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THE FINAL COUNTDOWN - Top 10 Paul Heyman Guys
By Mr. Tito
Oct 20, 2013 - 12:08:43 AM
Since 2012 following the Extreme Rules Pay Per View, the WWE has endured the return of Paul Heyman. Since Heyman's return, he's represented Brock Lesnar, managed CM Punk and then turned on Punk, and now he is attemping to assist the careers of Curtis Axel and Ryback.
Long before 2012, Heyman has managed and assisted in the careers of many other wrestlers. Many WWE fans tuning in now may not know of Heyman's storied career. Aside from booking and operating Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), he was an on-air character and manager for many wrestler. He was a great manager of heels and helped many wrestlers get much needed heat and attention from their promotion simply by being their mouthpiece and creating chaos in match through distractions or interference. It's no wonder why Heyman was a strong booker because he understood what got over and what didn't through actual experience.
For today's FINAL COUNTDOWN, we'll attempt to analyze the Top 10 Paul Heyman Guys and we'll dig deep into Heyman's 25+ year career in pro wrestling. And as usual, to enhance this experience, click here for some quality "music". To qualify for the list, the wrestlers had to (a) be managed by Paul Heyman or (b) belong to a stable operated by Heyman. Wrestlers doing additional things with Heyman following their managerial associations with Heyman provide bonus points.
TOP 10 PAUL HEYMAN GUYS
Honorable Mention: Ryback and Curtis Axel are still newer Heyman guys and therefore, need more time to earn spots on this list. Ditto for various other Dangerous Alliance members and "Mean" Mark Callous who would later become the Undertaker in the WWE.
10) "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert - Easily argued that Paul Heyman is an "Eddie Gilbert Guy". Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert was not only good wrestler, but he had a knack for booking backstage and was highly influencial in the Mid-South Wrestling territory (or Universal Wrestling Federation) growing through 1987 before it was ultimately purchased by NWA Mid-Atlantic (which eventually became WCW). Between the time when Paul Heyman worked for American Wrestling Association (AWA) and NWA Mid-Atlantic during later 1987 and early 1988 (I believe), Heyman worked for the Continental Wrestling Federation (CWF) territory based out of Alabama . There, "Hot Stuff" was the lead booker and a wrestler. Heyman not only joined Eddie Gilbert "Hot Stuff Inc." stable as their manager, but behind the scenes, Heyman was became Gilbert's booking assistant. This connection was important because it was "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert who was the head booker of "Eastern" Championship Wrestling (ECW) and he brought in Paul Heyman during 1993 to be his assistant there. Who knows what would happen to ECW if this connection never happened during the late 1980's.
9) (Tie) Tommy Rich/Austin Idol - Paul Heyman's wrestling career mainly started by writing and taking photographs for Pro Wrestling Illustrated. But working closely with the business, you start to make connections and promoters that like your work might give you a chance. Working a few independent gigs eventually found Paul Heyman working for Continental Wrestling Association (CWA - formerly named Southeastern Championship Wrestling) territory based out of Tennessee. Working as a heel, the company pushed him as a New York based "yuppie" that always carried a phone on him as if he was so important that he could be anywhere without it (seen as high class during the 1980's, but not now). In that territory, of course, you had to deal with Jerry "the King" Lawler. Their feud drew a ton of heat going against local hero Lawler and the heat with Paul Heyman Guys would continue when Lawler joined AWA (including the reunited Midnight Express team of Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose). The association with Rich and Idol was possibly the first big success of Heyman's managerial career and it would get him noticed by two major promotions in the future with AWA and NWA/WCW.
8) Kurt Angle - Probably not thought of by most as a "Paul Heyman Guy", Kurt Angle needed Paul Heyman to turn heel during to 2002 with WWE management wanting to try Brock Lesnar as a babyface. Heyman turned on Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2002 by appearing to be Big Show's agent and then turned on the Big Show by appearing to also be Kurt Angle's agent. Heyman's involvement with Angle allowed go to the darkside and put some major heat/hype on the year's ongoing Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar feud, including actually headlining Wrestlemania 19. One of my favorite moves by Paul Heyman for Kurt Angle was the introduction of "Team Angle". The way Paul Heyman talks up both Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin as collegiate wrestling greats instantly got them over and firmly established them as a tag team force to reckon with. Kurt Angle turning into a "Paul Heyman Guy" was very important for the business Angle did with Lesnar for the next year.
