Hennig in the 80s
|Birth name||Curtis Michael Hennig|
|Born||March 28, 1958|
Robbinsdale, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||February 10, 2003 (aged 44)|
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
|Cause of death||Acute drug intoxication|
Leonice Leonard (m. 1978)
|Children||4, including Joe Hennig|
|Family||Larry Hennig (father)|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Billed height||6 ft 3 in (191 cm)|
|Billed weight||257 lb (117 kg)|
|Billed from||Robbinsdale, Minnesota|
|Trained by||Verne Gagne|
Curtis Michael Hennig (March 28, 1958 - February 10, 2003) was an American professional wrestler, manager, and color commentator who performed under the name of Curt Hennig for the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now Impact Wrestling). In the WWF, he found his greatest success as Mr. Perfect, a nickname introduced in his second run with the company that became his official ring name. Hennig is the son of wrestler Larry "The Axe" Hennig, and father of current WWE wrestler Curtis Axel.
Hennig held the AWA World Heavyweight Championship once (with his 373-day reign being the seventh-longest in history), and the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship once. A two-time WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion, Hennig was named by WWE as one of the top five champions of all time; he was the longest-reigning titleholder of the 1990s. In addition to winning multiple championships in WCW during the late 1990s, he was a member of the New World Order and leader of stable and country music group The West Texas Rednecks, who recorded the popular tongue-in-cheek song, "Rap is Crap". Hennig returned to the WWF for a brief period in 2002, being one of the last three men remaining at that year's Royal Rumble. He later challenged for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in TNA, prior to his death on February 10, 2003.
WCW recognized Hennig as "one of the best all-round competitors this [wrestling] business has ever produced", while WWE credited him for raising the accepted standard of technical wrestling. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 by former Major League Baseball player and longtime friend Wade Boggs. Former rival Hulk Hogan remarked, "Everybody would check their egos at the door when they came to a building that Curt Hennig was in, because you couldn't out-work him, you couldn't outshine him and you couldn't out-perform him. He was the best of the best."
Hennig was childhood friends with fellow wrestler Rick Rude. They attended Robbinsdale High School in his hometown of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, alongside Tom Zenk, Brady Boone, Nikita Koloff, John Nord, Road Warrior Hawk and Barry Darsow, all of whom later became professional wrestlers.
Known as "Cool" Curt Hennig, he began his career on January 30, 1980 in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the promotion which had made his father, Larry "The Axe" Hennig a star. Hennig left AWA in 1982 and joined World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
Hennig started his WWF career in 1981. His first victory was against Johnny Rodz. He established himself as a promising young performer against the likes of 'Playboy' Buddy Rose, Greg Valentine and Killer Khan. Eventually, he was paired-up in tag team matches with another young upstart, Eddie Gilbert, himself the son of a wrestling legend (Tommy Gilbert).
In 1982, Hennig teamed up with his father, Larry and won the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship defeating Rip Oliver and Matt Borne on April 27. He later won the titles with Buddy Rose and Scott McGhee in 1983.
Hennig returned to AWA in 1983. He would eventually become one of the promotion's top stars in his own right, winning the AWA World Tag Team Championship with Scott Hall by defeating "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin and "Mr. Electricity" Steve Regal on January 18, 1986 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Later, he resumed his solo career in the AWA, culminating in defeating the legendary Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship at SuperClash on May 2, 1987 with the help of Larry Zbzyszko, and turning villain in doing so. Hennig, along with his father Larry "The Axe", would engage in a long feud with Greg Gagne and his father, Verne Gagne. He began being associated with Madusa Miceli, the AWA World Women's Champion since December 27, 1987. Hennig and Madusa joined The Diamond Exchange, a stable led by Diamond Dallas Page that also included Badd Company and Colonel DeBeers.
