The first thing you need to know about Paul Heyman is that he had more ambition and drive at 14 years old than the majority of adults have. He didn’t apply for a job, he created one. He didn’t ask for a press pass at Madison Square Garden, he said he was already promised one & they handed one over. He didn’t concede the floor to the more veteran & respected journalists, he slid right in front of them to get the best picture for his magazine. Yes, Paul Heyman, at 14, had created his own “dirt sheet”. Just at the beginning of puberty, he was going toe-to-toe with newsletters like the PWTorch and the Wrestling Observer. Heyman described his passion for wrestling & his ambition for the business when he said he didn’t only want to be a part of the business but he wanted to be a part of the magic that made pro-wrestling what it is.
Before moving to a larger, more prominent on-screen role, Heyman flew his way down to a Jim Crockett Promotions TV taping where Dusty Rhodes was the current booker. Heyman, true to his brazen nature, walked into the pre-production room with all of the other backstage personnel and sat in the farthest corner from where Dusty would be sitting. Upon his arrival, Rhodes immediately noticed the new kid sitting in the back corner of the room but instead of calling Heyman out in front of everyone, Dusty calmly walked over to where Heyman sat and asked to speak with him outside of the office. When Rhodes asked Paul who he was and why he was sitting in on “his” meeting, Heyman smoothly explained that he was there to take photos but was interested in learning more about the business & thought Dusty Rhodes would be a great teacher. After a LONG pause, Dusty responded that if Paul wanted to learn from anyone that he chose the best in the “great Dusty Rhodes” and to get back in the meeting. After that first encounter, Heyman would attend every meeting thereafter moving closer to Dusty’s inner circle every time.
Heyman would soon return back to New York City & once again talked his way into another job, the official photographer for Studio 54 at only 20 years old. When Studio 54’s head of promotion left for a rival club, Heyman convinced the manager that HE could promote for the club. And promote he did. The first event? A wrestling event where he attracted numerous celebrities and members of the NWA because he created a Wrestler of the Year award to present to the current NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair.
Paul Heyman’s stint at Studio 54 didn’t last very long as relatively soon after his successful NWA/Studio 54 event, he began managing in the Northeast before getting a call to join Kevin Sullivan and Oliver Humperdink as a manager in Championship Wrestling from Florida. This where he was first dubbed “Paul E. Dangerously” and moved quickly to Memphis and the Continental Wrestling Association where he joined Tommy Rich and Austin Idol in a heated feud with Jerry Lawler. Largely based on the success of this feud & others, Heyman made the jump to Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW. The new Paul E. Dangerously continued his managerial success by linking up with the Original Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose) in a feud with the new Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane) and their manager, Jim Cornette. Despite the success of this feud and the Paul E. Dangerously character in general, Heyman was fired as a manager by the head of WCW’s creative team at the time, Ric Flair but was quickly rehired as a color commentator when WCW’s main play-by-play man Jim Ross expressed his desire to work with Heyman on commentary. In 1991, WCW’s lack of top name heels & its desire to “re-structure” their heels led them to the conclusion that a new “Horsemen”-type stable should be formed with Paul Heyman as their mouthpiece. Heyman was immediately paired up with veterans such as Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko and a returning Rick Rude. The one wrestler Heyman lobbied to be in this new stable was the current WCW TV Champion, “Stunning” Steve Austin and thus the Dangerous Alliance was born. He had been watching Austin’s talent and knew Austin could learn how to be a main eventer from riding with Rick Rude (and I believe that worked out quite well). The Dangerous Alliance rode high through 1992 with Bobby Eaton & Arn Anderson winning the tag team championships and Rick Rude capturing the United States Championship while feuding with WCW’s top babyface Sting. But the Alliance’s time was cut too short as WCW hired Bill Watts who promptly fired Paul Heyman. Heyman admits that he sued the company & won a substantial settlement but can’t disclose anymore details. Now out of a job and looking for the next opportunity, Heyman headed back to the Northeast & Eastern Championship Wrestling. He was 28 years old.
