LaBar: Exclusive chat with WWE's Paul Heyman
It's a short list of people who can rank higher than Paul Heyman in the creative and controversial department for professional wrestling.
Heyman is best known for his time as the creative force and owner of ECW Wrestling, which revolutionized the business in the 1990s with its hardcore product. He's also been a commentator and a manager for WCW and WWE.
Heyman now finds himself on WWE television almost weekly in the corner of one of his closest friends in the business, Brock Lesnar. On April 6, Lesnar will challenge The Undertaker's perfect 21-0 Wrestlemania record at WrestleMania 30.
I recently spoke with Heyman, the following are some highlights of our conversation:
LaBar: From sneaking into wrestling events as a photographer and all that you've experienced, how do you define where your career is now?
Heyman: I am part of what I consider to be the most compelling, the most riveting and the most intriguing storyline going into WrestleMania. The Undertaker trying to defend, and this year unsuccessfully trying to defend, the greatest streak in sports, the greatest streak in entertainment, the greatest streak in sports entertainment history — The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. So, just to be apart of it, let alone to advocate the position of the person challenging the streak, is quite an honor and quite a spotlight. It's where I think I truly deserve to be.
LaBar: Can you describe the situation and memories to when you and Brock Lesnar first met?
Heyman: It was 12 years ago, Brock was wrestling in OVW, which at the time was the developmental system for WWE. Nobody had a clear vision for him. It was “be a big man.” Not acknowledging this NCAA heavyweight champion had everything it took to revolutionize a big man's approach in a squared circle. So Taz came to me, who is a huge fan of NCAA Division 1 wrestling, and he said, “You know that's Brock Lesnar over there and you gotta hear the terrible advice they're giving him.” The old timers were telling him (in an old grouchy voice), “Stand there in the middle of the ring like Nikita Koloff and hit a guy with a clothesline.” Are you kidding me? This is Brock Lesnar we're talking about. I spent five minutes around Brock Lesnar and realized he had a keen vision for the future on what he was able to accomplish. I wanted to ride his coattails as long as I could, and I'm still riding them today.
LaBar: Where does Paul Heyman see Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 or 32?
Heyman: I want Brock Lesnar to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against whomever is the hottest box office attraction against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 and 32.
LaBar: How would you describe your relationship with Vince McMahon?
Heyman: [Laughs] I think Vince tolerates my existence now. I really don't know how to describe my relationship with Vince McMahon. He knew me when I was 15 years old. He's put up with me all of these many years and sometimes begrudgingly so and sometimes he's exploited the things I can bring to the table. I'm really not the one to judge my relationship with Vince McMahon. It's a question better to pose to Vince and then listen his tirade about it.
The full audio interview can be heard Tuesday on TribLIVE radio at 2 p.m. In the rest of the conversation, it includes Heyman speaking about the creative process of what he's going to say on the microphone, where he sees himself in 10 years and if he answers whether he's a “Justin LaBar guy.”
Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.