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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Thank You Paul Heyman
December 21, 2006 by Phil T.


There aren’t too many wrestling promoters who have given as much of themselves to the business, but more importantly to the wrestling fans then Paul Heyman. In this column I hope to take you all down a road that shows how important and how great Paul Heyman truly is in the entire scope of professional wrestling. Paul Heyman was a man who started in the wrestling business in one of the simplest roles wrestling has to offer, a manager. Over the next twenty years we would have the privilege of seeing him transform into one of the greatest architects the sport of professional wrestling has ever seen. It was this architectural genius that totally helped him reshape the landscape of professional wrestling in the mid nineties. It was also this genius and undying passion that took a small Northeast based wrestling promotion and turned it into the third largest wrestling promotion in all of North America for a few great years. Sit back and enjoy my take on one of the most important men ever to be involved in the business of professional wrestling, Paul Heyman.

The first time I ever saw Paul Heyman he was sitting next to good old Jim Ross working as a color commentator for the newly formed, WCW. My first thought of him, then known as Paul E. Dangerously, was your typical heel broadcaster with an occasional funny one liner during each broadcast. I guess you could say he was WCW’s version of Jesse “The Body” Ventura who at the time was the heel broadcaster for The WWF. About a year would pass when WCW decided to take Paul E. Dangerously in another direction and put him to use as a manager. Paul E. would then go on to form one of the greatest stables in the 90’s, “The Dangerous Alliance.” Wrestlers such as Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and a young Steve Austin were just a few that comprised this WCW stable. The Dangerous Alliance along with Paul E would then go on to last till the spring of 1993 were the stable would simply disband with all the wrestlers going in new directions with-in WCW and Paul E. Dangerously himself leaving WCW all together to peruse other ventures with in the business of pro wrestling.

In September of 1993 Paul Heyman found himself working behind the curtain as a booker for Eastern Championship Wrestling. Paul Heyman came into the company with a great deal of motivation along with many ideas for wrestling angles as well as matches, but because he was the low man on the pole he had to play his cards right and pick his spots. To his credit Paul Heyman rose very quickly with-in this wrestling promotion and after roughly a year he saw himself as the head booker for the company pushing out one Eddie Gilbert. But even now with all the power he had acquired, he still didn’t have the final say on all his angles and matches that he wanted to run for the promotion. Paul Heyman had a vision of the future as to where he wanted to take Eastern Championship Wrestling, but he knew that the only way his vision would ever become a reality would be for him to become the absolute number one man in the company who had the final say on everything. So in 1996 Paul Heyman took a shot at that dream and purchased Eastern Championship Wrestling from Todd Gordon. Paul’s first decision as the new owner would be to change the name of Eastern Championship Wrestling to Extreme Championship Wrestling and the rest as they say my friends is history.

To this day I still will never forget the first time I saw ECW and what occurred a few hours before my eyes would bare witness to a wrestling show produced in what can now be said as the most famous bingo hall in America. I was playing basketball with a few friends when one of them asked me if I saw the new ECW yet. I said, “No. What is it?” My friend would then go on to tell me it was a new wrestling promotion started up by a guy named Paul Heyman and that the matches the wrestlers would put on were unbelievable. I then asked him, “Who is Paul Heyman?” He replied, “Remember Paul E. Dangerously?” I looked at him, started to laugh and said, “OK you got me.” I thought he was just pulling my leg; remember at that time I thought Paul E. Dangerously was just some washed up manager from WCW. Now my friend was telling me that same guy was now a promoter for his very own wrestling promotion. I found that “extremely” hard to believe. Well late night rolls around and ECW had just started. I couldn’t believe my eyes, not only was he not pulling my leg about Paul Heyman, but it was one of the best and most unique wrestling shows I had seen in years. It took just sixty minutes of watching ECW for the very first time and I was hooked. It was an absolute pleasure from then on to see how Paul Heyman took his vision to the next level, month after month and year after year.

In the wrestling documentary, “Beyond the Mat”, they had about a ten minute piece on ECW were they basically showed how small ECW really was compared to the WCW and WWF. There was one part of that piece unparticular that to this day I still find fascinating. Talk about starting at the absolute bottom of the business. It showed us the set on which Paul Heyman produced most if not all of his back stage interviews ECW did in the first year. The set was his mother’s basement. The video described Paul Heyman’s mother ironing in one corning and Paul taping backstage segments for ECW in another. To say it was a simple set up would be the understatement of the decade. Paul had a very simple television recording camera that he would tape ECW superstars doing interviews standing in front of an ECW banner that was the size of a king size bed sheet as a back drop and that’s it. He proved that as long as you had the basics to put on a quality wrestling show that you could survive in this industry. In about one year he took ECW from doing interview segments in his mother’s basement all the way to where every wrestling promoter in the country wants to take their respective promotions and I might ad where only a small handful have ever been able to go, “Pay Per View!!!!!” Paul Heyman I salute you.

