Whether it’s during a one-on-one telephone conversation; when he stands, microphone in hand, inside a World Wrestling Entertainment ring; or all those years ago, when he laid out his vision for upstart Extreme Championship Wrestling, Heyman has an ability to command your attention.
Where some might use an in-your-face style approach to command attention, Heyman uses meticulous, well-crafted and thoughtful words. So well spoken and delivered are they that more often than not, one is left believing every word he said.
Long before there were so-called ‘Paul Heyman’ guys, there was just Paul Heyman.
On this day, Heyman is at his eloquent best, while promoting his coming appearance at WWE Inc.’s marquee WrestleMania XXX. There, Heyman will be in the corner of Brock Lesnar, who will attempt to do something no man before him has done: knocking off the legendary and mysterious Undertaker, whose record sits at 21-0 on the grandest stage of them all.
Heyman, when asked about the significance of the 30th installment of Vince McMahon’s brainchild, likened it to all of the other major championships in sport.
“WrestleMania has become the show that is the centerpiece of the WWE year,” he said. “It’s where all the grudges get settled, and new ones begin, it’s where championships get determined, it’s where one era will end and another one will begin. It’s the end-all, be-all in terms of the WWE calendar for the successive years that it represents. This year, the 2013-2014 season ends at WrestleMania and the 2014-2015 season begins one minute after the show goes off the air.”
It’s been almost two years since Heyman returned again to WWE, where he had spent a number of years working following the bankruptcy of his ECW. During his time in WWE, Heyman has literally done it all — colour commentating, managing, creative, writing, even in-ring talent. But it is this current run that Heyman has most enjoyed.
“Very much so,” Heyman answered when asked if he was still enjoying his time in the business. “Not only still, but I’m probably enjoying it more than I ever have before in my entire career or in my life.”
Pressed on why he is enjoying this run more than others, he offered a number of reason, all of which are very personal.
“Number 1, I get to share it with my children this time around. Before, I either didn’t have children or they were too young to really appreciate the stage that I was on,” he said. “Number 2, ever since I’ve been back I’ve had a chance to work with my best friend Brock Lesnar and my other best friend CM Punk, so I came back to work with my two best friends and I’ve had a blast doing it.
“Number 3, I don’t have the pressure of being on the writing staff and behind the scenes so I get to spend my entire week obsessing over what I have to say or do on Monday night, or on pay-per-view. It’s a far more relaxed schedule just in terms of the demands of the job.”
Finally, Heyman believes, he’s at a good place in his private life.
“I’m older,” he said. “I have the benefit of a few more years of maturity, where I really understand what’s important in life and that’s if my children wake up healthy in the morning, everything else in my life is relative. Before, I would fight to the death over one word that I’d want to say on television that Vince McMahon may or may not have agreed with me saying.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to interject on a word that comes out of Heyman’s mouth. The man is nothing short of brilliant in front of a camera. His promos are the stuff of legend, often painting a vivid — and believable — picture right before your very eyes. He can push his belief or agenda like no one in wrestling today and few in history. It’s a skill, Heyman says, he came by honestly.
“I’m the son of a personal injury attorney, so I vividly remember my father staying up all night thinking about the way he would present his case to the jury,” Heyman said. “So he would put hours and hours and hours of thought into a 20-summation, or a 10-minute summation, that he’s going to make in front of the 12 members of the jury box. And it’s the same thing that I do now. I spend hours and hours thinking about all of the relevant points I want to make and then I try to present my argument to the WWE Universe in as concise and articulate a fashion as I can.”
So believable and convincing has been Heyman on WWE programming of late, and on this day, that he’s been making a credible and convincing case for Lesnar becoming the first person to defeat the Phenom.
It was suggested to Heyman that a single loss by The Undertaker at WrestleMania would forever tarnish what has become known simply as “The Streak.”
Not so, argues Heyman.
“It affects it ongoing, but you’re living in the fantasy that anything goes on in perpetuity,” he said. “And that would be like saying, 50 years from now, it’s not really WrestleMania because Vincent Kennedy McMahon is not around to write it and produce it. But I assure you 50 years from now, the tradition that Vincent Kennedy McMahon started in 1985 at Madison Square Garden with WrestleMania will live on through his children and grandchildren and whomever is running the company.”
A native New Yorker, Heyman reaches back in time to further his case.
“In the 1920s, the New York Yankees put together five consecutive World Series victories, and to this day, anybody who’s a baseball fan in New York goes back to the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and the glory days of the Yankees,” Heyman said.
To further his argument, Heyman presented another sports dynasty for consideration.
“It’s like when the Chicago Bulls three-peated the NBA championship. It’s the glory days of the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, and, just because Michael Jordan is now an old man and the Chicago Bulls have now been through two generations of lineups post-Michael Jordan, if you live in Chicago, then all you talk about is the three-peat of the Chicago Bulls.”
The so-called “Streak” is no different, Heyman argued.
“The Undertaker amassed 21 consecutive victories in 21 appearances on the grandest stage of them all. No one will ever be able to duplicate that feat. Brock Lesnar can’t, he’s been defeated at WrestleMania, John Cena can’t, he’s been defeated at WrestleMania … Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dwayne (The Rock ) Johnson, Andre The Giant, Hulk Hogan … name the biggest stars in the industry, in the history of this industry, and none of them will even come close to amassing a 21-match undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Just because it has to come to an end does not take away from the magnitude of the accomplishment of 21 consecutive victories at WrestleMania.”
What then, Heyman was asked, would be bigger; a win by Lesnar or the ending of “The Streak” itself?
“This has been my argument the whole time about this match, in that Brock Lesnar doesn’t have to win, but The Undertaker must not lose,” Heyman said. “So I don’t think The Undertaker losing is such a headline grabber as much as the right of passage of Brock Lesnar winning and snapping the streak and being the one man in Undertaker’s 22 WrestleMania appearances that figured out the way to beat The Undertaker.”
The conversation turns personal again.
Following the bankruptcy of ECW, a number of former ECW stars harboured resentment toward Heyman, many publicly, for how things ended, many owed money.
More recently, however, there seems to be a lot of forgiveness from some of those very same performers. Time, it would appear in many cases, has healed old wounds.
Asked if he was affected by either scenario, Heyman was of two minds.
“I’ve always been one to go by the mindset that I don’t pay attention to any negativity thrown my way and I don’t buy into the hype that’s thrown my way either,” he said. “My conscience is very clear in terms of what I’ve done in my life. And if there are people that have had a problem with it in the past, I’m glad that they’re over it. And at the same time, I’m gratified by the fact that people have nice things to say about me, but the only affirmation in my life that I truly seek is that of my children.”
Lest anyone doubt Heyman’s sincerity when it comes to what others think of him, the man himself doesn’t even give much thought to his own legacy.
“I get asked that question all the time, and I don’t have that answer yet because I’m not done accomplishing things,” he said. “So I don’t want to be remembered for what I’ve accomplished in my first 48 years. Give me another 48 years to accomplish some more and I’ll probably have a far more insightful answer to that.”
Sit back and enjoy the ride, folks.