Hennig would hold the AWA World Heavyweight Title for about 53 weeks, before losing it to Jerry Lawler on May 9, 1988. Like many other AWA stars of the time (including Hulk Hogan, Rick Martel, and The Rockers), Hennig left the AWA for the WWF with the promise of more money and broadened exposure. He also worked for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Hennig returned to the WWF in the mid-1988 at WrestleFest, where he pinned Terry Taylor. Hennig made his televised in-ring return on the September 11 episode of All-American Wrestling, defeating enhancement talent Ron Rovishod. On the October 1 episode of Superstars, vignettes began airing on WWF television, during which he was repackaged with a new character of an arrogant braggart villain who claimed to be able to accomplish difficult tasks "perfectly", thus earning the nickname of "Mr. Perfect", which would become his ring name in 1989 and the use of his real name would be phased out. He presented himself as being superior in athletics or anything else he did. These clips showed him hitting half-court, three-point, and no-look basketball shots, bowling a score of 300, running the table in billiards, throwing then catching his own Hail Mary football pass, sinking a long golf putt, hitting home runs and making bulls-eyes in darts. Stars of various major league sports, including Wade Boggs (MLB), Steve Jordan (NFL), and Mike Modano (NHL), co-starred with Hennig in these vignettes. Hennig performed for the first time as Mr. Perfect on the October 4 episode of Prime Time Wrestling, where he defeated Jim Brunzell.
Perfect made his pay-per-view debut at Survivor Series, where he competed in a five-on-five elimination tag team match as a member of André the Giant's team, along with Rick Rude, Dino Bravo and Harley Race against Jim Duggan's team of Jake Roberts, Ken Patera, Tito Santana and Scott Casey. Perfect survived the match with Bravo. He went undefeated on television for over a year, beating mid-card wrestlers including Koko B. Ware,The Blue Blazer,The Red Rooster,Jimmy Snuka, Tito Santana and Bret Hart. throughout 1989.
On the October 7 episode of Superstars, Perfect began appearing with The Genius, an arrogant, poetry-reciting scholar on The Brother Love Show and began a rivalry with Hulk Hogan over the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Their rivalry heated up when Genius defeated Hogan by countout, with Hennig's assistance on the November 25 Saturday Night's Main Event XXIV and the duo stole Hogan's title belt and destroyed it backstage. Perfect and Hogan wrestled on the live events, where he lost to Hogan but they did not compete on television until January 15, 1990 when Hennig received his first opportunity for the WWF Championship against Hogan on the live televised broadcast on the MSG Network and this was his first televised match against Hogan, which he won by disqualification.
At Royal Rumble, Perfect attacked Genius's opponent Brutus Beefcake after their match, which began a feud between the two. Later in the same night, Perfect participated in the Royal Rumble match as the No. 30 entrant. He eliminated Rick Rude before making it to the final two, where he was eliminated by Hogan. Perfect's undefeated streak ended when he suffered his first pinfall loss on television against the Intercontinental Champion Ultimate Warrior on the MSG Network special on March 19. His first loss in singles competition on national television was against Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania VI. Perfect settled the score with Hogan with a match between the pair on the April 28 Saturday Night's Main Event XXVI, in which Hogan pinned Perfect for the first time on television. Following his loss to Hogan, Perfect quietly ended his association with The Genius.
In May 1990, Perfect participated in a tournament for the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship after previous champion Ultimate Warrior vacated the title upon winning the WWF Championship at WrestleMania VI. Hennig was booked to win the tournament for the vacant title by defeating Jimmy Snuka in the quarter-finals on the May 5 episode of Superstars and two-time Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion Tito Santana in the finals on the May 19 episode of Superstars. After his title win, Perfect enlisted Bobby Heenan as his "perfect" manager and made a successful title defense against Santana on the July 28 Saturday Night's Main Event XXVII. Hennig was scheduled to defend the title against Brutus Beefcake at SummerSlam, stemming from his loss to Beefcake at WrestleMania but Beefcake suffered an injury and The Texas Tornado substituted for Beefcake and challenged Hennig to a title match for SummerSlam on the August 11 episode of Superstars, which Perfect accepted on the following week's Superstars. Perfect dropped the championship to Texas Tornado at SummerSlam. Hennig was chosen to lead Demolition as "The Perfect Team" against The Warriors (Ultimate Warrior, Texas Tornado and Legion of Doom) in a four-on-four elimination tag team match at the Survivor Series pay-per-view, where Hennig's team lost. He unsuccessfully challenged Texas Tornado in a rematch for the Intercontinental Championship on the November 24 MSG Network special, before regaining the title by defeating Texas Tornado on the December 15 episode of Superstars, with help from Ted DiBiase. Perfect defended the title against Texas Tornado in a rematch on the February 2, 1991 episode of Superstars, where he retained the title by losing via countout.
