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Posted in: LOP Hall Of Fame
2015 LOP Hall of Fame Inductee: Paul Heyman
By Mr. Tito
Mar 26, 2015 - 7:15:41 AM

Paul Heyman
Class of 2015


Follow Mr. Tito on Twitter.com: @titowrestling

It is my honor to induct PAUL HEYMAN into the 2015 LordsofPain.net Hall of Fame. It is quite possible that only Vince McMahon Jr. of the WWE was a bigger influence as a non-wrestler than Heyman. Throughout his time as manager of many wrestlers and owner/operator of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), he was able to get the best out of many wrestlers and was one of the biggest innovators in pro wrestling. Specifically, he helped the 1990's wrestling product evolve from the Southern or Cartoonish style that WCW and WWE were pushing. In addition to getting "extreme", he was able to convince a wide audience that guys wrestling in sweatpants and t-shirts (Sandman, Tommy Dreamer) were amazing wrestlers. Before, the accepted look was only hosses and bodybuilders.

First time I encountered Paul Heyman was during the late 1980's when Heyman was named Paul E. Dangerously and he managed one of the Midnight Express teams. Heyman and another manager named Jim Cornette had teams who claimed to own the "Midnight Express" tag team name and fought endlessly because of that. While the Midnight Express matches were amazing, the antics on the outside by 2 managers, Heyman and Cornette, added to the entertainment. Heyman, as Dangerously, always carried an early version of mobile phone while Cornette had a tennis racket. Of course, those weapons would always get involved with matches. After the Midnight Express feud, Heyman would bounce around as a manager and then join Jim Ross in the announcing booth. Of course, he amazing in that role and would later join Jim Ross on announcing during 2001 when Jerry Lawler briefly left the company.

Through 1991, Paul Heyman returned to managing full-time and he formed the Dangerous Alliance stable of wrestlers which included "Ravishing" Rick Rude, "Stunning" Steve Austin, "The Enforcer" Arn Anderson, "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, and the "Living Legend" Larry Zybszko. Specifically, Heyman helped turn Rude into a much serious wrestler than the playboy character stuck to in WWE while grooming Steve Austin to be the star of tomorrow. "Stunning" Steve Austin. In fact, Steve Austin would take a second helping of Paul Heyman influence... After WCW released Steve Austin during early 1995, Austin joined Heyman's ECW where Paul encouraged freedom of expression during wrestling promos. Heyman let Austin vent on the wrestling business and helped form the "Stone Cold" persona. Later during 1995, Austin joined WWE and with time, he became "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the rest was history.

Heyman went his separate ways from WCW and join "Eastern" Championship Wrestling (ECW) where, with time, he would become head booker, part-owner, and then the main owner. Soon, ECW would be rebranded as EXTREME Championship Wrestling and fought to challenge the traditional wrestling model. Heyman fully understood that wrestling fans knew that wrestling outcomes were staged. However, Heyman also knew that fans in the Northeast who grew up watching the Hulkamania Era were now older. Those fans still loved wrestling but they were older now... Thus, ECW began go push mature storylines, vulgar language, and heightened violence in matches. Fans in the Northeast ate it up and played along... Many outcasts from other promotions and unknowns were able to be packaged properly by Paul Heyman and become household names in pro wrestling. Then, Heyman would dig for talent in depths that WWE and WCW would ignore. Many wrestlers from Mexico and other international stars (Benoit, Malenko, etc.) started in ECW before getting raided by WCW repeatedly.

Could you imagine what Paul Heyman could have done with a bankroll like WWE or WCW, both backed by corporate money? If you have any disbeliefs about Heyman, just look at the talent raids that impacted his roster. Many call Eric Bischoff a "genius" for his NWO angle and stealing Hall/Nash from WWE. However, he thickened his roster by taking all of the Luchadore wrestlers and greats like Chris Benoit, Sabu, Public Enemy, and Dean Malenko through early 1996. Then, during 1997, WCW attacked again by stealing Raven, Perry Saturn, and Stevie Richards. WWE would need talent through late 1999 and would swipe the Dudley Boyz and Tazz from ECW. WCW kept on taking wrestlers including Sandman (or "Hardcore Hak") during 1999 and also attempting to steal Mike Awesome who was the current ECW Champion. The constant talent raids forced Heyman to constantly innovate new gimmicks and angles for his wrestlers even when the talent pool became too thin.

