One of the hottest DVDs on sale currently for the discerning wrestling fan is Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman, a documentary based on the wrestling manager and former owner of ECW. The New Yorker has been intimately connected to the wrestling business since he was 14 years old, and this explores how he hustled his way in through photography to become one of the most recognized personalities in WWE history.
The current manager of the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion and conqueror of The Undertaker's legendary WrestleMania streak, Brock Lesnar, Heyman has been called many names throughout his 25-year career. He has been heralded as a mastermind, a revolutionary, a visionary and a savior. Conversely, he has also been described as a liar, a manipulator, a hothead and uncompromising. All of these terms and more feature heavily as Heyman and those interviewed for this documentary—including some of his closest friends, ex-employees and his WWE superiors—use to describe one of the most polarizing figures in professional wrestling. But one phrase is consistently utilized to chronicle his extraordinary legacy on this industry: EVIL GENIUS.
But, has the anticipation to hear the whole story of one of the most controversial and outspoken men in wrestling history worth the money spent? Well, that is what this review looks to do. Without spoiling the essence of what this 2-disc DVD set provides the viewer, I wish to present an unbiased account of whether it is worth buying and the time watching.
Disc One - Main Documentary
Disc One contains the main body of the whole set, which is the extended documentary of Heyman's years in the wrestling industry, including a sit down interview with the man himself, as well as snippets from other wrestlers, colleagues and friends that have their opinion about Heyman.
Let's begin right out of the gate by stating that this is not a love-in over the greatness of Heyman - not even from the man himself. He admits throughout that he lied, cheated and swindled people to survive and thrive in the cut-throat world of professional wrestling, and he has done plenty that he does not regret, but understands why it drove others against him. Interviewees such as Stephanie McMahon and Jim Ross pull no punches about how difficult Heyman could be to work with, and how unprofessional he appeared on numerous occasions.
However, this isn't a burial akin to The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. CM Punk, Joey Styles, Tommy Dreamer and Mick Foley amongst others are quick to defend his humanitarian nature, and how he did everything in his power to do right for the people he worked with. Whether it was on-screen or off-screen management, he tried his darnedest to do what he felt was right. This then, is balanced as a warts-and-all depiction of the career of Paul Heyman, which leaves no stoned unturned in giving the purchaser of this DVD a clear view of all he accomplished.
A list of some of the talent who appear on this list illustrates how important Heyman's influence has been on the industry in total, and what makes it such a fascinating capture for WWE fans:
- Joey Styles
- Renee Young
- Rob Van Dam
- Mick Foley
- Tommy Dreamer
- Brock Lesnar
- CM Punk
- The Big Show
- Jim Ross
- Jerry Lawler
- Dusty Rhodes
- Stephanie McMahon
However, Heyman's greatest influence he maintains has always been his parents. His father Richard he describes as 'the most ethical personal injury attorney in the Bronx', was forever proud of his son's individuality and talent. Furthermore, his litigious expertise would rub off on Heyman in his negotiating style. His mother Sulamita was a Holocaust survivor, giving him courage and belief that he was genetically programmed to be a survivor. Both died within the last five years, his father in June 2013, so to here the passion with which he credits them for how far he has gotten in life was touching throughout.
The family theme persists when Heyman talks about his children, and how others interviewed do so, and how they have changed him for the better. He states candidly that his legacy will be determined by what they accomplish, because everything he did in wrestling was simply what he did for fun.
The documentary chronologically depicts his career, spanning from his teenage enterprises, to wetting his feet as a manager as Paul E. Dangerously in the territories, from Florida to Memphis. His challenging stint in WCW, which saw him gain global notoriety with the Dangerous Alliance and share the announcing table with JR, before his time as the mad scientist behind Extreme Championship Wrestling. The perils and the glories of the company are laid bare, with the mantra of survival at all costs the underlying feature of the cult brand's lifespan.
The move to WWE following ECW's bankruptcy is recorded, from his start as an announcer to the lead writer of SmackDown. If there is a criticism to be had, it is here, as the documentary glosses over some of his work as a SmackDown talent, concentrating on his writing and creative influence rather than his work as a performer. However, it gives the viewer a compelling look behind the scenes, and how this fractured his relationship with the main office. The break came with the reinstatement of the ECW brand, in spite of the great success of the One Night Stand PPVs. Heyman pulls no punches in expressing his distaste for the WWE's version of his creation, and how this sparked eternal conflicts with Vince McMahon over direction which saw him eventually fired.
