Paul Heyman is one of the two greatest wrestling minds in the history of the business. His creativity, craftiness, brash behavior, and host of other admirable but not entirely likable features are surpassed by only Vincent Kennedy McMahon himself. Eric Bischoff doesn’t belong anywhere near this conversation. He was a businessman whose business happened to be wrestling. Heyman and McMahon live and breathe by wrestling and everything that comes with it. It’s because of this that both men are constantly credited with creating the best angles, and developing the greatest talents. This isn’t about Vinny Mac, though. However small a spotlight it may be, my intent is to shine it on The Walrus Paul Heyman.
I finished watching “My Name Is Paul Heyman” on the WWE Network and immediately altered my writing plans to work on this piece. It was a fascinating watch. Paul Heyman is the kind of intensely driven man I try to be: the kind of man who will stop at absolutely nothing to get where he wants to be. He wanted in to the world of wrestling from a young age and he went out and fought his way through a river of s—-y people to get there. It started with a camera. He took all his money from his bar mitzvah and bought that aforementioned camera to take pictures of wrestling to add to his self-run wrestling newsletter.
Not long after, Heyman would have his first idea for one of his trademark “Heyman Hustles.” He found a gossip column that claimed Vince McMahon Senior ate lunch once a week, every week, at the same restaurant in New York when he was in town with the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation). This is long, long before the World Wildlife Foundation took back the F. This is back when Vincent Kennedy McMahon was working his way up through his father’s company, going from a television announcer to his own small promotion given to him by daddy dearest; long before he bought out all the Eastern Territories from his father’s competition. Sorry, back to the point: after learning McMahon Senior ate at that same restaurant, he called up the offices of WWWF. He then claimed he was at the Senior McMahon’s table earlier in the week and that McMahon had promised him a press pass for an upcoming event in the city.
McMahon bought it and sent him the pass. So Heyman strolls into Madison Square Garden, which is where the WWWF would hold their events, and he sets up at ringside to take pictures of what were the big leagues at the time. He wasn’t even 18-years-old at the time. As you’d expect, Heyman was ruthless. One of his fellow photographers from his time at MSG is interviewed for “My Name Is Paul Heyman” and blames Paul for losing out on several pictures that would have been purchased for the covers of wrestling magazines. Heyman would constantly cause him to miss his chance to take pictures by running up, elbowing that chump as hard as he could, and then snapping the picture for himself. Some might call that under-handed; I say f—k yes! Good for Heyman. He knew where he wanted to be and he knew ruthless behavior would be required to get there.
The wrestling world is gritty and cutthroat. Not enough people can see through the circus for the truth. Wrestling isn’t a circus; it’s a gladiator show with a story. People want to see wrestlers kick the s—t out of each other. Heyman always knew to give his audience blood and it completely captured their attention, fostering the foulest, most obnoxious, and incredibly awesome crowds. ECW was always a show. That’s why Heyman’s efforts went quickly noticed by Vincent Kennedy McMahon. I’m skipping far ahead on the Paul Heyman story, but honestly, he’ll tell you his story way more interestingly than I ever could. If you don’t have the WWE Network, get your hands on a DVD or Blu-Ray copy of “My Name Is Paul Heyman”. It’s fantastic. I’m most interested in exploring the striking similarities pointed out to me in the documentary between Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman. It really got my mind working.
Let’s say the stars aligned a little differently. Let’s say, somehow, someone in charge over at WCW had their eyes open wide enough to see the man they had in front of them. Let’s say Paul Heyman got control of the company, rather than Eric Bischoff. I genuinely can’t say where we’d be today, in regards to the world of wrestling. If there was anyone who could have beaten Vince McMahon, it was Paul Heyman. The anti-establishment, full of piss and vinegar Paul Heyman may very well have put Vince out of business. He’s always been in tune with the fans. He knows the talent. The interviews on “My Name Is Paul Heyman” are littered with some of the greatest names in the business constantly regurgitating the word genius. It’s incredibly well earned.
Look at what he did with ECW. He ran a constantly on the bubble company and captured a massive, incredibly loyal fan base. If you watch this documentary and then the one about Mr. McMahon that WWE put together, you’re going to hear a lot of the same words being said. You’ll hear words like: genius, crazy, integrity, asshole, arrogant, etcetera. I believe that Vince saw the similarities and tried to keep Heyman close. He worked with him, essentially using ECW as a developmental program. Heyman was obviously happy to work with Vince. He respected McMahon for the genius he was and acknowledged it. He was also nowhere near the position to truly challenge WWE. His bank account simply couldn’t handle it.
Paul Heyman has come in and out of the WWE since ECW went out of business. He led Smackdown to its highest ever ratings period, untouched to this day. He accomplished this by pushing the Smackdown six, a group of WWE Superstars consisting of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Edge, Rey Mysterio, and Kurt Angle. They wrestled an incredible series of matches, including Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle vs. Edge and Rey Mysterio at No Mercy 2002, and Los Guerreros vs. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit vs. Rey Mysterio and Edge at Survivor Series 2002. Five out of the six would go onto become Heavyweight Champions, with only Chavo never having worn one of those two elusive straps. Those six men would all call themselves Paul Heyman guys.
That became an angle for WWE. Paul Heyman guys are guys who Paul Heyman helped build. Men like CM Punk, Rob Van Damn, Tommy Dreamer, the aforementioned Smackdown six, Big Show, Mick Foley, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Stone Cold Steve Austin would all call themselves Paul Heyman guys. That is a list of some of the greatest names ever in the entire history of the business. They will all be in the books with the rest of the greats. If Paul Heyman didn’t go into wrestling, he would have made either a great film director, or a phenomenal cult leader. His high intelligence lends to a diverse and wildly effective verbiage that caused even me to fall under his spell.
I didn’t begin this with the intention of writing a sterling review of “My Name Is Paul Heyman.” Really, the original title of the article was “I Want To Be A Paul Heyman Guy,” but I guess it couldn’t be helped. If you’re reading this, I highly recommend you watch the documentary. Honestly, you could probably find it on YouTube. I don’t work for WWE. Feel free to watch it for free. I won’t tell. It’s worth the watch. Paul Heyman has a fascinating story and he tells it eloquently throughout.