- Paul Heyman tells Sports Illustrated he is invested in Brock Lesnar’s Universal championship reign and career.
For those expressing apprehension that Sunday’s SummerSlam will mark the end of Brock Lesnar’s Universal championship reign, and, by proxy, kick off an extended sabbatical from WWE programming for Paul Heyman, there is genuine reason for concern.
“I think there are a lot of people who would argue that I have not been in the WWE business, the pro wrestling business, the sports entertainment business, et al for quite some time, and that I've arrived at a place in my career where I am in the Brock Lesnar business,” said Heyman. “Please feel free to develop your own conspiracy theories based on that.”
Heyman spoke with SI.com only hours before SummerSlam, and was asked why the world of wrestling is a better place when he and Lesnar are involved.
“I don't know if I would actually advocate that position,” said Heyman, who also received an inquiry as to whether he would ever consider representing Ronda Rousey—who, like Lesnar, is a former UFC champion—in the WWE. “At this time, I would like to respectfully invoke my fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.”
The story of Heyman offers far more depth than the tale of a man who cuts captivating promos each week on Raw advocating for Lesnar. The 52-year-old is famous for establishing Extreme Championship Wrestling, intertwining wrestling with violence and storytelling in a manner never before witnessed. He also harnessed his skill as a talent evaluator, mining gold in talents like Shane Douglas, Taz, Rob Van Dam and Sabu while also highlighting strengths of limited performers, like 911 and Public Enemy to add depth to his roster.
Heyman reignited his passion in WWE as a manager, developing story ideas in creative, and becoming a part of the commentary team before finding his role as the on-screen advocate and real-life confidant of Brock Lesnar.
An only child—his father was an attorney and his mother a Holocaust survivor—Heyman is the single most compelling character in pro wrestling. The sacrifices he has made to achieve his pristine level of brilliance are scars both visible and visceral when he speaks.
“Evolution is the DNA of a continued existence,” said Heyman. “Those who don't evolve become the subject of a ‘Whatever Happened To’ story. I can only hope that I'm a very different person and performer, some would suggest the different person aspect is most important, but I digress, than I was a decade ago. And I hope to be a much different person and performer a decade from now as well. I've been blessed with a long enough career that I've been allowed to grow into this role.”
Heyman will resume his role on Sunday night in the corner of Lesnar, whose 504-day run with the Universal title has been marked by a glaring and controversial absence from television. But, Lesnar advocates like Heyman are quick to note, those absences only generate more interest in his next appearance.
“The more you see a true box office attraction, the more commonplace they become,” said Heyman. “It's a law of nature.
“The concept? Keep a Brock Lesnar experience as a rare occurrence, so when it happens, it's not only ‘Can't miss’, it is ‘Must see!’, and hopefully, that takes us back to the WWE/UFC business philosophy of Brock Lesnar, which then translates into ‘Must pay!’ Let's keep in mind, whether it's WWE, UFC, boxing, Major League Baseball, the NFL, NHL, NBA; it's a business. And it's a business of rights fees and box office.
“Brock has one philosophy, both in WWE and in UFC: What is the biggest possible box office scenario that we can tap into? It's really that simple. Nothing complex. Straightforward, no other agenda. What will entice the most number of people to spend their time and money invested in what we are presenting.”
The storytelling of the Lesnar-Roman Reigns feud has been made sublime through the combination of Heyman’s work on the microphone on Raw and Lesnar’s sheer brutality against Reigns. The combination has propelled this match—which is their fourth encounter—into appointment viewing. More than any other part of the card, questions still surround the fight: Will Reigns finally dethrone Lesnar, who appears ready to again exit the world of pro wrestling for the UFC? Or is this all another misdirection, leading to an even more prolonged title run for Lesnar with Heyman by his side?
There is little sense as to why WWE would not want a continued presence from Heyman on Raw, which has three hours of television time to fill every week, but there are theories.
Heyman was asked if his talent works against him. Is it possible he is so talented at his job that it works as a detriment where those in power are threatened by him?
“We're all only as good or bad as our last performance,” said Heyman. “I am of the mindset that every appearance on Raw is simply an audition to be invited back the next Monday.”
Having seen the past and becoming an integral part of the present, Heyman noted that, whether it is with him or without him, the future of wrestling is in good hands.
“Spend a day at the WWE Performance Center and you'll be assured the future of this industry is secure,” said Heyman. “And by the way, that's not a prediction, that's a spoiler.”
Even if he steps away from WWE, Heyman will not fade into oblivion. His marketing firm, Looking4Larry, is his pride and passion outside of the squared circle.
“The Looking4Larry Agency is, with all humility aside, New York's hottest start-up marketing firm,” said Heyman. “My agency partner, Mitchell K. Stuart, is a madman when it comes to new and innovative ways for us to create awareness for our clients. We have expanded from simply doing The Heyman Hustle website and video series to now being everything from a marketing firm that took the Hard Rock Casino Las Vegas out of bankruptcy and into the hands of Richard Branson's Virgin Group; wrote, directed, produced 2K Sports worldwide ad campaigns both on television and for the web that set analytic records that have yet to be matched by any agency in the world; developed a strategy that took a brand new record label Reviver Music to number one on the charts in less than a year; partnered with Roy Bank to create new TV projects from our freshly-minted studio. And we've only just begun.”
Naturally, the conversation always returns to wrestling. What does Heyman have planned for SummerSlam? Could he align himself with Reigns? Or is tonight an elaborate farewell?
Heyman let viewers know they are in for a ride.
“You can expect Paul Heyman to have the absolute time of his life,” he said, refusing to answer whether he is starting the ignition for his last ride in WWE. “Please feel free to join me in the experience.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.