There are many reasons one could say as to why Paul Heyman was able to take ECW as far as he did and I am going to talk about what I feel are the two biggest. First and most important is something I have heard Paul Heyman say more then once in interviews over the last ten years. Anytime he was asked over the years why he chose the pro wrestling industry? The answer to this question was always the same. “I am a wrestling fan!” Paul replied. Whether any given night he was working as a manager, commentator, wrestler or most importantly a promoter/booker. In his heart he was always a wrestling fan. Because of this burning passion as a wrestling fan he was able to listen to the fans of ECW, a talent some promoters lack, and in some ways he let the fans themselves help shape ECW into what was a little wrestling promotion in the Northeast to a promotion that covered 2/3’s of the country and really got under the skins of both Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon for a time. Who would have thought by listening to the fans of ECW and giving them what they thirsted for more times then not would result in success. Could it really be that simple? Now if only another promoter would wake up from his five year coma and get off his high hoarse and listen to the fans of his company. Maybe sell outs will occur as often as they did five years ago were now a days a legit WWE sell out comes as often as a blue moon, and that includes even some pay per views which to sum that up in one word is, “Embarrassing.” And by listening to the fans could the all mighty pay per view buy rate go up as well? Unfortunately I doubt we will ever know.

The second reason ECW was able to be such a success and to this day one of the most beloved promotions ever created was due to Paul Heyman’s eye for wrestling talent. Due to the “extremely” high number of gifted wrestlers that Paul Heyman first introduced to the fans of North America I am forced only to name a few because to name them all would make this column into a novel. In the mid 90’s Paul brought in Benoit, Jericho, Dreamer, Eddie Guerrero, Lita, Sabu, RVD, The Dudley Boys, Mysterio and last but certainly not least, one Steve Austin. All these wrestling superstars got their big break thanks to Paul Heyman. Now just for comparison purposes during that same time period, The WWF was bringing in Ahmed Johnson, Savio Vega, Doink The Clown, and two wrestlers I have to mention, Dean Douglas and Aldo Montoya. It wasn’t even close to see that Paul Heyman had the better eye for wrestling talent then Vince McMahon. Now the reason I am mentioning Dean Douglas is to show how Vince used Douglas in the WWF compared to a few months later when Douglas returned to ECW and became the company’s top heel and deservingly so. Yet another missed step by one Vince McMahon, but even that I don’t think can compare to the idea for a wrestling persona Vince had for a superstar he named Aldo Montoya. For the first few months Vince gave Aldo a decent push, but to what I’m sure was a complete shock To Vince McMahon. The WWF fans never really warmed up to Aldo and after a decent push Vince simply used Aldo as a glorified jobber until the end of his WWF career. Aldo, after jumping around from promotion to promotion finally ended up in ECW were again Paul Heyman saw the talent he possessed, but decided to give this rising superstar a new look. Paul said goodbye to Aldo Montoya and hello to Justin Credible. This is yet just another example of how good Paul Heyman’s eye for wrestling talent really was compared to the rest of the promoters of this era.

Now unfortunately for Paul Heyman, ECW as a whole, and The ECW Fans; the second Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff saw ECW as a threat, ECW was destined for failure. As a true fan of ECW since the beginning it kills me to say that, but truth is truth. Once McMahon and Bischoff, mostly Bischoff, started offering ECW wrestlers contracts it started what could only be described as a domino effect through out all of ECW. But in all honesty who could blame the superstars that were jumping ship. I can tell you right now that if someone called me up today with a job offer that meant a better career, but more importantly an opportunity to make 2-5 times as much as I was making before. I would give my notice the very next day. I truly believe Paul Heyman had the passion and the overall guts it would take to take on the two biggest dogs in the professional wrestling yard. Unfortunately he just didn’t have the resources or the capital to win a war with both WCW and WWF. Then in early 2001 the worst fear of all ECW fans became a reality when Paul Heyman was forced to declare bankruptcy and see his vision of what a wrestling promotion should be like laid to rest. In my opinion though, Paul Heyman had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of on that day. The tangible ECW may have died, but Paul Heyman created such a wrestling force that the fans of ECW refused to ever let the spirit of ECW die and to this day you can still hear that powerful chant in arenas all over America regardless of the promotion, “ECW! ECW! ECW! ECW! ECW!”

