Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ladies And Gentlemen, My Name Is Paul Heyman: Review


Well, I've been bargain hunting again. I rarely buy WWE's compilation and profile DVDs nowadays as my viewing habits have changed and the sets got shorter and weaker. However, I'm a big fan of Paul Heyman. He's one of the most creative people in the industry, so I was determined to get his set Ladies And Gentlemen, My Name Is Paul Heyman.
The man himself spoke recently about how WWE underestimated demand for it, so I was lucky to grab myself the Blu Ray edition for a mere £12 in CEX (a total shock, it was priced as £18).
The extras are plentiful, but I'll mostly go through the documentary then share my favourites.


The sheer volume of talking heads who appear is incredible - ECW's Joey Styles, Rob Van Dam, Mick Foley and Ron Buffone. Edge, Brock Lesnar, Jim Ross, Dusty Rhodes, Big Show. Most remarkable of which for me were Raven (considering his "independent contractors" dispute with WWE), wrestling journalist Bill Apter and CM PUNK (his interviews were before his acrimonious split from WWE). Just goes to show how much sway he has.

Early Life

  • Paul describes himself as the schmuck son of an attorney father and Holocaust survivor mother (holy shit). He became a wrestling fan by stumbling upon Vince McMahon interviewing Superstar Billy Graham, who "resonated through the television screen". From then on he wanted to see the secrets of that magic.
  • At 13 he spent his Bah Mitzvah money on photo and printing gear to run a wrestling fanzine. He discovers Vince McMahon Sr.'s regular haunts from a gossip column in a New York paper, and at 14 hustled a press pass for Madison Square Garden shows!
  • Tonnes of footage and shots of a young Paul E at ringside and meeting wrestlers. Bill Apter called him a pain in the ass who'd ruin cover shots haha! Legendary managers Classy Freddie Blassie, Captain Lou Albano and the Grand Wizard all took a shine to him.

  • He'd do well at Jim Crockett Promotions shows too. He once saw a production meeting notice and snuck in to learn from booker Dusty Rhodes. Dusty spotted him and Paul does an ace impression ("Yo'w the keed from New York"), asking why he's there. After saying he's there to learn, there's a prolonged silence before Dream quips "You're learnin' from the right person!"

Foot in the door

  • Having somehow used Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin to get into a Studio 54 charity event, Heyman discovers their lead photographer had just been fired, and convinces them to hire him! When rival club the Palladium raided S54's talent ("kinda like the Monday Night War"), a spot opened up on Friday night, so he promoted "Wrestle Party '85", getting Ric Flair, Dusty and Magnum T.A. to appear and featuring Bam Bam Bigelow's debut. What a stacked event.
  • Bam Bam would needle Paul E into becoming a manager. After seeing a poster of the film Johnny Dangerously he joked he'd call himself Paul E. Dangerously - the rest is history. He'd convince promoters to book his first tag team (the Motor City Mad Men) by offering to advertise their shows in his wrestling magazines in return. Pretty smart.

  • He'd then move to Memphis (via Florida), where we see him talking of a guy called Giant Humongous, I shit you not! Jerry Lawler mentions he didn't get on with anyone, so he put him with their top heels Austin Idol and Tommy Rich. Clearly Lawler disliked Heyman too, but still put their feud over and said he knew Heyman had a future.
  • We then see Paul in the AWA, so talk turns to the CELLPHONE! He saw Wall Street and thought it had foreign object potential, and also talks the exposure he got on AWA's TV shows, often doing two interviews on each episode of their DAILY ESPN show. 

JCP/WCW

  • When Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard went to the WWF, a spot opened up in JCP's tag team ranks, so they bring Paul E in with the Original Midnight Express to feud with Jim Cornette's Midnight Express. Excellent clips here - "1989 is gonna be the year of livin' dangerously".
  • Jim Ross took Paul on as a commentator to take him off creative's hands, calling him a bright, difficult student picking holes in the stories with his "I wanna slap you" presentation skills. Paul learned more about the performance from JR in the booth than from anywhere else and it made him a better manager. He winds up suspended as a commentator too.
  • Rick Rude's arrival proved a saving grace, as they formed the ace Dangerous Alliance faction around him with Paul as manager, along with Larry Zybysko, Arn and Bobby Eaton. At Paul's behest, "Stunning" Steve Austin (yes THAT Steve Austin) was included too. Excellent promo of him introducing the group, "it's not a line up, or a stable, or a family". Paul calls it a "star making moment" that enhanced his reputation enough for him to start ECW. 

  • He was fired eventually though. He sued and got lots of money dependent on both sides keeping hush so can't talk circumstances.

