Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Instant Feedback: A Chat About Paul

Heyman was great here, but is that enough?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Brock Lesnar came to RAW to claim his newly won prize. The spoils of war not only granted him dominion over WWE, but a new physical manifestation of his title as Champion of all WWE. Two belts coalesced into one, and he was the first to hold the final product. As an epilogue, his advocate and manager, Paul Heyman, serenaded him with a soliloquy that recounted the slaughter job he committed against John Cena the night before and served as a warning to everyone else who would come knocking at his door while he held the title.

Heyman's speech was fiery. It was electric. He spoke with the rhetoric of a thousand orators, spat truths and embellishments that when laid at the feet of Lesnar seemed like they could be true. He held court in perhaps his most epic performance to date. Even his biggest critics were probably held rapt, and they should have been. Well, let me back that up. I have been one of Heyman's biggest critics of late, and yes, I was held rapt. He not only did his job tonight, he excelled at it.

But when your job is promoting Brock Lesnar, you don't really have to put that much effort in to do the job even at an above average rate, do you?

Lesnar is the most physically gifted professional wrestler of all-time. Even if his tools were never put to the most efficient use or maximized to their fullest potential the way that the true lasting greats like Steve Austin, Ric Flair, or even Cena himself, his mere presence gives signal that a foul-intentioned ogre was about to come to the ring, and bad consequences would befall whoever stood across the ring from him. He was always able to back his imposition up with preternatural athleticism in the ring. Cutting promos for Lesnar is like getting to hit from a batting tee, whereas promoting nearly any other wrestler is like facing off against 1998 Randy Johnson.

And that point in time is where Heyman starts to annoy me. His mantel, both within WWE and among many commentators, is that he's the best talker ever. I don't remember watching him in WCW outside a few spots on The Network here or there, and he was good then. I remember his oratory as the figurehead of ECW, and I was always impressed with his words in defense of his revolutionary brand of pro wrestling. But if you're the best talker ever, shouldn't you be able to get more out of Antonio Cesaro than Zeb Colter did? Shouldn't you be able to get people to care about Curtis Axel and Ryback?

Of course, the excuses are built in, and to a degree, I can agree that Heyman may have been hamstrung along the way. I have to wonder whether his strategy promoing for Cesaro was something he wanted to do or whether he was handed the edict down from WWE Creative. If Heyman had cut a promo that was half as intense for Cesaro as he did for Lesnar tonight - hell, if he had cut one for Cesaro as passionate as the ones he cut for Lesnar when he was SUPPOSED to be advocating for Cesaro, maybe the Swiss Superman would have been in better shape going forward. One could argue that neither half of Rybaxel could be saved by any measure of a manager, but Heyman never gave them the kind of due that he even gave CM Punk, another guy for whom Heyman did not have to put much effort into promoting because Punk at his best was his equal.

Of course, I doubt anyone will ever be able to get to the bottom of why Heyman was so ineffectual for his prior charges. Wrestling is one, never-ending game of liar's poker, where everyone has their own story and no one's is completely truthful. But to see Heyman spit veritable fire for one client, the one client he may not even need to promote as hard as he does, and leave others, especially Cesaro, to wither, just stings me. Heyman already was mostly responsible for killing my then-favorite promotion of all-time through negligence if I'm being kind. Why should I be okay with him killing the vibe of one of my favorite wrestlers?

The thing about Lesnar that will dog him his entire career is the amount of effort he put in at times. He could have been the best wrestler ever, but he got bored. He didn't want to feel the grind of a full WWE schedule. He had other ambitions in other fields. If it's fair to critique Lesnar's drive and use it against him in his career resume, then why isn't it fair to hold Heyman's indiscretions against him? Can he be the best mic man ever if his output for a good chunk of his charges was subpar at best? I don't want to rain too hard on his parade, because he was phenomenal tonight. But anyone can be phenomenal for Brock Fucking Lesnar. Why couldn't he be a fraction as passionate, as eloquent, as effective for Cesaro?