I am a Paul Heyman guy. I was a Paul Heyman guy long before I ever realized that I was a Paul Heyman guy. When I was 14 years old, I used to sneak down to the basement in our family’s modest home where we had a VCR, and an old RCA box television. There, I would put in the most recent episode of ECW Hardcore TV that I had acquired from whatever Apter magazine I had borrowed from our local library that week, and sit memorized by the gritty, raw and “extreme” characters I was watching. Even earlier than that, when I was a mere eight years old, I can vividly recall going across the street to my friend Lewis’ grandmother’s house (because she had cable) and watching WCW Worldwide and loathing the Dangerous Alliance. Paul Heyman, or Paul E. Dangerously as I called him long after I knew that wasn’t his real name, shaped my childhood, and in many ways influenced the man that I would later become (my friends have come to say, on multiple occasions, that I could sell s*** popsicles in Alaska).
So, with that in mind, to say I was eagerly anticipating WWE releasing a documentary feature on Paul Heyman might be the understatement of all understatements. The man, and his mind, resonate in so many memories, and moments, in my life. And given the other incredibly captivating documentaries recently produced by WWE (including CM Punk, Triple H, Mick Foley, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock), I knew this piece had the potential to be the most memorable DVD documentaries of our age. Who has a better story to tell than Paul Heyman? The letters ECW still strike a chord with diehard fans nearly 15 years after the final “real” ECW show took place. Even the very name Paul Heyman itself drums up some of the most passionate, and polarizing feelings imaginable both with professional wrestling fans, and professional wrestlers themselves. I absolutely couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this one.
When Tuesday, August 5th finally arrived, I calmly drove my car as fast as I possibly could to my local DVD retailer to purchase my copy. Then, in a very calm and collected fashion, drove even faster back home. I cleared my day planner (read: fed the cats, and ordered a pizza), and (again) calmly tore into the wrapper and jammed the Blu-Ray into my player. It was time.
Two hours has never flown by so quickly in my entire life. My wife might argue that we have different ideas as to how long three minutes actually is, but that’s another topic for another time. I was completely enthralled by this documentary, and I hung on to every single word. I never wanted it to end.
Following the usual format of a WWE documentary, talk of early childhood, early wrestling influences, breaking into wrestling, career in wrestling, and current involvement are covered, essentially in that order. However there is nobody better at making something so “usual” feel so extraordinary and captivating. Much like CM Punk’s documentary before it, Heyman’s documentary is narrated by the man himself. Sometimes WWE will allow the “talking heads” interview segments to tell the story, and carry the DVD along, but in this case, they allowed the master storyteller to weave his way through the ultimate highs, and the ultimate lows that encompass a 30-plus year career. Stories of Heyman “hustling” his way into Madison Square Garden at 14-years old, claiming Vince McMahon Sr promised him a press pass, or again hustling his way into a production meeting held by NWA booker Dusty Rhodes are riveting, and move the documentary along quickly.
As influential, and revered as the man is, the name Paul Heyman doesn’t exactly lend itself to a clean-cut reputation. We have all heard the stories of bounced cheques, flying talent on bereavement flights to save money, and so many others that would be impossible to believe if you didn’t know any better. If WWE made an attempt to gloss over those parts of Heyman’s career, I would have been disappointed, but I would have understood. Tales of Heyman’s questionable business/personal practices have been told in other documentaries. But, largely, this piece dives into the controversy head-on. Taboo topics such as being fired from WCW, filing bankruptcy in ECW, being fired from WWE, and many others are covered in great detail, with excellent insight from those interviewed. In this documentary, you get a sense that Heyman embraces his controversial track record, appreciates why some might think less of him because of it, but does not shy away from the fact that it exists, and shaped the man he has become today.
It was with great interest that I awaited finding out who WWE and Paul Heyman chose to interview for his piece. It was easy to assume guys like Tommy Dreamer, Joey Styles, and Jim Ross would be included on the set, as both are on good terms with World Wrestling Entertainment, but what about others like Gabe Sapolsky, who was one of Paul Heyman’s confidants towards the end of ECW, or Tod Gordon, who had sued WWE to attempt to regain the rights to some early ECW footage? Happily I can say my worries were laid to rest. The list of interviews reads like a who’s who in professional wrestling, including the usual suspects (Dreamer, Styles, Ross, RVD, Lesnar, Punk), but some great surprises as well, including Larry Zabysko, Tod Gordon, Ron Baffone, Sapolsky, Raven, Bill Apter and others.
It would have been easy for WWE to fall into the trap of making this “just another ECW documentary.” And while ECW, its demise, its resurrection, and its ultimate demise are covered, in detail, this doesn’t feel like a rehash of something we’ve already seen. Paul Heyman gives fresh insight to what his position was, even on stories many diehards have all heard thousands of times in the past. An equal amount of time is spent both on things ECW, and things that aren’t ECW. The documentary really feels balanced, and gives a full sense of Heyman’s entire career.
As can be expected of a DVD featuring a non-wrestler, there really isn’t a lot of wrestling to be had in this documentary. With that said, WWE owns the footage (and rights) to the majority of Heyman’s entire career, so the inset pieces used are a wonderful addition to the storytelling process. Even footage from the Memphis territories, for which master copies do not exist, looks fantastic on this release. The entire documentary is presented in widescreen format, with older footage being panned/scanned, and cleaned to be presented in a more viewer-friendly format. ECW footage looks incredible, especially considering the shoestring budget their production “department” was on, and the number of years that have gone by since it was originally taped. A tip of the hat to WWE’s production team on this release. It couldn’t have been easy cleaning up some of that older footage, and they’ve done an incredible job here.
What really ices the cake are the Blu-Ray extras. I’m not even sure how to put to words how much value these add to the entire presentation. This documentary flows, and leaves you feeling as though you have a complete sense of Paul Heyman’s career, his family life, his goals and his regrets. The special features, however, add layers to this DVD that are invaluable to the overall presentation of the DVD. I’ve tried my best to avoid spoiling anything on the feature presentation, and I won’t spoil the special features either, but they truly make the set. The story of the text message sent by Paul Heyman to Stephanie McMahon after the death of professional wrestling legend and Hall of Famer Mae Young was enough to bring this grown man nearly to tears. On the flip side, Joey Styles’ wedding story is an absolute riot that nearly brought tears of laughter. Remember when you would read the last few pages of a book first, before starting from the beginning? Don’t be afraid to throw in the special features first, and then continue by watching the feature presentation. You honestly have to see and hear some of these stories to believe them.
Needless to say, I highly recommend purchasing this documentary as soon as possible. Retailers are selling out moments after they put this on their shelves, and for good reason. This is, without a doubt, the very best documentary WWE has ever produced. The feature presentation, at exactly two hours, flew by and left me wanting more (the ultimate accomplishment in the professional wrestling business). The extra features have had me glued to my television set for two straight days. Every free moment I have had, I have found myself in front of my television, captivated by what I am watching. You are doing yourself a disservice by not having this in your collection. Ladies and Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman is absolutely masterful.