Would you believe me if I told you there’s a guy out there who’s been named of the Top 100 Global Marketers in Advertising Age Magazine, was a promoter at Studio 54, helped pen a book about an MMA superstar, was a promoter at Studio 54 and is also one of the greatest wrestling managers of all-time?
If I said his name is Paul Heyman, all doubt is gone. Before we get into any of his established wrestling background, we should talk about the man himself. One might think he was a marketing genius from birth…and you’d be right. As a teenager he ran his own sports memorabilia company. As teenager he hustled his way into the inter circle of the greatest wrestling minds of the 1970s as a ringside photographer and fanzine editor. Hell, he was even groomed at one point to become the main competition for Howard Stern back in the early 90s.
His wrestling chops are legendary and it was his tongue and his brain that propelled him to fame. Paul Heyman did not wake up one day and said “I want to run ECW.” It started way before then. After his run as shutterbug Hh became a manager, dubbed as Paul E. Dangerously, a take on Michael Keaton’s character in the movie Johnny Dangerously. Essentially Heyman was himself, but a bit over-the-top, being a cynical New Yorker always carrying a giant mobile phone. Well, they were pretty hefty back in the late-eighties. Runs in Florida, Memphis, the AWA, Continental with Eddie Gilbert eventually lead to his run in Jim Crockett Promotions (which became WCW).
It was his work as an underhanded and verbally dominating force which led him to World Championship Wrestling and forming the Dangerous Alliance. Let’s not forget, his voice was well received at the commentary table as he sat alongside Jim Ross, and made television history as the two would have their own verbal feuds.
What Paul Heyman would do, is speak his mind. Many did not realize this is what he was best at. Twisting truth into storyline. This came to a reality, upon the creation of Extreme Championship Wrestling, when he conspired with Shane Douglas and Todd Gordon to break away from the ailing NWA to create his own ECW. Once this unfolded, Heyman took a number of strong talents, and taught his own brand of marketing. Marketing the individual with your own voice. Have a problem with someone? Use it. Have a problem with a rival promotion? Speak loud. Heyman would go onto be the spokesman for ECW, as the owner, the promoter, the manager and more.
So what about all this makes Heyman so great? He ran ECW which had a cult following, so what?
Ever hear “like a fine wine, it gets better with age” used to describe something? It applies to someone, that one being Paul Heyman. With time, he has become a master of the verbal delivery. He never minces words, as likely he is speaking some portion of truth in his statements, and to similar effect, he uses just the right words to spark a reaction from a crowd. His facial expressions continue to be priceless, adding that spark of intensity, of realism to events transpiring in and out of the ring.
To be perfectly honest, Brock Lesnar owes his career to Paul Heyman. He has zero mic skills, but it was thanks to Heyman and his perfect representation of who Brock Lesnar is, he sold Lesnar to the audience and truly made him into the “Next Big Thing.” No doubt Brock was an impressive wrestler upon his debut, but had not been for Heyman supplying the promos, Lesnar likely would not have reached the success he has today.
My favorite moments are hard to pin down. I would start off with his vintage “call the ECW hotline” promos during their television shows. I kid you not, he would put over his talent, both in character and out of character, and then tirade about the “other two shows” putting on mediocre matches. I never did call the hotline, but I was always struck by his brashness, being so unorthodox in his manner of speaking the truth about WWF and WCW, while simultaneously cutting promos on his own ECW talent.
His early promos were also equally as impressive, introducing talent who he outright would bash WCW and WWF for never giving a chance to. I kept thinking, “Is Heyman going to get in trouble for this? Can he even say that?”
Another great memory is the era when both WCW and ECW were acquired by WWE. WCW was officially bought out, while ECW folded and thanks to Heyman were able to come to WWE. It was Heyman’s no holding back promos and joint commentary with Jim Ross which stuck with me in the early-2000s as The Alliance formed and began to dominate the WWE roster. One often wondered how much was real, and how much, if any, was scripted.
Do you remember the first ECW One Night Stand? The WWE-produced pay-per-view was mostly run by Heyman. He got the opportunity to cut a promo, and while his open hate for Eric Bischoff and JBL were apparent, the fact he said what we were all thinking stuck out the most. He called out Bischoff for saying he would be running WWE, while instead here he was, WCW gone and attending an ECW pay-per-view, while also reminding JBL he was WWE Champion for as long as he was because Triple H didn’t want to work SmackDown. Sure, both Bischoff and JBL stayed in character to no-sell, but we all knew the truth.
In was only a year ago where Paul Heyman stood alongside CM Punk. You had two of the greatest verbal masters of the microphone together. Each and every week they out did each other. It was watching a masterpiece unfold.
Going back to facial expressions. The reaction from Paul Heyman when Brock Lesnar pinned The Undertaker to end The Streak was incredible. No words. Beyond priceless. Beyond comprehension. He acted as if he didn’t know it was coming (being the show is scripted, he did).
A final favorite moment came, just a couple weeks ago, when Heyman cut the promo of the century. I cover it my RAW reviews, but here are the facts. Heyman kept it within reality. No storyline here. Acknowledging fans both cheer and boo Cena, how WWE keeps Cena as their poster boy, how Cena always wins his marquee matches. All truth. He also reiterates how Heyman was there, at ringside when The Undertaker’s streak was ended by Brock Lesnar. Heyman talked about everything real about the business, about how the fans react to the “trend of the month” and even how Cena is who he is because WWE made him that way. He kept to storyline, when talking about Brock Lesnar is not interested in wrestling, he just wants to beat Cena up. He will punch his face in and inflict damage. It comes down to a “wrestler” versus a former UFC Champion.
Why do I nickname him the Rabbi of Wrestling? Easy. Paul Heyman is a modern-day Bobby Hennan as it relates to announcing, commentary, and maganging. Where Heyman excels is the fact he sells everything he does. He does not hold back, he markets himself, he markets his job, he is the best salesman I have ever seen. You believe everything he says.