Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Heyman the Good Guy

One of the things that surprised me the most about the The Rise and Fall of ECW was the apparent level of respect that Paul Heyman was able to command among the various wrestlers of ECW.

Throughout the documentary, many of the ECW wrestlers, like Tommy Dreamer and Tazz, would speak highly of Heyman and his behavior inside and outside the ring. Tazz related a story about one of the times he had to stay out due to injury during which he was still paid by Heyman. At once a nice gesture and an act of surprisingly good faith, it was the kind of thing that seemed to define Heyman's relationship with the wrestlers he managed and generally the way he went about running ECW.

A testament to the loyalty that the wrestlers had to ECW and Heyman was the fact that most of their "contracts" were simply word-of-mouth agreements. When the ECW ran into hard times--during the raids of Bischoff and McMahon as well as their days under TNN--a large part of Heyman's crew felt morally obligated to stick to the the ECW product. This kind of allegiance to a wrestling organization was truly unique. Neither Vince McMahon nor Eric Bischoff, or even their giant organizations could claim to be so esteemed by their crew. While the heads of WCW and WWE were portrayed as high profile execs of their respective wrestling programs, Heyman came off as just one of the guys. Sure, McMahon and Bischoff made their stints in the ring from time to time. However, they were always portrayed as the figureheads of their wrestling establishments, or pretty much as corporate bad asses. Heyman never claimed to be a heel or a face. It seemed like he really was just himself. He was there to openly vent his anger over TNN's censorship just like he was there to bid farewell to Tazz after his final ECW match.

Ultimately, Heyman's attempt to assume the very many responsibilities of managing the ECW would lead to its downfall. Nevertheless, it is apparent that he had a one-of-a-kind establishment and enjoyed a more personal relationship with the wrestlers of ECW.


Sam Ford said...

A lot of things liken Vince and Paul, such as their extreme dedication to their product and their complete lack of sleep, even if their idea of what that final product should be is quite different.

It's interesting that Paul's financial difficulties ultimately led to that idea of "working the boys" as well and some hurt feelings over the fact that ECW ended up owing a lot of people money at the end. We'll get to that on our next Monday viewing lab a couple of weeks from now, but it's an interesting contrast to the fact that Heyman would pay people without a deal as well.

katejames said...

My exposure to wrestling before this class didn't include a knowledge of any CEO besides Vince. I think juxtaposing what we saw of Heyman's persona and business practice nect to Bischoff's and McMahon's is really ineresting. It gives some sense of the value systems placed in the industry on money/paychecks versus loyalty, moral comfort, image, etc. I think we've heard a few wrestlers recount choosing the option with the less pay or agreeing to work without a contract- seemingly poor career decisions- to take higher road, and these moments seem to tie largely into the varying triad of personalities we see with these three characters/ business managers.
Even in Heyman's case, when wrestlers were so loyal to him and to the product, many left when they didn't get paychecks, indicating that there's a tipping point between loyalty, pride, and the promise of a bigger payoff. This real-life set of considerations and the influences of Vince, Bischoff, and Heyman as business operators, becomes integral to the storylines and wrestlers shifting between products and back again. I can see why the WWE split its product, to try to regain some of the excitement of this aspect of multiplicity.
Sorry, a got a little off topic maybe..

Sam Ford said...

One of the interesting things about the WWE "brand extension," however, that has made it not work as well as it should is probably that McMahon is still kept at the helm of all his brands. In other words, WWE has decided that since viewers know the company owns all the brands, that all of them would operate under Vince's auspices. Smackdown has a general manager (Theodore Long), RAW has an executive assistant (Jonathan Coachman--Eric Bischoff was GM but was then fired in the storyline and replaced by McMahon's assistant Coachman), and ECW doesn't have any leader position at all (Heyman was let go of his ECW duties both in storyline and in reality a few months ago, and no one really acts as authority figure now).

Vince is such a large figure, though, that it's hard for anyone to seem to have authority operating underneath him. The reason Theodore Long has worked out well is that Vince only rarely shows up on Smackdown, as compared to RAW and ECW.