Paul Heyman Speaks Out
By Ryan Satin
Paul Heyman is never at a loss for words.
The former Executive Director of Raw, who recently re-appeared on WWE TV as "The Special Counsel" to Roman Reigns, has been a key component in the Universal Champion's new heel persona.
This week, "The Tribal Chief" will once again be put to the test during the season premiere of Friday Night SmackDown, when he defends the Universal title against Braun Strowman in an epic clash of behemoths.
But before that happens ... Heyman sat down for a chat with FOX Sports to talk about everything transpiring lately around the champ – and, as you'd expect, he had lots to say.
Paul also spoke candidly about working as the Executive Director of Raw and how his time in the position ended with a mutual appreciation between he and Vince McMahon.
Read the interview below, which was lightly edited for length and clarity, and scroll to the bottom to watch the whole conversation!
RS: Right off the bat, since returning, I just want to know how it’s felt seeing the work you and Roman Reigns have been doing be so universally praised by everyone watching.
PH: We’re very worthy of it. As a matter of fact, I think the praise is understated. I think Roman Reigns and I both continue to be quite unappreciated by the sports, the entertainment and the sports entertainment world. But we’re starting to get there now.
RS: In what way do you feel he is unappreciated?
PH: I don’t think people understand just how far ahead Roman Reigns is from everybody else. I don’t think people really appreciate how great of a Universal champion Roman Reigns is.
I don’t think anyone, besides FOX, understands the enormous box office appeal of Roman Reigns. Which is why Roman Reigns is main eventing the season premiere of FOX this Friday against Braun Strowman.
This is part of the convergence of circumstances that led to Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman appearing together on television, is the fact that Roman Reigns is so remarkably unappreciated.
That so many people have taken Roman Reigns for granted over the years and don’t really acknowledge the level of performance that he brings forth in WWE.
RS: I think, as of late, especially since he’s come back on TV, I think it’s been very evident that he is "the guy." For a long time, people wanted to push back on that. But I don’t think there is any denying now, when you see how he’s being presented with you by his side, that Roman Reigns is the biggest performer in all of wrestling.
PH: I agree, and I would caution your praise by saying you ain’t seen nothing yet.
We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what Roman Reigns is capable of presenting. He returned at the end of August. We’re now in the middle of October. We’re about six weeks into this. Imagine where we’ll be six weeks from now. Imagine where we’ll be six MONTHS from now.
We’re just still setting the table for where we’re going to take this persona. We haven’t even broken out of the gate yet. Let alone coming out of the gate blasting. We haven’t even left the gate yet.
We’re just dropping hints now as to how far, how progressive, how compelling we can make this persona.
RS: That’s actually been one of my favorite things about it. Sometimes you get everything right away, and I have very much enjoyed with Roman’s character so far that we only got a taste at SummerSlam, and each week since we’ve gotten a little bit more as he becomes grows in confidence. He’s becoming who he always was supposed to have been and I really enjoy that.
I also thought it was really smart to have him wrestle against Jey Uso and start the family stuff with someone who is actually in his family.
PH: I concur with your assessment.
RS: Seeing as how you had exited from a creative role not too long before you were paired with Roman Reigns on TV, did you have to think twice at all when the opportunity was presented to you to become his Special Counsel?
PH: No. Absolutely not.
First of all, this is something that has been in the works for 8 years.
Roman Reigns debuted in WWE as part of The Shield. The Shield debuted in WWE to protect the title reign of CM Punk. And, I believe, it was 8 years ago almost to the day.
So, this is something that has been in the works since that moment.
The time was just never right to pull the trigger on aligning Roman Reigns with Paul Heyman. It’s something we’ve thought of, but never the right time to pull the trigger. Then this year came, and it’s a year in which everything in the world changes on a day-to-day basis, and certainly WWE changed on a day-to-day basis.
Brock Lesnar’s position changed. Paul Heyman’s position changed. Roman Reigns’ position changed.
When that convergence of circumstances happened, and then this opportunity presented itself, it was just time.
RS: You mentioned Brock and his position changing. Do you think that we’ll see Brock in WWE again in the future? I know that he’s currently a free agent, but do you think that’s just because there’s no people for Brock to perform in front and when fans come back we’ll maybe see him again?
PH: Well, I don’t think about Brock Lesnar. I know about Brock Lesnar. And what I can tell you about Brock Lesnar, I’ve told everyone before, Brock Lesnar does whatever the hell Brock Lesnar wants to do.
So, what will Brock Lesnar do in the future?
Any-damn-thing he wants to do.
RS: Looking back on your time in the Executive Director position, how do you feel about it as a whole? Were you happy with the work you did there?
