The Paul E. D(angerously) Project
By Mike Aires
Innovator, entrepreneur, ego manic, financial dartboard, manager, writer, producer, power hungry, director, owner, actor, and idiotic genius: These are all ways to describe a certain man that has revolutionized the way we look at wrestling today, but also caused many of the dominoes to fall for what sent wrestling into its current lull.
That man goes by the name of Mr. Paul Heyman, and after six years of being away from the professional wrestling area in an active capacity, he is back.
Most people know Paul Heyman as the man that created ECW, and later became a mouthpiece for Brock Lesnar’s debut in the WWE. But that really scratches the surface of what he has done, and what he can do again, now that he is back to once again being the right-hand man of the returned Lesnar.
Heyman has been around professional wrestling for three decades. He started out as a photographer at a World Wide Wrestling event at Madison Square Garden as a teenager before becoming a photographer/writer for wrestling publications. He made his official debut as a manager in 1987 on the northeast indy circuit before moving down to the much more high profile Florida Championship Wrestling. It was there that he started his Paul E. Dangerously character. Basically it was Heyman completely amped up (And he got the name because of his resemblance to Michael Keaton in Johnny Dangerously). Heyman quickly raised the managerial totem pole (if there is such a thing) before landing, in 1988, with Jim Crockett Promotions with what would be called World Championship Wrestling, aka WCW.
There, Heyman would dabble in being an announcer with a much younger Jim Ross, as well as managing some of the biggest names. Mean Mark Callous, Medusa, Bobby Eaton, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin, and Larry Zbyszko (Had to spell check that bad boy. Good lord). Paul E.’s “Dangerous Alliance” stable ruled the main event for most of the early 90s, and went up against the biggest names that WCW had to offer at the time (Sting, Ricky Steamboat, and the Steiners just to name of few). He was fired in 1993 for *allegedly* fudging expensive reports for a few months.
It was around this time that Heyman wanted to start his own promotion, but knew that he wanted something different. To him, “traditional” pro wrestling was becoming outdated and antiquated and needed to have a fresh spin. He got with NWA-driven Eastern Championship Wrestling, and shortly became the head of creative for the company. He was also managing a few wrestlers in front of the curtain, including the soon-to-be champion, Sabu (sound familiar?). Just a year after Heyman joined the company, NWA-ECW was the flagship program for the NWA brand, which was having major struggles.
It was then that Heyman and ECW decided to have their current champion Shane Douglas (and the company itself) denounce NWA, calling it a “dead organization” and denounce the NWA Heavyweight Championship, making the ECW title a “world-level” championship. This sent shockwaves throughout the wrestling world, and the following week, ECW completely broke away from NWA and was rebranded as Extreme Championship Wrestling. Under Heyman, utilizing a lot of lucha and Japanese type wrestling and using more shoot-based promos, ECW took off quickly, using it’s interactions with their fans to become well-known and have a cult-like following. ECW grew enough to become the 3rd biggest company behind WWF and WCW, and even had a television deal for a year with The Nashville Network (TNN). However the company lost their television deal with TNN when the network decided to go after WWF. On top of this, Heyman refused to give up control or delegate behind the scenes, and the WWF and WCW had started picking off ECW’s top talent. All of this led to a huge financial collapse, and the folding of the company in 2001.
A few months after the company’s demise, Heyman showed up on WWF TV as a commentator alongside old partner Jim Ross. He would handle those duties, as well as heading an ECW faction before becoming the manager of the debuting Brock Lesnar. After being in Lesnar’s corner, he became the SmackDown General Manager for a few years before going back to managing and helping with the ECW revival show (under the WWE) One Night Stand in 2005, and helping re-launch the brand (as a separate show like Raw and SmackDown) in 2006. Heyman did all of these while working as a writer and consultant behind the scenes. After Heyman saw that Vince McMahon was completely mishandling the rebranding of ECW, he left the WWE to work on his own media and news as well as help Brock Lesnar pen his autobiography.
This all leads us up to Heyman’s surprise, yet completely deserving return on Raw a little over two weeks ago, where we learned he was Brock Lesnar’s legal advisor and would be speaking on his behalf. The crowd seemed a bit dead for his return…but then again, unless they actually know their wrestling history, anyone under the age of 18 does not really knows who the hell Paul Heyman is.