Perfect made his next title defense against Big Boss Man at WrestleMania VII, where he retained the title by losing via disqualification after the challenger was attacked by Haku and The Barbarian. The following month, Perfect won a battle royal on the April 27 Saturday Night's Main Event by last eliminating Greg Valentine, which led to a match between the two for Perfect's title on the May 14 episode of Prime Time Wrestling, where Perfect retained the title via disqualification. On the June 15 episode of Superstars, Bobby Heenan retired as a manager and introduced The Coach as Hennig's new manager. Hennig began a rivalry with British Bulldog but he suffered a back injury in late June, which lead to the rivalry being wrapped up. Bret Hart was announced as his next challenger on the July 13 episode of Superstars, and in the meantime Hennig was held out of all house shows, usually replaced by Typhoon. On television, he wrestled a few preliminary opponents but to avoid stressing his back with the Perfectplex adopted the gimmick of throwing his opposition out of the ring in disgust and defeating them by countout. Perfect lost the title to Hart at SummerSlam and a broken tailbone and buldged discs forced him to retire from the ring.
Hennig spent the following year recovering from his injury. He returned to television on the November 23 episode of Superstars where he became Ric Flair's "executive consultant". The following week on Superstars, Perfect became a color commentator of the show for the next full year, acting as a suitable villainous foil to Vince McMahon's play-by-play. During this period, Perfect assisted Flair in winning matches and managed him to two World Heavyweight Championship reigns in 1992. By the fall of 1992, Perfect and Flair were in the midst of a rivalry with Randy Savage, building to a tag team match at Survivor Series where Flair and Razor Ramon would face Savage and Ultimate Warrior. However, Warrior was released from the WWF weeks prior to the event. On the November 16 episode of Prime Time Wrestling, Savage asked Perfect to be his partner. After initially laughing off Savage's offer, Perfect was swayed by Savage's cajoling and by Bobby Heenan's degrading comments and commanding Perfect to follow orders, which would lead to Perfect turning into a fan favorite for the first time in WWF by dumping water on Heenan and accepting Savage's offer to return to the ring and become his partner at Survivor Series, much to the delight of the Prime Time Wrestling cast of Hillbilly Jim, Jim Duggan, and Vince McMahon. Hennig made his return to the ring at Survivor Series, where Hennig and Savage won their match.
Perfect began a high-profile rivalry with Flair. He made his return to singles competition on the January 2, 1993 episode of Superstars, where he defeated The Berzerker. Hennig participated in the 1993 Royal Rumble match to determine the No. 1 contender for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania. He eliminated Flair, Skinner and Jerry Lawler until he was eliminated by Ted DiBiase, Koko B. Ware and Lawler. Hennig defeated Flair the next night on Monday Night Raw in a match where the loser would be forced to leave WWF. As a result, Flair left WWF. He then went on to feud with the debuting Lex Luger, who berated Perfect during his promos. Luger won their match at WrestleMania IX though both of Perfect's feet were clearly between the ropes. Afterwards, Perfect chased Luger backstage where he was jumped from behind by Luger's ally Shawn Michaels. As a result, Perfect began a rivalry with Michaels.