Heyman's life 'after wrestling' is then briefly covered, focusing on his development of the Heyman Hustle and the Looking4Larry Agency that have brought him great commercial and personal success. This is short, but to the point, as fans of Heyman's are likely purchasing this DVD with greater interest in his wrestling career. Thus it soon transitions to his return, and this is arguably given the greatest focus of the entire piece, as it chronicles a period where he is content simply as a performer. Heyman cherishes the work he has been able to do with Lesnar and Punk during his return, and despite his numerous commitments how he has finally found the ideal balance for his lifestyle.
Stylistically, the program is put together well. The mixtures of old photographs and newspaper clippings from Heyman's early years in the business are a nice touch to demonstrate the length of his fascination with the sport. The clips of the old ECW are also a treat, but it is the behind the scenes material and stories that are the truly fascinating aspects of how Heyman made the brand an incredible experience. However, the best parts are examinations into his backstage routine nowadays, and how he comes into contact with superstars in the backstage area and offers them advice and encouragement. Many of the superstars that work in WWE today, or were a part of OVW whilst Heyman was in control there, prize his help and influence in making their careers as successful as they could be. To his credit, Heyman states that he is still learning everyday, especially due to the insight of the new superstars, in particular praising the work of Renee Young as an interviewer and announcer. Heyman pronounces, along with many of the interviewees, that the most rewarding element of his wrestling career has been supporting new talent, and that aspect of his legacy is given great exposition by this documentary.
Overall, the documentary alone is reason enough to purchase the whole set, as it provides a genuine and thought-provoking insight into the mind and actions of Paul Heyman, through both the highs and lows. The discussion of him is not always favorable, even from the man himself, but that just ensures that you are witnessing a truthful account of his legendary career. He may be a certified hustler and manipulator, but this documentary feels wholly authentic and bare-all. And if he is manipulating the audience, then it simply is befitting of one of his most recognizable traits. In conclusion, if you are a fan of Heyman, this purchase is a no-brainer. If you are wrestling fan in general, this should also be high on your shopping list. And even if you are a casual fan, this kind of insight into the workings of the business from one of its most notorious advocates might make you a fan for life (or turn you off wrestling for good).
Disc One also contains at the end of the documentary a number of promos from his time in AWA, WCW and ECW, and some additional extended stories from Heyman himself, such as his troubles in Memphis with Jerry Lawler amongst others, and what it means to be a 'Paul Heyman Guy'. It also contains a number of teasers and adverts that were released to promote the release of the DVD. The amount on offer for the cost is certainly worthwhile, especially considering the age and rarity of some of these promos.
Disc Two - Promos and Matches
But wait, there is a second disc - this prospect just gets better and better. The second disc is dedicated to some of Heyman's most memorable promos, and the rare occasions where the man has stepped in between the ropes rather than coach from ringside. These include:
- Promo against Vince McMahon on Smackdown before Survivor Series 2001
- Promo thanking the ECW fans at both One Night Stand PPVs
- Celebrating ECW's rise from the 'Bingo Hall' to Madison Square Garden
- The night Brock Lesnar F-5'd Vince McMahon
- Paul Heyman's 'Pipe Bomb' in Chicago
- The Hardy Boyz vs. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman
- CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman
For those able to play Blu-Ray discs, this set has a treat for you. Even more extended stories are offered for those purchasing the more expensive version of the DVD, with extended discussions with Heyman and other interviewees that were either cut from the documentary due to time or were shortened in the main feature. Also, it includes one of the most recent promos from the time of the DVDs release, which is the full speech the night after WrestleMania 30, where Brock Lesnar conquered the Streak under Heyman's guidance. Just to entice the buyer beyond the improved sound and graphics that the Blu-Ray provides as part of the package.
Rating - 9/10: You don't need to be a Paul Heyman Guy to enjoy this documentary, especially with the hours of bonus content on offer.