Name: Curt Hennig
Year Inducted: 2015
Was there ever a character more suited for a person than Mr. Perfect for Curt Hennig? The vignettes that introduced him to the WWF audience in 1988 had him sinking hole-in-ones, hitting baskets from half court, smashing home runs, or effortlessly tossing a touchdown pass. Hennig’s dad, Larry “The Axe”, still marvels at it. “The character of Mr. Perfect is certainly something that pissed off a lot of people because there is no one really perfect, but he kept telling them he was perfect. He was. He could do a lot of things. In fact, everything he did, he did good. Consequently, that made him a good heel,” said Larry. “It was the best [gimmick] that Vince ever had there. But he could do it. He could play golf, he could swim, he could hit the baseball, he could dive, whatever it was, he could do it, horseshoes, you name it, he could do it all.”
In the ring, the second-generation star could do it all as well. “Curt Hennig gets A’s in every subject that I would grade a guy—his working ability, the fact that he always made me look good before he beat me,” said “The Genius” Lanny Poffo.
He stood out in the day of muscle-bound monsters like Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior, taking spectacular bumps. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Mr. Perfect eventually found his stride taking on other skilled grapplers like Tito Santana and Bret “Hitman” Hart. “With Curt Hennig I was able to do slick moves that I wouldn’t think of doing with most other guys,” Hart wrote on his website. “He was my all-time favorite. He really was.”
Growing up the second son of Larry and Irene Hennig, born March 28, 1958 in Minneapolis, Curt wrestled in high school, then junior college. His father and Verne Gagne trained Curt to be a pro.
Curt Hennig was a babyface from his debut on January 30, 1980. He was a good-looking young stud with talent to match and had early stints in the WWWF and Portland. In the AWA, after a championship tag run with Scott Hall, Hennig’s frustrations with being unable to unseat the World champ Nick Bockwinkel were played brilliantly, and a heel turn for the title win, with the help of Larry Zbyszko, was a terrific swerve. Backstage, Hennig played negotiations with the WWF against his desire to be AWA champ. After dropping the belt to Jerry Lawler, Hennig left for New York.
As Mr. Perfect, he was Intercontinental champion twice, and battled Hogan for the WWF title. Compared to some of the silly characters of the day, Mr. Perfect was straightforward. “I am a wrestler,” he once said. “I don’t care about gimmicks. I don’t care about ring entrance music. I just go out there and do what I do best. I wrestle.” Injuries derailed his career though, especially his back. Yet he came back again and again, in the WWF and WCW, despite doctor’s orders and a lucrative insurance Lloyd’s of London injury policy. His last big run came in WCW, where he was a member of the West Texas Rednecks, a character close to his true personality, friends said.
Hennig was found dead in a Brandon, Florida hotel room on February 10, 2003. He left behind a wife and four children, the oldest of whom, Joe, is known as Curtis Axel in WWE.