On Raw this week, somehow, some way, Paul Heyman was back in a WWE ring.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from WWE superstars, legends and employees on Twitter. Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Shawn Michaels, Lance Storm, Matt Hardy and Joey Styles all tweeted what most of us long-time hardcore wrestling fans were thinking.
This is the first time Heyman has been seen in WWE since 2006, when ECW was revived as a brand under the WWE umbrella.
If you aren't too familiar with Heyman, let me explain why he is good for business.
First, let's understand his history in professional wrestling. Heyman had managerial stints in the AWA and Continental Wrestling Federation before joining WCW in 1988. Known as Paul E. Dangerously, he managed the Midnight Express and “Mean” Mark Callous (who would go on to become The Undertaker). He would also tackle announcing duties with good ol' JR – a role he would reprise years later in WWE, most notably at WrestleMania 17.
In 1993, Heyman changed the landscape of professional wrestling when he took the reigns of NWA affiliate Eastern Championship Wrestling, and turned it into Extreme Championship Wrestling. The original ECW was brash, in your face, high octane and real. Fans were loyal and rabid, storylines were cutting edge and often pushed envelopes of social and moral grounds never done before in pro wrestling. WCW and WWE were always going to be the highest stage, and Heyman was a master at hiding the negatives and accentuating the positives. No budget for detailed lights and sets? No problem -- focus on the intimate feel. Can't get the biggest stars? No issue -- create stars and comb the earth looking for the best international stars. ECW had a big stake in popularizing lucha libre wrestling in the United States, where names like Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero gained notoriety. Where ROH has seen many talents become superstars in WWE and TNA, years prior to that, ECW was that same breeding ground. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, the Dudley Boyz, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Lance Storm all found success with Heyman at the helm. As brilliant as he was with promos on camera, he was equally brilliant with promos off camera. Many ECW alumni have noted that his pep talks were legendary.
In 2002 after ECW had folded and Heyman dabbled in commentary with WWE, he began to manage a man by the name of Brock Lesnar. “The Next Big Thing” debuted the day after WrestleMania 18, left a path of destruction and Heyman slowly raised his hand. This began a legitimate partnership and friendship between the two (among other projects, Heyman worked on Lesnar's autobiography “DeathClutch” in 2011).
Perhaps the biggest reason why Heyman is good for business relates to a line by a guy Heyman isn't too fond of in Eric Bischoff. "Controversy creates cash." Heyman is the definition of controversial. He was one of the perfectors of the “shoot” promo.
Heyman brings a level of legitimacy to WWE. He is one of the few remaining guys who I truly feel is unscripted. Regardless if he actually is or is not, he has successfully spent years creating the perception that he is a walking stick of dynamite ready to explode with what you want to hear and what they don't want him to say -- although anyone would be confident in saying it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that what you see of Heyman in the ring is truly him with the volume dialed to 11. Heyman was the “pipe bomb” before CM Punk adopted the name (Punk, incidentally, categorizes himself as a “Paul Heyman guy”).
With so many positives in his corner, it's no surprise that the wrestling community (especially on the internet) heralded Heyman's return to WWE TV and is left wanting more.
So what do we expect moving forward from Heyman? Certainly, I don't believe Lesnar is truly finished with WWE and expect to see a return, but I hope this returns includes Heyman. “Brock Lesnar” delivered his best in-ring live promo ever in WWE this past Monday on Raw. Heyman, to me, is absolutely necessary on camera alongside Lesnar.
What about behind the scenes? At one point in the past, there were discussions about Heyman heading TNA. This may just be a far-fetched idea that maybe Heyman himself wouldn't necessarily be too fond of, but given his past success, why couldn't Paul E. have an interest in the WWE's developmental program? The facts speak for themselves and Heyman could certainly create a situation where the best talent is being cultivated through the WWE system.
As a personal request, I'd love to see a WWE Legends Roundtable series involving Heyman and some of his friends and foes from the past. Let the gloves come off and the fans all win.
If you never knew about the man before, now you have a basic understanding and it might entice you to watch some old footage to truly get a grasp. This has the potential to be a huge deal, and I hope it continues to become one. I may have sounded a little biased in this column, but hey, it's an opinion piece, and I think Heyman is a genius. If I'm an aspiring pro wrestler, it must be a requirement to study Heyman promos to learn about pacing, delivery and enunciation.
On a related note, in honor of Paul E's return, I'm going to chew out my boss, post pictures of numerous models and grow a skullet. And buy a bulky cell phone.