Despite literally stating his name to start his promos, Paul Heyman needs no introduction. The enigmatic advocate to Brock Lesnar has the unique ability to incite fans' reaction with just his words. It’s a widely known fact in the professional wrestling world: When Paul Heyman speaks, you listen.
Bleacher Report sat down with Heyman for an exclusive in-depth interview the day before WrestleMania 32 to discuss Brock Lesnar, past and future prospects, Lucha Underground's emergence and much more.
Bleacher Report: Brock Lesnar is slated for a street-fight match against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32 tomorrow. Is there any place in the Dallas area safe from his wrath?
Paul Heyman: You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and the forecast for Dallas, Texas, is an F5 is about to touch down at AT&T Stadium. Dean Ambrose is in the very unique position of trying to make himself a star by stepping into the WrestleMania ring with Brock Lesnar, and I admire the balls that Dean Ambrose is showing in his pursuit of fame and fortune. Even though Ambrose has brilliantly, crazy like a fox, tried to level the playing field by taking an NCAA Division I heavyweight champion and a UFC heavyweight champion out of his element and into a "weapons are legal and indeed encouraged," no-holds barred street fight, Dean Ambrose will learn what everybody else in the WWE Universe should already know. The most dangerous, the most violent weapon ever implemented in a WWE ring is Brock Lesnar himself.
B/R: Dean Ambrose made a pretty big statement on Monday Night Raw, coming out with a wagon and grabbing weapons from under the ring without a word. Do you think Brock Lesnar took notice?
PH: The mind game of it all didn’t escape Brock Lesnar. I just don’t know how much effect it has on Brock Lesnar. You’re talking about an athlete that has been training since he was five years old to rely on his instincts, that even if he’s knocked out during a fight to keep on fighting and continue the battle. Once Brock Lesnar wraps his arms around Dean Ambrose’s torso and clasps his fingers and pivots his hips and takes Dean Ambrose to Suplex City, then it’s only a matter of time before Brock decides to end the torture with an F5.
B/R: What’s next after WrestleMania for Brock Lesnar? Do you see him reviving his feud with Bray Wyatt? Do you see him feuding with someone else?
PH: There is certainly unfinished business with the Wyatt Family, which will be addressed when Brock Lesnar feels like it, at his whim, at his leisure, and convenience and at his pleasure as well. Obviously, the goal for Brock Lesnar is always to be the reigning, and here’s the key word defending, undisputed WWE heavyweight champion of the world, so whomever comes out of the Triple H versus Roman Reigns match for the title is going to have Brock Lesnar breathing down their neck.
B/R: Recently MMA was legalized in New York. There’s going to be a big Madison Square Garden card. With CM Punk having not made his UFC debut yet, could you see him doing so on that card?
PH: It’s not whether I see CM Punk being on the card, it’s whether Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta see CM Punk being on the card. They have many options right now. Obviously coming into the state of New York and running a show at Madison Square Garden is going to be just a media frenzy for UFC. Great place to take someone with the Q-rating that CM Punk enjoys on a global basis and putting him in Madison Square Garden where certainly CM Punk has a track record of being big box office. There’s also a big show coming up in Chicago now. I dare suggest that the Chicago audience would be as favorable to CM Punk as you’re going to find the UFC audience to be for him. I also can’t tell you it would be a bad move for UFC to announce CM Punk’s first fight is in Australia or in Japan or in Europe because WWE’s penetration in these countries has historically been more significant and greater distribution than UFC’s, so they’re bringing a celebrity onto the show. Would I personally put CM Punk on the Madison Square Garden show? I would put CM Punk on the next show that he is available to fight on. I would get this first fight behind Punk and UFC already.
B/R: Would you attend his debut?
PH: I would sure hope so. I’m very supportive of his decision to pursue his dream, and I’m very cognizant of the fact that he’s greatly aware that either he’s going to shock everyone and put on a fighting display that no one saw coming, or he’s going to get his ass handed to him. What makes him so much of a man is that he’s fully prepared to accept either one, and he’s not afraid to get his ass kicked. Most guys come into the UFC and their attitude is "no way I can lose, I’m the man, I’ve been fighting on the streets or in bars or in the gyms or in tournaments since I was this old, blah, blah, blah, blah," and his attitude is I have not been training since I was a little kid, I have not been in this many fights on this many platforms, this is my dream and I think I can do it and I’m going to do everything I can to pursue it and if I fail I’m going to fail spectacularly and everyone is going to see me fail and I’ll lick my wounds and continue on.