During this time, Hennig qualified for the first-ever televised King of the Ring tournament by defeating Doink the Clown. At King of the Ring, Perfect defeated Mr. Hughes in the quarter-finals but lost to eventual winner Bret Hart in the semi-finals. Perfect competed against Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam, where Perfect lost by countout due to interference from Michaels' new bodyguard Diesel. Hennig's last televised match in WWF was on the November 7 episode of Wrestling Challenge, where he defeated Iron Mike Sharpe. He was set to participate as a member of Razor Ramon's team at Survivor Series, but was replaced in the match by Randy Savage without any official explanation given.
Perfect made his surprise return to WWF at WrestleMania X on March 20, 1994, where he was the special guest referee for the WWF Championship match between Lex Luger and Yokozuna. Perfect disqualified Luger after Luger manhandled Perfect, who was tending to Yokozuna's stricken managers Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji instead of counting the pinfall and turned heel again. Perfect was set to start another rivalry with Luger, during which he explained that he screwed Luger because of Luger's illegal win over Perfect the previous year at WrestleMania IX. However, plans were scrapped off after Hennig's back problems flared up again. He left the WWF in the spring of 1994.
Hennig took a year off to recover from a back injury until he returned to the company as a color commentator at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in 1995. The following weekend, Jerry Lawler announced Perfect as his replacement on Superstars, his second stint as a color commentator on the show with Vince McMahon, this time with Jim Ross added as the analyst. Later in 1996, McMahon left and Ross switched to the play-by-play role. Perfect also did color commentary at Royal Rumble, SummerSlam and In Your House 10: Mind Games pay-per-views. Perfect also served as the special guest referee for the WWF Championship match between Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog at June's King of the Ring pay-per-view.
In mid-1996, Hennig was placed in an angle with Hunter Hearst Helmsley, where he would come out to the ringside during Helmsley's matches and steal his female escorts, which would often cause distraction for Helmsley and affect his performance in matches. During the rivalry, Perfect helped Marc Mero in winning the Intercontinental Championship from Faarooq and assisted him in retaining the title against Goldust at In Your House 11: Buried Alive. The following night on Raw, Perfect was initially going to make his wrestling comeback on against Helmsley but was attacked by Helmsley backstage just moments before their match. It appeared Helmsley's attack left Perfect injured and unable to compete. This all turned out to be a ruse for the purpose of suckering Mero into defending his title against Helmsley. With help from Perfect, Helmsley won the title from Mero. Perfect began to serve as a mentor to Helmsley and accompanied Helmsley to the ring. Perfect left the WWF once again shortly before Survivor Series, making his last televised appearance on the November 5 episode of Raw.
Hennig signed with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in mid-1997. Since his Mr. Perfect ring name was trademarked by the WWF, he began competing under his real name. He debuted in WCW as a fan favorite on the June 30 episode of Monday Nitro, during a brawl which erupted after the main event. His first match in the company took place at July's Bash at the Beach pay-per-view where he became Diamond Dallas Page's mystery tag team partner against nWo members Randy Savage and Scott Hall. Hennig ended up turning on Page costing them the match. As a result, Hennig began a rivalry with Page, defeating him in a match at Road Wild. Hennig continued to use the fisherman suplex as his finishing move, renaming it Hennig-Plex. Shortly after his debut, he became a top favourite of both Four Horsemen and the New World Order (nWo) as both factions showed interest in recruiting him. He ultimately joined the Four Horsemen, taking the spot of the retiring Arn Anderson. Anderson's implorement that Hennig take "his spot" was the subject of the following week's parody of the Horsemen by the nWo, which lead to the WarGames match. At Fall Brawl, Hennig was allegedly jumped backstage by the nWo before the WarGames match and came to ringside mid-match with his arm in a sling. The whole thing turned out to be a setup as Hennig betrayed the Horsemen and joined the nWo, handcuffing the other Horsemen to the cage and then slamming the steel cage door into Ric Flair's head, afterward claiming he had "destroyed the Horseman" and as a further slap to Flair, claimed to be "the wrestler that made Minnesota famous", thus becoming a villain. The following night on Nitro, Hennig won the United States Heavyweight Championship by defeating Horseman Steve McMichael. Hennig held the title for the next three months, during which he successfully defended the title against Flair in a standard wrestling match at Halloween Havoc and a no disqualification match at World War 3, before dropping the title to Diamond Dallas Page at Starrcade.
