impact in both WWE and WCW. He was what he said. He was ….absolutely perfect. 

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