Brock Lesnar isn’t wrestling for a title at WrestleMania 32, but Lesnar’s advocate Paul Heyman still believes the Beast Incarnate’s street fight with Dean Ambrose will overshadow every other match on the card. With WrestleMania just a few days away, Heyman spoke with Fox Sports about Lesnar’s mentality heading into his match with Ambrose, his genuine relationship with Lesnar, and the odd jobs he does before one of Lesnar’s big matches.
Fox Sports: Brock Lesnar was very open in an interview Monday morning about the struggles he had in his first stint with WWE coping with the demands of being a superstar, and with substance abuse. How much has Brock Lesnar changed as a professional in the years you’ve known him?
Paul Heyman: When I first met Brock Lesnar he was the NCAA Division I heavyweight champion – then broke into an entirely different genre of entertainment instead of competitive athletics – and emerged after a year and a half of training as the most prepared rookie in the history of this industry. Which goes along with his desire to have the best match every single night. He damn near killed himself in the ring, not just doing the Shooting Star Press at WrestleMania [XIX], but every night he damn near killed himself. Emotionally, and psychologically and maturity-wise, I don’t think anybody at that age of 23-24 fresh out of college is going to be prepared for the rigors of being on the road 300 days a year. Never seeing your family, especially on holidays, and having to deal with broken ribs and blown-out knees and fractured ankles and broken fingers – which he had – and refuse to miss any dates because he was advertised.
Lesnar in 2003.
He didn’t understand the long-term plan for himself, nor did he have a long-term plan for himself. So he became victim to the pitfalls of the business. The Brock Lesnar that stands before me today is far smarter, far wiser, far more in-tune to what is realistic to expect from a human being. He’s much smarter than he was 14 years ago, and in that he’s a far better athlete and he’s far better in the ring. It’s not that he has to accept his limitations, it’s that he knows the limitations the human body can endure.
FS: Where would Brock Lesnar be in 2016 without Paul Heyman, and vice versa?
Heyman: Paul Heyman would have nothing to do with the sports entertainment industry without Brock Lesnar. I came back into it specifically because of Brock Lesnar. Number 1, just in terms of sheer economics, I could tell this was going to be the biggest run of our career together. Number two, just in terms of legacy, I think this run truly cemented our legacy together.
Where Brock Lesnar would be without Paul Heyman? He would certainly be on top. He would certainly be the number one box office attraction. He would just be doing it without someone who truly understands his persona like I do. Brock likes to tell people "Paul Heyman talks the talk and Brock Lesnar walks the walk." You have a trash-talking Jew who is backed up by the single most decorated athlete in WWE history, and it’s a formula that works. Also, what I think works about the two of us is that what you see on television is what you get. It’s real. It’s genuine. It’s authentic. We care about each other. We care about each other. We are friends, and I think that transcends the typical relationship in any sport, whether it’s UFC, WWE, NBA… it transcends it, because you can tell there’s genuine affection between us.
FS: You just called Brock Lesnar the most decorated athlete in WWE history, do you think he can become the biggest star in WrestleMania history? Is he already there?
Heyman: Well, I mean Brock Lesnar certainly delivered the most memorable WrestleMania moment of modern times when he conquered The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX. I think the fact that Brock Lesnar is not on the road 52 weeks a year, is not on Monday Night Raw every episode, is not performing 300 matches per year… I think that dictates to the public "Brock Lesnar is special." That an appearance by Brock Lesnar in an of itself is newsworthy. It’s not commonplace. It’s not something that should be taken for granted, so when Brock Lesnar appears, even if it’s just an interview segment let alone on the rare occasions that Brock Lesnar puts on his tights and laces up his boots, you know this is a special event. It’s not just another episode of WWE. Something substantive, something historic is going to happen. And that, I would suggest, if 100 years from now if you look back at the biggest box office attractions in this industry, you’re going to have to include Brock Lesnar’s name at the very top.
FS: The match with Ambrose on Sunday is going to be No Holds Barred, and over the past couple weeks Ambrose has accepted barbed-wire bats and chainsaws from hardcore legends to use against Lesnar. How extreme do you expect this match to get?
Heyman: I expect this match to get as extreme as Brock Lesnar dictates it’s going to be. I think Brock’s attitude walking into Sunday is "on the Monday after WrestleMania who will people be talking about?" And I would be remiss if I didn’t advocate the position that it’s Brock Lesnar’s goal every single time he walks out to the ring to deliver the most memorably performance of the night.
Now whether that means he beats Dean Ambrose in 10 seconds and stands over the carcass of the ruler of the Asylum, or whether that means Brock Lesnar is going to fight Dean Ambrose for 30 minutes with all sorts of insanity involved – it’s up to Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar is going to deliver the WrestleMania moment of the year and the match that defines WrestleMania 32. How he does it will be determined by Brock when he gets out into the ring with 100,000 people live in AT&T Stadium, and he feels the temperature of that room and he decides "this is what I’m going to do to make sure everyone that performed before me was merely the buildup to me, and nobody that follows me will be able to do so."
FS: Obviously everyone involved in WrestleMania 32 has a ridiculous schedule leading up to the event, but what’s a typical WrestleMania Sunday like for Paul Heyman?
Heyman: To me, a WrestleMania Sunday is "I serve at the behest and at the pleasure of my beast." I’m there to lighten the mood. I’m there to keep the mood light and not make it too heavy, and to keep the pressure off Brock Lesnar. When I’m asked for ideas regarding the match or the presentation, offer them when prompted to.
I’m there to make sure from everything that his locker room is the right temperature to his food gets delivered at the right time, to the fact that he has towels when he needs to take a shower, to sitting there and having a conversation with him about the enormity of the match, how it will go, etcetera, etcetera. I seriously serve at the pleasure of Brock Lesnar. My job seriously ends the moment his music hits, because then all I have to do is watch. Because as he says, I’ve talked the talk, now he has to walk the walk. And I get the best seat in the house for an athlete who I truly, genuinely, authentically, legitimately have nothing but the deepest admiration for. I get to watch the spectacle, this once-ever athlete do his thing – in his prime – and perform at a level that nobody else in that locker room can match. I get to do it in front of the front row. Easiest gig in the universe.
FS: I’m curious about that exact moment before the music hits when you’re in the Gorilla position waiting to walk down the ramp. Do you say anything to Brock? Are you nervous at all?
Heyman: I don’t ever recall being nervous before performing because I’ve already stepped into the shoes and the clothes of the character. So just by way of example, this week on SmackDown I showed up in Boston sick as hell with a bad case of the flu. And I hope, if you would watch when Brock and I came out for the promo, you couldn’t tell that I had the flu, because the character didn’t have the flu. By the time we get to Gorilla, I have no nerves at all because Paul Heyman The Advocate is never nervous.
In terms of what I say to Brock, there’s not really a lot of communication between us in Gorilla because everything that’s said we usually talk in private, and by the time we get to Gorilla we can read each other’s minds. So if I just look at him, or he looks at me, we know what the other one’s thinking already.
WrestleMania 32 happens this Sunday, April 3rd, at AT&T Stadium. The biggest WWE show of the year will begin at 7 p.m. ET on WWE Network (which is now free for one month for new subscribers).