ECW was a legitimate #3 promotion during the "Monday Night Wars" era... However, the attempts to take ECW national proved to be difficult. When losing excess amounts of talent, if Heyman wanted to keep certain wrestlers around, he had to pay them more... Boosting production costs to improve the look of the shows didn't come cheap. Heyman brought ECW to Pay Per View during 1997 but the providers took an excessive amount of time to send payouts. The move to TNN during 1999-2000 proved to be difficult when airing on Friday Nights and with little promotion by Viacom. WWE would find that out later during 2000 when they joined TNN and helped to give ECW the boot from that channel. Massive talent raids and bad luck when attempting to grow the business. However, Heyman had a nice 8 year run despite going up against 2 publicly traded corporations backing wrestling companies. If you don't believe in Paul Heyman as a leader, consider how many ECW wrestlers were working for FREE when ECW had some financial issues at the end. Despite not getting paid, the wrestlers still believed in him...

Heyman joined WWE during 2001 first as an announcer and then as part of the WCW/ECW "Alliance". After the Invasion, he would eventually surface as the manager of the debuting Brock Lesnar during 2002. One could argue that Heyman has been the most important person in Brock Lesnar's professional life. As Lesnar's hype man, Heyman helped Lesnar get over despite Brock having some struggles expressing himself on the mic. Heyman knew how to market Lesnar and by SummerSlam 2002, the WWE was OK with Lesnar defeating the Rock to become WWE Champion. When Brock Lesnar would return to the WWE during 2012, Heyman would resurface in the WWE as, again, Brock Lesnar's spokesman. The beauty about Heyman this time around was that Lesnar's contract called for a very limited amount of Monday Night RAW dates. Thus, Heyman could appear often on Brock's behalf and since Lesnar barely spoke, it works well. The Lesnar return with the limited dates contract could have been a major failure but Heyman's effective speaking ability helped to fill any voids.

Paul Heyman's influence on today's WWE roster cannot be ignored. He was lead writer of the Smackdown brand extension during 2002-2004. In addition to Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman was able to book for Edge as a singles wrestler, the debuting Rey Mysterio Jr., and many developmental stars like John Cena and Shelton Benjamin. Edge, before injury, grew leaps and bounds as a wrestler and was showcased heavily by Heyman to continue the momentum after the Kurt Angle feud. Rey Mysterio disappeared after WCW's closure but Heyman pushed Mysterio HARD as a babyface sensation. One could easily argue that only John Cena outdrew Rey Mysterio as a babyface draw during the 2000's. John Cena, after a luck chance of dressing as a rapper during the Halloween 2002 edition of Smackdown, was booked by Paul Heyman during 2003. Give credit where it's due... The "Thug Life" gimmick was shaped and formed during 2003 while Heyman had the Smackdown book. Smackdown during 2002-2004 had the right mix of interesting characters, quality in-ring performances, and credibility towards its title belts that helped make Smackdown the #1 viewed show during that period of time (exceeding RAW regularly).

Continuing on the "influencing talent" theme, Paul Heyman would move on to become lead writer for the WWE's developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling replacing the man he feuded with in WCW over the "Midnight Express" name, Jim Cornette. With much of the talent now on the main WWE roster, Heyman had to be creative with talent again. Needing talent, WWE brought in CM Punk with some hesitation from various WWE officials on the signing. Heyman, however, immediately liked the guy and utilized him heavily on the Ohio Valley Wrestling shows. Not only that, but Heyman personally taught Punk about production and writing for wrestling shows. Without much support from WWE management, Heyman's teachings helped show CM Punk how to get over on his own especially on the mic. After his Ohio Valley Wrestling trip, Heyman oversaw the ECW reboot on the Science Fiction Channel (now SyFy) following 2 successful ECW "One Night Stand" Pay Per Views. Creative differences would eventually cause Heyman to depart from WWE until his 2012 return, but the ECW brand allowed Paul Heyman to continue teaching CM Punk and probably helping to influence other stars who were on that brand as well.

Paul Heyman has been a remarkable leader to wrestlers and influence on the industry. WCW's roster would have been thin during the mid-1990's before they stormed the Monday Night beach. WWE needed to steal ECW's mature storylines and beer drinking while continuing the growth of 2 key stars who had a brief stay in ECW before joining WWE: Steve Austin and Mick Foley. The 2000's WWE was lucky to have Heyman around especially through his influence on younger wrestlers who would become major stars (John Cena, CM Punk). With Heyman's recent success with Brock Lesnar, WWE will likely "lock up" Heyman for years to come just to keep him away from potential competitors. The Paul Heyman brand is strong and if WWE were smart, they'd seek out his services backstage to help WWE shows.

Heyman is a very worthy member of the LordsofPain.net Hall of Fame and any wrestling hall of fame for that matter. It is my honor to induct him and I thank LoP/Doc for letting me share my thoughts on the greatness known as Paul Heyman.

SO JUST CHILL... 'TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!

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