Way, way back a potential Paul Heyman DVD really peaked my interest; Heyman has had one of the most colourful lives, both inside and outside of the pro-wrestling business. Today’s fans may just be aware of “the one behind the one in 21-1”, more veteran fans will be aware of him from his tenure with Extreme Championship Wrestling, and a few diehard fans will be familiar with his beginnings in the wrestling business as a ringside photographer at Madison Square Garden, aged 14!
Well, regardless of your level of knowledge and regardless of whether or not you are a “Paul Heyman Guy (or Girl)”, so long as you are a pro-wrestling fan; I think you’ll love this documentary.
The set is presented in 16:9 widescreen format for the entirety of the main feature, the older footage has been re-mastered very well and is pan and scanned to fill the screen without the use of sidebars. The quality of this older footage is very good, the one exception being the Memphis Wrestling footage (we’ll get to this in a little while) which is of a lower quality due to the fact it is likely multi-generation copies as no full master tapes exist. This is the sole example of lower quality footage as even the ECW backstage footage has held up impeccably well.
Something that no one can have too much to complain about is the talent who were interviewed for the documentary. Could a couple of additional interviews have added to the documentary – yes, but did their exclusion really hurt the documentary to a large degree – no. The list of those interviewed was really quite surprising as more than a couple of them have had checkered pasts (and present!) with WWE, and one or two even work with other promotions! It’s clear that Heyman was hands on with the project and more than likely pushed for a few individuals. Here is the complete list of talent interviewed for the set:
- Paul Heyman
- Larry Zbyszko
- Dusty Rhodes
- Bill Apter
- Jim Ross
- Joey Styles
- Tommy Dreamer
- Rob Van Dam
- Ron Buffone
- Gabe Sapolsky
- Tod Gordon
- Stephanie McMahon
- Big Show
- Brock Lesnar
- Beth Phoenix
- Renee Young
- CM Punk
- Bray Wyatt
- Mitchell Stuart (business partner)
No classic interviews are utilized as all are brand new. Interestingly, all of the interviews in the main documentary are presented tight in on the subjects faces (as you can see in the screenshots). We oftentimes see this angle used to compliment the more standard interview setup but using this view exclusively provides a little different vibe for this documentary.
The timing for this Paul Heyman DVD is also somewhat interesting given Paul’s close ties to ECW, as this year marks the 10th anniversary of “The Rise and Fall of ECW” (a DVD set which in its own right is regarded as the greatest WWE DVD of all time, even the the winner of the 2014 WDN March Mania Tournament). So it’s only appropriate that 10 years later we take another look at the history of ECW, but this time from Heyman’s personal perspective. In addition this time we have a few names who were MIA from the Rise & Fall: Joey Styles, the original owner of the company – Tod Gordon, Gabe Sapolsky (Heyman’s assistant/protégé) and Raven (arguably the promotions greatest “character”). Additionally, it’s hard to argue that WWE’s DVD production hasn’t moved on leaps and bounds in the past ten years and now we get more truthful stories on these releases. The slimmed down tale of ECW here is much, much less storyline/character centric (a complaint I had with Rise & Fall) and really focuses on ECW’s business and Heyman’s role.
However, DO NOT misunderstand; this isn’t an ECW DVD; god knows we’ve had the story of ECW told and re-told so many times by different folks. This version really is very much slimmed down and occupies the middle portion of the documentary. In addition this version has a different feel than Rise & Fall, Forever Hardcore and Barbed Wire City, as it is centered around Heyman, and his personal perspective. Nowhere is this more evident than when discussing some of the wrestlers who came out of ECW bitter against Paul and the company; in response to this Paul poignantly clarified that nobody lost more than he and his family did, spending through their savings and in the end he had nothing to show for it, not even a tape library!
Now I will move on to give an overview of the documentary and the topics discussed. Don’t worry I won’t go too “spoilery”….
The documentary opens with a very brief package looking at BRROOCKK LESNAARR breaking The Undertaker’s “Streak”. This feels portion feels very tacked on and isn’t really referenced again, which is a shame. However, this is more than likely due to the fact that the DVD was well into production when the Streak was ended, and as we’ve learned it was a very late decision to have Brock take the win at WrestleMania XXX.
