WWE and ECW legend Paul Heyman: The Malcolm McLaren of professional wrestling

How the former ECW man - a man full complexity and contradictions - has kept up with the times

London, England, 1975. A former art student turned clothes shop owner named Malcolm McLaren saw the future. His aptly named Kings Road boutique ‘Sex’, which he ran with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was attracting interest from all over the world. The clothing they sold was a shock to most onlookers, with their fetish and bondage wear a world away from the flares and feather cuts that most of the capital city rocked.

His concept was simple.

“There are two rules I've always tried to live by: turn left, if you're supposed to turn right; go through any door that you're not supposed to enter. It's the only way to fight your way through to any kind of authentic feeling in a world beset by fakery.”

McLaren’s shop was a haven to waifs and strays who travelled from far and wide just to be seen as something different. Realising that a counterculture was waiting for a change, McLaren found that the best way to get across his message was via music.

In an attempt to break up the monopoly of prog rock and awkward dancing on Top Of The Pops, he formed the Sex Pistols, who within three years had inspired punk culture, changed the mind-set of a nation, released a number one album, and then imploded in spectacular fashion.

Malcolm McLaren knew that punk was more than just a musical movement; it was an inclination to be adhered to at all times. For every chime of Anarchy In The UK, for every New Rose or London Calling, there was thousands of people who were inspired to change their lives as a result of the ethos.

“I always said punk was an attitude. It was never about having a Mohican haircut or wearing a ripped T-shirt. It was all about destruction, and the creative potential within that.”


Philadelphia, America, 1993. A former wrestling photographer and manager named Paul Heyman saw the future. He had just taken over a fledgling wrestling promotion called Eastern Championship Wrestling, and was looking to make a change.

Heyman had big ideas for the wrestling business, having recently left another company named World Championship Wrestling, which was struggling to come to terms with the new decade.

In 2005 the WWE released a DVD entitled The Rise And Fall OF ECW. Early on in the documentary, Heyman remarked on how he set out on his plans for greatness. Just like McLaren, he saw how culture transformed through music, and how every generation needed to evolve to avoid becoming stagnant.

“I thought that the business, the industry, the presentation needed to change in the same way music had changed. Because music was all about Poison and Mötley Crüe and Winger and all these hair bands, and then along came Nirvana and *BAM*! The whole industry changed. So in the same way, I thought wrestling needed to change, in that wrestling had become the equivalent of hair bands, and we needed wrestling's version of Nirvana to come along and just shake everything up.”

Soon, Heyman, and his company which was renamed Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) became a haven for both fans of wrestling, and the wrestlers themselves. Heyman realised that wrestling had become drab and boring, and became an almost evangelical figure, who inspired devotion - and derision by his supporters and detractors.

Within a few years, his company rose from a tiny regional promotion, to one with network television, regular Pay-Per-Views, and an exciting, diverse roster of talent that was regularly poached by other companies.
A dynamo on the mic, Paul Heyman laughs in the face of adversity A dynamo on the mic, Paul Heyman laughs in the face of adversity

As punk had transformed from dozens in the 100 Club to an ideal of living, the ECW brand at one point transcended pure wrestling, and became a higher entity.

“I was on 57th Ave. in New York City and there was a three-car pileup and a bunch of people looked at the car wreck and started chanting ‘ECW’. It's become part of the country's lexicon. It's an accepted, acknowledged phrase” commented Heyman.

Just like punk though, the good times couldn’t last forever, and 2001 saw ECW go out of business. The money had run out, and the organisation ceased to exist, despite a still rabid fan base. Within weeks, many of their talent signed to the then World Wrestling Federation, including, to the surprise of many, Paul Heyman himself.

Many wouldn’t have taken that leap into the world of WWF, especially when they had been a direct competitor mere months before. But Heyman believed in himself, and refused to accept that his day was done.

Over the last 13 years Heyman has been in a key ingredient in the success of the now World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

He has been a commentator, a manager, a writer, and has even competed in the ring as a wrestler for the company.

Many WWE stars have benefited from his tutelage, including Brock Lesnar who, with Heyman by his side, was the man chosen to end the WrestleMania streak of The Undertaker.
Brock Lesnar - a man who has benefited from Paul Heyman's tutelage Brock Lesnar - a man who has benefited from Paul Heyman's tutelage

Despite a near six year gap from WWE in the middle of the 2000s, Heyman has managed to remain one of the greatest interviews in wrestling, and in 2005 he helped bring back his old company ECW for a glorious one night stand, which eventually became a (watered down) television show again for a couple of years.

Away from the ring, Heyman has maintained a close relationship with the aforementioned Brock Lesnar, and wrote Lesnar’s 2011 autobiography. He has created the highly successful Heyman Hustle website, plus an advertising agency which has created content for WWE and UFC, among others.

A 2011 song called Wrestler by British dance band Does It Offend You, Yeah? sampled a Heyman speech from seminal wrestling documentary Beyond The Mat.

That same year, former WWE star CM Punk, in a passionate interview declared himself to be a ‘Paul Heyman guy’, a phrase which has become a genuine phenomenon, and even a t-shirt.


After more than 30 years in the wrestling business, WWE are releasing a feature length documentary on Heyman entitled ‘Ladies and Gentleman, my name is Paul Heyman’, on August 5th.

The boy who was running a celebrity and sporting memorabilia mail order service at 11-years-old, is now the subject of praise from many corners of the entertainment business.

How has Heyman managed to remain both contemporary and reassuringly vintage in this frequently fast moving world? Just like punk evolved into post-punk, to new wave, to hardcore and to pop-punk, Heyman has reinvented himself as a brand, from generic wrestling manager, to a sporting savant whose opinion is coveted by everybody from MMA fighters like Chael Sonnen to aspiring lingerie models.

Despite Malcolm McLaren’s relative lack of mainstream success after Johnny Rotten uttered the immortal ‘ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated’ line after the last Sex Pistols concept, he never stopped trying to believe in change.

“I was taught that to create anything you had to believe in failure, simply because you had to be prepared to go through an idea without any fear. Failure, you learned, as I did in art school, to be a wonderful thing. It allowed you to get up in the morning and take the pillow off your head.”

Over twenty five years later, Paul Heyman closed The Rise And Fall Of ECW DVD with a similarly philosophical statement.

"You cannot achieve success without the risk of failure. And I learned a long time ago, you cannot achieve success if you fear failure. If you're not afraid to fail, man you have a chance to succeed but you're never gonna get there unless you risk it all the way. I was a failure. Sometimes half the fun is failing, learning from your mistakes, waking up the next morning and saying, okay watch out, here I come again. A little bit smarter, licking my wounds and really not looking forward to getting my ass kicked the way I just did yesterday. And now I'm just a little more dangerous."

A 90 minute documentary will never truly encapsulate the complexity and contradictions of a man like Paul Heyman, but if you’re a fan of the triumph of the human spirit, of facing adversity in the face and laughing maniacally at its distorted appearance, treat yourself to a couple of hours of insight into one of the greatest minds any creative industry has ever seen.

Read more: WWE Raw results
Daniel Bryan takes down a burglar
Fergal Devitt signs with WWE
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way


Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls

Arts and Entertainment

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Year 3 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teachers - Chelm...

ABAP Developer

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: SAP ABAP Developer - Rugb...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?