B/R: In your article the other day, you compared Madusa to Ronda Rousey. Do you see Rousey making the transition to WWE, and if so would you want to be her advocate?
PH: I can’t tell you that it would be bad exposure for me to be associated with someone who has the global Q-rating of Ronda Rousey. She certainly knows how to attract attention and garner tons of publicity and just to be in on the merchandising of Ronda Rousey, would love for her to be a Paul Heyman girl. Do I see Ronda Rousey making the transition into WWE? I think that’s in Ronda’s court. I am sure that the offer is wide-open for as few dates as she’ll work and as many dates as she wants.
B/R: How might you package her if the opportunity arose? Do you see her doing a smaller slate like Brock Lesnar? Would you speak for her?
PH: I think the first trick would be to get Ronda Rousey to agree to let Paul Heyman become her advocate. She speaks fine on her own. She doesn’t seem to have any problem drawing money and being a big box office attraction not only with her actions and her looks but her words. Before I start planning the manner in which I present her, I would love to be able to find out if I would be representing her at all.”
B/R: Are there any prospects in the NXT or other promotions that you could see yourself working with in the future? What qualities does a prospective superstar have that makes you want to work with them?
PH: Usually people that I like to work with are people that I believe in more than they believe in themselves, and they just need that extra boost and the person to give them a little more time and understanding and introspection into their own character to find that box office that lives inside of them. NXT has a roster filled with people I would love to work with—both male and female. The priority at the moment is that my advocacy is exclusive to Brock Lesnar, but I always have my eye on the next big thing that may be coming along.
B/R: Yesterday at the Lucha Underground roundtable at WrestleCon, its talent basically praised ECW and it’s influence. Do you see any types of similarities between ECW and what Lucha Underground is doing?
Heyman: Oh, I’m a huge fan of Lucha Underground. I hate labeling anything "the next ECW." I would hope that Lucha Underground’s desire is to become the first Lucha Underground. I’m flattered by their praise. I think the comparison works on some levels, but the landscape is so different today than it was in the 1990s to compare the two movements in and of themselves. To me it leaves something to be desired because I don’t think Lucha Underground is done any favors by being compared to a promotion that hasn’t been around for 15 years. I think Lucha Underground has carved its own niche and in that they deserve a ton of credit.
B/R: That’s difficult to do nowadays, carve your own niche in this industry.
PH: It’s very difficult to do, which is why I understand the comparison in that ECW zigged when everybody else zagged and we zagged when everyone else zigged and Lucha Underground is presenting as ECW did—a viable alternative product for the sports entertainment/pro wrestling consumer, but that’s the only thing that I see that carries similarities because there are so many different platforms, there are so many more distributing channels today and distribution options and avenues that Lucha Underground can exploit today. Today we live in an atmosphere where you can make a healthy living promoting a viral product. I do see Lucha Underground as a groundbreaking promotion in a very big way. I’m interested to see how they exploit the emerging platforms that avail them of a greater audience through all the many different distribution channels that are out there.
B/R: Last night at NXT TakeOver, Samoa Joe got busted open, and the trainers came into the ring and stalled the match and the crowd voiced their displeasure. Is there anything you’re seeing in Lucha Underground that you think could translate in the WWE?
PH: Well, yes, and I’d be very excited to see a Lucha style that can thrive in WWE, and perhaps this upcoming Cruiserweight series is a place for that to thrive. WWE has a short history of taking great Luchadores and having them acclimate and assimilate to the WWE style. I’m wondering if in the future the ingredients to the soup include letting the Luchadores do the Lucha style and bringing that style forward to expand WWE’s audience instead of luring the audience in to see these great Luchadores wrestle on WWE’s platform.
B/R: What is it about the industry that you love so much that makes you keep going 25-plus years and beyond?
PH: It’s fun for me. I get a genuine kick out of performing with Brock Lesnar and working behind the scenes with Brock Lesnar. When I left WWE at the end of 2006, I truly thought I was done in this genre of entertainment. When Brock had me come back in 2012, we didn’t really know how long this run was going to last, and at first it was only supposed to be for a year, and it was extended and extended again. We’re having the best run of our career, and I don’t know where else the two of us would be able to work this closely together both behind the scenes and on camera, so we’re really enjoying this time that we have to exploit our talent and each other’s talents and get to work with each other and get paid handsomely for it.
B/R: Do you think the fact that you’re only on TV select days is a hindrance or helpful because it builds suspense?