ECW

  • Emotionally spent after WCW, Paul would have gone into radio but wound up in Eastern Championship Wrestling to help friend Eddie Gilbert with his young talent. ECW owner Todd Gordon only expected Heyman to be there for a few shows, but when he fired Gilbert he chose Paul to book the territory. Gordon praises Paul's eye for talent going through tapes, while ex-ECW writer Gabe Sapolsky points out how he transformed Taz and Tommy Dreamer.
  • Ace promo from Paul about the state of wrestling at the time (and clips of WWF's crap gimmicks back then), denouncing people running to the circus with the clowns. This leads to ECW's rated R revolution: barbed wire, piledriving women, balcony dives, twisted camera angles and hip hop. Compared to the cartoon wrestling of the day, Gordon said "there was no question it was real".

  • Really interesting section on WWF's support of ECW next (naturally, it's a WWE DVD). Director Ron Buffone knew Paul worked with the WWF because Vince would periodically call the office! JR basically admits they wanted ECW's talent, but in the long term, rather than just flat out sign everyone like WCW.
  • Paul admits meeting Vince in 1996. Vince wanted to send Brakkus, Al Snow and Droz to ECW on the WWF payroll to get seasoned. In return he wanted Terry Gordy, Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon and 2 Cold Scorpio. Paul had an issue with Scorpio leaving as they were effectively sponsored by a record company to have him wrestle, so Vince paid what they'd lose in sponsorship as compensation. Paul is adamant the money went direct to ECW and he was NOT on WWF's payroll, saying he NEVER paid himself in ECW(!).

  • More clips of mid-90s Paul ("if you want to stay, you stay") motivating talent. Gordon tells a funny story of Paul booking a show on the back of a napkin based off who he could see in the locker room. Ace! Dreamer and Buffone also SWEAR that when asleep in the editing room one time he WOKE UP when a mistake came up!

Money Trouble

  • ECW's expansion was quick and costly. Paul: "We had no credit at all!". Dreamer calls ECW "a Ma & Pop's deli that became Subway". Initially Paul's stocks and WCW settlement kept him going, but eventually his parents invested in ECW. The likes the Dudleys and Taz had office duties. Rob Van Dam mentions how most of them flew on discounted bereavement fairs - "Paul got us to do so much for so little". Buffone even says Paul's mum used to work in merchandise but then he fired her - and hilariously realises how that sounds!!!
  • Styles mentions how important Gordon was, because when Paul was in charge of money he spent them into a hole getting his angles over - although that creativity kept attendance and merchandise up. Their money issues were extraordinary. Dreamer would get paid with the merch money when his cheques bounced. He'd mention to Paul "there's like $22 grand here" so Paul would want some, but Tommy was like "but you owe me $65 grand!" - holy shit!
  • Paul's pretty compelling defending himself - "you have to play with the cards you had, and sometimes when you've got no cards you have to bluff". It was all about keeping going day to day. He again stresses he wasn't getting paid either. "I have more to lose than you do. You can leave, I can't!" Dreamer also defends him saying it was people's prerogative to stay: "You probably weren't going to be much without him anyway" - right, not as if Mike Awesome, Lance Storm, Chris Candido, Rhyno, Raven and Spike Dudley went on to make more elsewhere or anything...
  • In the dying days. Styles says Paul just wouldn't turn up and Dreamer would book the shows instead! Jesus! Ticket sales were hot and they had DVDs (first wrestling company doing them) and video games doing well but they couldn't get on TV after TNN ditched them for WWF Raw: USA only wanted the number one brand, Turner wanted out of wrestling completely, and Fox couldn't offer a financially viable slot. When the Pay Per View companies put them in a quagmire, making them commit to more shows without paying out for previous ones, the writing was on the wall.

WWF/E

  • So Paul starts in WWF as colour commentator, but only signs a contract two months after debuting due to filing for ECW's bankruptcy. I loved how he came out with a modern cellphone on his lapel! Stephanie McMahon said he did everything Vince hated on commentary. JR more diplomatically calls him "challenging". Paul: "I needled JR... I intentionally made JR uncomfortable."

  • Talk turns to BRRRROCK LESSSSNAAAAAAR. Tazz spotted him but told Paul he'd been given "the worst advice imaginable". So after Paul gave him some different advice and Vince liked the results he paired them up permanently. Brock says Heyman smartened him up and put him in the right direction.
  • When Raw and Smackdown were split into different brands, the writing teams were split too and Paul became the lead writer of Smackdown. Paul calls it a tough gig and "the bitch show" (hilariously assuming that wouldn't make the edit), but he made a success of it, thrusting new guys into the main event (the Smackdown Six) without sacrificing the box office value of Undertaker, Brock or Hulk Hogan. We even see a graphic of Smackdown beating Raw in the ratings. Not many people liked that...
The infamous Smackdown Six: Benoit, Angle, Edge, Mysterio, Eddie & Chavo
  • Big Show is hilarious mentioning Paul arguing with Vince, saying he was like an idiot poking a bear at the zoo ("This is fun!"). Paul says he wasn't corporately mature enough to deal with Smackdown's success, and Steph mentions how he'd beat ideas into the ground and suspended him without pay (a first on her watch). However, Paul had a five year contract, so they couldn't fire him...
  • ...Instead he went to developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling. Dreamer thought they were putting him out to pasture, but Paul called it a great gift because he loves developing talent. Beth Phoenix and CM Punk praise his work with them. Paul on Punk: "I was learning from him before I was done teaching him". He was still rubbing people the wrong way though.

