Paul Heyman Is a Genius and the Reason You’re Going to Watch When ‘Mania Season Ends
When one looks across the WWE landscape these days, there is a lot for a wrestling fan to be excited about. This is the typical situation around Wrestlemania season; WWE Creative always seems to kick into another gear during the first quarter of the year as they expertly move their talent like chess pieces, setting up the classic, iconic matches that drives the ‘Mania buyrate through the roof. During this time, TV ratings typically increase as the most casual fans temporarily tune-in to see the return of WWE’s most powerful pieces, Attitude Era icons like The Rock and Brock Lesnar, or to see who will be the next top talent to challenge The Undertaker’s undefeated streak. At the same time, it seems like angles are planned more carefully with less on-the-fly booking.
It is often the case, however, that, in the long run, these moves amount to little more than a check rather than checkmate when it comes to sustaining the interest of returning fans. Let’s just spell out the facts: The Rock is bye-bye after ‘Mania season, whether The Deadman returns or not for the big show, he’s gone too, and Brock Lesnar works a reduced schedule, so you can’t rely on him to carry the product. When the dust settles, after Vince McMahon swims in the ‘Mania cashflow like Scrooge McDuck, we’ll be left with the usual role-players. Normally, this situation leads to what can be accurately called the annual post-Wrestlemania hangover. Casual fans peace out and the creative team just doesn’t seem to try as hard.
But there is hope this year that we might avoid the hangover and it’s mainly because of one man. Paul Heyman. Nobody is going to convince me that this dude hasn’t exerted his influence behind-the-scenes in developing both CM Punk’s incredible creative work since going full fledged heel or the slow, methodical build of The Shield angle or the way Brock Lesnar mysteriously, yet seamlessly seems to fit into the careful web of deceit Paul Heyman’s on-screen character has created. What we have here are three distinct angles: CM Punk’s pursuit of the WWE Championship, The Shield’s mission to bring “justice” to the WWE, and the sadistic path of destruction wrought by WWE’s biggest badass. Separately, these angles would be enough to garner considerable interest heading into Wrestlemania; they serve as perfect support to the obvious main event The Rock vs. Cena (vs. CM Punk) no matter the form they take on the card in terms of matches.
What takes these angles to the next level, however, is the undercurrent of intrigue that Paul Heyman brings. We know all three angles are part of a bigger picture. We’re not quite sure how, but damnit, we’re going to keep tuning in until we figure it out. This is exactly the hook the WWE needs to keep some of the casual fans hanging around post-’Mania.
It all sounds so easy: take three angles, link them together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. But it’s incredibly difficult and only a master like Paul Heyman could pull it off so flawlessly. I encourage everyone to rewatch Heyman’s Miz TV performance this past Monday on RAW:
Specifically, pay attention to the part where Heyman tries to avoid The Miz’ inquiries about Heyman’s affiliation with Brock Lesnar. Heyman tires to change the subject and talk about Punk instead. Obviously, Heyman is playing the shifty weasel trying to avoid a topic that implicates him in wrong doing, but it also has an important secondary effect. In a subliminal way, Heyman was validating our suspicion that Lesnar and Punk are connected in some way just by juxtaposing them together in the same segment. Heyman doesn’t want us to forget that he’s the link connecting the two together. The ability to plant those seeds in our mind without it seeming forced requires an enormous level of skill. It requires not only a convincing actor, but someone who understands what it takes to execute a great wrestling angle.
Another thing to note is the way Heyman throws himself into a segment with reckless abandon, whether he’s delivering a promo or reacting to other characters’ actions with his eyes. Watch when Vickie tells Miz that she’s his boss how Pauly’s eyes light up with mischevious, giddy, evil glee. Or how about when Pauly is disingenuously trying to protect The Miz from Lesnar’s onslaught? “He’s sorry, Brock! He’s sorry!”. Again, this not only builds up Brock as an unstoppable monster, but sets up the Heyman character as a guy crafty enough to protect himself and his interests by trying to desperately maintain a facade of innocence. Now try to name me one active wrestler on the roster that can match that kind of performance consistently and effectively in front of a live audience. Name one guy on the roster that knows how to better maximize their minutes on camera. Heyman is more than just a master performer, he’s a master promoter. And as a promoter, he is selling the long term creative direction of WWE.
And what is that direction exactly? That’s the best part, we can’t really be sure. But we all want to know, and we’re all going to tune in at least until we find out. All I know is that, though Brock, CM Punk, and The Shield are all separated by one degree through Paul Heyman, they have yet to stand together in the same ring at the same time. I have to believe this is no accident. This is all part of the slow build that Heyman has masterminded. When that moment hopefully (inevitably?) comes, we may witness something truly special. If we’re lucky, we may discover that this whole time we’ve merely been witnessing the prologue for what might end up being one of the greatest wrestling angles of all time. Am I getting my hopes up? Perhaps, but the way these three big angles appear to be coalescing has Heyman fingerprints all over it. If anyone can bring it all together, it’s the master himself.
Needless to say, I am a Paul Heyman guy. And if you’re not also a Heyman guy (or gal) already, you might just be after Wrestlemania, when all is said and done.