Paul Heyman is one of WWE’s greatest orators; thus, not one to shy away from a microphone.
However, he did show some hesitation when the company approached him about the idea of a project chronicling his life on DVD.
“I was not happy about it,” Heyman said. “I had no idea what take WWE was going to have on a look back on what I’ve done so far. You never know the story that they want to tell. It’s a deeply personal issue to me because it’s me. I wasn’t sure what direction it was going to take. So being a control freak that had no control over, the creative content involved, I was apprehensive to say the very least. Plus, it puts me in a position where I have to talk about stuff from 20, 30 years ago, and I hate spending time looking back.”
The finished product is “Ladies and Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman,” available on DVD and Blu-ray. Heyman’s unique journey through this industry can resonate with anyone who had a dream or goal they wanted to accomplish. It’s one of the most captivating releases the company has produced. The controversial figure finds the positive response overwhelming.
“You don’t have to know anything about the wrestling business to enjoy it,” Heyman said. “I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who have absolutely no product knowledge of sports entertainment, pro wrestling, WWE. They don’t follow it at all, those who have checked out the documentary and loved it. So I’m very honored that we’ve done something that not only can appease those who loved to know a piece of history, but also those who have absolutely no fandom involved in this industry and still find it to be a compelling life story.”
He’s been hearing from many he hasn’t spoken with in a long time.
“I can’t tell you that I’m surprised by that, because when something like this comes out, you would expect to hear from a lot of people that you haven’t heard from in a long time. I am humbled by the praise that even my critics have been giving this documentary. Obviously, it has touched a nerve. One of the keys to longevity in this industry and success in this industry is you have to hit a nerve. This has lived up to some people’s expectations, which is most gratifying to me.”
His first hustle came selling movie posters through the mail at age 11. From there he shot photographs at WWE events and created content for his own magazines. He found his way sitting in booking meetings headed by Dusty Rhodes and promoted at the famed Studio 54 by the time he reached his 20s. He had successful stints working for numerous companies including WCW as a commentator and manager of the Dangerous Alliance, a faction made up of some of the biggest names.
Heyman proved himself as a visionary and trendsetter in developing ECW and its talent as the alternative product in pro wrestling. It led to him officially signing on with WWE in 2001 and returning again in 2012 after more than five years. The student of the game was able to look back at the good, the bad and the ugly with the documentary.
“People are going to think I’m in character when I say this, but telling the truth was a marketing decision,” Heyman said. “I’ve never done a shoot tape. I’m not a fan of the concept of doing a tell-all. So I didn’t know the questions in advance. I challenged them to come out at me as hard as they wanted to. The only thing I requested in the entire buildup to sitting down and doing the interview was saying, ‘let’s do it all in one shot. I don’t want it to be in my house or in my office. Can we build a set kind of like the [talk show host and journalist] Charlie Rose interviews, and I want a table in front of me. I just want to sit at the table, and we’ll schmooze. That’s how I approached it. That was the only request I had. It put me at ease to just be asked questions and deliver the answers.”
You hear from those who knew and worked with Heyman through the years like magazine editor and historian Bill Apter, former ECW owner, Stephanie McMahon, Tommy Dreamer, CM Punk and countless others. However, viewers are given a rare and intimate perspective of Paul Heyman, the family man and father of two children Azalea and Jacob.
“I don’t’ know if that’s a softer side of Paul Heyman or just a strategy I’m implementing as a parent to raise my children a certain way,” he said. “My daughter is 12, and my son is 10. My daughter is a social media expert and launched an Instagram account marketed towards kids about two years ago. She has over 100,000 Instagram followers already. She has built that all on her own with no help from me, nor has she asked for any help from me. She has people messaging her everyday with sponsorship offers. ‘Hey, I’m launching t-shirt line. Can you take a selfie wearing my t-shirt? I’ll send you 10 t-shirts for free.’ It’s headbands or wristbands or a new sneaker from a sneaker company.
“It’s amazing how ambitious she is in that world and how balanced she is with the right way to market it and take her time in making it grow. She has done a remarkable job doing it. She is a true promoter at heart. My son is the more soft-spoken of the two for now. He is very good at production. As shown for a moment on the DVD, he worked on the set when my agency Looking for Larry did a shoot in Los Angeles two years ago with Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk and Jim Ross.
“He has worked on other sets with me since then, not limited to people in WWE or video games. He has worked on other commercial sets with my agency. He is very good at it. He is not only a good assistant director, but he is very sharp when it comes to edit points and a different perspective of how a video can play out.
“Whether that means they are starting their long journey in this industry or whatever industry they choose, I let them choose their own path. That’s the path they have both chosen. It’s funny because I do production and social media, so I can’t say I haven’t been influential on them. But they are certainly their own characters in it of themselves.”
These days Heyman has never been better as an important fixture on WWE television. He lends advice to the likes of Cesaro and broadcaster Renee Young, as well as representing Brock Lesnar. The outspoken New Yorker never lets fans forget he is “the one behind the one in 21 and 1,” a reference to his client ending The Undertaker’s beloved undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX. Now attention turns to SummerSlam where Heyman will walk the “Beast Incarnate” down the aisle to challenge John Cena in the main event for the WWE world heavyweight championship. The consummate businessman has something to say to fans who call Lesnar a part-timer who shouldn’t win the gold.
“I don’t know if any of those critics of privy to an agreement Brock Lesnar may or may not have with WWE,” he said. “So I don’t understand how anybody can credibly say this is what Brock Lesnar’s schedule is going to be when he becomes the WWE champion. Second, I think the WWE championship is the defended too often and lost some of the prestige because of the beast of monthly pay-per-views. The champion having to defend on every single pay-per-view, let alone at every single arena, has taken away from the special event that is when a champion defends the title.
“Here is the best example I can give you. Why don’t we just do 12 WrestleMania events a year? I mean it’s the brand name in pay-per-view. You know people understand that WrestleMania means it’s something special and unique and doesn’t happen all the time. It’s can’t miss. Well, you can’t do 12 WrestleMania events a year because then you water-down WrestleMania, and it won’t mean as much on the rare occasion you present the brand name WrestleMania.
“It’s the same with Brock Lesnar. If you present Brock Lesnar 52 weeks a year and you have Brock Lesnar defend the title 12 times a year, you’re losing money. You’re not making money because you are watering down the unique opportunity that the audience can have to see an once-in-a-lifetime athlete on the rare occasion that he dons the tights and laces up the boots and goes into the ring to beat people within an inch of their lives.
“Plus, here is one more thing to consider. If Brock Lesnar were to work a full-time schedule he would wipe out the roster at once. There would be nobody left for him to fight. So how can people be clamoring for Brock Lesnar to be work a full-time schedule? Then you’ll have three hours of Brock and Paul Heyman sitting alone in a ring talking to each other because there would be nobody left for Brock Lesnar to conquer.”
Known as someone on the pulse of what’s current and relevant, he can predict what WWE will be in the coming years.
“I see sports entertainment headed into an era dominated by the conqueror that is Brock Lesnar, who will main event WrestleMania until he is tired of doing so,” Heyman said. “Let me correct that, edit that. He will main event WrestleMania after WrestleMania after WrestleMania until he is tired of doing so.”
After watching “Ladies and Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman” and reflecting on his track record, that could be a statement hard to refute.
• Follow Paul Heyman on Twitter @HeymanHustle.
• “Ladies and Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman” on DVD and Blu-ray is available now.
• John Cena defends the WWE world championship against Brock Lesnar 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Aug. 17 on pay-per-view and WWE Network from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
For everything surrounding the event, visit www.SummerSlam.com.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.