The wrestling world went into meltdown last week when it was announced that along with Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman would be returning to become the Executive Director of RAW.

    This has excited fans worldwide, because as well as creating and running ECW, he was also in charge of Smackdown during one of its golden periods between 2002-2003 and took it to heights it has very rarely reached since. Heyman has been a revelation in wrestling for over 30 years now. Here are five ways Paul Heyman has changed the wrestling industry.

    1. ‘Pipebomb’ Promos

    Nowadays it seems everyone and their mother has, at some point in their career, tried to do a “Pipebomb” promo. Audiences love them, because it further blurs the line between wrestling and reality. Most of these wrestlers owe these chances to Paul Heyman and Shane Douglas.

    In 1994, ECW, or Eastern Championship Wrestling as it was then known, was under the ownership of the NWA, and was due to hold a tournament to crown the NWA Heavyweight Champion. Now the full story of this is explained better elsewhere, but upon winning the championship, Shane Douglas threw down the NWA Heavyweight title, claiming that he didn’t want to be the champion of a ‘dead promotion’. Proclaiming himself ‘The Franchise’, he said that he, along with ECW, were going to change the face of professional wrestling. This was all a plan concocted by Douglas, Heyman and Tod Gordon, the owner of ECW at that point. Soon after, Eastern Championship Wrestling became Extreme Championship Wrestling, and the rest was history.

    After seeing how the wrestling world reacted to Douglas’s promo, Heyman encouraged more wrestlers to express themselves more in promos. This worked well in an ‘alternative’ promotion, because fans wanted the realism that WWF/E and WCW couldn’t deliver. A lot of superstars today owe a lot of their promo work to Paul Heyman and ECW.

    2. Introducing foreign/unknown talent

    One of the greatest things Paul Heyman ever did for wrestling in America was to introduce wrestlers and styles that most audiences would have never seen before, and then as a result, were left gasping at the talent on display.

    Among others, Heyman brought people like Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit into ECW to show the world that ECW was a lot more than just a hardcore promotion. The four mentioned above were just the tip of the iceberg. Tajiri, Masato Tanaka, Super Crazy, Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera and countless others all passed through ECW at various points, wowing audiences with their technical wizardry and high-flying ability, before WCW signed most of these people to their Cruiserweight division in 1995-1996. If ECW hadn’t given these people a chance, then most of them would never have the success that they achieved, especially Mysterio, Guerrero, Jericho and Benoit.

    3. Introduced mainstream audiences to triple threat matches

    This is a debatable one. There is some argument amongst wrestling historians as to who put on the very first triple threat match. Some say it was Jim Cornette in Smokey Mountain Wrestling, others say it was Paul Heyman in ECW. What no one can deny however, is that the triple threat, or Three-Way Dance as it was known in ECW, became an ECW staple.

    The first three-way dance occurred in 1994, when Terry Funk, Sabu and Shane Douglas battled to a 60-minute draw. Fans raved about the concept. They’d never seen three people in the ring at the same time and went home amazed at the concept. Heyman, ever the businessman, put on more three-way dances, even making one of the main events of the first ECW PPV a three-way dance. Eventually, he even made tag team three-way dances, further pushing the boundaries of what wrestling could be. Of course, WWE and WCW started doing triple threat matches, revolutionising the concept even more by making them one fall to a finish (ECW’s three-way dances were always elimination style), but ECW had the idea first, and it was Heyman who came up with the concept (probably).

    4. The ‘Smackdown Six’

    It wasn’t just ECW where Heyman shone. After the collapse of ECW and the end of the Invasion angle, WWE invited Paul Heyman to become the head writer. Under his reign, Smackdown flourished – particularly Rey Mysterio, Edge, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero, who were christened the ‘Smackdown Six’ by fans and critics alike.

    Having already worked with Benoit, Mysterio and Eddie in ECW, he quickly recognised them as essential talent, and started to build his brand around them. These six men had some blistering triple threat tag matches with each other, with Angle and Benoit vs Mysterio and Edge at No Mercy in 2002 winning the Wrestling Observer Award for Match of the Year. It wasn’t all just tag matches though. These men put on some fantastic singles matches against one another, including Edge vs Eddie in a No DQ match on the 26th September 2002 edition of Smackdown and Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio from Summerslam 2002. What Heyman did was prove that not every top-level superstar in WWE must be 6ft tall and jacked. Sometimes, the best talent is the one you don’t expect, and Heyman and the Smackdown Six proved just that between 2002 and 2003.

    5. Introduced the world to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Mick Foley

    Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that these two weren’t already stars by the time they passed through ECW. Austin and Foley had been stars in WCW by the time Heyman got his hands on them. Heyman had even managed Austin in WCW. However, if it wasn’t for Heyman, then we probably wouldn’t have got the Austin and the Foley that we all know and love today.

    When WCW fired Austin in 1995, Heyman contacted him and asked of he would come do some promos for ECW, as he wasn’t medically cleared to wrestle. Austin, incensed that WCW had fired him whilst he was injured, agreed to do some work for Heyman.

    It was at ECW where Austin began to hone his ‘Stone Cold’ persona. It was still rough around the edges, but Austin laid the groundwork for what would become the most successful wrestling persona in history. He has credited Heyman in the past for teaching him how to cut a promo, and for giving him a chance not only in ECW, but WCW as well.

    Mick Foley and ECW were made for each other. ECW was obviously an extreme promotion, and Foley was already a deathmatch icon due to his time in Japan and losing part of his ear in WCW. Consequently, Heyman and Foley were a match made in heaven. He refined his Hardcore Legend Persona in ECW, which he has claimed on many occasions was ‘like a second home’ to Foley. He has also claimed that his exit from ECW, where the crowd chanted ‘Please don’t go’ as he danced around to the Frank Sinatra tune ‘New York, New York’, was his favourite moment in wrestling.

    What both of these wrestlers have in common is that under Paul Heyman and ECW, they could flourish and be themselves. Now that Paul Heyman is back in charge of writing a wrestling show again, maybe we’ll get to see more wrestlers flourish and be themselves. Let’s hope so, because right now, WWE badly needs a new megastar.

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