7) (Tie) "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton & Arn Anderson - My favorite entry as both guys were parts of other teams and/or managed by other rival managers. Arn Anderson was a member of the Four Horsemen that were eventually managed by J.J. Dillon. Meanwhile, "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton was a member of the Midnight Express which rivaled Paul Heyman's version of the Midnight Express while Eaton was managed by Jim Cornette. However, by late 1991, Eaton found himself as a heel and joined the Dangerous Alliance along with Arn Anderson who needed something to do with the Four Horsemen disbanded (Flair went to WWE). Together, under the Dangerous Alliance, they were a successful tag team that won the WCW Tag Titles and held onto the titles for almost 5 months in 1992.
6) Sabu - During Heyman's early ECW days, back when it was called "Eastern" Championship Wrestling (ECW), Heyman did manage a few wrestlers while also doubling as the company's lead writer during 1993-1994 before eventually remaining mostly backstage. Sabu was one of the wrestlers he managed and Sabu was able to win the ECW Television Title and ECW World Title under Heyman. Heyman's booking and managing helped put Sabu on the map insomuch that World Championship Wrestling (WCW) grabbed Sabu in 1995 as part of their many ECW talent raids. Sabu wasn't in WCW long and rejoined ECW where he'd remain until early 2000. Sabu would later rejoin Heyman in 2006 for the WWE-based ECW reboot through 2007. Sabu was promoted strong by Paul Heyman and ECW was the perfect setting for a character and performer like Sabu to succeed.
5) "Stunning" Steve Austin - Some of you are like, "Stunning" Steve Austin? I thought his name was "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Years before he joined the WWE, he was a World Championship Wrestling (WCW) performer from 1991 to early 1995. Soon after his debut, Austin won his first WCW Television Title and would become one of the best title holders of that belt between 1991-1992. Later during 1991, Austin would join the Dangerous Alliance led by Paul Heyman (or Paul E Dangerously). In my opinion, joining Heyman and the other collection of wrestlers in the Dangerous Alliance stable helped legitimize Austin in his early career. During 1992, for example, he was wrestling greats like Barry Windham and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat. Being a proud TV Champion under the Dangerous Alliance helped establish Austin as a potential superstar in the pro wrestling business. Austin would win some Tag Team gold in 1993 and then the United States Title in 1994. Then, Hulk Hogan was signed by WCW and any chance of Austin making it big in WCW were gone. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, a Hogan friend from their WWE days, took Austin's title.
Important for Austin's career was his time between WCW and WWE. Austin joined Extreme Championship Wrestling (WCW) briefly during 1995 but working under Heyman proved to be invaluable to Austin's career. Heyman allowed Austin to cut promos freely and much of that work helped shape the "Stone Cold" character we'd later see. Austin took out his anger on WCW and the way he was ushered out with Hulk Hogan joining the company. To this day, Steve Austin is bitter about his WCW exit and has refused to work with Hulk Hogan on anything.
4) "Ravishing" Rick Rude - After being denied the WWE title in his feud with the Ultimate Warrior, Rick Rude left the WWE during late 1990 and eventually surfaced in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) during 1991 at Halloween Havoc 1991. Heyman revealed Rude as the man behind the Halloween Phantom and Rude would go directly after the United States Champion Sting. Rude would join the new "Dangerous Alliance" stable and act as the cornerstone for the group before eventually leaving it in 1992. More importantly for Rude, joining the Dangerous Alliance and being revealed under Heyman made him a serious wrestler in WCW and was taken much more seriously as an in-ring performer than just a gimmick. Why WCW didn't push Rude towards its World Title during 1992, I'll never know. But don't worry, Rude won the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship in 1993 (sarcasm on that made-up title). Sadly, Rude's true potential as a main eventer was cut short due to a back injury during 1994.
