During a recent edition of his "Grilling J.R." podcast with Conrad Thompson, AEW announcer Jim Ross spoke at length about the decision to bring Paul Heyman back to WWE while he was working as an executive behind-the-scenes for the company.
Featured below are some of the highlights from the show.
On the decision to bring Paul Heyman back to WWE in 2001: "Anytime you got proof something works as a promoter, you owe it to your brand and you owe to yourself to try it again, try something along those lines again. You got some good market research. People have paid for it out of their own pocket, so the ECW brand had this cult following. It's like buying the last bible. This is very religious ground for a lot of hardcore wrestling fans that breathe and embrace ECW," Ross said. "Heyman and his crew his team did a great job of exploiting the 'us against the world' philosophy to encourage an atmosphere that the audience would tightly embrace the brand, and they did that. They just didn't have enough people to embrace it at the end of the day, but they did a great job with the ones who stayed with them loved them and they still do. Once we saw there was still a bloom on the rose, albeit a small rose among all the bushes, there's still a rose here somewhere, and if we can fit the rose, that means money for the company. We knew the audience was loyal that was not a surprise. The volume of loyalty how many people were loyal was what surprised us."
On rumors of Heyman being hard to work with behind-the-scenes at that time and an example: "I remember when he came down to my office, after a creative meeting, he pitched some ideas to Vince. One in particular involving Guido, and we hired Guido. He wrestled for us. He was a referee for us. Great guy. He came in a little pissed off because one of his big ideas just blew out of the water. I said, 'what was it?' He said, "I had Guido," then I said, "whoa. You pitched an idea, a top idea, to the old man involving Little Guido?' Yeah. I said, 'you're dying on the wrong hill. You should know Vince is never gonna allow that to happen. If it happens organically or he see if Little Guido is getting over, then it'll be his idea, but until then, you ain't got a chance.'"
On Heyman never being the type to work well with others: "Paul has not played well with others over the years. I remember when I put him on as my broadcast partner on WCW. I almost got a standing ovation from the booking committee because now they didn't have to deal with him because the same thing was there. He was smarter than most of the people in the creative process but that was not the structure and that was not his role. He would often times ignore structure, whatever it may be or the lack thereof, and assert himself. He's a genius in so many areas. I'm a big Paul Heyman fan, big time. When Lawler left, and Paul became my partner, seamlessly all the demands of what we had to sell, push and mention on Monday Night RAW, a two hour show that's packed, we didn't miss a beat."
On Heyman being a genius for the business but having immaturity issues and thinking he's smarter than everyone: "He's amazing. He's a Hall of Fame guy, but sometimes, to be honest with you, his immaturity didn't do him any favors. Sometimes, he can be indignant. He can get frustrated with people's stupidity because he is so much smarter than other people in a lot of ways, but his communication skill set, in that era, wasn't anything to be coveted. He's gotten better over the years. Obviously, he's gotten older. He's got teenage children, and he's maturing. And look, there's nothing wrong with maturing in a later age and is expected in our society. I was 67. I know sure as hell there's some areas of my life I have not matured yet, but I'm enjoying life so what I am gonna do. That's Paul. His life is getting better. He's getting more balance, more stability, but he's always had some of those issues. I'll promise you that. He'll always have an issue where he sees something so clearly so big picture wise so detail-oriented that sometimes the common guy doesn't have that vision or the ability to have that vision."
On the working relationship behind-the-scenes between Heyman and Stephanie McMahon: "I know that she and Heyman had a lot of philosophical differences, and I'm sure Paul got close to the edge on how far to take the argument before he backed away because he was just hell bent on getting his way. He was very defiant. Not that she wasn't, but she had the right last name. He didn't and that's how it is. It's happened a zillion times in our world. They own the goddamn company. It's not a public trust. They didn't get along to any major degree, but she never came to me and said, nor did she have to or need to, but she and I never had a discussion about Paul being a pain the a**, even though I knew she felt that way. We never talked about it other than the occasional eye roll or a head shake something like that, but to have an open discussion about Paul, his good points and his bad points, we never had. Therefore I never thought it would escalate to that level, but maybe it did. I don't know, but Vince liked Paul's creativity, and the fact that Paul kept Vince alert and on his toes because you never knew what Heyman was going to say or when he's going to say it or what great idea he was gonna have next."
Check out highlights of the latest episode of the "Grilling J.R." podcast featuring Jim Ross and Conrad Thompson below. Thanks to WrestlingInc.com for transcribing the above J.R. quotes.