But now that we got his history out of the way, we can look to what is more important right now: What Paul Heyman can do in the immediate future for the WWE.
I mentioned that his return was a surprise, but it also makes complete sense. Most people who know about him and/or Lesnar know that they are good friends and business consultants both in and out of the ring. With the contract of Lesnar supposedly having a limit of dates WWE can use him in the 1-year he is signed, brining in a mouthpiece to speak “on behalf” of Lesnar seemed both logical and extremely smart for business. It keeps Lesnar’s name on the lips of the announcers, and can start or further feuds…all with Brock not having to appear at the arena.
It’s genius that they are having Heyman do these things. First off, regardless of what the kiddos know, Heyman is a known figure, and a pretty big one at that. The first thoughts through a lot of people’s heads when they heard Lesnar was coming back were if/when Heyman would as well. So by brining Heyman in, WWE got some star power which is obviously always a plus. He also has a knack for words that come out of his mouth that automatically make you want to hate the guy. His inflections on words and the way he sometimes (purposely) over pronounces words for some reason make your ear hole want to strangle babies. Perfect example has been his use of Lesnar’s name the last two weeks. Every time he refers to him, he doesn’t say “Brock”, or “he/him”…he says “my client, BROCK LESNAR”, with a huge inflection on the name. It just sounds assholeish. It’s quite impressive. Just by having Heyman represent Lesnar on television can keep Lesnar’s heel heat up without him actually having to be there. Plus, I’m sure they are not paying Heyman nearly as much money as they are Brock. So financially, it makes sense.
But those are not the only benefits of bringing in Paul Heyman. Obviously, it is pure speculation on my part to try and decipher what Heyman will and won’t do in his return. He may legitimately only be back for a few months to be Brock’s mouthpiece when he is not there. However that would be a seemingly big waste to what Heyman can bring to the company.
He was one of the “pioneers” in shoot promos, all the way back in his Eastern/Extreme days. He told the wrestlers to speak freely about WWF, WCW, or the other competition. He helped many guys who are considered “good talkers” get to that very position. So pairing him up with other wrestlers who may need some help on the microphone, or having him help guys in the back with their mic work would do wonders for them.
He is also very good at scouting talent. It would take another page to write about people he brought in to ECW that learned their trade there before making it big, or guys that Heyman brought in and made into stars. Pair this with his usefulness with microphone work, and he would be a fantastic person to bring in as a consultant of some sort down at Full Sail University for FCW and NXT. They already have Jim Ross going down there to look at talent, which is wonderful seeing how most Attitude Era guys were JR signings. Bringing in Heyman would make a huge impact as well. I cannot think of a much better duo to scout talent then Paul Heyman and Jim Ross.
Finally, even though Heyman was not the best at handling budgets, he was great at crafting feuds, storylines, and matches. He was a writer for SmackDown for the first half of the 00’s, and it was a very good show. Obviously he would be a great asset in a producer/writer role. However the landscape of the WWE has changed quite a bit in the last decade since he was writing…mainly the PG rating. It might be a bit…difficult for the man who built “Extreme” to have to write things where Big Show cries on camera for 5 minutes.
All that being said…it’s great to have Heyman back on TV. Whether he is only back for Lesnar, or WWE works something out with him for him to help them (in ANY capacity), a little Paul E. goes a long way.
What do you guys think about Heyman being back? Is he past his prime, or can he still be a game changer in front of (and perhaps behind) the curtain? Should he finally cut his damn ponytail off since that’s all the dude has left?
Let us know in the comments section below. Yes, I know it’s not as fun to comment now since it’s logged through facebook, but I promise I will not stalk anyone. That’s reserved for ex-girlfriends. You can also hit me up with feedback on this column as well as other ideas for columns on my twitter hotline.
Also, remember to check out Headlines each and every Tuesday with Fozzie (@FozzieMB) and myself as we discuss news from the previous couple days. Next week should be normal (normal for us anyways), but the week after that follows Memorial Day so there might be a lot of rambling and incoherent curse words. You’ve been warned.
P.S. Yes, I named an article after a Jersey Shore spin-off. If you think that's weird, then obviously you do not know me at all.