Many fans were shocked when Paul Heyman returned to WWE television on the May 7th edition of Monday Night Raw to begin his run as the spokesman for Brock Lesnar. His departure from World Wrestling Entertainment in December of 2006 was highly publicized across the Internet and, regardless of how accurate or inaccurate reports were at that time regarding the circumstances of said departure, one thing was fairly clear: He did not leave on the best of terms.
Fast forward six years and the return of the mastermind of the original ECW and the very underrated Ohio Valley Wrestling (circa 2005) was more than welcome. The WWE product had become bogged down by an irrefutable staleness and nonsensical booking. The company had become so focused on becoming an entertainment brand that it had forgotten that, at its deepest roots, it is a professional wrestling promotion.
Rather than camouflaging any weaknesses its talent may have had, or using that same talent to its fullest potential, the creative team relied on strictly scripted promos that came across as unnatural and, in many cases, hurt how fans viewed a given Superstar.
No one man or woman is more evidence of that than the returning Brock Lesnar. During his time with UFC, Lesnar proved to be one of the most enigmatic-yet-entertaining fighters in the world. He acquired a reputation and sold hundreds of thousands of pay-per-views because he was honest and spoke his mind. His cockiness made him one of the most hated, most must-see acts in the world of pay-per-view.
When he returned to WWE television and was expected to work off of script, it was clear something was not gelling quite as well as higher-ranking officials had hoped it would. After a hellish match with John Cena at Extreme Rules, Lesnar disappeared from television.
Enter Paul Heyman.
The original mouthpiece for Lesnar in 2002, Heyman had become very close to Brock off-camera. When two performers show a chemistry such as Heyman and Lesnar had a decade earlier, it is difficult to ignore. With Lesnar struggling to connect with the audience, the company put in a call to his closest confidant, and the man who could sell a steak to a vegetarian made his return to sports-entertainment.
The on-screen reunion of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman worked immediately. Heyman, a tremendous talker, said just enough to get on the audience's nerves and the fact that Lesnar believed he was such a big star that he needed a mouthpiece to negotiate on his behalf only made him a bigger heel in the eyes of the fans.
Paul, to his credit, reminded fans of just how dangerous, dominating and destructive Lesnar could be. He put over Lesnar's history in World Wrestling Entertainment more in one night than the company had in five or six weeks prior. It paid off. Rather than splitting the audience at SummerSlam in Lesnar's bout with Triple H, the fans were so desperate to see Brock and his associate get what was coming to them that they whole-heartedly supported "The Game."
But Brock Lesnar is not the only marquee name in WWE to benefit from the return of Paul Heyman.
Throughout 2012, CM Punk had been one of the two most popular stars in the company. As the WWE Champion, he stole the show on numerous occasions, defending his title against some of the finest professional wrestlers in the world. During his months-long title reign, however, he had only been in the main event of one pay-per-view event. Proclaiming the fans and the company had a lack of respect for him as the champion of the company, CM Punk turned heel on the 1,000th episode of Raw, turning on The Rock to close the show.
The problem was that fans were not quick to jump ship from Punk to Cena or any other babyface for that fact. After all, the audience had invested a lot in Punk over the course of a year and he had delivered in a number of big match situations. They respected him, as did the diehard fans that had supported him throughout his WWE career.
As great a talker as Punk is, and as smart a performer as he is, he needed that one last piece of the puzzle to get the fans to completely turn on him. In order for the heel turn to really work as he and the creative team envisioned it to, he needed the man that had so solidly supported him behind the scenes early in his WWE career. He needed Paul Heyman.
Since the two have aligned themselves with one another, Punk has become the most hated man in WWE. The inclusion of Heyman turned 75 percent of the remaining fans that were so stubborn in their decision not to boo Punk. Paul's influence on the crowd is such that only those diehards who are unlikely to ever jeer the current WWE Champion are the only ones chanting his name and cheering for him every Monday night.
Heyman's role as the manipulator in Punk's ear, giving him advice that Punk may not have listened to just a few months ago, has really added to the desperate-for-respect character that CM Punk now portrays.
There is no way of knowing for sure what shape World Wrestling Entertainment would find itself in at this point without the influence of Paul Heyman.
Would it have continued to chug along, forcing angles and storylines on fans that were not willing to buy into them? Probably.
Would CM Punk have been able to effectively work as a heel without Heyman by his side? Duh.
And would Brock Lesnar have used his sheer force and beast-like fury between the ropes to get himself over? What do you think?
But Paul Heyman assured that Lesnar and Punk succeeded without drastic, unnecessary measures from the less-than-stellar creative team. He assured that there would be no failure, resulting in a panic mode that would see Alberto Del Rio challenge for the WWE or World Championship for another six straight months.
Heyman steadied the ship after it had hit some fairly rough tides and stormy weather. Whether Vince McMahon and his merry bunch in the creative process capitalize on the gem they have at their disposal is another question for another time.