The best story in pro wrestling takes center stage Saturday in Atlanta at WWE’s Day One pay-per-view event, as Roman Reigns defends the universal title against Brock Lesnar.
And right in the middle of it all is Paul Heyman.
Call him an advocate. Call him special counsel to the Tribal Chief. Just never call him boring. Heyman has infused the industry with passion since he started snapping photos for the elder Vince McMahon in the 1970s at Madison Square Garden. The energy he brings to the industry remains as raw, authentic, and, yes, extreme as ever, which will be on further display as 2021 turns to '22.
The Reigns–Lesnar encounter at Day One is expected to headline the show. There is beauty in simplicity, and this story is not overly complicated. It is a tug-of-war over the title, with Heyman as the wrinkle. Will he be loyal to Lesnar? Or will he reunite with Reigns?
While we have watched Reigns and Lesnar battle before, this encounter feels fresh thanks to a reversal of roles, with Lesnar is the babyface and Reigns the villain. Heyman will provide the leverage.
There are different stakes at play here, with Heyman’s loyalty playing a central part. After nearly 20 years of history together, it is only natural to think of Heyman when Lesnar is mentioned, and vice versa.
Heyman’s pursuit of greatness reminds me of a story he once shared with me about his father years ago during a SummerSlam press tour. The late, great Richard S. Heyman was an attorney, as well as the driving force behind his son’s dreams. The elder Heyman is the reason his son learned to think big.
“My father could connect with a jury in a language and manner that everyone could understand,” Heyman said. “I was even allowed to miss school to watch him on trial.”
More than just a poignant memory, Heyman was sharing a piece of his past that had helped turn him into the force he is in the present.
“Anybody who met my father understood,” Heyman said. “People were in awe of him. You’d meet the man and you’d simply want to see him in the courtroom.”
Like his father, Heyman possesses the ability to capture the people’s attention and their imagination. And whether in 1995 or 2005 or 2015 or today, anyone that meets Paul Heyman instantly wants to see him in the middle of a ring cutting a promo.
This current program, with Heyman in between two behemoths, provides Heyman with a chance to show he is the best ever at his trade. At any given moment, he can play either the protagonist or the antagonist. And like a closing statement to the jury, Heyman has made a convincing argument as to why this match is a must-watch.
At Day One, the next chapter of Reigns–Lesnar will unfold. The story is headed to WrestleMania, progressing at just the right pace. Right in the center of it, giving the performance of his life, is the man that reinvented his profession. And with a jury of wrestling fans around the globe watching, Heyman knows this is his chance to paint his greatest masterpiece yet.