Paul Heyman. Possibly the most polarizing name in pro wrestling history. Talk to one person and they’ll call him a visionary while another will call him a snake. One will call him a trailblazer; another will say he’s evil. Even his best friends admit you shouldn’t trust him as far as you can throw him. But there are a few things you can’t deny him. The man is a genius, a survivor, passionate, a pioneer, a mad scientist and one of the most influential men to ever step foot in professional wrestling.
Because of his most recent TV role it is often forgotten that he is much more than just a manager. He has literally seen and done it all, from his time as a teenage photographer blagging his way into big name events, on the commentary team alongside Jim Ross, head writer for Smackdown, current RAW executive director, owner of ECW and promoter for virtually every company he has worked for. He even managed to repeatedly blag his way into Dusty Rhodes’ production meetings, desperate to learn from the best. If Paul Heyman hasn’t done it … it ain’t worth doing.
Despite his success, everywhere he goes his reputation proceeds him and it has largely come about from being unashamedly rebellious, the same attitude which has helped him achieve that success. Heyman has never been one to follow the crowd, he will always put his neck on the line for anything or anyone he believes in. This bull-headed approach to business has proved as much of a curse as a blessing, earning Heyman a whole host of enemies in the past and leading to him parting ways with employers on multiple occasions.
A perfect example of his rebellious determination would be the rise and eventual fall of his very own creation – ECW. It was 1993 when Heyman decided the industry needed more edge, something a bit more real … something extreme. He went head to head with WWE, regularly insulting the competition and hurling abuse live on air. ECW was something we had never seen before, it was dark, sexy, and smeared with blood. Regularly depicting graphic violence and unashamedly pushing the boundaries of what could be shown on TV, ECW was a breath of fresh air. When the company ran into trouble financially, Heyman just wouldn’t stop. He would often not sleep for days on end trying to conjure up ways to stay relevant and secure another national TV deal. The man is quite literally a human cockroach.
It got to a point where the company couldn’t even afford to pay the talent, yet Heyman kept going and kept promising they would receive their wages despite nothing on the horizon to suggest that was even a possibility. Even in the face of certain bankruptcy, he couldn’t give up on his guys… ECW was a family and Heyman was very much the patriarch. He then surprised the world, and most notably his ECW stars by appearing on WWE TV. The ECW guys had no idea the company was no more, and Heyman instantly became public enemy number 1.
That was until they discovered the real reasons behind him keeping it a secret. Filing for bankruptcy would’ve resulted in him having to take back any wages paid in the months prior to the ruling… he wasn’t being deceitful, he was once again putting his neck on the line and keeping his promise to those superstars who thought he had deserted them. Love him or hate him, he’s honourable until the very end.
Over the last 5 or so years, he has managed to tone down this side of his personality and has instead put the majority of his time and efforts into his client and close personal friend Brock Lesnar. Paul has found a huge amount of success in everything he has done throughout the many chapters of his career, but his crowning glory has undoubtedly come about in his current persona of “The Advocate” for the beast incarnate.
We live in a time where unfortunately the role of managers are all but dead, though they are making a small comeback likely because of Heymans success in the role. Heyman is a wonderful reminder of the gold you can strike when giving someone creative freedom on the microphone. He’s a 54 year old man from a humble up-bringing who has quite simply become the best in the world at what he does … and boy he would be more than happy to tell you just that, he is his own biggest fan and rightfully so. There is simply nobody out there today who has been as consistently entertaining or impassioned on the microphone, and arguably no-one from the past either. This man could hype up a colonoscopy as the most exciting thing to do with your spare time.
There are a whole bunch of different kinds of promos, and Heyman has shown that he can deliver them all to perfection. He’s an artist and a master of his craft, proven in recent years by the way he has become such a fan favourite despite being a ‘heel’, with the attending fans helping him to deliver every single word from the opening of each promo (something he was quick to point out on a recent episode of RAW). You know you’re over when even your heel characteristics are welcomed by cheers from the crowds. He has the uncanny ability to incite any crowd with his intelligence and delivery, or by ad-libbing off of their reactions like the best stand-up comedians can do.
Unlike most managers and even superstars, Heyman is given a blank canvas to write his own scripts and craft his own promos without input from any others. The reason he’s given this opportunity? He has never let WWE down before; you will literally never find a bad Paul Heyman promo. Sure, the last couple of years have been spent mostly hyping up Lesnar in a fairly straightforward manner – introduction, hype, streak ender, spoiler, insult, done - but his promos are money. People will make sure to watch next week if they know Brock Lesnar is appearing on RAW. Except they’re not tuning in for Brock anymore, they’re sick of him… they’re tuning in to listen to, and see, Heyman.
One of Heyman’s most admirable traits is he gives credit where it is due. He knows he’s the best in the world, but he is also quick to acknowledge those who helped him to get there. He benefited from being able to draw knowledge and experiences from the brightest and best talkers in history while on the road travelling from venue to venue. Lessons like how to generate heat as a heel, get people interested in an otherwise bland storyline and the difference between cutting an entertaining promo and drawing money. He has often credited a who’s who list of legends such as Dusty Rhodes, Freddie Blassie, Austin Idol and Jim Ross for helping to mould him into the advocate we see today.
What sets him apart from the rest of the bunch is the clear as daylight passion for what he does. In a 2016 interview with ESPN.co.uk, Heyman said. “People come at me and go, ‘My job makes me feel alive.’ OK, well good for you. My job doesn’t make me feel alive, my job makes me feel ALIVE! I love what I do. I’m passionate about what I do. I live for what I do. And every morning I can’t wait to stop sleeping and to jump up and get out of bed and start doing what I do.” These aren’t empty words - whenever Heyman delivers a promo you can see, hear and feel how much he cares about and believes every single word he’s saying.
While he clearly has no plans to walk away from the business any time soon, it is always interesting to ponder what his long-term plan will be. So much of Heymans career is dependent on what Brock Lesnar wants to do. Thankfully his current role as executive producer on RAW has provided him with a back-up plan for if Brock does want to go back to UFC at some point and frankly it’s the best place for him. WWE without Paul Heyman in some capacity is like Christmas without the presents… nobody wants to see that.
Perhaps he might move on to another superstar? After all he has managed other big names in the past – the likes of Big Show, Cesaro, Tazz, Rob Van Dam and Rick Rude, leading them all to succeed, and later struck up a fantastic partnership with CM Punk. God knows there are plenty of superstars in the company right now who could benefit from a manager of Heymans quality. He still has a huge amount to contribute to the company and personally I would like to see him take control of both RAW and Smackdown if possible. RAW has been fantastic in recent months under Heymans leadership, and his input into this years Royal Rumble matches led to possibly the greatest Rumbles of all time. Bruce Prichard on the other hand may well have a fantastic wrestling brain and be full of great ideas, evident from watching "Something Else to Wrestle With", but he just isn’t cutting it on Smackdown at the moment. The show is getting worse and worse… you could say it resembles a dogs dinner… *ahem*…
In my opinion, Paul Heyman has been every bit as important and influential to professional wrestling as the likes of Eric Bischoff, Ted Turner and hell… even Vince McMahon. I’d even go as far as saying he was more important. While Vince has been playing it safe for the last couple of decades, Heyman has constantly pushed the envelope and made the others step up their game. He turned the guys around him into bonafide superstars, he gave us things we had never seen before in professional wrestling and he turned scripted fights between two men in pants into must-see TV,
Ladies and Gentlemen, his name, is Paul Heyman.