The following are highlights from a recent Bleacher Report interview with Paul Heyman:
Bleacher Report: I read a lot about how the manager in wrestling is dead. And yet, here you are in the main event picture on a constant basis. Is it just the fact you are a superlative talent? Or is there still room in the business for a mouthpiece?
Paul Heyman: I never approached this role as the stereotypical wrestling manager. I even avoid that word. I’ve called myself an advocate to disassociate myself from the old term manager that we tried to update 12 years ago as an agent.
Roles constantly have to be redefined in any form of entertainment. Look back at the gangster pics of the 1930s and 1940s and the way James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart would play the part. These roles were redefined in the 1970s by Al Pacino and Rober DeNiro. And again in the 1990s by Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. And will continue to be redefined.
It’s the same way in WWE. If you approach this role as “the rebirth of the wrestling manager,” it’s bound to fail. You have to take it in a different direction. You have to expose the character to a different approach. Or it’s nostalgia. I try to find ways to redefine the role and expand it into places it has never gone before.
B/R: I’ve thought a lot about your most recent clients. Your role with each has been so different. With Brock you’re a true mouthpiece. With Punk it seemed like a creative partnership like Bobby Heenan and Nick Bockwinkel. And with Curtis Axel, you’re the star and he seems to be getting the rub from you and not vice versa. How much do you think about which Paul Heyman you need to be for each distinct character? Almost like, if you were a real agent, your relationship with each client would be different.
Heyman: Any agent in real life does have different relationships with each and every one of his clients. So, if this were a docu-drama, my relationship with Brock Lesnar would be far different than my relationship with CM Punk. And my relationship with CM Punk would be way different than my relationship with Curtis Axel.
My off-camera friendship with Brock Lesnar has always been different than my off-camera friendship with CM Punk. But I could not tell you that I am closer to either one of them or either one of them is closer to me. It’s just a different relationship.
Like any compelling show on television, what works best in WWE is relationships. What’s the relationship between these two people and how does the conflict manifest itself into box office? Whether it’s Walter White’s relationship with his brother-in-law, or his pupil, or his ex-students, or other drug dealers—it’s the relationships of the central character that make Breaking Bad so compelling. And it’s the diversity of relationships that makes it so compelling.
It’s the key to success for any great television show. So, I will approach a relationship on television with Brock Lesnar far differently than I would the relationship the “Heyman character” would have with CM Punk or anyone else I’m associated with.
Because off-camera relationships would be different, so should on camera ones. If “Heyman” reacts to everyone the same way it gets very old very quick.
B/R: I’m curious about your relationship with Brock. I’ve seen you with him at the UFC. It’s not a gimmick relationship, or an on-camera relationship. How did you come to be friends? You guys are as opposite as they come on the surface. What makes you friends? What brought you together as people?
Heyman: Brock Lesnar and I are as different as any two people can be. What drew us together was the love of the actual performance aspect of what we do. While Brock detests the public eye, the travel and all the often documented things he doesn’t like, Brock loves to be in the ring or the cage. He hates everything else that goes along with it. But the actual act of performing or fighting is something the man truly loves. And I share that passion with him.
And, despite the trappings of fame and fortune, we both have, at our core, a very similar value. Our children and our families are everything to us. And it always goes back to that. Brock and I met at a time when we were both about to experience fatherhood. Here we were on an airplane to the U.K., and we really didn’t know each other, and neither one of us had told anybody. We were keeping it very private.
It just happened to come out that both of us were expectant fathers. And the passion with which he spoke about his dreams for his child who had yet to be born—our first children were daughters born two months apart—the fact that we had such similar dreams for our children was such a commonality between us that we became dear friends based on how similar we were despite being different at the same time.
Check out the complete interview online at BleacherReport.com.