In the fall of 1997, Hennig was joined by his childhood best friend Rick Rude in the nWo. In 1998, Hennig and Rude were put into a rivalry with Bret Hart and his relatives British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart, during which both teams competed against each other in several matches throughout the first half of 1998. Hennig lost to Hart at Uncensored and defeated Bulldog at Spring Stampede.
He was sidelined due to a knee injury in the mid-1998. During this time, the nWo broke into two different factions, the nWo Wolfpac and nWo Hollywood, both Hennig and Rude joined Kevin Nash's fan favorite Wolfpac group. However, the two villains did not really fit in with the fan favorite Wolfpac faction, especially when Rude would still get on the microphone and tell the fans to shut up. Hennig was scheduled to wrestle Goldberg for the United States Heavyweight Championship at June's The Great American Bash pay-per-view, but he failed to compete due to injury, so he asked Konnan to replace him. Konnan lost the match, and afterward both Hennig and Rude attacked him, removing themselves from the Wolfpac and joining nWo Hollywood. The following month, Goldberg won the World Heavyweight Championship and Hennig, despite his injury, faced Goldberg for the title in a losing effort at Bash at the Beach.
In the fall of 1998, Hennig began feuding with Horseman Dean Malenko over his betrayal of the Four Horsemen the previous year which resulted in a match between the pair at September's Fall Brawl pay-per-view, which Hennig lost. After the loss, Hennig was taken off television to recover from his knee injury. He returned to WCW at the Starrcade event in December to aid Eric Bischoff in defeating Ric Flair. Hennig joined forces with Barry Windham to take on Flair and his son David in a tag team match at Souled Out in 1999, which Hennig's team lost. In 1999, both nWo factions reunited and Hennig was placed in the nWo B-Team, a group consisting of mid-card wrestlers of the nWo. However, he was kicked out of the group after speaking against the leaders on the January 25 episode of Nitro.
Hennig formed a tag team with Barry Windham and continued the rivalry with The Four Horsemen. Hennig and Windham were placed in a tournament for the vacated World Tag Team Championship, which they won by defeating Horsemen Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko at SuperBrawl IX. Hennig and Windham held the tag titles for a month, before losing to Benoit and Malenko in a lumberjack match, the following month at Uncensored, after Arn Anderson hit Hennig with a tire iron. Hennig competed against Hollywood Hogan in a losing effort the main event of the March 18 episode of Thunder after Horace saved Hogan from a Hennig-Plex. In May, Hennig formed a new faction called The West Texas Rednecks with Windham, Barry's brother, Kendall Windham, and Bobby Duncum, Jr.. The group members were presented as southern country musicians. They began feuding with rapper Master P's No Limit Soldiers and recorded an infamous country song titled "Rap is Crap." During the rivalry, Hennig and Duncum lost to Konnan and Rey Mysterio Jr. of the No Limit Soldiers in a tag team match on June 13 at The Great American Bash. Less than a month later, the Rednecks lost to the Soldiers once again in an elimination tag team match at Bash at the Beach on July 11. Rednecks were intended to be villains but the southern WCW fans cheered them instead of the Soldiers, resulting in the angle being dropped. The Rednecks made their final pay-per-view appearance at Road Wild on August 14, where Hennig, Barry and Duncum lost to The Revolution in a six-man tag team match.
After the Rednecks disbanded, Hennig began a storyline, in which he stated that he was following orders from "the powers that be" that if he lost any match by pinfall, he must retire. He participated in a tournament to crown the new World Heavyweight Champion, during which he defeated Disco Inferno in the first round but lost to Jeff Jarrett in the second round. He was forced to retire after losing a retirement match against Buff Bagwell at Mayhem. He was reinstated by the powers that be a month later, however, and joined forces with Creative Control, during which the trio defeated Harlem Heat and Midnight at Starrcade.
