HomeWrestlingWWE: Ladies and Gentlemen, His Name is Paul Heyman (2014)

WWE: Ladies and Gentlemen, His Name is Paul Heyman (2014)

Up until 2014 across the professional wrestling landscape there was a lot that was left to be desired. The last few years has seen the business change in ways not seen since WWE’s most celebrated era of all time – The Attitude Era. In an age where the internet and social media dominate television, pro – wrestling has to try harder now more than ever to not only try to bring in attention from the mainstream but to remain relevant with their current audience. If you were to go back just a few short years ago and watched WWE Raw you would likely see John Cena in the main event against Randy Orton or something to that effect. Fast forward to the present day and the industry is arguably in the midst of another boom. While no where near the scale of the last one it’s hard to deny it. The British Wrestling scene has flourished and has grown to heights not seen since World of Sport was a regular on the ITV Saturday afternoon line-up. Watch Raw today and whilst yes you still have your John Cena’s and Randy Orton’s there are now much more colourful characters such as Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Cesaro to name but a few. Yet in an interesting note out of all of those names listed one person who consistently amazes and entertains better than 95% of those on the active roster is Cesaro’s manager and Brock Lesnar’s agent Paul Heyman.

New fans of WWE likely associate Heyman with former WWE Champions Brock Lesnar and CM Punk and as noted the current manager of rising star Cesaro. However to long-time fans he will most likely be remembered as the innovator and the driving force behind one of the most entertaining wrestling promotions of all time, the proverbial “little engine that could,” the extreme phenomenon simply known as ECW. To give you a bit of back story for myself as a fan I started watching professional wrestling in 2001 after both ECW and WWE’s other chief rival WCW collapsed and was absorbed by Vince McMahon. Without a doubt I now know I missed out on the biggest, most successful time period ever to be a wrestling fan. However looking back on history today I can say that I have seen numerous PPV’s hosted by both WCW and ECW as well as WWE and I can honestly say that with the knowledge of the business I now have, if I were to be a fan before 2001 ECW would’ve been my favourite promotion and I would indeed be a Paul Heyman guy. For those who, like me, were not around the wrestling business prior to 2001 I sincerely urge you to go back and check out as much footage as you can. For USA fans that couldn’t be easier with the WWE Network and us Brits will certainly get our turn before the year is out most likely. Paul Heyman assembled a group of talent together in a small bingo hall in Philadelphia and put on what was among the best professional wrestling television ever made. ECW may not have had the mainstream look and feel but as has been documented many times the 90’s saw the rise of grunge through rock hall of famers Nirvana which only made ECW seem more cool and more relevant. Paul Heyman was a consistent factor behind this and the group’s success.

Once ECW folded Heyman’s WWE career began and certainly had its ups and downs. Starting off forming a stellar broadcasting partnership with the legendary Jim Ross, Heyman was a key piece on WWE television helping the talent get over in ways the current roster wishes WWE’s current 3 man team of JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler would do. Removing Heyman from the announce desk so that Jerry Lawler could resume his position next to JR is still, in your writer’s personal opinion, a mistake. From there Heyman went on to form his first partnership with Brock Lesnar which after a rocky start formed into a blossoming partnership as Lesnar wasn’t great on the mic so Heyman took the reigns in that aspect whilst Lesnar performed his craft on the stick at house shows. Giving Lesnar a chance to fly solo the duo ended after a Heyman heel turn saw Paul cost Brock Lesnar the WWE Championship in a short yet memorable match at Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden back in 2002. After Heyman had a falling out with Vince McMahon over creative differences and suffered a real life injury he took some time off before being brought back as SmackDown’s general manager. A role which has been played out on professional wrestling television for going on a decade now didn’t do an awful lot for Heyman but at the least gave him a reason to be on television each and every week which is no bad thing given the promo skills of the “Evil Genius.”