Then in what can only be described as one of the most shocking moments in the history of WWF television. Only two months after ECW went out of business, wrestling fans could not believe their eyes as Paul Heyman replaced Jerry Lawler as a commentator for The WWF. Paul would then go on to join Shane McMahon in that whole angle of WCW and ECW vs. WWF that took place from late spring till late fall of 2001. From there Paul Heyman was used as a manager for Brock Lesnar, then The Big Show. After that Vince decided to make him the GM of SmackDown and actually gave him a shot on the WWE creative team, but to no ones surprise it was short lived to say the least. I refuse to waste anymore time on examples of how Vince McMahon misused another wrestling talent, in this case a certified wrestling genius; it wouldn’t be fair to Paul Heyman or to the integrity of this column.

June 12, 2005 I witnessed the overall best pay per view since the turn of the century. ECW One Night Stand was a testament to all who have ever stepped through the ropes of an ECW ring. To all the fans of ECW who refused to say die when ECW was forced to go into bankruptcy, but most importantly though it was a testament to the life, passion and blood of Paul Heyman. Vince McMahon decided for what ever reason to give Paul Heyman more control then ever over the entire show and for once I would like to publicly thank Vince McMahon for that. There were no huge storylines involved with every match. Their were just guys who had a passion for this business doing what they do best and you could see it as clear as day on the faces of all the wrestlers that were on the card. It was truly a magical night in professional wrestling and for all the fans of ECW. Speaking of the fans in that arena that night, the wrestlers also loved every second they where out there being in front of those rabid ECW fans who showed their respect to all the ECW Superstars and vice versa. The highlight for me on that show was by far Paul Heyman’s shoot promo and the absolute show of respect and love the fans showed to Paul Heyman. You think Vince McMahon will ever get an ovation like that before he dies? I have a thousand dollars it will never happen, any takers? For those of you that have been fans of ECW since the beginning, if you didn’t get a little choked up as Paul Heyman was clearly emotional the second he stepped through the curtain then something is wrong with you. I also loved the fact that the first people he thanked when he was in the ring were the fans in the arena for all the love and support they gave Paul and ECW through the years. Only person I ever heard Vince McMahon thank for the success of his promotion through the years was Vince McMahon. If I had to choose one word to describe Paul Heyman on that night, “Class!”

I will now fast forward one year after that great night to where Vince McMahon decided to give ECW a full time push. Now I know you don’t want to admit it Vince, but be a man and admit that the only reason you now have your third televised wrestling show is all in thanks to Paul Heyman and the legacy he was able to build through nothing more then his pure desire to succeed in this business and to show how much he truly had to offer to all the fans of professional wrestling. Now most would say that the new ECW is a watered down version of its predecessor, but I can’t go that far because that would be an insult to water. For those of you that are seeing ECW for the first time over this last year all I can say is, “I’m sorry.” Every ECW fan of the past knew this version would not be the same as the original, but I myself was still going to give it a shot and hope the WWE would not do anything to tarnish the legacy ECW and Paul Heyman built over the last ten years. Well that hope lasted about two short weeks and then the harsh reality sunk in. I was watching ECW on Sci-Fi and please forgive me if I do not recall the wrestlers that were in the match, but the finish came with a beautiful chair shot right to the skull of one of the combatants, (nothing new for ECW, right?), followed by the referee calling for the bell and declaring a winner by disqualification. WHAT? Was I dreaming and just didn’t realize it? For the fans that never saw a second of the original ECW, you had a better shot at getting run over by a locomotive while in a boat on the middle of the Atlantic Ocean then seeing an original ECW match end in a DQ. It just didn’t happen. Add the fact that now Paul Heyman has absolutely nothing to do with the current production of “WWE’s” version of ECW. I give ECW one more year till Vince decides to pull the plug all together. Let’s be honest, any version of ECW without Paul Heyman is like a Disney World without Mickey Mouse. It just doesn’t work. Paul Heyman has nothing to be ashamed of on how The WWE has basically rapped the image and legacy of what he built ECW up to be. If only Vince could have checked his ego at the door and for once took the Ted Turner approach when it came to running the reincarnated ECW, the WWE’s version would not be as big of a joke as it is right now. If he would have just backed Paul Heyman financially and allowed Heyman full creative control, I have no doubt what so ever that ECW would have a higher rating then SmackDown and Vince would be making a ton of cash off ECW week after week and month after month. Can you imagine though an ECW with Paul Heyman at the helm, but this time with Vince McMahon’s wallet in his pocket? WOW! That would have been extremely awesome!

