ESPN has published a new Q&A online with Paul Heyman to promote WWE ’13. Here are a few highlights.
Do you think Brock’s involvement in the video game actually helped smooth out the relationship between him and WWE, actually enabling him to come back this year?
You know, it’s very funny, but I don’t think there’s any such thing as a burned bridge in business, especially when it comes to Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon can end up in a federal lawsuit with you where there is mudslinging back and forth that makes the front page of The Wall Street Journal, and if tomorrow he figures out a way where the company can benefit from your involvement, you will be at a negotiating table with him at lunch. He takes nothing personally, unless he is in the middle of the fight with you. But the moment that fight becomes counterproductive to his business, and that he can make more money with you than against you, then he wants you in the fold. Pure business. And if there’s anything that’s a perfect example of that, it’s the fact that Brock and I are both back in WWE right now.
Even though you’re currently representing both CM Punk and Brock Lesnar on the show, do you see a day down the road where the two of them will have a match?
I don’t know. I don’t know the dynamic of that match because they are two such different styles of professional wrestling. Brock is an explosive MMA-style fighter who brings with him the element of UFC into the ring with him now. And while Punk has trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he is more the equivalent of the modern 60-minute man. Punk is the updated version of what Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat and Jack Brisco and Terry Funk and the NWA champions of old used to bring to the table in that you can put anybody in the ring with CM Punk at any time and you can say, “Main event for me tonight,” and he will turn to you and tell you that the people are going to go home happy because he’s going to give them their money’s worth. So there’s a very big and different dynamic between Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, almost like we’re talking about two different genres within the same category of professional wrestling/sports entertainment.
Going even further back and into your old ECW days, is there anybody who surprised you by how big they blew up when they left for a bigger promotion, or on the flip side, somebody who you thought might be a star but never made it in WCW or WWE?
No, because I pretty much had a handle on how we were protecting some of our guys, and on the ones we were pushing, it was obvious who was going to be a star. When we did the Mick Foley interviews that ended up being his launching pad to becoming the WWE champion, you could just tell for years that Mick had that magic inside him, and the same for Steve Austin. And for the guys who ended up going to WCW or WWE and didn’t quite make it, I knew because these were characters who were created in our shop, so to speak, and when you take them out of that element and you don’t have Dr. Frankenstein protecting the monster, the villagers are going to burn them at the stake.
So when you think back, how much of WWE’s Attitude Era is owed to what you were already doing in ECW?
Everything! It’s funny, because when you interview writers from that era, they will blatantly tell you that they’d watch ECW television, get ideas, sit on those ideas for a couple of months, then pitch them to Vince and say “Hey, I got this great idea for The Undertaker and The Big Show where they go through a ring,” failing to mention that they saw Taz and Bam Bam Bigelow do it in Asbury Park.
Vince McMahon became a billionaire based on Attitude, and Attitude was spawned by the ECW experience. If I could give you one sound bite, one headline, it’s this: Vince McMahon might not proclaim himself to be a Paul Heyman guy, but he sure should.