Perhaps no personality in the history of professional wrestling was more anti-establishment than Paul Heyman. Whether it was as Paul E. Dangerously, the manager, or as a general manager or even promoter, the rebellious New Yorker’s counterculture approach to the industry made him one of the most controversial figures of all-time.
After breaking intro the business as a photographer, Heyman’s big break came in the mid-1980s when he landed a managerial job. His first high-profile clients were Tommy Rich and Austin Idol. Over the course of his managerial career, the diabolical Heyman went on to the represent many of the game’s greatest names, including a young Steve Austin.
Heyman’s career took a fateful turn in 1993 when he took his managerial game to Eastern Championship Wrestling. Within months of his arrival, Heyman became one of the most powerful personalities backstage, and the promotion was renamed Extreme Championship Wrestling. By the end of 1996, he had secured full control of the promotion from then-owner Tod Gordon. Under Heyman, ECW mixed hardcore action and fast-paced technical grappling with popular music to North American fans.
Despite its popularity, financial woes ultimately claimed ECW in 2001. Following its closing, Heyman emerged in WWE, where he served as an announcer, manager, and even General Manager of SmackDown. After the success of ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view events in 2005 and 2006, Mr. McMahon had no choice but to reinvent the brand with Heyman back at the controls. The “Messiah of ECW” spent the next several months rebuilding his creation.