No matter what the future holds for Paul Heyman I will never look at the end of 2006 as a sad ending to Paul Heyman’s career. Given how he started in this business and then rising to, in my opinion, the greatest booker of all time in the history of professional wrestling is truly amazing. He was able to not only make a wrestling show entertaining, but also was able to use all of his wrestler’s talents to the fullest. Bottom line he made his product fun and enjoyable to watch. So enjoyable, he made the fans of each and every show just as important to each show as the wrestlers themselves. He knew where his bread was buttered and he did everything he could night after night to give the fans of ECW what they wanted. Unlike another promoter who ignores the fans of his company. And for those that may disagree with me on that one, I just have to site one example to prove my case to you all. Vince McMahon refused to switch his top baby face WWE Champion back to a heel, where in my opinion he flourished, and instead just let his “Baby face” WWE Champion get booed night after night for a year just so his t-shirt, poster and most importantly spinning world title replica belt sales wouldn’t slip. But Vince will be the first one to tell you he knows exactly what the fans want. HA! HA! I was lucky enough to attend a handful of ECW shows in their prime and I can tell you for a fact I never had more fun at wrestling shows ever. That includes WCW and WWF/WWE pay per views including five WrestleManias!!!!! If I was ever told I could only meet one more wrestling personality before I die. Without a second of hesitation it would be Paul Heyman every time. I would extend my right hand to him, look him dead in the eye and say a phrase that has been used a lot in the last two years but in my opinion can never AND I MEAN NEVER be used enough, “Thank you Paul.”

by Phil T...


Johnny F. wrote: You my friend are the first official member of the Paul Heyman Kiss my ass club..

"PaulE" Was The man at one point... ECW in their prime did change and evolve the "business" Paul E did NOT create Sports entertainment. Vincent Kennedy......KENNEDY!!!...McMahon did. Vince gave Paul ,Cena, to drop the title to RVD. What a great moment for the "new ECW!!!" Cena worked that PPV like a PRO by the way. So,, Things looked good for the new and properly financed ECW...What happens? RVD & Sabu get busted for shit they used to do back in 1998 in 2006!!!! Dudes.. Iove ya guys.. but Grow up!!!! Paul E ' being the "creative Geniuss of ECW" failed to control his "main star roster" Withen the first few weeks of the properly financed ECW... How would you react if you had millions of shareholders? The WWE IS NOT SOME INDEPENDENT TERRITORY TNA MINOR LEAUGE BULLSHIT!!! This is WWE. When TNA, ROH and everthing else in the future becomes lost.. WWE will be there to recarnate it. JE DOUBLE F JA DOUBLE R E DOUBLE T better learn from Paul E's mistakes.....
Kevin Graham wrote:
Sir, may i just say THANK YOU. See myself being a young but still an original ECW fan I really feel the same way you do. I was really bummed when I saw the "NEW BREED" ECW because it was nothing more than an extreme watered down version of what was quite possibly the greatest WRESTLING company ever. I have time and time again tried to give the new ECW a chance but I'm not feeling it. I've listened to Dreamer (who I idolize) and Tazz keep saying just give it a chance, stick with it, but I don't know how long I can give it a chance. Paul had something great back in the day and it went under. It came back and is on the verge of going back under. An ECW without Paul is almost like a train with no conductor, with no offense to the originals who are the heart but the other problem is the heart is getting stopped too. Paul has done wonders for the wrestling world that we all love. Its funny how the ECW Paul had made the WWE money after it went under. But now Vince thinks by using the name that its gonna make money. I think at this time that all true fans of wrestling and not sports entertainment needs to take a step back and thank the man who helped reshape it all. I along with Phil say "THANK YOU PAUL" {A quote from the ECW R&F DVD that we should all follow} "You cannot achieve success, without the risk of failure. And I learned a long time ago, you cannot achieve success, if you fear failure. If you're not afraid to fail, man, you have a chance to succeed. But you're never gonna get there unless you risk it, all the way. I'll risk failure. Sometimes, half the fun is failing. Learning from you're mistakes, waking up the next morning, and saying 'Okay. Watch out. Here I come again. A little bit smarter, licking my wounds, and really not looking forward to getting my ass kicked the way I just did yesterday.' So now, I'm just a little more dangerous."- Paul Heyman
C. Thomas wrote:
Yes, Paul Heyman is a lot of things. To his fans, he's a hero and a true Wrestling legend. To his friends, he's the closest friend and most loyal individual you could ever meet. To his critics, his a low life, tyrant, blow hart, liar, and a SOB.

To everyone else, he's ECW! Now Todd Gordon gave this man a shot and is the FOUNDING FATHER of Extreme Championship Wrestling. It was Heyman that took the reigns after "relieving" Todd of his duties that ECW started to grow into a big player in the wrestling market. Including getting the attention of Vince and Eric Bischoff. Now fast forward to now. He took part in what's being called the worst WWE (NOT ECW) ppv in recent memory and is once again gone from the WWE. Will it be for good this time? Only time will tell for that? But for the contributions that he has made to wrestling are indisputable. I have never seen a wrestling organization make more stars and future big name champions than ECW. Hell, Extreme Championship Wrestling is perhaps the greatest wrestling promotion in history. Love the column man, keep em coming.
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