The Perfect Article
April 19, 2006 by Richard Johann
I started watching wrestling in 1988, back when kayfabe was still alive and kicking. Professional wrestling was a "sport" then, Vince McMahon was a "commentator", and a figure four leglock was "devastating". But for me, nothing defined this period more than the clear delineation (in the WWF at least) between the good guys and the bad guys. Now this line is all but extinct, but back then it was easy to tell who the villains were. And if you came to a wrestling event looking for someone to boo, you were going to be spoiled for choice.
This was a time of classic heels like "Ravishing" Rick Rude and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, as well as no nonsense bruisers like Bad News Brown, a guy who really didn't get along with anybody, heel or face. But the one that stood out the most in my eyes was a guy who called himself "Mr. Perfect". I don't know much about Curt Hennig's days in the AWA, didn't care for his run in WCW, and his post WCW tenure in the WWE was uneventful. But when he first stepped on the scene as Mr. Perfect, I immediately took notice. His character wasn't terribly ground breaking; he was your basic cocky heel. He would stride down to the ring while his classic style theme music emanated from the arena loud speakers, throw his sweat-drenched towel into the audience, spit his gum and smack it out of the air. These were all nice little gimmicks. But Perfect caught my attention for one reason and one reason only.
You see, before you had the undefeated Samoa Joe, and before Goldberg's "streak". There was "the perfect record". No one seemed able to beat this guy. That was astonishing to me! Time and time again, he would face the likes of Jake "the Snake" Roberts, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Bret "the Hitman" Hart, even Hulk Hogan, and not one of them was able to gain a victory over him. Granted, he wouldn't always win by pinfall, but match after match, he would emerge, his perfect record still intact. And for good reason. Not only was he adept at breaking the rules, he was also a skilled technical wrestler. But what made him so effective in the ring, I think, was the fact that he was so damn methodical. As soon as Perfect gained the upper hand, he would slow the pace of the match down, bide his time, pick his shots. Then he would hit his opponent with a bevy of punches, stomps, forearms, kneelifts, stiff chops, and beautifully executed dropkicks, all the while boasting to the crowd and slapping and taunting his hapless victim, reminding him "You're in the ring with Mr. Perfect!" Indeed. This was a guy I loved to hate. All of this punishment would then inevitably culminate in the "Perfect-Plex". Being as I was still a kid at the time, I wasn't sure about too many things, except one . . . NOBODY kicked out of the Perfect-Plex! Sure, Hogan kicked out at the 1990 Royal Rumble, but I like to think Perfect, knowing he couldn't win the rumble match that way, intentionally released the hold. Anyway, the Hulkster then predictably "Hulked up" and threw Perfect over the top rope, though I don't think this counted as a loss for him. His record was still spotless. It seemed he would never lose.
Enter WrestleMania VI. In a match against Hulk's buddy Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake, the perfect one was inadvertently slung into the ring post and knocked out cold. "Surely he'll get his foot on the rope, or his henchman the Genius will distract the ref", I thought. One three count later, I found out how wrong I was. The unthinkable had just happened: Mr. Perfect had lost! The perfect record was no more! And it was down hill from there.
Most would argue that it wasn't until after that infamous event that Hennig achieved his greatest success in the WWF, becoming a two time Intercontinental champion. But for me it was meaningless. To me he was no longer Mr. Perfect. Hell, guys even started kicking out of the Perfect-Plex! I personally think the Perfect/Hogan feud should have started at the Royal Rumble then ended with Perfect losing his undefeated streak and the WrestleMania main event in one, single memorable moment. That, I feel, would have been a fitting end to such a cool heel character, not jobbing to Brutus "The Disciple-Bootyman-Hairface" Beefcake. Alas, this was not to be. The Ultimate Warrior's star was on the rise, and the WWF decided that the Immortal one should pass his retractable torch on to him at in the 'mania main event. (And we all know how that turned out). Oh well, here's some of my favorite Mr. Perfect quotes.
"Nobody beats Mr. Perfect! Nobody!"
"Now that's perfect!"
"You're in the ring with Mr. Perfect!"
"Come on Beefcake!" (at WM6)
"Who's next"!" (ditto)
by Richard Johann ..
Steve H. wrote:
Hennig was undoubtably a great talent.
You mentioned it would've been great to see him feud with Hogan.
I believe the plan was to actually have Mr Perfect win that Rumble Match in 1990, and to go on to become WWF Champion. I'm not quite sure on all the details of this story, it could all be internet gossip. The problem was that Sulk Hogan's attitude was out of line, and he didn't want to do the job to Mr Perfect.
Again, I'm not sure on all of the in's and out's of this, but it is apparently the case.
Perhaps Hennig was a little bit a ahead of his time - as he wasn't one of the biggest guys, which was what WWE liked to push as a Champion, before Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels broke the mould. Had he arrived a little while later, he could've been a great heel character pushing for the Belt, rather than the small angle with Hogan and a couple of IC Title reigns.
Anyone who saw Hennig and Hart's show stealing match for the IC belt at SummerSlam way back knows that these two guys could have drawn for a while in the Main event given the chance.
Peter Hoyt wrote:
I just had a comment on the article about Mr. Prefect (The Perfect Article - April 19, 2006 by Richard Johann). Richard wrote about how nobody kicked out of the Perfect-Plex, for a while. I remember just about every time I saw the Perfect-Plex performed Mr. Perfect's shoulders were both on the mat & his opponent only had one shoulder on the mat. I always found this kind of funny that Perfect actually was pinning himself. But then again there are the story lines. Couldn't have a guy pin himself every time he used his big move eh.
mitchboy, South Wales, wrote:
Richard, Great article!!
I'm from the UK and got into wrestling when I would get the old NWA/Mid-Atlantic tapes sent to me by a relative in Greenville. I was not aware that the WWF had such talented technical wrestlers until I saw Mr Perfect in action. He could dictate the pace and temperament of a match so well for a heel and always played the crowd perfectly. In my opinion, he was never given the World Title run he and the character deserved. Just imagine the matches the WWF could have put together in the early 90's with Michaels, Hart, Hennig, Owen Hart all at the top of their game. Alas, V.K. McMahon loves a big guy and we were robbed of great Wrestlemania main events for years to come.
Tony Francioni wrote:
I could not agree more with the writer of this article. My favorite
character of all time in professional wrestling was the "Mr. Perfect"
persona. To even think of the possibility that the WWF at the time could
have built up a great feud with Perfect vs.Champion Hulk Hogan. Having
Perfect lose to a far less wrestler and athlete in Brutus Beefcake(WM 6)
seemed such a waste. Although I do think that the Mr. Perfect character did
start to peak again with his second IC title reign. It was unfortunate
that a back injury cut that IC reign short (not that Bret Hart was a
terrible choice for champion).
I agree with the writer of this article wrestling needs to get back to having characters that are clearly "good vs. evil". I know it would help me stay interested, right now Monday night raw can't even hold my interest because of boring characters. I know a lot other wrestling fans who feel this way too. Mr. Perfect is character and gimmick that should always be remembered. "And Hulk Hogan you can't do that"
Curt Hennig definitely deserves to be in the hall just like Jake Roberts or Hawk, but we all know of their excesses and Vince would have a hard time covering them up. Owen definitely should be considered but due to Martha Hart's nonexistent relationship with the McMahons at this point, it probably is unlikely in the near future. Three perfect inducteed next year would be Arn Anderson, Flair(even though he is still wrestling), and Rick Steamboat because they go hand in hand in hand with each other, and i'm sure would get a huge pop together. Also, what about Sean Mooney and Schiavone""" (just kidding, I can't stand Schiavone as much as the next person).
Terry 'BammBamm' Russell wrote:
As has been stated before, Hennig was a talented worker who could take a great bump...BUT, at absolutely no point in his career did he draw. Even in high profile situations, such as his run as AWA World Champion or his 2 runs as WWF Intercontinental Champion, he had little effect at the box office.
Arguably his most notable chance to prove his 'drawing abilities' was when Vince paired him off with WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan in late 1989. As was Vinces favourite method of gauging whether a wrestler could draw, they had a run on the house show circuit. Sadly for Hennig he didn't really appeal to fans as a lead heel and was quickly demoted to his natural mid-card slot.
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