To further Rude's case as a "Paul Heyman Guy", Rude joined ECW during late 1996 to "**** with the Franchise" for a feud with Shane Douglas. Rude put on a mask, yet again, and came out to taunt Shane Douglas. ECW fans were excited when they heard Rude's voice and were further excited when Rude's appearance ushered in Pitbull #1's revenge on Shane (as Douglas injured Pitbull #1's neck). Rude's official reveal was epic but he soon turned heel to join Douglas when the Franchise offered his valet, Franchine, to share. Rude would also serve as ECW color commentator along with Joey Styles to form one of the most awesome announcing duos ever. Rick Rude's "solid oak table" call still makes me laugh after an ECW particle board table shattered like glass upon landing. Rude would eventually get some DX managerial work in the WWE but would soon leave both ECW and WWE for WCW only. Rude remains the only talent in pro wrestling history to appear in both WWE RAW and WCW Nitro due to RAW still being taped at the time. Rude remained with WCW until his death in 1999 where he was reportedly attempting an in-ring comeback.
3) (Tie) Midnight Express - Randy Rose & Dennis Condrey - Lost in the tales of pro wrestling is the "BATTLE OF THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS". During 1988 and through early 1989, there were 2 teams feuding heavily with each other and for the right to be called "the Midnight Express". One team, "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton and "Sweet" Stan Lane were managed by Jim Cornette while the other team, "Ravishing" Randy Rose and "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey were managed by Paul E Dangerously (Paul Heyman's managerial name). Not only did you have 2 teams actively competing in many great tag matches over the name, but you had 2 managers aggressively attempting to cheat on the outside. Jim Cornette, playing a preppy silver-spoon-in-his-mouth character, carried a tennis racket. Paul E Dangerously, playing a New Yorker, carried a clunky cordless telephone (could have been the early cell phone model?). You never knew when either the tennis racket or phone could get involved with the match along with Cornette and/or Dangerously trying to distract the referee.
The Midnight Express team has its roots in 1981 when Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose teamed up, the team Paul Heyman would eventually manage. They wrestled in the Tennessee based Southeast Championship Wrestling, along with a few other team members, until 1983. Dennis Condrey would jump to the Mid-South Wrestling territory (Bill Watts famous territory that ran Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi back in the day) where he'd team up with Bobby Eaton and become managed by Jim Cornette to form the NEW Midnight Express. However, by 1985, Jim Cornette and Bobby Eaton jumped to the NWA Mid-Atlantic territory (Virginia and Carolinas), the promotion eventually bought by Ted Turner that would become World Championship Wrestling. Bobby Eaton would tag up with "Sweet" Stan Lane to become yet another NEW Midnight Express which was also managed by Jim Cornette.
Meanwhile, Dennis Condrey would reunite with his old tag team partner, Randy Rose, in Minnesota based American Wrestling Alliance (AWA) and be managed by Paul E Dangerously. Paul Heyman and the wrestlers he managed were in regular feuds with Jerry "the King" Lawler. By 1988, Rose, Condrey, and Heyman would all travel NWA Mid-Atlantic which was beginning a major talent expansion to go national and compete against the WWE. Thus, you had 2 different teams in the NWA/WCW with the names "Midnight Express" and both teams staked their claims to the name. Rose/Condrey were the originals but the legacy and team name traveled through Bobby Eaton and Jim Cornette. They feuded heavily for the rest of 1988 and continued through early 1989 but ended with Dennis Condrey left NWA/WCW shortly before the big payoff match of the feud at NWA/WCW Chi-Town Rumble Pay Per View. Cornette's Midnight Express won the feud but that didn't deter Heyman from finding new Paul Heyman guys to get revenge. Heyman soon began managing the Samoan Swat Team (Samu and Fatu, with Fatu eventually becoming Rikishi and also the father of Uso tag team currently in the WWE).
It was a hot undercard feud during 1988-1989 and they merely fought over a tag team name. No titles needed... Just a reason to hate each other, the way pro wrestling ought to be. If the WWE ever released a DVD full of Midnight Express battles from 1988-1989, I would drop top dollar on that.
2) CM Punk - The official creator of the "Paul Heyman" guy term... Heyman was only his manager during 2012-2013 to fully complete CM Punk's heel turn following the RAW 1000 episode when Punk attacked the Rock. Adding Heyman allowed CM Punk to become a full blown heel instead of the "tweener" he was after the Rock attack, confusing fans as to whether he was still a babyface or a heel. While CM Punk's winning fortunes weren't good under Heyman (2 losses to the Rock on Pay Per View, loss to John Cena on RAW, loss to Kane on Paul Bearer memorial RAW, lost to Undertaker at Wrestlemania 29), CM Punk drew great heat as a heel and was especially entertaining with Heyman during the Undertaker feud. Paul Heyman even dressed up as Paul Bearer to mock the Undertaker to play mind games before Wrestlemania 29. After Wrestlemania 29, Punk took some time off and returned to wrestle Chris Jericho. Punk no longer wanted Heyman's assistance to win matches and Heyman, of course, took offense. Heyman ordered Brock Lesnar to attack and it led to the huge SummerSlam 2013 showdown. Heyman and Punk continued the feud thereafter with newer "Paul Heyman Guys", Curtis Axel and Ryback.
What makes Punk an even bigger "Paul Heyman" guy is how much Punk looked up to Heyman as a mentor during the early stages of Punk's WWE career. Heyman was high on Punk during the WWE's developmental territory for much of the 2000's before switching to Florida, Ohio Valley Wrestling at a time when Heyman took over as OVW's booker. Then, when Paul Heyman began writing for the rebooted Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) brand, Paul took care of CM Punk once again. Without Heyman, CM Punk's WWE career could be significantly different. Punk is an extremely talented performer but the WWE has thumbed their nose at indy developed wrestlers. If anything, Paul Heyman's backing of CM Punk and convincing WWE management that Punk could be viable to a wider audience could be Paul Heyman's greatest achievement in pro wrestling (aside from ECW as a company).
1) Brock Lesnar - Was there any question? Paul Heyman, as Lesnar's corner guy, helped add legitimacy to a debuting Brock Lesnar during 2002. While Lesnar's massive size, impressive ability, and deadly F5 finisher caught fans' attentions early, Heyman backing Lesnar was a serious deal. Heyman was with Lesnar from his debut through Survivor Series 2002 when Heyman, of course, turned on Lesnar. But Heyman was with Lesnar when he won his first WWE Title at SummerSlam 2002 and Lesnar was on his way to headline a very successful Smackdown brand extension which was actually booked by Paul Heyman. Heyman, after turning on Lesnar, would back Lesnar's rival, Kurt Angle and play a role in their great 2003 feud. Later during 2003, Paul Heyman would become Smackdown's General Manager and was reunited with Lesnar again. Lesnar, of course, left the WWE by Wrestlemania 20 during 2004.
For further proof of Brock Lesnar being a "Paul Heyman" guy, who else but Heyman was called upon to help write Brock's autobiography?
Brock Lesnar would return to the WWE during 2012 after Wrestlemania 28 and after the John Cena match at Extreme Rules 2012, Lesnar would come at odds with Triple H and "quit" the WWE. Heyman would then act as a legal representative for Brock Lesnar to engage Triple H on Brock's behalf. The beauty about Paul Heyman working with Lesnar this time around was that Brock Lesnar has limited dates on his contracts and Heyman's presence for Brock kept the storylines moving. After Wrestlemania 29 and upon CM Punk's return from a brief break, Heyman showed who was the TRUE Paul Heyman guy by having Brock Lesnar assault CM Punk on an episode of RAW. Heyman would lead Brock Lesnar to a match with CM Punk at SummerSlam 2013 which is arguably one of the best matches of all time. Lesnar would win at SummerSlam possibly thanks in part to some interference by Paul Heyman.
Make no mistake, Paul Heyman has been incredibly important to Brock Lesnar's WWE career both at the beginning and now with the return. Paul Heyman helped define his WWE career and in my opinion, Brock Lesnar was better for it as a pro wrestler.
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