In 2005 the success of WWE produced DVD the Rise and Fall of ECW convinced Vince McMahon that there was still some mileage left in the tank of the extreme promotion and after some persuading from former ECW standout Rob Van Dam, the dream became reality. Heyman returned to television and booked the ECW One Night Stand pay per view which was arguably one of the best pay per views all year. With matches that ranged from good to excellent (credit Masato Tanaka vs Mike Awesome) the ONS PPV was different from everything you saw weekly on WWE TV. Regardless of what some narrow minded individuals in the industry will tell you being different is always better. The success of that pay per view saw ECW make a return as full time brand in 2006 with One Night Stand 2006 also being a success and features one of the most memorable WWE Championship matches ever in John Cena vs Rob Van Dam. If you are not a fan of John Cena and haven’t seen that match you simply must go out of your way to do so, the crowd reaction to WWE guy Cena is one of the most incredible spectacles ever. Unfortunately for Paul Heyman after ONS 2006 it was all downhill from there. When ECW debuted on the Sci-Fi channel it resembled nothing of the ECW of old (or the last two ONS PPV’s) and was simply another extension of the WWE brand. A watered down Raw and Smackdown. WWE even tried to dim the lights in the arena ala ECW in its heyday. It was painfully obvious WWE didn’t have a clue what made Paul Heyman’s baby as successful as it was. The last Raw for Heyman was the downright disaster that was the December to Dismember pay per view which to this day holds the record as the least ordered PPV ever in WWE history. When you had The Big Show as your ECW Champion and guys like Sylvester Turkay and Elijah Burke on the card it was no wonder. To put it plainly, WWE’s ECW absolutely sucked. The audience let the company know it with their wallets and Vince McMahon solely placed the blame on Heyman’s shoulders. With Heyman not backing down he left the company (or was fired depending on who you ask) and didn’t resurface on WWE television again until 2012.

Crossover fans of both MMA and pro-wrestling still got to see Heyman as his real life best friend Brock Lesnar dominated the heavyweight division en route to capturing MMA’s most coveted spot – the UFC heavyweight champion of the world. After Lesnar’s battle with diverticulitis derailed his MMA career it became clear that a WWE return would not be far behind and fans of both Lesnar and Heyman salvaged the chance for both guys to return and creatively mix things up on WWE television. Paul became aligned with Lesnar once more becoming his on air “legal representative” and got involved physically with the likes of Triple H and Stephanie Mcmahon. However it was Heyman’s partnership with CM Punk that got people talking as it is well known CM Punk has always been able to handle himself on the mic cutting some of the greatest promos of this generation. So where would Heyman fit in? Simply by allowing Heyman to be at the side of then WWE Champion CM Punk was a benefit to both as Heyman was a heat magnet which would only increase representing the sleazy and arrogant Punk and looked like Paul would only represent the cream of the crop. Given both of his guys had demolished the majority of the roster and had the greatest matches Paul Heyman became the guy that you wanted at your side. Heyman even represented both Lesnar and Punk against their respective opponents Triple H and The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 29 in what remains a career high for the New York native. In an attempt to try and give someone else the “Paul Heyman guy” rub WWE paired other WWE superstars such as Curtis Axel and Ryback with Heyman over the course of 2013 however unfortunately this did nothing for any of the parties involved and the relationship was quietly dropped. Heyman’s inevitable split from CM Punk eventually led him to a showdown with Brock Lesnar at Summerslam in what was one of the year’s best matches. Make no mistake about it in 2013 CM Punk was more than carrying his end of the bargain. With the Heyman-Punk partnership severed Paul returned to Brock Lesnar’s side for Wrestlemania 30 in Brock’s history making defeat of The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 30. Make no mistake about it that since the end of the coveted streak Paul Heyman was been a gigantic heat magnet in the absence of Lesnar continuously reminding the WWE audience that “my client conquered the streak.” Lighting up WWE television each week WWE has seemed to try and get some of the success to rub off on Swiss superstar Cesaro. Initially seeming like a strange team due to Cesaro gaining a cult babyface like following opposite the greasy, greedy agent role of Heyman, the partnership has so far at least given Cesaro the opportunity to be associated with Heyman who as previously noted (with the odd exception) is only paired with big time players.

With a WWE DVD release on the horizon and a future on screen storyline with Brock Lesnar opposing either Daniel Bryan or Cesaro Heyman’s future looks extremely positive. There are a lot of things you can argue that WWE has done wrong over the years but putting Paul Heyman back on television and allowing him to do what he does best has been a stroke of genius. The manager role is one of the most underrated in all of the game today. For those who can’t talk you now have the perfect guy to do it for you in Heyman who is a fantastic promoter. His creative side is still as great as it ever has been and it almost seems a shame that TNA Wrestling never got Heyman after their attempts to pursue him didn’t end up coming to fruition. The aforementioned DVD release promises to be one of the most revealing and entertaining WWE personality profiles since CM Punk’s celebrated documentary and given the tumultuous relationship between the McMahon family and Heyman you can be sure for some fireworks on the documentary. There are many opportunities for Heyman to continue on his arguably most celebrated on screen run in WWE for the next few years and without a doubt there will be many superstars lining up to be able to proudly declare that they want to be a “Paul Heyman guy.”

– By Matt Roberts | @matrob90

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