Forever Heel: Nick Bockwinkel Remembered


Before reading, this is about my journey to understand a character. There’s alot about me also. So don’t get all weird and angry because you think I’m disrespecting a legend by giving my personal insights, and not just dryly telling you about Nick Bockwinkel. I don’t need teeny boppers explaining to me about wrestling edicate on the Twitter.

When I was a little guy, I didn’t know anything about Nick Bockwinkel.  I still wanted to be just like him though. I was pretty sure I’d be a heel wrestler since I was six, and the greatest heels were jerks with money. Ric Flair, Ted DiBaise, and Bobby Heenan were my guys.  The AWA was on after school when I was a kid, and ESPN did their best to mix-up continuity. I remember an episode where Larry Zbyszko lost his belt to Mr Saito, and the next day the episode was a rerun from three years earlier. My first impression of Nick Bockwinkel was a veteran babyface that carried a whip, but never whipped anyone. I had no idea he was the Ric Flair of AWA back then. His promos were intense but laidback. His calmness assured us that he could beat any opponent, and that there’s no reason to worry about him losing. He also talked like a friggin professor, even though AWA was filled with some of the stupid looking, dense wrestlers ever, he stood out.

I finally read about Nick Bockwinkel and Bobby Heenan in a Apter Mag that would reprint past articles into a giant magazine form. It was 300 pages of kayfabe insanity.  There was a kayfabe interview (supposedly) with Bobby Heenan, right as Heenan began his WWF career. He spoke mostly about Nick Bockwinkel, as the greatest world champion. There was a whole section of the Bobby Heenan Family Stable, every member had this sweet profile, and basic info. Nick Bockwinkel was in it, and he looked way cooler than on TV, and like Heenan (my favorite guy), Nick was from Beverly Hills. I knew Beverly Hills was where I’d be billed from. I had jerk cousins that lived there, the place is like if Bobby Heenan was a transformer, that transformed into a city. I’m surprised Heenan and Nick weren’t really from there. It’s the only place I know that gets automatic boos and jeers from crowds.

Skipping ahead, I found a VHS copy of this old “Villains of Wrestling” tape. Here I saw profiles of guys like Ox Baker  (snore), Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody etc, and finally Nick Bockwinkel. This whole documentary was in kayfabe, so you’d have guys like the Crusher saying things like, “Nick always got his way, and if he didn’t then his money got what he wanted. “, in actuality I didn’t know that Bockwinkel wasn’t really playing a rich jerk heel. He was more of a Ric Flair type, that you knew had money, but it wasn’t like he was throwing money in guys faces. He never had a dollar sign on any of his ring gear. This video made me think he was like Million Dollar Man for AWA. They’d show Nick, and Heenan in gold flashy clothing, and Bockwinkel was seen in the footage paying the Blackjack’s to beat up who I’m assuming was Ray Stevens(?). They also showed Nick being given the AWA World belt, I for some reason assumed he’s bought it. The segment was edited and didn’t make it clear. Actually Heenan was the only WWE guy in this video.

Around the time I found my VHS treasure, I started watching WCW again. Nick Bockwinkel was WCW commissioner, but he was mostly only on to decide shenanigans. I remember hoping Heenan and Flair would recruit him for a super-team of “Real Worlds’ Champions”, yes Nick was about 60 years old at this time, and I had that mark mentality where you think every wrestler is in his prime. He also did not look like he was conditioned to be in the ring at this time, but I was only 15, and still thought we’d have a Starfleet by 1996. My daydreaming was insane, I’m surprised I had any friends. I’d sit in school, and think, “wrestling, wrestling, wrestling”, while people were talking to me. I also had no idea Bockwinkel left WCW until around 1997 because the internet wasn’t here, and wrestling mags were hard to come by. I had to wait for the 1997 wrestling boom to buy wrestling magazines, this was still at a time that people were embarrassed to be wrestling fans. Pssshhh, I wasn’t.

Finally through eBay, and tape trading, I was able to find great tapes of not just Heenan and Bockwinkel, but the whole Heenan Family. Ray Stevens and Bockwinkel were actually AWA champs together before he became AWA champ. Infact Heenan led Nick to winning the AWA World title from Verne Gagne. Ray Stevens was attacked by the Blackjacks because, Ray wanted to congratulate Nick on his world title win, but Nick and Heenan kept snubbing him. Ray got mad and hit Heenan, and Ray was thrown out of the Heenan Family. Bockwinkel finally lost to Hulk Hogan, but Hogan didn’t get the AWA World belt because Verne was putting pride before money, and that led to Hogan leaving the AWA for WWE. If it wasn’t for Verne being all traditional and old school, AWA might still be here?

So even though, I didn’t know much about Bockwinkel until I was nearly an adult, he still provided a blueprint for what I wanted to be. I never made it as a rich jerk heel wrestler, but I still enjoy Nick, and the Heenan family on the WWE Network, and  Youtube, but mostly Youtube because WWE Network has no AWA shows.

In 2013, I opened my personal Heel Hall of Fame, and forced my friends to become a voting body(I had nothing better to do). Bobby Heenan and Nick Bockwinkel were the first inductees. RIP Nick

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!