Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paul Heyman Doing The Hustle

Paul Heyman is indisputably one of the best booking minds and wrestling personalities of his generation. After the fall of the original ECW, Heyman took his considerable talents to the WWE where he went through a volatile few years butting heads with the McMahons and playing a key part in the revival of ECW. Heyman never seemed to be able to get the kind of creative control to have the kind of impact he might have wished for, and that relationship came to an unsurprising end.

Since then, Heyman has moved on to a project called "The Heyman Hustle" - a series of web based mini-shows produced under the auspices of the London-based Sun newspaper that feature Heyman hanging around New York interviewing all sorts of major and minor celebrities all examining whatever their particular "hustle" is. It's Paul Heyman's creative mind turned loose beyond a ring and set of ropes, and with that much personality power behind it, it's enormously engaging stuff.

Heyman is now a father of two and trying to move on to other dreams and aspirations outside of wrestling. Pro wrestling is touched on here and there in the series, but this is Paul Heyman proving that wrestling needs Heyman more than Heyman needs wrestling. I tip my hat to Paul, because his kind of ability deserves an outlet that is suitably rewarding.

There are all sorts of opinions about Paul Heyman. Most of them are something like "creative genius, but a lousy businessman."

I had some personal experience with Paul while he was running ECW. Through a chain of events that is well covered in Scott E. Williams' book, Hardcore History, in 1997 I ended up being the middle man between ECW and Michinoku Pro Wrestling, facilitating their appearance on the first ECW pay-per-view, Barely Legal. Even while being "hustled" by Heyman, I still liked the man immensely and liked and respected Tazz and Tommy Dreamer, along with the rest of the ECW crew. I was put in a position of being able to do something positive for people who were earnestly trying to overcome long odds and was glad I did.

The experience gave me a bit of an insight into Heyman. I disagree with anyone who says that Paul Heyman was a lousy businessman. Anyone who could have done what Paul did is one hell of a businessman. Paul's problem, ironically, was similar to the problems that plagued many of old time promoters he criticized.

For example, Paul would talk about Verne Gagne not being able to adapt to the times. In the world of territorial wrestling, Verne Gagne thrived. But when that world was altered by the expansion of the World Wrestling Federation and Vincent K. McMahon, Gagne couldn't adjust in order to compete. Ironically, the same thing happened to Paul Heyman.

When ECW was a touring East Coast promotion with syndicated TV, Paul Heyman could control his universe. But after Barely Legal, when pay per view entered the picture and suddenly this little fly-by-the-seat-of-its pants company had to deal with things big corporations and due diligence and a level of scrutiny and responsibility to something other than itself, then ECW's universe changed and Paul Heyman did not adapt to those changes and become a real corporation with a staff and management team that could efficiently handle its business.

A hustler can only hustle you if he controls the environment at hand. In my opinion, all Paul was guilty of was losing that control. Yes, a lot of people got hurt in that process, but most of them achieved something they could never have achieved without him.

So watch "The Heyman Hustle" and enjoy Paul Heyman - free to create and in control of his universe.

Best wishes Paul!

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