WWE manager Paul Heyman is arguably one of the greatest promo men in pro wrestling history, but listening to Heyman talk for 90 minutes is just pure gold. SI.com recently had that opportunity and the evil genius laid down one of the best podcast interviews you will hear on the Internet today.
Richard Deitsch had the honor of having Heyman live in studio and while we have heard Heyman on the Chris Jericho and Steve Austin podcasts, this was a different dynamic. Deitsch is a longtime wrestling fan and he had the opportunity to ask Heyman all of the questions you’d want to know in 90 minutes and he took advantage of every second.
I don’t think many people will argue that Heyman is one of the best promo men in pro wrestling history. Deitsch brought up the topic and after rattling off his favorite promo guys he asked Heyman who he may have left out. Heyman’s answers are fascinating.
On his list of the greatest promo men in pro wrestling of all-time –“I think you have the mention The Rock. I think you have to mention Stone Cold Steve Austin. I think you’d have to mention Captain Lou Albano. I think you’d have to include in that Jim Ross. Because even though he didn’t do promos per say, his work as an announcer was two hours and so many minutes on a live Monday night show doing promos for everybody else’s character, getting their characters across to the general public. Who else would I consider? You know, I’ll throw two names at you who are not the classic picks for top five, top ten, top whatever. Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan and I’ll add another one, Vince McMahon and here’ s why. Bruno Sammartino was not your classic promo where people go back, “watch this Sammartino promo, oh my God, the emotion that it brought out in me.” But look how much money that man drew by promising to do whatever he was willing to do to his opponent. “I’m going to come to the Garden and I’m going to throw this man the beating he deserves.” People then go, “Yeah, I want to see that!” and then they go and buy a ticket to see Bruno Sammartino at the Garden or the Spectrum or the Capital Center or in Boston or Pittsburgh or wherever he was wrestling they would go and see Bruno punish the villain. And sometimes he’d say, “I’m going to take Spiros Arion, I’m going to teach him the meaning of defeat. I want to give Ivan Koloff the beating he deserves, I’m going to bloody this man and on my hands will be the blood that the public deserves to see.” “Wow, I want to see that!” While Sammartino’s delivery is not up there with The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Auston or whomever, he drew a lot of money with the promises that he made. The same can be said for Hulk Hogan. This is a man whose character went totally mainstream in the 1980s and it all goes back to if you look at iconic moments of the 1980s. Look at Phil Collins and Genesis’ video Land of Confusion with every major star of the 1980s there in puppet form, and they’re all identifiable, they didn’t have to have a lower third where they go, “By the way this is Muammar Gaddafi”. “This is Gorbachev, this is Nixon, this is Reagan,” you knew who everybody was. Hulk Hogan was right there front and center. This was a huge celebrity in the 1980s and he was put out there and this was his character and his promos were part of his character. So you have to give that credit as well.
Vince McMahon sold more tickets as an announcer and again J.R. then ushered us into the pay-per-view era and today the drive is to the Network. But under the conditions that Vince McMahon had, his selling of the characters led to sellouts at Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden and the Spectrum in Philadelphia in his father’s old territory. And then when he went rogue and became a villain after his whole fallout with Bret Hart and the McMahon-Austin or Austin-McMahon whoever you want to give top billing to dynamic, you can’t just say that Stone Cold Steve Austin as a babyface, as a hero sold that program. Vince McMahon did his job as a heel with some of the most innovative heel promos that this industry has ever seen. Stephanie McMahon is an awe-inspiring orator on the mic. She is great! She knows when to play the Chief Brand Officer of the company, but when she goes out there and she sells herself as a b*tch, surprise, surprise people actually believe that Stephanie of all people can be a b*tch.
On whether he would bring Hulk Hogan back at some point to the WWE – “I don’t know at some point because. Forever is a long time and the dynamics of anything and everything will change. When Mike Tyson went to prison how many people said, “This guy will never get a job signing autographs if you buy three packs of gum at the local Bodega.” Now look at Mike Tyson, Going back to the Muhammad Ali example. He was labeled a traitor, he was labeled anti-American. Look at the rehabilitation of Richard Nixon in this country. So forever is a long time. If I were running WWE my answer to you would be quite simply, “Now is not the time. I don’t know if there ever will be a time but I will let the circumstances of the culture and the man himself dictate where we go with it.””
I’d highly recommend listening to all 90 minutes to hear about Heyman’s promo style, his background, his relationship with Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, and much more. Listen here!