At age 11, he ran a mail-order business selling celebrity and sports memorabilia. In his teens, he finagled his way backstage at a WWF event by claiming he was a photojournalist. By 19, he was a producer and promoter at Studio 54.
If you think about it, Heyman probably did more living before turning 21 than most people do in an entire lifetime. And he was not done.
At 22, he launched his wrestling managerial career. While still in his 20s, he and a partner launched Extreme Championship Wrestling, where risky moves were encouraged and over-the-top was the norm.
The business was a reflection of its owner—bombastic, angry, loud, opinionated and egomaniacal. It brought a whole new attitude to the squared circle and changed the way wrestling promotions—including WWE, which eventually bought it—did business.
That is why wrestling owes a debt of gratitude to this brash New Yorker and his innate ability to know what the people want and how to deliver it to them.
ECW may be Heyman’s greatest gift to the wrestling industry, but he also has given us Brock Lesnar, the SmackDown Six and CM Punk.
Punk’s heel turn last year really took off after he aligned himself with Heyman. Heyman is the perfect business advisor/yes man to the former WWE champion, just like he was (and still is) the perfect business advisor/yes man to Brock Lesnar.
Heyman’s character knows how to feed his wrestlers’ egos. He proved time and time again that he would go to the ends of the Earth and back for his “clients.” Just look how he got caught paying off Brad Maddox and The Shield to keep Punk’s record WWE title reign going and then lied through his teeth about it. Watching him stand there and think up excuse after excuse to Vince McMahon was like watching a mean little kid say he did not break that window, even though he had the ball and bat in his hands.
It was classic Paul Heyman.
And when he is ringside, Heyman works more of his managerial magic.
Punk’s match with The Rock at Sunday night’s Elimination Chamber was entertaining enough. But if that match was a steak dinner, then Heyman was the A-1 Sauce on it.
He could be heard hollering encouragement to Punk during the match about the pinfall count. When Punk got a two-count, Heyman would holler that was better than the previous one-and-a-half count. When Punk almost got a three-count, Heyman noted that was a two-and-a-half count and was better than the previous two-count.
Finally, Heyman’s antics proved to be a highlight, albeit predictable point of the match. While he stood on the apron holding Rock’s arms, Punk charged with the WWE belt in hand. But Rock ducked, and Heyman wound up getting clocked.
Again, that proves Heyman knows what the people want, and again, he delivered.
What is scary about all this is that, even though it seems like he has been around the business forever, Heyman is only 47. If you think about the fact that Vince McMahon is 67 and still going strong, that means Heyman could still have at least two more good decades ahead of him.
That is good news for him—and for pro wrestling in general. That means we can look forward to being entertained by Heyman for a long time to come.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.