PH: I think it is one of the primary lures to seeing Brock Lesnar fight, and the analogy that I’ve given several times is what’s everybody’s favorite night of the year, and this is coming from a New York Jew boy, everybody’s favorite night of the year is Christmas Eve because you get the family together and the kids get presents and money from the grandparents. Everybody is so happy and crying and emotional and family- oriented. Well, if you feel that good on December 24, wouldn’t you want to feel that good 365 days a year? So why don’t we just have a Christmas Eve every month? Why don’t we have a Christmas Eve every week? Why don’t we have Christmas Eve every day? Because we wouldn’t feel that way every day, because it would take the novelty off of Christmas Eve, because it would affect the unique presentation that Christmas Eve presents to us. It would affect the unique opportunity that Christmas Eve presents to us. So in the same way, if you can see Brock Lesnar wrestle every Monday night on Raw or every Thursday night on SmackDown or on every pay-per-view and WWE Network special, it’s not as unique anymore. It’s not as special. It’s not as must-see and can’t-miss. I think the limited schedule has done wonders for the Brock Lesnar mystique and has done wonders for WWE box office because it lets the audience know when Brock Lesnar fights it’s a very special mega-event.
B/R: You are the last of a dying breed of managers. Would you like to see more of it in the WWE? Do you think it’s going to make a comeback, or is it something that they are veering away from?
PH: I think one of the primary reasons I’m a surviving dinosaur is because of the fact that Brock Lesnar and I are so closely associated with one another, which is why I got away from the name manager. To me managers were Captain Lou Albano and Freddie Blassie and the Grand Wizard and Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart and Paul Bearer, and they were awesome in their roles. They were just fantastic at what they did. I truly believe that my role with Brock Lesnar is different, which is why we came up with The Advocate. Would I like to see more? It all depends on the personality. Ric Flair works with his daughter Charlotte. His role with Charlotte is different than my role with Brock Lesnar. Enzo Amore is a fantastic talent. His role is different than mine with Brock Lesnar. There are people who are out there who would be fantastically suited to be a spokesman, but for whom? It has to be the right mix. It has to make the right sense, and in today’s atmosphere I think the relationship would have to be long term before you do the stereotypical manager-superstar split.
B/R: You develop relationships outside of the WWE with your clients, is that something you think sets you apart from those who had roles before you?
PH: I would suggest that it helps us sell the act, because you get to see the genuine authentic emotion between the two characters. When Brock Lesnar and I are television, you can tell both these guys are very close. When CM Punk and I were on television together, you could tell, wow, these guys are really best friends. There is a bond between these two, and that always [helps]. It’s the difference between a male and a female being cast to become love interests and legitimate love interests kissing on camera and being together in front of the audience. You can tell when there’s something very real going on.
B/R: You’ve been working in this industry nearly 30 years. Could you see yourself still working in this industry in another 30 years?
PH: I hope to be alive in another 30 years. Right now I see myself doing this with Brock Lesnar as long as Brock Lesnar wants to do it. The day that Brock Lesnar decides he no longer wants to lace up his boots is a day that I have a very serious decision to make, which is why I have so many interests outside of WWE because I don’t know if I would want to continue on after this run with Brock Lesnar. Then again, maybe that’s exactly the best move for all parties concerned if there’s the right talent to work with. I don’t really have a vision yet as to what I’ll be doing 30 years from now, besides probably still trying to create unique advertising campaigns and promoting Hustle Booty Temp Tats.
B/R: How important is it for WWE superstars to have a brand outside of WWE?
PH: I’ve always been a big believer in diversification for anybody. It’s never good to put all of your efforts and all of your time and all of your financial resources into just one project. Diversification is key for any individual and any business.
B/R: To close, what can fans expect to see from the Brock Lesnar-Dean Ambrose match Sunday at WrestleMania 32?
PH: I think the big story tomorrow at WrestleMania will be the explosion of popularity enjoyed by Dean Ambrose. I truly believe that Dean Ambrose will leave WrestleMania a far bigger star than he is walking in because everyone is going to be able to respect and admire the beating Dean Ambrose is going to visibly and physically suffer through at the hands of Brock Lesnar. Whether the WWE Universe will love Dean Ambrose simply based on sympathy or the acknowledgment that this man picked this fight knowing he would take this beating, Dean Ambrose will emerge a mega-star, although he will have to wait about 30 days to recover from that beating and capitalize on his newfound adulation from the WWE Universe.