Ladies and gentlemen, his name is Paul Heyman. He brought extreme wrestling to the masses, managed four WWE champions, and became one of the most talked-about personalities in wrestling history. Today, Heyman is back in the spotlight overseeing the warpath of the beast Brock Lesnar.
But, his life wasn’t always so bright. Before swinging back to WWE in 2012, the former SmackDown general manager had to endure corporate pressure as well as the loss of ECW –something he put his heart and soul into. Like any path to success, Heyman’s road had its bumps and he probably wants to forget about most of these. You’d be surprised at some of the things he’s done and experienced.
The man who brought you The Best in the World and is responsible for the “E-C-Dub” chants that still fill arenas today has a riveting story. It’s rife with exploits such as covering up incidents, lying his way into ringside at Madison Square Garden, and bumping heads with some of the biggest names in wrestling— when he wasn’t on camera.
You think you know Paul Heyman? You’re about to find out. We’re going to go on a no-holds-barred ride that will explore the 10 shocking things you never knew about Paul Heyman.
So, let’s get started.
10. Hustled His Way into WWE Ringside at MSG when He was a Teenager
What does it take to be Paul Heyman? It takes determination, cunningness, and the power of persuasion— all attributes that Heyman possessed when he was still in High School. Back then, he ran his own mail-order business selling movie posters from his home. But, he was determined to become a photographer for WWF.
Having no photojournalism experience, he decided one day see if he could get his hands on a press pass. Through a weekly newspaper, Heyman had learned that Vince McMahon Sr. ate at Ben Benson’s steakhouse with friends after WWF shows in Madison Square Garden. So, he called the WWF office and told receptionists that he worked for the fictional “Wrestling Times” and that McMahon Sr. had approved his press pass while having dinner with him at Benson’s.
After lying to the right amount of people, Heyman was told to report to the Holland Hotel to pick up his press pass. “He would lie to you if he had to,” said Raven during an interview for Heyman’s 2014 documentary. “He was known for lies.”
9. Faked Heart Attack to Mock Jerry the King Lawler
Heyman’s on-screen antics and controversy can make for great TV, but many say he takes it too far at times. One such time involved faking a heart attack on an episode of Raw to mock Jerry Lawler. Previously, The King had suffered a real-life heart attack during a live episode of Raw. So, WWE turned it into an angle with Heyman and his client CM Punk at the center. It was a controversial moment that didn’t even sit well with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
When asked about the stunt by the Baltimore Sun, he said, “I believe in pushing the envelope in an aggressive fashion. But when a guy damn near dies at ringside, let it go. You look at all the contributions Jerry Lawler has made in this business: from a work standpoint, a promo standpoint and then as a broadcaster. I think that’s pushing the envelope in the wrong direction. There’s better ways to go get real heat than that.”
On social media, Lance Storm called the move “cheap” and “pointless.” He even said it was so “out of character” for CM Punk that it “hurt.”
8. Has His Eyes Set on Hollywood
Can you picture seeing Paul Heyman’s name gracing the silver screen? It may happen one day. In fact, Heyman has been trying to find his footing in Hollywood since as far back as 2003, when he penned his first script. It eventually got optioned by New Line Cinema and other studios, but Heyman never went through with any of them.
During an appearance on the Steve Austin Show podcast, he said he always had “a different vision for the project.” He says he’s waiting for “the right time” when he can find a studio that shares that vision. However, it seems that Heyman will fight to have things his way – a move that sometimes leads him to burning bridges. This will become a reccurring theme as we progress.
7. Had Problems With Authority
On screen, Heyman portrays himself as someone who challenges authority and doesn’t take no for an answer. His real-life personality is not too different from the one showcased on TV.
As soon as ECW got picked up for the first time by a major television network, Heyman was already bumping heads with management at TNN (The Nashville Network). The network had originally wanted Heyman to begin the first ECW episode on TNN with an hour of original programming. Instead, Heyman decided to open with an RVD and Jerry Lynn match from the previous Pay-Per-View.
Heyman also took shots at TNN while on air. He expressed that ECW was just an experiment TNN conducted to see if wrestling favored with their viewers strong enough to pick up WWF and cancel ECW. The latter did happen even if Heyman’s rationale on the decision is questionable. Heyman fortunately found a home in WWF after ECW’s fall, but his attitude still got in the way of his success.
Stephanie McMahon eventually suspended Heyman. “He could not handle not being boss,” said Stephanie during an interview for WWE’s 2014 documentary Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman. Heyman’s biggest issue with WWE perhaps was his disapproval of how the company rebooted ECW, something Heyman had dedicated his life to. “It was so bad. It was so miserable,” Heyman said in an interview for his documentary.
6. Forced Wrestlers to Lie at Airlines for Discounts
Heyman wasn’t wealthy when he was trying to build up ECW, so he had to save cash anywhere he could. Some of his savings tactics, however, are rather questionable. For example, he made sure at least one wrestler per tour arrived to the venue via bereavement – a discount some airliners offered to passengers who were flying last minute to see a dead relative or attend a funeral.
Chris Jericho expressed his frustration with this tactic in his first book. At one point, he flew with Johnny Smith and both were supposedly mourning the death of their relative Chris Benoit, but they had trouble figuring out how they were “related” causing them to blow their covers. But, this example is only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to Heyman’s financial issues during the darkest days of ECW.