The stories from the ECW-era where more of the same that have been explored in the past. There were a few moments where the truth finally came out & definitely some surprises. Heyman openly acknowledges that Vince McMahon contacted him about using ECW as a private developmental territory and offered to pay Heyman handsomely. Paul accepted the talent exchange agreement but refused to be put on the WWF payroll. Instead, Heyman insisted that McMahon make any payments to ECW’s parent company, HHG Corp. Therefore Paul Heyman never received a paycheck from the World Wrestling Federation or the McMahon Family until he became an on-air personality. One of the most surprising stories revealed in this documentary was that Shane McMahon almost bought ECW in 2000 when it was about to file for bankruptcy. He wanted to purchase the company in order to prepare for eventually taking over the WWE from his father Vince. That deal obviously fell through and ECW filed for bankruptcy. The controversy around Heyman appearing on WWF TV before ECW was officially bankrupt was purely a legal ploy. He couldn’t tell any of the ECW wrestlers but he knew that if he could keep the company open during the bankruptcy process then when the paperwork was finally approved, all of the payroll checks for the talent would be covered under bankruptcy and would be paid in full.
Once the Alliance/Invasion angle had run its course and Paul Heyman’s brief return to color commentary was over, Heyman was lost in a company that already had an overabundance of talent with the acquisition of the ECW & WCW rosters. Looking for his next big challenge, it was former ECW champion & current color commentator Tazz who convinced Heyman to look at what would be the “Next Big Thing”, Brock Lesnar. Heyman was immediately impressed by Brock Lesnar’s athleticism, his wrestling background, his youth and willingness to learn. After studying Lesnar, it was Heyman who pitched bringing Brock Lesnar up to the main roster to Vince McMahon but it was Vince who put them together on-screen after hearing Paul’s passion for Lesnar’s potential.
When time ran its course with the Heyman/Lesnar partnership, Heyman was placed as the General Manager of SmackDown with a good amount of creative input although Stephanie McMahon was still the head of the creative team. Only months into his run as the GM, he and Stephanie McMahon essentially switched roles as she became the new General Manager of SmackDown and Heyman took over as SmackDown’s head of creative. It was during this time that we saw a huge youth and tag team movement. Adam “Edge” Copeland fully credits Heyman as being the guy to give him a shot on his own & really break him out as a single’s star on SmackDown. In fact, during this time in WWE history, SmackDown/Paul Heyman skyrocketed Edge, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Booker T, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Hass, JBL, Matt Hardy and John Cena. That list contains Hall Of Famers Eddie Guerrero, Booker T & Edge with sure-fire future Hall Of Famers Kurt Angle, John Cena and Rey Mysterio. Yet despite some of the best SmackDown episodes in years, the WWE felt Heyman wasn’t really following their model and doing his own thing regardless of the input he would received and transferred him down to OVW to work with the younger talent.
CM Punk & Beth Phoenix where the two big names that were in OVW at the time Heyman took over. Punk was immediately thrilled to get to learn the business from one of his inspirations as a teenager who grew up with ECW. Paul Heyman admits that he didn’t know what he was getting into with OVW but was thrilled to be working with developing talent again & instantly clicked with Punk. CM Punk’s passion for all aspects of pro-wrestling made for a perfect student/teacher relationship even leading to Heyman asking Punk to help write some of the shows. Paul said about Punk, “I’ve never seen someone grasp how to put together a show as quickly as Punk. I was learning from Punk before I was done teaching him.”
Today’s Paul Heyman in the WWE is about having fun-loving being in the wrestling business purely as on-screen talent. Plus he still gets to work some of the younger talent, specifically Renee Young who he has taken under his wing. She proudly admits that she’s a “Paul Heyman Girl” and is learning more than she ever thought possible from Heyman. Many of today’s wrestlers see a total change in the Paul Heyman that walks around television now compared to many of his previous stints with the WWE. He’s much more relaxed and having fun compared to politicking & fighting over the simplest of matters.
“Ladies & Gentlemen, My Name Is Paul Heyman” is BY FAR one of the best documentaries WWE has ever released. Paul Heyman is brutally honest about his success and failures, his achievements and mistakes. No one interviewed pulled any punches and the list of talent interviewed is impressive in itself. Names such as Larry Zbyszko, Dusty Rhodes, Jim Ross, Joey Styles, Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Gabe Sapolsky, Tod Gordon, Stephanie McMahon, Edge, Brock Lesnar, Renee Young, CM Punk and Bray Wyatt are just a few on the impressive list of talent featured. You not only get a fantastic look back at a great talent’s career but you also get to truly now the man Paul Heyman. He’s open about everything in his lifetime and the man who shines through your TV screen is truly a man you will have the up most respect for.
Click below to listen to the exclusive interview I conducted with Paul Heyman: