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Paul Heyman has worn a variety of hats during his lengthy time in the wrestling industry.
Photographer. Publisher. Writer. Promoter. Manager. Broadcaster.
But there’s one role that currently stands out above the rest during his current run in World Wrestling Entertainment.
Heyman — the real-life right-hand man of Brock Lesnar — has arguably done some of his best work on the microphone since returning to the company he once competed against as the head of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Lesnar and Heyman have been paired together since 2002 and with the former UFC heavyweight champion re-signing a new deal with WWE in March, rest assured wrestling fans that the dynamic duo is here to stay for the near future.
Heyman chatted with Yahoo Sports prior to Saturday’s live WWE Network special from Madison Square Garden:
Q: As a New Yorker, what does Madison Square Garden mean to you?
Heyman: As a New Yorker, Madison Square Garden is pretty much the center of the universe. It’s where everything in New York happens or should have happened. If they could put a dome over Yankee Stadium, we would call it Madison Square Garden in the Bronx. To a New Yorker, it’s Ali vs. Frazier. It’s the Knicks winning the championship. It’s the Rangers in their glory days as the hockey team. It’s everything. It’s the grand cathedral.
Q: How easy was it back in the day to sneak into MSG? (When Heyman was a teenager, he talked his way into covering a WWWF event at MSG.)
Heyman: Impossible, which is why I’m pretty much the only one that did it. And it’s a miracle that I did. It’s all the circumstances on that particular day at that particular moment for that particular phone call on that particular afternoon with that particular assistant that answered the phone. It just happened to be in my favor. It was just luck, just sheer luck that got my foot in the door at Madison Square Garden. It never should have happened. So many coincidences that just happened all at the same time that allowed me the opportunity to B.S. my way into the Garden.
Q: What were your thoughts about the initial online backlash when Big Show was announced as Brock Lesnar’s opponent?
Heyman: I think you’re always going to get a backlash for Brock Lesnar’s opponent because we have built Brock up to such a degree that unless we’re giving them Brock Lesnar for the championship against the current champion and probably every other living ex-champion as well in a handicap match, someone is going to find a problem with the booking of the match. If you just gave them Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins for the championship in the Garden, people would then say they should have saved that for a pay-per-view. If you gave them Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena in the Garden, they would question why Brock is fighting for the U.S. title and not the World title. People are always going to find fault in any match that involves Brock Lesnar because any matchup that you present for Brock Lesnar, people are going to say how is that a challenge for The Beast?
Q: Who does Paul Heyman, the wrestling fan, want to see Brock Lesnar step in a WWE ring with?
Heyman: It depends on which show we are talking about. In Madison Square Garden, I personally would love to do something that has mainstream cache to it. I would love to do Brock Lesnar vs. Mike Tyson in Madison Square Garden. Personally, I would find that interesting. I wouldn’t want to do that match at WrestleMania, but I would certainly want to do that at Madison Square Garden. At WrestleMania, I would like Brock Lesnar to be in the championship match — the last match of the night — at any WrestleMania whether he’s the champion or the challenger. At Hell in a Cell, we have the right opponent. The master of the Hell in a Cell … The Undertaker. It’s a rivalry that’s gone on the last 13 years since Brock was a rookie. We finally present the final showdown between Brock and The Undertaker at Hell in a Cell. So, my dream scenarios for Brock Lesnar depend on the show at hand.
Q: You clearly have the gift of gab. Who on the current roster do you feel can go toe-to-toe with you on the mic?
Heyman: Going toe-to-toe with me on the mic really all depends on what you want out of it. It’s like saying who can last two minutes in an MMA fight with Brock Lesnar? We’re not presenting an MMA fight. This is not a legitimate debate when we go on television, so if someone were able to eat me up on the mic — and I don’t know if anyone has that ability — but even if they did have that ability, does that make for good television? And for me to chew someone up on the mic because I have that ability to do so also doesn’t male for good television. My job is to present — and if we’re just talking — my job is to present a scene on television that is compelling enough to get the viewer to invest in a ticket or a pay-per-view purchase or to subscribe to the network … or to build up the characters (Brock Lesnar, his opponent) around me. So for me to just go in there and gobble someone up on the mic, it does me no good. And if someone can go toe-to-toe with me, I would hope that I’m good enough that everyone can go toe-to-toe with me because if I can work out a scenario with them, I promise you it would make for compelling, riveting television.
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how close was Brock Lesnar to leaving the WWE for UFC in March?
Heyman: He was gone. Brock was gone. When Brock showed up at the UFC event, he was prepared to get back into Ultimate Fighting. That was not a negotiating move. Brock looks at the fact that he has a finite number of years left before he’s out of his prime. And he doesn’t want to be someone who performs past his prime. He wants to go out on top. With his contract coming due, he knew this was his chance to go for top dollar and he was either going to get it in WWE, or he was going to get it in UFC and if neither one were going to pay it, he would have got it from Bellator or the L.A. Lakers or the Minnesota Vikings or a hockey team. He was going to sell his athletic services to the highest bidder.
Q: What would Paul Heyman be doing right now if Brock Lesnar didn’t re-sign with the company?
Heyman: It’s a very interesting question because Brock and I wrote a book together, I was handling a lot of digital work with him in UFC and sort of producing some of his segments for television, building up to his fights in UFC. I don’t know what WWE’s perspective of me would be without Brock Lesnar. I’ve never talked to them about it and I don’t know what my perspective would be in WWE without Brock Lesnar here. So, it’s a very interesting question that I’m fortunate enough not to have to think about so that I can avoid the question since it’s not a topic that I’m forced to confront today.
Q: Who plays Paul Heyman in the Paul Heyman biopic?
Heyman: Paul Heyman does! Who’s a better performer than me?
Q: That’s a great point. Who plays young Paul Heyman … ECW Paul Heyman?
Heyman: If you give me a couple of years, probably my son.