PH: Ecstatic. And, obviously, the Chairman of the Board was happy with my work because when Vince McMahon did the quarterly earnings call, and was asked about Paul Heyman, the Chairman of the Board did not say, “Wellllll, he had his tenure, but it was time to do something different.” Or, “Heyman was fine, BUT …”
Vince’s only comment was how happy he was with the creativity I brought to the role. So, obviously, the fact that I served at the discretion and the pleasure of the Chairman, remained at the discretion and the pleasure of the Chairman.
I enjoyed every single solitary moment I spent as Executive Director of Raw. Including, and especially, the final moments that I spent as Executive Director of Raw. Because we ended it with a smile and a handshake, and an appreciation for each other.
There was no bitter falling out. There was no argument. There was no hostility. I’ve been in a hostile situation with the Chairman. It’s a miserable effin' existence. It wasn’t that way this time. It was an appreciation for each other.
RS: I’m happy to hear that, because you never know in a situation like this. It’s great to hear everything was left on good terms between the two of you. It also makes sense since you’re still on WWE TV.
PH: And not only am I on TV, I’m in the single-most prominent role you could possibly put me in. I don’t know what else you could do with Paul Heyman that would be bigger than to redefine, if not create a whole new definition for, who Roman Reigns is.
In terms of sports entertainment, let alone WWE, you could make me the WWE Champion (not that that would be credible), but you could make me the WWE Champion and it wouldn’t be as big as what I’m doing now with Roman Reigns. This is the single biggest thing you could do on-camera with Paul Heyman that I could possibly think of in WWE.
RS: Absolutely. I think that it’s also so important to the future of the company. You’ve gone from juggling every single act on the Raw roster to now being able to hyper focus on, arguably, the most important one.
Roman Reigns being the top guy is very important to WWE and you getting to have a hand in that now, that’s gotta feel like a good thing you get to be doing in moving on from your last position.
PH: And I’m probably busier now than I ever have been before!
I’m sitting here talking to you *honks car horn* in my car at the Westchester County Airport, and when I’m done with this interrogation, I get to hop on a jet to a place that’s undisclosed to a meeting I won’t talk about. But it involves Roman Reigns, I assure you.
I’m busier now than I was before! And that’s not a complaint. I’m very happy being so.
RS: What are your thoughts on The Rock talking about a possible match between he and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania? An argument could be made that The Rock is the actual head of their family’s table.
PH: Well, I think The Rock has finally learned to know his role and open his mouth. Because it wasn’t Roman Reigns that called out The Rock. It wasn’t Paul Heyman that called out The Rock.
Neither Roman Reigns nor Paul Heyman looked for the celebrity rub from calling out The Rock.
The Rock watched SmackDown, and well he should, The Rock saw the enormous box office appeal of Roman Reigns, and The Rock wanted in on the Roman Reigns business.
So, The Rock went public begging – and The Rock doesn’t beg much – but The Rock went public begging for a WrestleMania main event with Roman Reigns.
The only reason why that match hasn’t come to fruition yet is because Roman Reigns has a Special Counsel that knows how to negotiate top, main event WrestleMania paydays. And two, The Rock is not the only one in sports, entertainment or sports entertainment that wants to main event WrestleMania with Roman Reigns.
Everyone that you can think of is banging down Vince McMahon’s door begging for a WrestleMania main event with Roman Reigns.
And well they should, by the way.
RS: They definitely should. They’re gonna make the most money if they’re in the WrestleMania main event with Roman Reigns.
PH: Listen, whatever your opinion is of FOX Network, they’re not a bunch of dummies.
Well, you can call them dummies, and you do usually when we talk in private.
RS: No! I never!
PH: Oh, come on! Come on! What did you say? "Hey, these dumbasses at FOX gave me a job. That’s why I gave up my previous job because these schmucks hired me." But let’s not expose that. Let’s not do breaking news on The Satin Sheet!
So, these geniuses at FOX, who had me deliver, by the way, a spoiler for the NFL. Which was not hard because we all know that football is pre-determined anyway. [Ed. note: It is, of course, not, but Paul will always be Paul, and we love him for that.]
Who did they put in the main event of the season premiere of SmackDown this Friday? Your "Tribal Chief." Your Reigns-ing, defending, undisputed Universal heavyweight champion, Roman Reigns. And well they should.
RS: As you said, Roman will be defending his Universal Championship on Friday Night SmackDown this week against Braun Strowman in the main event. What should we expect from this match?
PH: You can expect that on spooky month, weeks before Halloween, a monster will be slayed on live network television by your "Tribal Chief" and Reigns-ing, defending, undisputed, Universal Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns.
Watch the full interview here:
The season premiere of Friday Night SmackDown is also set to include New Day vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro, as well as Jeff Hardy vs. Lars Sullivan.
Watch it LIVE on FOX tomorrow at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central.