On February 10, 2003, pro wrestling fans said goodbye to one of the all-time greats, when Curt Hennig, known best for his run in World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as "Mr. Perfect," was found dead in his hotel room from a drug overdose at the age of just 44.
DeadSpin's Masked Man has an incredibly accurate portrait of his impact on fans:
In the ring, in his prime, Hennig had a magic that couldn't be duplicated and that can hardly be defined. His persona wasn't kitschy like Rick Rude's lothario act or absurdly contrived like Ted DiBiase's "Million Dollar Man" gimmick. Hennig was an asshole whom fans secretly loved, the showoff who was emulated by a cohort of little boys. As Rick Scaia, the Web's smartest (if most sporadic) wrestling writer, recently put it, "Mr. Perfect made me desperate to want to grow up to be him." And this adoration, which so many secretly harbored, came from a generation that simply did not root for the bad guy. Hennig's charisma defied that. (He didn't even change his character when he occasionally morphed into a good guy - he just started fighting bad guys.)
Little wonder, then, that those young boys grew up to be the generation of assholes. Mr. Perfect epitomized everything we wanted to be years before we could put it into words. (The prominent bulge in the front of his tights probably didn't hurt matters.) He was the harbinger for a generation of jackassery, of smart-guy sarcasm and holier-than-thou snark. We are the Mr. Perfect generation.
What's important about this summation is how well it recognizes the changing of the guard, or perhaps a blurring of the lines between faces and heels. DiBiase was the prototype for this gimmick and Hennig was able to follow in his footsteps and take it to an entirely new level. He was the first heel I ever emulated with "the boys" in the high school parking lot.
Spit out your gum, catch it in your hand. Perfect.
Video of Mr. Perfect's WWE Hall-of-Fame induction, in its entirety, right here:
A "Perfect" wrestler marred by too many injuries, but still good enough to leave an indelible impression on this business.
Favorite Hennig match -- or memory?