WWE's Paul Heyman talks Wrestlemania and his Philadelphia past
Imagine performing on the biggest stage of your life, with two of your best friends in life, at the place where you have spent most of your life.
Sounds like a very ideal situation to be in, right?
That is the situation of WWE's Paul Heyman who in 11 days, will walk into Wrestlemania XXIX, by the side of whom he considers his two best friends in the world, Brock Lesnar and CM Punk.
"How could it be bad for me?" Heyman said during a phone interview Wednesday morning. "I have two of the three main events properly represented on the biggest Wrestlemania of all time in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. How could things be going anything but splendidly for me?"
A native of Scarsdale, N.Y., Heyman is currently managing Lesnar and Punk, two of the biggest names in WWE today, as they prepare for matches of massive proportions April 7 in MetLife Stadium.
Punk will go against The Undertaker in an attempt the break his famed perfect record at the biggest show of the year of 20-0.
Lesnar will face Triple H in a rematch of their tilt at Summerslam last August, but with the added caveat of a Triple H loss meaning the end of his career.
Who's got it better than Heyman? According to him, no one.
"I'm ecstatic with my current role in WWE," Heyman said. "I get to work every Monday with my two best friends: Brock Lesnar and CM Punk. I have 'The Beast' [Lesnar] and 'The Best' [Punk]."
Punk is known to wrestling fans as the man who revolutionized the industry almost two years ago with his epic promo that set the internet on fire.
Heyman knows a thing or two about revolutions as his vision sparked one right here in Philadelphia in the mid-90s.
Heyman is the former owner of the now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling, which from a small bingo hall in south Philadelphia took the wrestling world by storm with its extreme violence and raw, gritty presentation and characters.
The tiny building at 7 West Ritner Street was an inconspicuous building by day, but by night it became the ECW Arena and was the home of what was dubbed "The Extreme Revolution."
That revolution was Heyman's vision when he morphed it from Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1993 and cemented his place in wrestling history forever.
The hard-nosed city of Philadelphia became the perfect place to house the extreme violence of ECW and became a hub for hardcore wrestling.
According to Heyman, Philadelphia had as much to with the success of ECW as did the wrestlers or the uniqueness of the product itself.
"There is no Paul Heyman in 2013 without the city of Philadelphia," Heyman said.
Because of the way Philadelphia embraced the company and the extreme product, ECW was able to make a name for itself on a national scale and carve out a niche among wrestling fans that still exists until this day.
It was as if ECW was the hometown team that the Philadelphia fans cheered for to win night in and night out.
"Each city has a unique flavor… and Philadelphia is the reason why ECW became such a global phenomenon and in turn solidified my reputation and afforded me the opportunity to build my reputation that I would have never had in any other city in America or in the world for that matter," Heyman said.
It was essentially the perfect marriage. On one hand you have Philadelphia: a blue-collar, gritty town that expects nothing but the best. If it doesn't receive it, it will not hesitate to voice its displeasures — loudly. On the other, you have Heyman: a relentless promoter that went to no length to make sure the fans got they wanted to see.
He would sit at the top of the ECW Arena and give the wrestlers of the promotion a hellfire and brimstone speech, which would drive them to do ungodly things to each other. In return, the Philadelphia fans opened their arms and took Heyman and ECW in as their own.
It was about the love of the business. It was about the love of the fans. It was about changing the social norm and forming a revolution.
"The reason why the early days of ECW survived in Philadelphia and the reason why Philadelphia was the perfect city and remains the perfect city is because the Philly fans were two things: One, the most demanding fans in the country. If you lived up to their expectations, which were lofty to begin with, they were the most rewarding fans in the world," Heyman said.
"If you pleased them, if you gave them what they were looking for, if you satiated their appetite for satisfaction in a product, the Philly fans would reward you by publicizing and singing your virtues to the masses because Philly accepted you as their home team and they wanted the bragging rights of saying 'This happened here in Philadelphia.' That could only happen in Philadelphia."
The ECW as Heyman envisioned it closed its doors in 12 years ago. Heyman is no longer the owner of the extreme promotion, but that doesn't mean the Philadelphia fans forgot what he what created. When WWE was in Philly for Monday Night Raw telecast this past Monday, an ECW chant began while he was in the ring with Punk.
It didn't last long, maybe 10 seconds or so, but it was a small reminder and thank you to the man and the performers that entertained them more than a decade ago.
Wrestlemania will be a far cry from the bingo hall in south Philly. It will take place in a stadium that seats more than 82,000 for football games and will be seen by people on pay-per-view all around the world. Heyman says there are plenty of reasons to tune in April 7.
"One, you have a chance to come and witness true history, where The Undertaker's streak is finally going to be snapped. You get to say that 'I saw it live when The Undertaker's streak was broken by CM Punk."
"Far from least important, you get to sat thank you to Triple H for all of his in-ring contributions to the WWE Universe throughout the years because if you're a Triple H fan, you're not going to get to see him wrestle again. This is going to be his last match because Brock Lesnar is going to beat Triple H and this is your chance to say thank you to the The Game."
Heyman is never lacking confidence.
"Of course I am…I'm not Pete Rose. I don't bet against my team."