5. Put all Flight Charges on a Wrestler’s Personal Credit Card
In the early days of ECW, it was common for wrestlers to wear other hats when they were not kicking butt in the ring. Tommy Dreamer, for example, sold merchandise and promoted house shows at some points in his ECW career. Chris Candido’s other job was buying plane tickets for the ECW roster. Candido would purchase the tickets with his personal credit card and Heyman would pay him back. The agreement soured toward the end of Candido’s stint with ECW, however.
Heyman stopped paying him back and eventually fired him. Candido left ECW with more than $170,000 in travel expenses that he never got reimbursed for. Heyman even got Candido to sign a contract explaining that he would not sue Heyman or ECW for the money he was owed if Heyman dissolved Candido’s contract with ECW. The move would allow him to go to WCW. At the time, that’s where Candido had his eyes set.
Nonetheless, he left ECW broke and ended up selling his house to stay afloat. He said Heyman never explained to him why he was fired.
4. Got Paid by WWF While Working for ECW
At the height of ECW’s popularity, its die-hard fans were extremely loyal to the brand. They were so dedicated to ECW, that they openly bashed its competitors including WWF, which at the time was everything ECW was rebelling against. So, it may surprise some of these fans that Paul Heyman was getting paid by WWF owner Vince McMahon as ECW was crumbling. Under their agreement, WWE could use ECW wrestlers and Heyman got a weekly salary. ECW stars were even invited to “invade” WWF.
“There was no greater supporter of ECW than Vince … We were a shop for the industry,” said Heyman on his 2014 documentary. Heyman also admitted to a $1,000 “sponsorship deal” with the WWF.
3. Still Owes Wrestlers Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars
As ECW was collapsing, the company was struggling to accommodate the people who built it and were putting there bodies on the line for it– its wrestlers. According to ECW’s bankruptcy filings, wrestlers were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay. Rob Van Dam was owed $150,000; Joey Styles and Rhino were each owed $50,000; and Tommy Dreamer was owed $100,000.
As part-owner of the company, Dreamer had invested money in ECW. Furthermore, the ring truck was in his parents’ names. Dreamer left ECW with heartache to look forward to and even suicide ran through his head a few times. Dreamer spoke about this subject in detail during his appearance on the Steve Austin Show.
2. Undermined One of ECW’s Darkest Days
One of ECW’s most controversial moments involved a teenager being cut open in the ring and ending up in the hospital. ECW almost ended up in court. It happened in Massachusetts in 1996 when ECW superstar Axl Rotten was scheduled for a match against New Jack and Mustafa of The Gangsters. Rotten failed to show up to the venue that night. Of course, the show must go on.
So, a seventeen-year-old named Eric Kulas or Mass Transit, the wrestling bus driver, decided to replace Rotten. Kulas lied to ECW about being older than 18 and having been trained by Killer Kowalski. In fact, the teenager was very inexperienced. He was supposed to bleed during the match, so he asked New Jack to blade him – huge mistake.
Jack’s incision went too deep causing blood to shoot from Kula’s forehead during the match. As bloodthirsty fans looked on and Jack continued his assault on Kulas with weapons, Kulas’s dad rushed to the ring trying to stop the match. Kulas received 50 stitches and it took EMTs about 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. He eventually filed a lawsuit against ECW, but it was dismissed because he had falsified his records. A legal battle was not something Heyman was looking for at the time, when he was trying to get the attention of Pay-Per-View companies.
He told Wrestling Torch magazine that he had shown the tape of the now dubbed “Mass Transit Incident” to several companies including Request TV and had presented his side of the story. Request TV never saw the tape. ECW had also pulled the tape of the incident from sale. However, Heyman managed to cut a deal with Request two months after the incident. So, it’s safe for us to assume that Heyman is a master of persuasion. He got his show on Pay-Per-View even though a minor was seriously injured during the making of a typical episode.
1. Heyman Killed ECW
Paul Heyman put his sweat, tears, and other people’s blood into ECW, but his obsession to drive it with only his vision is what ultimately brought down the company.
He took a big risk by taking ECW out of its home base in the Northeast, where it enjoyed a large market share. Heyman luckily managed to have ECW picked up by a television network, ending ECW’s stint as a public access show and bringing the brand to the masses. However, Heyman’s refusal to work with the network ultimately led to the end of TNN and ECW’s partnership and it effectively put the nail in the coffin for the ECW that its fans know and love.
Heyman fortunately found safe haven in WWF and he was even given charge of the rebooted ECW – something that Heyman grew to despise because Vince always had the final say and it was clear that he was not planning on bringing back the old ECW. Heyman never approved of the WWE’s ECW and his hatred toward the company culminated in the 2006 Pay-Per-View event December to Dismember.
The show ended up finishing about 45 minutes earlier than a typical Pay-Per-View to an audience of 55,000 domestic viewers. It marked the lowest Pay-Per-View buy rate ever for WWE. After the show, Heyman left WWE. “What stands out most to me is seeing Paul Heyman cry,” said Matt Stryker for a story on WWE.Com. “The show went off air, I believe a half-hour or 45 minutes earlier than any other pay-per-view does and Paul Heyman is crying. It told me that Paul knew something I didn’t, as usual.”
In Heyman’s absence, ECW died a second time. However, Heyman has found his foot back on a WWE ring. He looks as energetic as ever and he appears to be enjoying his job.
Let’s hope it stays that way.
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