Paul Heyman is a pro wrestling icon, one of the last great ringside managers, arguably the most innovative and copied booker of the modern era, and the founder of the original, revolutionary incarnation of Extreme Championship Wrestling. As the visionary behind ECW in the 1990’s, Heyman broke all existing wrestling conventions and introduced American audiences to the likes of Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, and countless others. After his long and frequently acrimonious tour of duty as a World Wrestling Entertainment writer, announcer, and manager came to an end in 2007, Heyman has sought to revolutionize online entertainment with his Heyman Hustle video-blog/talk show/online bully pulpit. In this exclusive interview with UGO, the king of controversy, hype, and hustle is at his uncensored best, working himself into an ecstatic lather promoting his new show and unleashing his one-of-a-kind vitriol on everyone from Jerry Lawler to strippers in Toronto to presidential candidate John McCain.
UGO: Since leaving WWE in 2007, you’ve been best known for writing columns and producing the video blog The Heyman Hustle for The Sun, a top UK newspaper, at thesun.co.uk and HeymanHustle.com. In a few sentences, make your pitch for why pro wrestling fans familiar with your work from ECW, WCW, and WWE should watch the Hustle.
Paul Heyman: I’d humbly suggest that if they don’t watch now, they’re going to regret it later. We’re on the cutting edge of a new platform, as broadband television is not just emerging, it’s exploding. The Heyman Hustle is, by far, the most popular broadband television show on Sun-TV. We’re blowing away everyone else’s numbers. In the month of July, we more than doubled our nearest competitor. So obviously, we’re earning an audience. If someone is enticed to watch because of my work in wrestling, you’ll see some of the same trademarks … innovative production techniques, cool music, larger than life personas, and a dialogue that doesn’t fit the same stagnant pattern people are used to. Besides, if you haven’t checked it out by now, you’re way behind a very cool crowd watching our show.
UGO: On a recent WWE 24/7 roundtable, Jerry Lawler admitted to intentionally breaking your jaw in June of 1987 for refusing to take an unprotected fall off a scaffold in a Scaffold Match. Are you surprised by Lawler’s admission? What is your response to Lawler bragging in public that he took advantage of your trust to physically assault you for refusing to perform such a wildly dangerous stunt?
Paul Heyman: Well, he broke my jaw BEFORE the scaffold match. He’s always taken liberties with other people, especially those who by the nature of the situation had to place some trust in him. F*** him. I don’t spend any time in my life thinking about him. He’s in the past where he belongs. And no, I’m not surprised he’s still talking about me. If half HIS locker room banged MY wife, I guess I’d hold a grudge, too.
UGO: One meaning of the word “hustler” is “BS Artist,” a description that many in wrestling, unfairly or not, have ascribed to you. In your opinion, who was the most talented BS artist you ever met in wrestling? Who was the least?
Paul Heyman: You ask that question as if I didn’t realize the play on words. Who was the most talented BS artist? Well, there was this one stripper in Toronto that made everyone believe they were the first celebrity she ever went to bed with. She was fantastic! She bedded more wrestlers and athletes than Jim Barnett in his heyday. God Bless that woman, she provided a great deal of comfort to a lot of road weary individuals. Who was the least talented? I have several in mind, but they’re BS wasn’t any good, so it never got them anywhere, and therefore you never heard of them!
UGO: You were involved in an attempt to purchase the MMA promotion Strikeforce that did not come to fruition. If you were in charge of a major MMA promotion, how would you promote MMA differently from Dana White of UFC or Gary Shaw of Elite XC? What can MMA promoters learn from pro wrestling?
Paul Heyman: If I made the decision to do something in MMA, the last thing I’d ever do is tip my hand as to what I’d do differently or the same as Dana White. Competing with UFC is a full time job, 24/7 and then some. Dana White is not some investor looking to capitalize on a craze. He is someone with Vince McMahon’s work ethic and dedication and desire and craving to be and stay number one. You want to take on UFC, you’re making an enemy out of a workaholic who enjoys the addiction to hard work and competition. As for what UFC in particular can learn from pro wrestling, I’d suggest pro wrestling has more to learn at this stage from UFC.
UGO: Clearly, your former on-screen pupil Brock Lesnar is one of the breakout MMA stars of 2008. Are there any currently unheralded MMA fighters who strike you as having similar superstar potential and, if so, why?
Paul Heyman: A ton of them. There are a lot of very marketable personalities in MMA right now. I think UFC missed a great opportunity when Affliction signed Chris Horodecki. This kid is Brad Pitt in “Fight Club.” I think Frank Mir’s promos before and after the Lesnar fight showed a great personality and a guy who can talk people into paying to see his matches. Mir has a huge upside if he can continue to win. Everyone raves about Urijah Faber and rightfully so. He ate through Jeff Curran, Chance Farrar, Dominic Cruz, Joe Pearson, he’s just an amazing fighter with a great look and a personality that plays so well in media appearances. Untapped as far as his potential as a branded superstar and a marketed commodity goes. There’s a lot of great fighters out there. There’s also a lot of very marketable ones as well.
UGO: You’ve received a great deal of praise for your writing as a pro wrestling booker. What writers do you admire and enjoy? What are your favorite films and TV shows?
Paul Heyman: I’m a big fan of people who can either frame a complex situation in a way that anyone can understand … or people who take a radical viewpoint, and assign ration and reason to it. I find Cornel West to be very interesting. I don’t agree with almost anything he says, but I sure respect and admire his ability to present the case for what he believes in. I’m a great admirer of Henry Rollins. I think he’s one of the most underrated social commentators out there, and wish he had a bigger platform and wider audience to hear his provocative ramblings. I enjoy reading Bill Clinton’s or James Carville’s viewpoints. I think a lot of people would be surprised at how profound Martin Luther King’s commentaries were, even though those writings are 40-some-odd years old. But he had more than just a dream, he had a vision of a society at peace with itself, not just people with each other. It depends WHERE you look. John Lennon? Some of Pearl Jam’s early work? Read some of Tupac’s lyrics, and not just in the commercialized songs. I admire people who can put together words that cause people to think about a subject, and question their own instinctual first reaction.
As for my favorite films, I admire films from a number of different genres. Love the characters in True Romance. Love everything about The Professional with Gary Oldman, Jean Reno, and Natalie Portman. Cry everytime I watch Angels with Dirty Faces with James Cagney. I can always watch Jaws, or The Departed, or Casablanca, or The Godfather, or Romeo Must Die, or High Plains Drifter, or The Taking of Pelham 123. I’ll watch a Marx Brothers movie any time I get the chance.
As for television, I grew up watching Johnny Carson. [I] think The West Wing was brilliant, and The Sopranos blows everything away. Except, of course, that ECW television show. Now THAT was some classic entertainment!
UGO: In the year since you’ve been officially gone from World Wrestling Entertainment, have there been any programs/angles that made you stop and think, “Wow, they’re really doing this right!” Any that were especially bad or mishandled?
Paul Heyman: Everything they’ve done with Edge this year has just been spectacular. Even things that I didn’t agree with them doing, it didn’t matter because Edge’s performances are so on the money, no one can compare to him. He’s just far and away BETTER than everyone else. His range of emotions, his delivery, his work ethic is just incomparable right now. He’s at the top of the game, and he’s awe-inspiring. As for things they’ve done that are especially bad or mishandled, I don’t think my opinion is relevant on that subject in this forum because I wasn’t there when the decisions were made, and don’t know the circumstances under which the trigger was pulled to implement a storyline or call a finish or determine an angle.
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