Acrylic, spray and paint marker on 30″ x 40″ canvas
Mr Perfect Curt Hennig stands as an inspiration to his peers, beloved by his fans, and treasured by his family. Born in 1958 Minnesota, the son of the legendary wrestler Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig followed his father’s path into Verne Gagne‘s American Wrestling Association in 1980. After a brief tenure there and a brief shot in the World Wrestling Federation, Curt returned to the AWA in 1984, soon winning the tag team titles with Scott Hall. After a dominant run together, Hennig began his successful run as a solo wrestler, soon defeating the iconic Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1987, with the help of Larry Zbyszko. During this time he had a fantastic feud partnered with his father Larry ‘The Axe’ against the father/son duo of Verne and Greg Gagne. He was also managed for a time by Diamond Dallas Page. Curt held the title for 53 weeks before losing to Jerry Lawler in 1988, and soon left for the WWF.
Back in the WWF, he was now billed as ‘Mr. Perfect’ Curt Hennig, who claimed to be able to perform any difficult task ‘perfectly’. This was illustrated by several memorable vignettes where he executed several sports maneuvers like catching his own Hail Mary pass or no-look basketball shots. After beginning an undefeated streak by defeating many mid-card opponents such as Owen Hart and beginning a career-long feud with Bret Hart, Hennig began a program with the WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. Mr. Perfect’s streak was defeated by The Ultimate Warrior, although on television he was first defeated by Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake.
Perfect then won the vacant Intercontinental Championship in 1990, managed by Bobby Heenan, beginning what many claim to be the greatest IC Title runs in the history of the belt. He had notable programs with ‘The Texas Tornado’ Kerry Von Erich, the Big Boss Man, and finally against Bret Hart, in a match Hart describes as one of the best of his career. Hennig stepped back from in-ring competition due to injury and had a memorable time as a color commentator alongside Vince McMahon as well as managing Ric Flair. He returned to the ring in 1992, first partnering with the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage against Flair and Scott ‘Razor Ramon’ Hall, then against Lex Luger and later Shawn Michaels. Hennig is credited as creating Michaels’ moniker of ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ during this time. After reigniting his feud with Bret Hart, Curt had to once more step back from competition due to the reemergence of his back injury.
After serving in commentary, guest refereeing and briefly managing a young Triple H, Curt Hennig departed the WWF to join World Championship Wrestling in 1997. There he had a feud with former manager Diamond Dallas Page after turning on him to join the New World Order. He soon won the United States Title and had notable matches against DDP, Flair, Luger, The Big Show and Jeff Jarrett before losing it to Page at the close of the year. He had a notable teaming with Rick Rude and a title match against Goldberg the next year. In 1999 he teamed up with Barry Windham to form the West Texas Rednecks, and the duo recorded the infamous country song ‘Rap is Crap’. (Google it!) Hennig left the company in 2000 when his contract expired.
Hennig returned to the WWF, now the WWE, in 2002 at the Royal Rumble, having a memorable moment against Kurt Angle. He had matches against Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer before leaving the company once more in May. He then went to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, feuding against Jeff Jarrett and Ron ‘R-Truth’ Killings.
Curt Hennig passed away on February 10, 2003, and is survived by his parents Larry and Irene, siblings Randy, Jesse, Sandra and Susan, wife Leonice, and children Joe, Hank, Amy and Kaite. His son Joe now wrestles for the WWE as Curtis Axel, paying homage to both his father’s name and his grandfather’s moniker. Curt and Axel are the only father/son duo to have both held the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Curt Hennig was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31, 2007 and into the George Tragos/ Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame on July 4, 2007.
About the piece: I painted this live at the 50th Annual Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion in Las Vegas, NV from April 13-15, in conjunction with Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig being honored with the club’s prestigious ‘Iron’ Mike Mazurki Award. Larry and his wife Irene, as well as many members of the Hennig family were present while I was painting it, but they had no idea that I planned to surprise them with the painting on stage during the ceremony. Curt was highly respected by his peers, inspired countless other wrestlers to enter the sport, and entertained millions of fans around the world. But to the Hennigs, he was their son, their brother, and their father, and I’m so greatly honored to make this portrait for them to always remember what a great, if all-too brief life he lived.