The documentary itself begins by looking at Heyman’s early life, his parents, his first wrestling memory and then into the tale of how he “hustled” his way into becoming a MSG ringside photographer for Vince Sr. We get a few great stories here of meeting guys in the business, including a funny story of a trip to a Jim Crockett Promotions TV taping and encounter with Dusty Rhodes.
The documentary then moves on to discuss Heyman’s first promoter gig working for Studio 54 in New York City and how this transitioned him to getting into the wrestling business with his first managerial role and then into Championship Wrestling from Florida.
Following a very brief stint in the Sunshine State, Heyman picked up and moved on to Memphis. Here we are treated to the first real surprise of the DVD – MEMPHIS WRESTLING FOOTAGE! Despite the ownership issues surrounding the Memphis Wrestling tape library this marks the first time Memphis footage has been used on a WWE DVD since 2005’s Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80s. As per the credits at the end, the footage comes courtesy of Jerry Lawler, who has been working recently to put the library back together. It’s really cool to see Heyman’s early promos with the legendary Lance Russell and we are also treated to highlights of one of the most iconic matches in Memphis Wrestling history – the April 1987 Steel Cage Hair vs. Hair showdown between Jerry Lawler and Austin Idol (managed by Paul E.).
Following his stay in Memphis, Paul E. heads back up North and began his AWA tenure. Discussion here looks at the development of the “Paul E.” character and his promo skills. However, when a spot opened up in the NWA following Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard’s departure to WWE in the Crockett/Turner buyout Paul and The New Midnight Express head down to the NWA. Here we are treated to clips of Paul Heyman and The New Midnight Express’ debut on the first Turner owned edition of World Championship Wrestling – regretfully this particular moment isn’t shown in full as a special feature. From here we progress into discussion of the Midnight Express feud and then into commentating with Jim Ross and the impact this had on Paul’s career at the time and following.
Heyman credits Jim Crockett as the inspiration behind The Dangerous Alliance group, as the promotion was looking to create a modern day Four Horsemen. Paul credits the Dangerous Alliance era with providing legitimacy to him as a manager from the exposure he gained during the period as he managed a large percentage of the promotions top heels. Regretfully, we don’t hear from anyone from The Dangerous Alliance, even Larry Zbyzko (who was featured earlier) doesn’t make another appearance, Heyman and Jim Ross provided the majority of comments for this portion. I guess it could be argued that a little Stone Cold Steve Austin in this segment would have been good, but we do get Steve Austin’s views on The Bottom Line set.
Paul Heyman’s departure from WCW isn’t really discussed at all, Paul states that both sides as part of the settlement signed a non-disclosure agreement. Heyman does tell us that JR can tell the story, but Ross doesn’t come through with the dirt either. After leaving WCW Heyman was on track to begin a career in radio before he was challenged or punk’ed out by Jim Crockett to get back into the biz and join Crockett as part of the ill fated WWN promotion. How Heyman agreed to remain involved in the wrestling business is along the lines of another Heyman guy in the summer of 2011 — that’s all I’ll say.
Next up the doc shifts onto discussion of Extreme Championship Wrestling, and as I mentioned earlier the addition of Tod Gordon really added a lot to this, as this is the first time we have seen Tod involved with a WWE project. Throughout this section of the documentary we are treated to a plethora of backstage footage from ECW and their promo sessions, in addition to classic ECW clips. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of footage as a little was used on a past Steve Austin release, but nothing to this degree! This backstage footage originates from the fact that the ECW directors Ron Buffone and Charlie Bruzzese would record the entire promo session and use the very best part parts of the promos, as Heyman would be directing them in the background. This can be seen when Paul assists interviews with Rhino, Big Val Puccio, Little Guido and others. This footage is really cool to see, especially as it’s been hidden away for almost 15 years!
In addition to Heyman the creative genius we also hear about how Paul would band the ECW locker room together with his inspirational speeches, regretfully there likely isn’t footage of these, with the exception of one, and guess what… WWE got the rights to use it! This is the speech featured on the 1999 movie “Beyond The Mat” from just prior to the very first PPV – Barley Legal going on the air. We also hear the true reason why WWE actually put ECW on its payroll each week. The discussion of ECW then moves onto their expansion with new TV clearances and additional PPVs, something which eventually led to them losing their TNN deal and how the PPV companies exploited their lack of TV to avoid paying ECW their share of the PPV revenue – a tactic that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the promotion despite their strong performance at live events and with merchandise in their final few months.
