Skip to main content

Hall Of Fame Heyman – more on his induction and why it happened

By 6 March 2024March 29th, 2024Opinion

By Andrew Spoors

“Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman…”

An advocate. A wiseman. A promoter. A manager. Extreme. Paul E. Dangerously. Genius. Manipulative. Lunatic. Throughout his time in professional wrestling, he’s been called many things and gathered many monikers. But on April 5 2024, Paul Heyman will become something he has long deserved. A fully fledged member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Announced as the first entrant into the Hall Of Fame class of 2024, Heyman will pick up one of the biggest accolades in the industry in Philadelphia, a city he became intrinsically linked to during the wild days of ECW.

Look around the landscape of professional wrestling and it is nigh on impossible to ignore the lasting impact Paul Heyman has imparted on the industry. From ‘Paul Heyman Guys’ to popularising exactly what hardcore wrestling should look like, it can’t be understated just how richly deserved this title is.

Gift of the Gab 

Hustling his way into the business at the ridiculously young age of 14, Heyman cut his teeth interviewing and photographing some of the biggest names in the industry during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Bullshitting his way into the backstage areas of Madison Square Garden for WWE and production meetings with Dusty Rhodes at Jim Crockett Productions, it is the exact backstory most people would expect to be attributed to Paul Heyman.

Under the learning tree of Dusty, Crockett and on screen talent such as Fred Blassie and Lou Albano, Heyman seemingly absorbed everything it takes to not only connect with an audience, but put on successful shows and run production for promotions.

Even an origin story as exciting and full of risk taking as Heyman’s, can scarcely do justice to the iconic character he has become all these years later. His beginnings may have set the foundations, but his leadership in Extreme Championship Wrestling solidified a legacy…

Taking It To The Extreme

While his formative years may have been spent brushing shoulders with the who’s who of professional wrestlers at that time, it would be surrounded by a group of hungry yet largely unknown talent, willing to do just about anything for notoriety in the industry, that Heyman would truly make his name.

Previously known as Eastern Championship Wrestling and based in the blue collar working city of Philadelphia, Extreme Championship Wrestling underwent a radical transformation under the tutelage of the maniacal genius. A successful but all too brief encounter with WCW had left Heyman hungry, not only to succeed, but succeed on his own terms.

ECW quickly developed something wrestling promotions strive for to this day. A cult following and a loyal roster of stars willing to back the company to the hilt, even when pay wasn’t a guarantee. In return Heyman offered creative collaboration and a platform to build your own star in ways that would instantly go viral in today’s social media obsessed world.

Shock and awe tactics grabbed both headlines and the occasional lawsuit, as names such as RVD, Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and Taz entered the professional wrestling zeitgeist. Weapons galore, jaw dropping stunts and close to the knuckle storylines. This was counter culture programming able to build a following, all while the two top dogs slogged it out over in the Monday Night Wars.

Armed with creative freedom, but no TV deal after TNN dropped the promotion in favour of the then WWF, ECW found itself too big for the small time, but in a financial hole impossible to climb out without the audiences a new TV contract could give it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, ECW closed its doors in 2001. Blessed with an eye for opportunity and a working relationship with Vince McMahon, Heyman’s next move would place him in front of his biggest audience yet.

Where There’s Chaos There’s Opportunity…

Following the acrimonious release of his with The Kat, Jerry Lawler in both solidarity and protest quit the WWE leaving an empty spot on the commentary table next to Jim Ross. It had been an almost perfect pairing and many still consider the combination of JR and The King, as the definitive two man booth on commentary.

This was a time predating the likes of X and Facebook, the news of Lawler’s departure came as a surprise to many. Even more surprising was the sudden appearance of Paul Heyman next to JR. As a natural talker, Heyman flourished on commentary and provided a sublime foil to his Oklahoman. Often needling his colleague, constantly referring to ECW and seemingly losing his mind anytime one of his previous employees took to the ring, Heyman even got the chance to call WrestleMania X7 behind the announce desk.

The ill-fated Invasion angle saw Heyman once again in charge of the newly relaunched ECW, but the watered down and censored version was never destined to last under the umbrella of WWE. Utilised on the creative team, as the GM of SmackDown and even a stint as head booker and writer for the company’s then developmental promotion, Ohio Valley Wrestling, Heyman’s true calling came in the shape of The Next Big Thing.

The Advocate

He may have become a taboo subject for WWE to discuss with the ongoing legal cases and investigations against Vince McMahon, John Lauranitis and the company itself, but simply put, it’s nigh on impossible to mention Paul Heyman without discussing Brock Lesnar. For two decades the pair have been intrinsically linked together, occasionally going their separate ways, it always felt inevitable that The Beast and his Advocate would find their way back to each other.

Lesnar is himself many things. A dominant, freak of nature that has main evented multiple WrestleManias and captured ten world titles in WWE. One thing he is not, is a top tier talker on the microphone. So in an attempt to get around that particular weakness, Heyman became Lesnar’s advocate. A mouthpiece to not just promote his client, Heyman’s next level skills with a live microphone pushed Lesnar to new heights in quick time and with ease.

Sometimes more akin to a preacher spreading the word of his lord, Heyman possesses the ability to verbally eviscerate opponents, hold the audience in the palm of his hand and mentally destroy any challengers before the bell has even rung.

His presence at ring side is palpable. Other managers in professional wrestling may be known for getting involved or running distractions for their clients but while Heyman has on occasion partaken in those dark arts, his range of facial expressions and words of wisdom have always been enough to elevate matches.

You don’t have to look too far for evidence of this. When Lesnar defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX, breaking the streak and shocking the world, it was Heyman’s reaction that hammered home the magnitude of what just happened. Scurrying into the ring, eyes wide in not just shock but fear and hands clasped around his face, in that moment Heyman was all of us.

Repeatedly bellowing “You did it!” into Lesnar’s ear, while The Beast’s face slowly contorts into a smirk, the camera cuts away to a shot of the big screens now emblazoned with 21-1. It is a masterful few seconds that would not be the same without Heyman’s influence. Go watch that match back on the WWE Network and just watch Heyman in the background throughout. We implore you.

Heyman’s influence wasn’t just limited to Lesnar however. Spanning across his time in professional wrestling, his client list is a veritable who’s who in the business. Mean Mark Callous (The Undertaker), Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, The Big Show, Kurt Angle and CM Punk.

But his latest client perhaps owes Heyman more than anyone as his current position makes him not just a champion, but a record breaker too…

“I Serve As Special Counsel…”

Similar in a lot of respects to Lesnar, Roman Reigns had long been seen as the face of WWE but in his case, the WWE Universe simply were not buying what the company were selling. After The Shield dissolved, fans actively rallied against Reigns being the guy and any kind of traction was met with derision.

When the world shut down during the pandemic, Reigns for health reasons needed to step away from the business for a while due to a compromised immune system. Upon his return, WWE made the shocking decision to pair him up with Paul Heyman, complete with new attitude and Tribal Chief personna.

Once again Heyman served as an antidote to his client’s weakness. Roman Reigns looks the part but during his initial run in The Shield, he was the strong silent type. The enforcer if you will. Following that, his promos weren’t believable, they felt too scripted. Fast forward to 2024 and under the guidance of his Wise Man, Roman is an altogether different prospect.

He works a limited schedule meaning no oversaturation. Heyman gives not only legitimacy but someone to do the bulk of Roman’s talking. No forced promos. Even the confidence on the mic has changed. The cadence and the content feel natural. Fans may clamour for a new champion, but his near 1,300 days as WWE Universal Champion will go down in history alongside the reigns of Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan.

Would this run have been possible without Heyman? It’s very tricky to answer that. Reigns has always had the faith of the higher ups in the company, but fans needed that final piece to truly buy into the vision. Sometimes that’s all it takes. One last piece of the puzzle.

When Heyman takes the stage in Philadelphia to receive his flowers, Reigns certainly needs to be chief among those showering out praise. It’s not difficult to envisage a scenario where fans rallied against him without Heyman. Such is the Special Counsel’s ability to talk people in circles or bend their will.

Whether running a promotion, calling commentary or managing talent, Paul Heyman’s influence stretches across multiple mediums. Listen to any interview where his name is mentioned and he is spoken about in reverence. Backstage he is often found giving guidance to those that seek him out and are willing to listen. Anyone that has worked for him seems to agree that although he will always look to get his own way, he is also extremely loyal too.

His time in professional wrestling is still not done, yet he has long since taken his place among legendary managers such as Bobby Heenan, Miss Elizabeth and Paul Bearer. But his work with ECW, on talk shows and multiple clients puts him in rarified air. Announced as the first entrant to the Hall Of Fame class of 2024, Heyman’s speech is sure to be one for the ages. And in the words of the man himself, that’s not a prediction…that’s a spoiler.