He’s been called a renegade, a rebel, a mad scientist who changed the way the world sees sports-entertainment. But there’s one word that best describes the man born Paul Heyman — dangerous.
The most outspoken individual in an industry populated entirely by outspoken individuals, the brusque New Yorker first gained enemies under the guise of Paul E. Dangerously in WCW. Managing Steve Austin, Arn Anderson and Rick Rude in a stable he dubbed his Dangerous Alliance, Heyman used a Big Apple attitude and an oversized 1980s cell phone to help his charges run through the likes of Sting and Ricky Steamboat.
Heyman may have spent his entire career as a manager and color commentator had WCW not released the hothead in 1993. Finding opportunity in failure, the innovator became associated with a Philadelphia-based independent promotion called Eastern Championship Wrestling and set about turning the modest company into the most daring organization sports-entertainment had ever seen. Drawing inspiration from alternative rock music and MTV, Heyman rechristened the promotion Extreme Championship Wresting and took it from public access to national pay-per-view through his endorsement of brutal bouts between a rotating cast of misfits that included the beer-swilling Sandman and an ex-con with a staple gun named New Jack.
Credited with inspiring WWE’s landmark “Attitude Era,” the controversial brand became the third-largest wrestling company in the world behind WWE and WCW before it was crippled by financial problems in 2001. Heyman joined WWE as Jim Ross’ broadcast partner, but it wouldn’t be long before the nonconformists of ECW reemerged in WWE as part of the infamous “Invasion.” Aligning himself with Stephanie and Shane McMahon in an attempted overthrow of Mr. McMahon’s empire, Heyman came scarily close to toppling the man he once accused of stealing everything from him, but ultimately failed to bring down WWE.
Now viewed as public enemy No. 1 by WWE executives, the fearless firebrand formed an alliance with an athletic freak by the name of Brock Lesnar in ’02. Standing behind “The Next Big Thing,” the agent found the perfect way to torture his greatest enemy, Mr. McMahon. If the head honcho wanted to do business with Lesnar, he’d have to go through Heyman first.
After the troublemaker’s relationship with Brock briefly soured, Heyman found another entry into WWE through an ECW re-launch under the WWE banner in 2005. When that turned bad under the executive’s direction, the unpredictable mastermind was labeled a sports-entertainment pariah. But as always, Heyman was able to worm his way back in. Stunning the WWE Universe by appearing on Raw in May 2012, the perennial thorn in sports-entertainment’s side returned as Brock Lesnar’s advocate, leading The Beast to matchups against Triple H at SummerSlam 2012, WrestleMania 29 and Extreme Rules 2013.
Sports-entertainment’s brainiac also publicly aligned with then-WWE Champion CM Punk, who had one year prior referred to himself as a “Paul Heyman guy.” With Punk in tow, Heyman has become the first individual to manage four WWE Champions: Lesnar, Big Show, Kurt Angle and the aforementioned Punk — not to mention Austin prior to The Texas Rattlesnake winning the revered title.
On Raw one week after WrestleMania 29, the schemer was stunned when Punk walked out of the ring while delivering one of his signature diatribes. Heyman filled the void left by Punk by introducing a brand-new client, Curtis Axel, and the promising son of the legendary “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig impressively won the Intercontinental Title at WWE Payback. After Punk returned, he informed Heyman that he was unlike the mad scientist’s other clients and politely asked his mentor not to accompany him to ringside.
It proved to be a mistake. Lesnar returned and landed an F5 on Punk. Heyman vehemently denied being behind the attack, but at Money in the Bank 2013, he inserted himself into the Money in the Bank All-Stars Match, repeatedly slamming a ladder into Punk’s skull. The next night on Raw, Heyman revealed his true colors and Lesnar once again appeared to brutalize Punk. As agreed upon the following week, Brock will face The Second City Saint in a battle of Heyman Guys at SummerSlam.
One thing’s for sure, this New Yorker knows how to make life hell for anyone that crosses him.