I was a “Paul Heyman Guy” long before it was particularly cool to be one. The 1992 Dangerous Alliance in WCW remains one of the finest factions of all time, even allowing for the fact that WCW had to somehow kill off such a fantastic collection of stars because they had the temerity to get over. So it was with great anticipation that I received the latest WWE home video release “Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman”.
Although the WWE has a track record of less than accurate historical documentary releases, hopes were high for this one. After all despite some cunning subterfuge and evasion by Heyman, where he suggested the WWE were doing this without any input from his good self, he is indeed involved left, right and centre. Given the excellent Rise and Fall of ECW release (highly recommended if you haven’t already seen it, by the way) where Heyman’s fingerprints were all over it, you knew that if this new release and his input into it came close to capturing the passion and excitement Heyman brought to his wresting career then we were surely in for a treat.
And the good news is, that is exactly what we are in for.
Quite simply this is up there with the best video-bio’s the WWE have ever produced. The tale of Paul Heyman going from a ringside photographer to arguably the most influential promoter in North America in the mid 1990’s (in style, if not necessarily in terms of profit) before finding a niche in the WWE that endures to this day is certainly one you could not have predicted when he broke into the business.
Heyman is a passionate and engaging character who has seen a lot in his varied career. Whilst you cannot believe EVERYTHING that he says on his substantial interview that links this together, you cannot argue with his passion for the business of wrestling. Add his voice to those of relevant talking heads like Bill Apter, CM Punk (yes, he’s here), Larry Zbysko, various ECW backroom staff, Raven (who has obviously been forgiven to a degree for attempting to sue the WWE), Edge, Brock Lesnar, Jim Ross and Stephanie McMahon and you can see the care and attention that has been put into this.
After a quick opening package detailing the end of The Streak, we quickly move to Heyman speaking about his upbringing and how his mother and father molded his character (his mother survived the Holocaust) before tales of Paul’s first hustles in the wrestling business. These included getting access to the hallowed halls of MSG and even infiltrating into Dusty Rhodes production meetings in the NWA. His adventures in the territories are covered, complete with some entertaining archive footage (with Jerry Lawler admitting he didn’t like Heyman when he was in Memphis) before our guy turns up in WCW with the “Original” Midnight Express. One minor disappointment for me was the lack of time dedicated to the Dangerous Alliance (one of the great factions of the era) but you can’t cover everything in minute detail.
The long section on Paul’s involvement with ECW is naturally a compelling segment of the documentary. It’s no mere rehash of the Rise And Fall DVD, with Heyman offering new insights into the running of the business such as insisting he never took a penny off Vince McMahon whilst he ran ECW. There’s some nice quick clips of the early days of Eastern Championship Wrestling and also plenty of cool backstage footage from the company’s Extreme time to watch too. A number of ECW alumni offer their opinions on the good and bad sides of Heyman and the section raises some interesting questions on ECW and their bouncing cheques. Tommy Dreamer rallies against “bitter” wrestlers who wouldn’t have amounted to anything at all without Paul Heyman’s booking genius and that anyone who wanted to walk away from the company could have done so. When considered in conjunction with Raven’s surmisation of a locker-room where a lot of guys didn’t have anywhere else to go, however, the manipulative side of Heyman’s character comes under the microscope. But hey, watch this and make up your own mind.
From there and the dying days of ECW, we follow Paul to the WWE. His love-hate on-screen relationship with Jim Ross is gone into as is his time as the head booker of Smackdown, a time which Heyman suggests was his finest ever in terms of pure “booking”. Stephanie McMahon pops up with tales of Heyman’s backstage conduct which segue nicely into his moving sideways to OVW to oversee that development territory and then to the “new” ECW and the almighty blow up between Heyman and Vince McMahon that led to his resignation/firing.
A brief section on his “outside” projects follows before his return to the WWE at the side of Brock Lesnar rounds off the documentary along with his new found “calmness” (to a degree, obviously) after the birth of his two children.
Quite simply the documentary is brilliant. It takes a balanced look at the good and bad sides of Heyman and his career in the wrestling business and if some of the talking heads understandably lean one way or the other, it all combines to offer a fair overview of the man himself.
In terms of extra, the match list is, as you would expect, rather slim. After all Heyman was never remotely a wrestler. A battle between the “Original” Midnight Express and the “New” Midnight Express (and no, that doesn’t mean Bob Holly and Bart Gunn) from 1989 is fun, especially seeing the interaction between our guy and Jim Cornette. Matches seeing Heyman team with Brock Lesnar (to take on the Hardy’s) and with Curtis Axel (to take on CM Punk in a handicap match) are faintly ludicrous, especially the latter which made little sense to me at the time and makes even less sense now. It’s also a sharp reminder, in the shape of Axel, that not EVERYTHING Heyman touches turns to gold.
Better are the TONS of promo’s, interviews and segments from across Heyman’s career in AWA, WCW, ECW and WWE. Proof, if it was ever needed, that the guy can talk. You can watch these and quite believe the way that, as many an ECW star has stated, that Heyman could manipulate that roster into going out there and putting their bodies on the line to make that company a success. There’s far too many to go into here, but a particular highlight for me is his pre Survivor Series 2001 promo on Vince McMahon which is up there in the top 10 promos/interviews of all time.
There are also some extra stories, or out-takes if you will, from the main documentary that are just as insightful and entertaining as many of those on the main feature. The WWE could probably do another two hour documentary filled with even more stories from Heyman and it would be just as entertaining.
So to sum it up, this is a must-have set for not only fans of Paul Heyman but for anyone who has been a fan of North American wrestling from the early 1990’s up until now. Fewer and fewer of those coming through into the WWE now will have the kind of varied experiences that Heyman has had on his way to the “big time”. He’s one of the last of a dying breed which makes this all the more a poignant but no less thrilling and exhilarating look at his career.
– By Matthew Roberts | @IWFICON
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch.fm for providing our copy of Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman. Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman is available DVD & Blu-Ray from Monday 4th August 2014. You can pre-order your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here.