Curtis Michael "Curt" Hennig (March 28, 1958 – February 10, 2003), also known by the ring name Mr. Perfect, was an American professional wrestler who wrestled for, among other promotions, the American Wrestling Association (AWA), World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). He was the son of wrestler Larry "The Axe" Hennig, and father of Joe Hennig.
Described by WWE as "one of the best in-ring technicians of his generation", Hennig held fifteen championships in various promotions throughout his career. Among other accolades, he is a two-time world champion: one-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion and one-time WWC Universal Heavyweight Champion, two-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, one-time WCW United States Champion, and two-time world tag team champion: one-time AWA World Tag Team Champion (with Scott Hall) and one-time WCW World Tag Team Champion (with Barry Windham). One of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time, Hennig was the longest-reigning champion of the 1990s and has been credited with helping bring the importance of the Intercontinental Championship close to that of the WWF Championship during the decade. Although back problems prevented Hennig from being pushed as WWF Champion, he became one of the promotion's most colorful personalities and later assumed a role as a manager and color commentator. In addition to championship success in WCW in the late 1990s, he was also a member of the New World Order and later, wrestling stable and country music group, West Texas Rednecks, who recorded their infamous, tongue-in-cheek song, "Rap is Crap." Hennig returned to the WWF for a brief period in 2002, being one of the last three men remaining at that year's Royal Rumble. He later wrestled for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), challenging for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, prior to his death on February 10, 2003.
Professional wrestling career
American Wrestling Association (1980–1982, 1984–1988)
Known as "Cool" Curt Hennig, he began his career on January 30, 1980 in the American Wrestling Association, the promotion which had made his father, Larry "The Axe" Hennig a star. He would eventually become one of the promotion's top stars in his own right, co-holding (with Scott Hall) the AWA World Tag Team Championship (they defeated "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin and "Mr. Electricity" Steve Regal on January 18, 1986 in Albuquerque, New Mexico).
Later, he resumed his solo career in the AWA, culminating in defeating the legendary Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship at SuperClash on May 2, 1987. Hennig, along with his father Larry "The Axe", would engage in a long feud with Greg Gagne and his father, Verne Gagne. He began being associated with Madusa Miceli, the AWA World Women's Champion since December 27, 1987. Hennig and Madusa joined the Diamond Exchange, a stable led by Diamond Dallas Page that also included Badd Company and Colonel DeBeers.
Hennig would hold the AWA World Heavyweight Title for about 53 weeks, before losing it to Jerry Lawler on May 9, 1988. As many other promising-yet-underexposed AWA stars had before him (including Hulk Hogan, Rick Martel, and Bobby Heenan), he left the AWA for the World Wrestling Federation.
World Wrestling Federation (1982–1984, 1988–1996)
Curt Hennig's first tenure in WWE/WWF began in 1982; he established himself as a promising young performer against the likes of 'Playboy' Buddy Rose. Eventually, he was paired-up in tag team matches with another young upstart, Eddie Gilbert, himself the son of a wrestling legend (Tommy Gilbert).
Hennig returned to the WWF in the fall of 1988 as Mr. Perfect, an arrogant braggart heel who claimed to be able to accomplish difficult tasks "perfectly." In the weeks before his debut, Hennig shot several promos to get his persona of being superior in athletics or anything else he did. These clips showed him hitting half-court, three-point, and no-look basketball shots, bowling a score of 300, running the table in billiards, throwing then catching his own Hail Mary football pass, sinking a long golf putt, hitting home runs and making bulls-eyes in darts. Stars of various major league sports, including Wade Boggs, Steve Jordan, and Mike Modano, co-starred with Hennig in these vignettes.
Mr. Perfect - initially introduced as "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig - went undefeated for over a year, beating mid-card wrestlers including The Blue Blazer, The Red Rooster and Jimmy Snuka. Although undefeated on television, Hennig fought Bret "the Hitman" Hart to a draw at several house shows. Later in 1989, Mr. Perfect began appearing with Lanny Poffo, who had turned heel earlier in the year and began competing as "The Genius," an arrogant scholar. That fall, Hennig began feuding with Hulk Hogan over the WWF Championship. The feud heated up when, after The Genius defeated Hogan by countout, Poffo and Hennig stole Hogan's title belt and destroyed it backstage. Although Hogan later pinned "Mr. Perfect" at several house shows, these were not taped and no reference was made to them on television. Hennig and Hogan were the last two men left in the 1990 Royal Rumble, with Hogan getting the victory. Hennig's first one-on-one loss on television was to Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake at WrestleMania VI at the Toronto Skydome, though a week earlier he was pinned by The Ultimate Warrior in a taped show at Madison Square Garden.
Enlisting Bobby Heenan as his new manager, Mr. Perfect went on to win the vacant Intercontinental Title in the final round of a tournament in April 1990 by defeating two-time Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana. He lost the belt to The Texas Tornado four months later at SummerSlam, but regained the title back on November 19, 1990, thanks to interference from Ted DiBiase. This title win aired on the December 15, 1990 edition of WWF Superstars of Wrestling. Perfect faced the Big Boss Man at WrestleMania VII, where a disqualification loss meant that he retained his title. The following month he was the winner of a 20-man Battle Royal on Saturday Night's Main Event. Perfect held the Intercontinental Title until August 1991, when a broken tailbone and buldged discs forced him to drop the belt to Bret Hart at SummerSlam; In the month of May prior to this match, Heenan retired from managing, which led to "Coach" John Tolos becoming Mr. Perfect's new manager. This was short-lived, as Perfect had actually retired from the ring a couple months before SummerSlam. Hennig spent the next year plus, trying to recuperate from his injuries. While recovering, he acted as Ric Flair's "executive consultant" during Flair's two WWF Championship reigns.
He also worked as a color commentator on WWF Superstars of Wrestling following Survivor Series 1991 until the Superstars before the next Survivor Series, acting as a suitable heel foil to Vince McMahon's play-by-play. Perfect had a falling-out with Flair and Heenan (Flair's financial adviser) on the last Prime Time Wrestling before Survivor Series 1992 after Randy Savage asked Perfect to be his partner against Flair and Razor Ramon at the 1992 Survivor Series. After initially laughing off Savage's decision, Perfect was swayed by Savage's cajoling and by Heenan's comments that Perfect wasn't capable of wrestling on that level anymore and demanded that Perfect follow orders and do as he was told. Immediately afterward, Perfect turned towards the camera to accept Savage's proposal, much to the horror of Heenan, who then slapped Perfect across his face. An infuriated Perfect responded by grabbing Heenan by his tie and pouring a full pitcher of water over Heenan's head. Perfect then stated that he was "back" as Savage's partner at the Survivor Series, much to the delight of the Prime Time Wrestling cast of Hillbilly Jim, Jim Duggan, and Vince McMahon. Perfect returned to the ring at the Survivor Series and, despite some initial mistrust between them, he and Savage won the match by disqualification. Perfect later eliminated Flair from the 1993 Royal Rumble and defeated Flair the next night on Monday Night Raw in a "Loser Leaves the WWF Match".
He then went on to feud with Lex Luger, whom Heenan introduced into the WWF at the Royal Rumble. Luger won their match at WrestleMania IX though both of Perfect's feet were clearly between the ropes. Afterwards, Perfect chased Luger backstage where he was jumped from behind by Shawn Michaels. This feud with Michaels led to an Intercontinental Title match at Summerslam 1993, which Perfect lost by countout due to interference from Diesel. As stated in WWF Magazine, Perfect was responsible for coining Michaels' moniker, "The Heartbreak Kid".
Hennig also competed in the 1993 King of the Ring tournament, losing in a classic semi-finals match to eventual winner Bret Hart.
He was then set to participate in the opening bout at 1993's Survivor Series, but due to the re-emergence of his back injuries, was replaced by "Macho Man" Randy Savage and apparently had left the company.
At WrestleMania X, Mr. Perfect was the special guest referee for the title match between Lex Luger and Yokozuna. Perfect disqualified Luger after Luger put his hands on him, instead of counting the pin. Perfect was set to start another feud with Luger following WrestleMania, but plans were changed when Perfect's back problems flared up again. He left the Federation in the spring of 1994.
He returned in 1995 as a color commentator at the Survivor Series. The following weekend, Jerry Lawler announced Perfect as his replacement on WWF Superstars, his second stint as a color commentator on the show with McMahon, this time with Jim Ross added as the analyst. Later in 1996, McMahon left and Ross switched to the play-by-play role. Perfect also did color commentary with McMahon at the 1996 Royal Rumble and the 1996 SummerSlam with McMahon and Ross, and also at In Your House 10: Mind Games with Ross and McMahon, and in the video game WWF In Your House with McMahon. Mr. Perfect was once again called upon to serve as special referee for the WWF Championship match at 1996 King of the Ring between Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog.
Mr. Perfect was initially going to make his wrestling comeback on Monday Night Raw in October 1996 against Hunter Hearst Helmsley but was attacked by Helmsley backstage just moments before their match. It appeared Helmsley's attack left Perfect injured and unable to compete. This all turned out to be a ruse for the purpose of suckering "Wildman" Marc Mero into defending his Intercontinental Championship against Helmsley. With help from Perfect, Helmsley won the Intercontinental Title from Mero, and Perfect was once again a heel. Perfect began to serve as a mentor to Helmsley and "hand picked" beautiful models to accompany Helmsley to the ring. Perfect disappeared from the WWF once again shortly before the 1996 Survivor Series. He wasn't seen in the WWF again until 2002.
World Championship Wrestling (1997–2000)
Hennig signed with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1997, no longer billed as Mr. Perfect as that moniker was trademarked by the WWF. Both the Four Horsemen and the New World Order (nWo) showed interest in recruiting him. Hennig made his official WCW debut at Bash at the Beach '97 as Diamond Dallas Page's mystery tag-team partner. Hennig ended up turning on Page costing them the match. After feuding with Page for a month he joined the Four Horsemen, taking the spot of the retiring Arn Anderson. Anderson's implorement that Hennig take "his spot" was the subject of the following week's parody of the Horsemen by the nWo, which lead to the WarGames match. At Fall Brawl, Hennig was allegedly jumped backstage by the nWo and came to ringside mid-match with his arm in a sling. The whole thing turned out to be a setup as Hennig betrayed the Horsemen and joined the nWo, handcuffing the other Horsemen to the cage and then slamming the steel cage door into Ric Flair's head, afterward claiming he had "destroyed the Horseman" and as a further slap to Flair, claimed to be "the wrestler that made Minnesota famous". Two months after he joined the nWo, his childhood friend, Rick Rude, was also brought in. Hennig won the United States Title from Steve McMichael in September 1997 and defended it by defeating many superstars like Ric Flair, Lex Luger, The Giant, Chris Benoit, Jeff Jarrett, and Diamond Dallas Page to name a few before losing it to Page in December of that year at Starrcade. He struggled with a knee injury for much of 1998. When the nWo broke into two different factions, the Wolfpac (red and black) and nWo Hollywood (black and white), both Hennig and Rude joined the Wolfpac. The two did not really fit in with the fan favorite Wolfpac faction, especially when Rick Rude would still get on the microphone and tell the fans to shut up. Hennig was not able to compete against Goldberg at the Great American Bash that June, so he asked Konnan to replace him. Konnan lost the match, and afterward both Hennig and Rude attacked him, removing themselves from the Wolfpac and joining nWo Hollywood. Despite his injury he faced WCW World Champion Goldberg in a losing effort at Bash at the Beach. That September, Hennig was taken off WCW TV due to his injury. He returned at Starrcade to aid Eric Bischoff in defeating Ric Flair.
In early 1999, he began tagging with Barry Windham. Hennig and Windham lost to Ric Flair and Flair's son David at Souled Out due to interference by Arn Anderson. After the match, the rest of the nWo came out and humiliated Flair by handcuffing him to the ring, and forced him to watch his son David take a beating from Hollywood Hogan. Shortly afterward, Hennig was attacked by the nWo and thrown out of the group for no apparent reason other than Scott Hall stating "it's time to trim the fat". Hennig went on to win the World Tag Team Title with Barry Windham. Three months later, he became the leader of the West Texas Rednecks with Barry, Barry's brother, Kendall, and Bobby Duncum, Jr.. They were supposed to be heels to feud with rapper Master P's No Limit Soldiers, but the southern WCW fans cheered them and the angle was soon dropped. The Rednecks recorded a country song titled "Good Ol Boys" that received some airplay. After the Rednecks disbanded, Hennig feuded with Harlem Heat and Shawn Stasiak. During the feud, Stasiak called himself "Perfect Shawn" Stasiak, which was a ripoff of the "Mr. Perfect" gimmick. After Stasiak won the feud, Hennig briefly began coaching Stasiak. On November 21, 1999 at WCW Mayhem in Toronto's Air Canada Centre, Hennig lost a retirement match to Buff Bagwell. Hennig left WCW after his contract expired in the summer of 2000.
X Wrestling Federation (2001–2002)
Hennig was a franchise star for the short lived X Wrestling Federation where he had a brief run. The promotion quickly went under on behalf of the WWF buying out many of its major talent, including Hennig himself. Hennig wrestled a well-known match with Hulk Hogan in XWF, where Hogan defeated him.
World Wrestling Federation (2002)
During the buildup for January's Royal Rumble, it was announced that Hennig would be returning as one of the 30 combatants. Hennig, now billed as "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, entered the Royal Rumble at #25, and was one of the final three competitors before being eliminated by Triple H. Mr. Perfect made a strong showing at the Rumble, hitting the Perfect-Plex on Kurt Angle and holding his own with the WWF's best at the time. His performance, along with the positive reaction of the Atlanta crowd, earned Perfect a full-time contract with the WWF. He appeared the next night on Raw in a match with The Big Valbowski. He then had short feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Rob Van Dam before forming a tag team with Shawn Stasiak at house shows throughout March and April as well as a tag team on television with The Big Boss Man. He also appeared on Sunday Night Heat the night of WrestleMania X8. Mr. Perfect was drafted to Raw during the first ever WWF Draft. However, he was released from the company on May 5, 2002 due to a physical confrontation with Brock Lesnar over who had the best amateur skills. Among other incidents of drunkenness, the tussle took place on the infamous "plane ride from hell."
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2002–2003)
Death and legacy
On February 10, 2003, Hennig was found dead in a Florida hotel room. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office declared acute cocaine intoxication to be the cause of his death. His father said that steroids and painkillers also contributed to his death.
WWE aired a video tribute as well as words from friends and former co-workers Jerry "The King" Lawler and Jim Ross on Raw following the news of Hennig's death. TNA paid tribute to Hennig by displaying his wrestling singlet and a framed photo as he was employed by TNA at the time of his death. A tribute song about Hennig, "My Perfect Friend", was featured on the 2003 "Macho Man" Randy Savage album Be a Man. Other peers including Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels have also commended Hennig's in-ring talents.
Hennig's widow, Leonice, signed a WWE Legends contract on her husband's behalf. Hennig's two children, Joe and Amy are both professional wrestlers. Joe works for WWE under the ring name "Curtis Axel".
Wade Boggs, who appeared in a vignette with Hennig and was a friend of his, inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31, 2007. His wife, his four children, and his parents accepted the award on his behalf. On July 4, 2007, Hennig was posthumously inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Iowa. His father, who was inducted the prior year, represented him at the event.
On September 9, 2008, WWE released a two disc DVD set focused on Hennig titled The Life and Times of Mr. Perfect. Promotion for the video included Charlie Haas spoofing Hennig's memorable sports vignettes at a Dave & Buster's on Raw. Finding that he was incapable of performing those feats, Haas decided on one of his idols that "there was only one Mr. Perfect." The week after the DVD's release, its first week possible, it went to number one on the Billboard Recreational Sports DVD sales list.
- Signature moves
- Atomic Drop, sometimes inverted
- Backhand chop
- Bridging belly to back suplex
- Dropkick, sometimes from the top rope
- Figure four leglock
- Forearm smash
- Hip toss
- Indian deathlock
- Kneebar followed by a knee breaker (leaps up and drives the knee of his inside leg into the back of his opponent's knee)
- Knee drop
- Seated senton to force an opponent to the mat or to an opponent's leg draped over the first rope
- Sleeper hold
- Snapmare, often followed by a rolling neck snap
- Spinning toe hold
- Standing headscissors into a swinging knee strike
- Swinging knee lift
- "The Perfect One"
- "Cool" Curt Hennig
- Entrance themes
- "Theme of Exodus" by Ernest Gold (used only briefly; 1988)
- "Perfection" by Jim Johnston (WWF; 1989–1993, 1994, 1995–1996, 2002)
- "Rockhouse" by J.Hart and H.Helm (WCW; used while a part of the New World Order; 1997–1998, 1998–1999)
- "Wolfpac Theme" (WCW; used while a part of the nWo Wolfpac; 1998)
- "Rap is Crap" by the West Texas Rednecks (WCW; 1999)
- "Good Ol' Boys" by the West Texas Rednecks (WCW; 1999)
Championships and accomplishments
- American Wrestling Association
- Main Event Championship Wrestling
- MECW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pacific Northwest Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Championship Wrestling
- World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment