The wrestling ring is supposed to be the stage on which WWE's dramas play out, but Paul Heyman makes ringside his own showcase of acting, emoting and entertainment.
Too many managers are scarecrows on the outside of the ring. Heyman is a Shakespearean actor out there, contorting his face and manipulating his posture to accentuate the story that is playing out between the wrestlers.
Every near-fall or chinlock is an opportunity for Heyman to add to the matches his clients are in.
The best performers make wrestling bouts feel important, up the value of victory and the pain of defeat. No one does that from the manager spot like Heyman. It begins from the opening bell, his focus never veering from in between the ropes.
An image from Cesaro vs. Sheamus at Payback captures that perfectly. As his client battled for the United States Championship, he leaned in with his eyes widened, worry hanging on his face.
Seeing that, it's hard not to get more amped for the match.
That's what Heyman has done throughout his career. People often rave about how many champions he's managed, but the journey he has led fans on in the process of winning and losing those titles is more impressive.
When his then-client CM Punk took on Sheamus back in October of 2012, he was just as much a star of the drama as the two men in the ring.
As the two wrestlers locked horns, Heyman sauntered by with the WWE Championship in his hand, holding it as a butler would his master's robe.
Later, Punk kicked Sheamus in the mouth, an everyday move that would normally feel unimportant. Heyman, though, amplified the moment by over-celebrating it. He hoisted the WWE title above his head and turned for the crowd to see it, braying, "The best in the world!"
At other moments, he cradled the championship to his chest, as if to protect it.
The camera continually pulled away from Sheamus and Punk to see what Heyman was up to. It found him snarling at Sheamus, mocking him with the WWE title. After "The Celtic Warrior" hit White Noise, Heyman looked up to God for help, muttering to himself.
Never once did the spotlight shine on him when he was simply standing there. With each flash of focus WWE offered him, he slathered more emotions onto the action.
Every aspiring manager should study Heyman's contributions to the matches he is a part of. He allows the in-ring story to yank him around, to send him into a rage or fill him with shock.
When the match requires him to scream in disbelief, he does so red-faced and with his jaw forced wide.
Should the referee throw him out of the match for being too hands-on, he histrionically throws his hands up. Exasperated, he squawks his case.
Call upon him to play the villain plotting treachery while remaining as focused as a surgeon, and he nails it.
Reactions like these elevate his clients' matches. The wrestlers look to create an emotion in the ring, and Heyman has it echo further and louder. He has done this with the ideal balance between being over-the-top and understated.
One of the best examples of how powerful he can make a moment came on Aug. 26, 2013.
He backed Curtis Axel against his former client Punk. Punk was looking for revenge on the weasel who had betrayed him. The stipulation of that night's bout meant he could finally get it. Should Punk beat Axel, Heyman had to battle the man he had forsaken.
Every move felt significant. Every close call quickened one's heart rate. Credit Heyman for some of that. He forced our eyes upon him as he squirmed on the entrance ramp, wincing each time Axel neared defeat.
Punk won. Heyman's realization of that was a stellar performance.
Frozen in disbelief, fear stretching his eyes open, he slowly lowered his hands from his face. He was a mouse dropped inches from a snake's open mouth. He was convincing, hypnotizing, the puppet master guiding the audience with a yank of the strings.
This skill bettered Punk, Brock Lesnar and Axel's bouts, just as it will Cesaro's. Being a "Paul Heyman guy" means several things for a wrestler, but one of the biggest benefits of being in that club is having Heyman magnify the emotional power of their matches.
While WWE's Superstars use roundhouse kicks and clotheslines to captivate, Heyman uses his facial muscles. They are the piano keys on which he performs his masterworks.
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