Bobby Heenan, Nick Bockwinkel, and the Scary Chicago Fan Incident

In 1975, one crazed fan took the action in the ring too seriously. It was one of the scariest moments ever to occur in wrestling and the lives of Bobby Heenan and Nick Bockwinkel.

Bobby Heenan with the late Nick Bockwinkel in 1975
Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan with the late Nick Bockwinkel in 1975

Bobby Heenan and Verne Gagne Discuss The Scary Chicago Incident From 1975

In the past, it was common practice for wrestlers to adhere to kayfabe in public, even when outside the ring and off-camera, to preserve the illusion that the competition in pro wrestling was not staged. This was due in no small part to feuds between wrestlers sometimes lasting for years, which could be utterly destroyed in seconds if they were shown associating as friends in public, potentially affecting ticket revenue.

During one particular show in Chicago in 1975, one crazed fan took the action in the ring too seriously and took matters into his own hands to help out the ‘good guys.’ Not much has been documented about this story as it took place before the days of the Internet and social media. However, it was mentioned in passing in Bobby Heenan’s documentary.

The original article for the shooting can be seen from the Chicago Tribune archives.

Verne Gagne:

"We were in the Amphitheater in Chicago, in front of a huge crowd. Nick and I were the main event for the night."

Bobby Heenan:

"It was a simple finish. Nick (Bockwinkel) slammed Verne, and the ref counted, ‘One! Two!’ and Verne put his foot over the rope. I took his foot and threw it off the rope, and the ref counted three. Verne jumps up and tells the ref his foot was on the rope, and the ref says to continue the match. Meanwhile, I’m on the apron hugging Nick. Verne dropkicks Nick in the back, Nick knocks me off the apron, falls to the mat, and Verne pins him. As I got up off the floor, a fan in the crowd says, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get him down.’ And he took a gun out, lifted his hand on the kid’s shoulder who was sitting in front of him, and fired down to the ring."

Verne Gagne:

"The next thing I hear is a noise going Pow! Pow!"

Nick Bockwinkel:

"After the finish, Verne was up, gone and out of the ring. I thought that was strange because usually, he’s sucking up all the glory that he can after the match by getting his hand raised. Bobby jumps up on the apron and is looking around back and forth, and motions for me to come over to him. When I do, he tells me, ‘Let’s get the fuck out of here! Those were gunshots!’"

Verne Gagne:

"He shot down to the ring several times and missed us."

Bobby Heenan:

"He shot a woman in the arm, another one in the chest, two in the neck, and one in the thumb. The shots never made it to the ring; it hit the ringside seats before that."

Nick Bockwinkel:

"I looked right past Bobby, and they were crawling over chairs to pick up a woman. I could see a bullet hole in her shoulder, and I can see another woman who got shot in the arm and is bleeding something fierce, and they were starting to carry her out as well. So Bobby and I got out of the ring, and there were some cops there that escorted us up these narrow aisles and to the dressing room."

Verne Gagne:

"When I got back to the dressing room, the guys were telling me, ‘Did you hear those shots out there?!’"

Bobby Heenan:

"The article in the paper about the incident showed the kid saying that all he saw was orange. He had suffered some hearing loss as a result of the incident. The guy who did it actually would continue coming back to wrestling cards held there, and nobody would say that they saw him do it. He even had police around him to make sure that he never did anything again."

The crazy part of this whole story? The shooter was never arrested and continued to go to events after. Can you imagine if this happened today?

Purchase this Gorilla Monsoon and "The Weasel" Bobby Heenan "Oh, will you stop?" shirt on today!
Purchase this Gorilla Monsoon and "The Weasel" Bobby Heenan "Oh, will you stop?" shirt on today!

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