ECW's resurrection/WWECW

  • Shane McMahon was a big proponent of both Paul and ECW (while everyone else hated him), and they wind up doing ECW tribute show One Night Stand in 2005, which was a great success. Heyman says if they'd have finished there it would have been awesome. He also reveals Shane legitimately tried to buy ECW in 2000.
  • Back to 2005, Shane lobbies to bring ECW back as a web series tying together the original ECW and a developmental territory. But as the concept grew, they shopped the show out to TV stations, and once Sci Fi and Pay Per View companies became interested in the brand, the obvious occurred.
  • Styles says WWE's ECW FLAT OUT SUCKED - it'd have been fine had it been called something else. Again, Show is really funny comparing Paul to the wounded guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Dreamer compared it to a father seeing his child raised by a step-father, while Steph mentions near the end it was hard to trust Paul, getting in talent's ears etc. Paul bemoans having to "compete" with Vince when he owned the company, and recounts their falling out - if we could have seen it, we'd have NEVER expected him back...

Exile & Return

  • When he left WWE, he tried to buy MMA promotion Strikeforce(!) because Brock was there. He also started the "Heyman Hustle" web series, which lead to him opening his production company "Looking 4 Larry". We see Paul enter the offices and ask the receptionist "Are we still in business today?" - classic! They even did the WWE 2K14 ad with the Ultimate Warrior! Appropriately enough, Paul praises his cellphones for helping him run the place on the road.

  • He also raised his two kids, with everyone mentioning how they changed Paul for the better. Heyman calls them his salvation and says they'll be more extraordinary that he'll ever be.
  • He still kept in touch with Brock, through his UFC days, retirement and return to WWE, but thought there was too much baggage for him to come back too... until he was asked to return and be with Brock! Punk, Dreamer and JR all mention his value. Paul says the five and a half year break improved him as a performer and he loves talking to the talent, with Natalya, Renee Young and (an out of character!) Bray Wyatt all speaking highly of him. We get clips of the awesome "volcano" promo he did on Raw. THE MOLTEN LAAAVA!!! How everyone kept a straight face through that I don't know.


  • Heyman then has a choice quote talking about how he loves learning by teaching younger talent. EVERYONE in WWE creative should have this pinned to their desks:
"Experience is the greatest inhibitor of creativity... because you learn from experience what NOT to do. But it's the unbridled passion and fearlessness to just go into something with reckless abandon that allows you to create something from nothing."
  • The documentary then closes with more praise from Foley ("he's ahead of the curve"), Styles ("the greatest manager of all time"), Buffone ("he was born for wrestling") and Apter ("he still has that glow for the business"). Paul finishes up by saying he's had the time of his life but that his children will be the measure of him.

Extras Highlights

  • The Dangerous Alliance formation, "year of livin' dangerously" and the "Volcano" segments are included in full and are all highlights.
  • Good stuff from his AWA days too, treating the interviewer like garbage and also his interview segment "The Danger Zone" with special guest "Ted E. Bear" who is literally a teddy bear! Only Paul could make stuff like that work.

  • Naturally there aren't many matches, but there is a decent MNE vs Original MNE match. Also the handicap elimination match where Paul and Curtis Axel faced CM Punk is worth it just to see Paul's reaction when he realises Punk has him on his own.

  • There's some really insightful stories that didn't make the documentary, including Paul talking of Freddie Blassie mistaking people's complaints about his driving for heat, Todd Gordon defending the phone call that resulted in his ECW exit, Steph and Paul recalling Paul listening in on Raw conference call (and getting busted), and some good Blu Ray exclusives too, like JR talking about riding with Paul and Joey Styles explaining how Paul NO SHOWED at his wedding even though he was Joey's GROOMSMAN!!!
  • Also exclusive to Blu Ray is Heyman's post Wrestlemania XXX promo bragging about Brock breaking the Undertaker's streak, but for my money the best promo on here is the Smackdown before Survivor Series 2001, where he confronted Vince McMahon.

Verdict

Overall, this is an essential set for a hardcore fan. Even if you've seen excellent documentary The Rise And Fall Of ECW there's still tonnes of worthwhile stuff and facts that come up from this set (Paul going into more specifics about their financial relationship with WWF, Todd Gordon, Gabe Sapolsky and Raven as talking heads) and I was fascinated hearing Paul talk of his early life and where his gift of the gab took him. Far less revisionist history than most WWE docs nowadays too (although take some of what Styles, Dreamer and Paul say with a grain of salt when they are on the defence).
If you can find it for the right price like I did I'd definitely go for the Blu Ray version, as lots of the exclusive stories from from the talking heads are really worthwhile.
Must own.