In March 2001 Heyman moved on to the next chapter of his career – WWE. In this portion we look at the “combustible” Heyman/JR commentary team and the dynamic which they had together, and also the relationship both on and off screen which formed between Paul and Brock Lesnar and how it all came to be.
The next portion of the documentary looks at Paul Heyman: SmackDown Lead Writer and how he managed to take a fledgling SmackDown (“the bitch of WWE”) into the WWE’s top rated and top drawing brand above and beyond the “flagship” RAW. Comments come from: Edge, Stephanie McMahon and Jim Ross. It is reiterated that the brand extension was WWE’s attempt to create its own in-house competition following the closure of WCW. It’s hard to argue that Heyman wasn’t the leader of the “golden age of SmackDown” between 2002 and 2004 and during this period he created top stars from talent who had never been given a true opportunity – such as Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Rey Mysterio, all the while maintaining the top veterans like The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the new star, Brock Lesnar. Here it is also where we learn of the volatile relationship which was forming between Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman. This was as a direct result of Paul’s persistent arguing with the chairman, and Heyman’s reluctance to “pick his hill to die on” because Heyman felt he needed to win every argument. All in all this volatile relationship wound up with Heyman being removed from the main roster writing team and being moved off to OVW, but still part of WWE because it was deemed better to have Heyman “inside the castle pissing out than outside pissing in”.
Paul’s Ohio Valley Wrestling tenure allowed him the opportunity to develop raw talents into main roster Superstars. In his role for OVW Heyman developed and shaped the careers of CM Punk, Beth Phoenix and Ken “Kennedy” Anderson amongst others. This portion of the documentary features lots of CM Punk and Beth Phoenix who offer their history and development in OVW. The CM Punk aspects are very similar to the version of events from his 2012 DVD “Best in The World”. From OVW the documentary shifts focus briefly to ECW One Night Stand 2005 before moving on to the ECW “brand”.
At this point in the documentary we reach 2006 and the launch of the ECW brand. We are given the back-story into the development of the brand and we learn officially how Shane McMahon wished to spear head the project as an online web-series with a more traditional ECW vibe. However, when WWE picked up interest from television partners the project was to become just another WWE brand, rather than an alternative. It is discussed how having the letters E-C-W attached to this now third brand further doomed the project to failure as it inevitably drew comparisons to the original promotion. Had the show been called anything else, it may have had the opportunity to succeed. Eventually the dissatisfaction with the product lead to the famed blowout between Heyman and McMahon following the December to Dismember event; discussion of this incident is very brief and we aren’t treated to the full events and in-depth analysis, which was a shame.
Away from the wrestling business Heyman became involved with Brock Lesnar again, this time in UFC, the Heyman Hustle web series and the creation of Looking for Larry – the branding and content creation company (the guys behind the online trailer for The Ultimate Warrior’s inclusion in WWE2K14). Next up the documentary looks at Paul Heyman the proud father and how he important he considers his children, who he describes as “his salvation”.
His unlikely 2012 return is next up and how it all came to be following Lesnar’s return to WWE. The documentary also looks very briefly at Punk’s run with Heyman, but no discussion is given to the “Heyman Guy” promo from the summer of 2011 (guess we’ll need to hang onto Best in the World for this). It is possible this portion of the documentary was altered in light of the events surrounding January 27, 2014. The close of the documentary looks at how Paul has developed as a performer and how he interacts with the younger talent. Renee Young is all over this section and we even have a surprise appearance by Bray Wyatt! Paul explains that not only can he offer an ear to the talent, but he can also feed off their creativity, passion and their life experiences to help make Paul Heyman a better person and character.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes my look at “Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman”. I really do highly recommend the documentary and special features (I think you’ll especially love the DVD extra about a young Paul Heyman driving with Freddie Blassie). If you do check out the documentary I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Get your copy of the “Ladies & Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman” DVD/Blu-ray…
– UK/Europe: This Monday! Pick up your copy now from WWEDVD.co.uk.
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– Australia: This Wednesday! Pre-order now from WWEDVD.com.au.