He remained on the WCW television, continuing to make sporadic appearances with the company. He entered a feud with Shawn Stasiak in the spring of 2000, after Stasiak referred to himself as "The Perfect One" which was a ripoff of Hennig's "Mr. Perfect" character and even used entrance music composed to sound like Mr. Perfect's theme song. Hennig lost to Stasiak at Slamboree. His last televised match in WCW was against Chris Harris on the May 20 episode of Worldwide, which Hennig won. Hennig left WCW after his contract expired in the summer of 2000.
After leaving WCW, Hennig wrestled in numerous promotions. He defeated Dennis Rodman by disqualification in an Australian Outback match for the i-Generation World Heavyweight Championship for i-Generation Superstars of Wrestling in Australia. Later that year he went to Puerto Rico to work for World Wrestling Council where he won the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship defeating Carly Colon on September 30.
On January 28, 2001, Hennig returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling to team with Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham as they were defeated by George Hines, Jim Steele and Johnny Smith. In the Summer of 2001 he feuded with WLW Heavyweight champion Butch Reed in Missouri. Then on August 11, 2001 Hennig became the very first MECW World Heavyweight champion defeating Chris Harris in Philadelphia.
Hennig was a franchise star for the short lived Xcitement Wrestling Federation where he had a brief run. The promotion quickly went under due to the WWF buying out many of its major talent, including Hennig himself. Hennig wrestled a well-known match with Hulk Hogan in XWF, where Hogan defeated him on November 14. He feuded with Vampiro.
During the buildup for January's Royal Rumble, it was announced that Hennig would be returning as one of the 30 combatants. Hennig, again billed as "Mr. Perfect" (although his real name was widely acknowledged), entered the Royal Rumble at No. 25, and was one of the final three competitors before being eliminated by eventual winner Triple H. Perfect made a strong showing at the Rumble, hitting the Perfect-Plex on Kurt Angle and holding his own with the WWF's best at the time. His performance, along with the positive reaction of the Atlanta crowd, earned Hennig a full-time contract with the WWF. Perfect appeared the next night on Raw in a match with Val Venis. He then had short feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Rob Van Dam before forming a tag team with Shawn Stasiak at house shows throughout March and April as well as a tag team on television with Big Boss Man. On the February 25 edition of Raw, Hennig faced Stone Cold in a losing effort, on The March 3 edition of Heat, Hennig lost to Edge. on the March 4 edition of Raw, Hennig and Test defeated Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert, on Sunday Night Heat Before WrestleMania X8, Perfect teamed with Lance Storm and Test in a losing effort to Rikishi, Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert. Perfect was drafted to Raw during the first ever WWF Draft. on March 25 edition of Raw, Hennig faced Tazz in a losing effort, on the April 1 edition of Raw, Hennig formed a team with The Big Bossman in their first match they faced The Hardy Boyz in a losing effort, on the April 8 edition of Raw, Hennig faced The Big Show in a losing effort, on the April 22 edition of Raw, Hennig faced Rob Van Dam in a losing effort, Hennig's final televised WWE match took place on the May 6 edition of Heat where Hennig defeated Tommy Dreamer, Hennig participated in a dark match at the Insurrextion on May 4, 2002, defeating Goldust. Hennig was released from the company on May 7, 2002 due to a physical confrontation with Brock Lesnar. Among other incidents of drunkenness, the tussle took place on the infamous "Plane Ride from Hell".
After being fired from WWE(WWF), Hennig went to the independent circuit. On October 19, 2002 he lost to Jerry Lawler at 3PW A Night for the Flyboy Rocco Rock for Pro Pain Pro Wrestling in Philadelphia.
After being released from WWE, he went on to work for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. In TNA, he was involved in a feud with Jeff Jarrett. On October 9, 2002 he made his debut in a six-man tag team match, as the mystery partner of Syxx-Pac and B.G. James against Ron Killings, Jeff Jarrett and Brian Lawler. Hennig's team won the match when he pinned NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ron Killings. He got a title shot the following week on the October 16 NWATNA PPV against Killings but lost due to interference from Jarrett. Hennig got another shot at Killings on October 23 NWATNA PPV where the match ended when Hennig lost due to similar interference from Mr. Wrestling III. on the October 30 NWATNA, Hennig had a No. 1 contenders match against Jarrett, but lost via DQ. On the November 27 NWATNA, Hennig teamed with B.G. James to challenge NWA World Tag Team Champions Disciples of the New Church but failed to win the titles. Hennig received his last World title shot on the December 11 NWATNA, this time against new champion Jeff Jarrett, but he failed once again to capture the gold. Hennig wrestled his last TNA match (and last ever) on January 8, 2003 NWATNA, defeating David Flair in a "Axehandle on a Pole match".
Hennig was married to Leonice Leonard. They had four children: Joseph, Amy, Kaite, and Hank. On February 10, 2003, Hennig was found dead in a Tampa, Florida hotel room, at the age of 44. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office declared acute cocaine intoxication to be the cause of his death. He further stated that steroids and painkillers also contributed to his death. Hennig was survived by his parents, Larry and Irene; two brothers, Randy and Jesse; two sisters, Sandra and Susan; wife Leonice; two sons, Joseph and Hank; and two daughters, Amy and Kaite. Two of his children, Joseph and Amy, are also professional wrestlers. His mausoleum is at Gethsemane Cemetery in New Hope, Minnesota. He was still the FOW Heavyweight Champion when he died. The title had to be vacated and Hennig was considered the last champion before Future of Wrestling folded later that year.
WWE aired a video tribute as well as words from friends and former co-workers Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross on Raw following the news of Hennig's death. TNA paid tribute to Hennig by displaying his wrestling singlet and a framed photo as he was employed by TNA at the time of his death. A tribute song about Hennig, "Perfect Friend", was featured on the 2003 "Macho Man" Randy Savage album Be a Man. Other peers including Hulk Hogan,Ric Flair,Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels have also commended Hennig's in-ring talents. Scott Hall has also stated that Hennig was directly responsible for developing Hall's professional wrestling career. During his WWE hall of fame speech, Bret Hart spoke highly of Hennig, stating 'Anytime I wrestled Curt was basically a night off' referring to Hennig's ability to wrestle well and safely in the ring.
Hennig's widow, Leonice, signed a WWE Legends contract on her husband's behalf.Wade Boggs, who appeared in a vignette with Hennig and was a friend of his, inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31, 2007. His wife, his four children, and his parents accepted the award on his behalf. On July 4, 2007, Hennig was posthumously inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Waterloo, Iowa. His father, who was inducted the prior year, represented him at the event.
On September 9, 2008, WWE released a two disc DVD set focused on Hennig titled The Life and Times of Mr. Perfect. Promotion for the video included Charlie Haas spoofing Hennig's memorable sports vignettes at a Dave & Buster's on Raw. Finding that he was incapable of performing those feats, Haas decided "there was only one Mr. Perfect." The week after the DVD's release, its first week possible, it went to number one on the Billboard Recreational Sports DVD sales list.
Hennig was mentioned on Raw 1000 by his old friend Bret Hart, who acted as the guest ring announcer for the night's Intercontinental title match. Hart stated that one of his best moments was winning his first ever Intercontinental title from Hennig, and described him as "one of the greatest superstars that ever lived".
Hennig's son Joe now uses the ring name Curtis Axel, representing his father's first name and his grandfather's nickname, respectively. He then went on to win the Intercontinental Championship in 2013 at Payback on Father's day, and he dedicated his victory to his father. This title win makes them the first, and only, father-son duo to hold the championship.
Hennig was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, New York in 2015.
Hennig appears in the following video games: WCW/nWo Revenge, Showdown: Legends of Wrestling, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007, WWE WrestleFest, WWE Legends of WrestleMania, WWE All Stars, WWE SuperCard, WWE 2K16, WWE 2K17, WWE 2K18 and WWE 2K19.