The behind-the-scenes dynamic between WWE head Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman was amplified and presented on television this week when McMahon and Heyman had a backstage promo exchange during Monday's Raw. The exchange included the classic retort to anything Heyman says that he doesn't know the difference between lies and the truth, but also captured Heyman's ability to present ideas to McMahon. Whether McMahon uses the ideas is another story.
During Friday's PWTorch Livecast, former WWE Creative writers Seth Mates and Andrew Goldstein both painted a picture of McMahon loathing Heyman, but also seeing him as good for business. McMahon did not want to use Heyman's idea to push C.M. Punk as the next big star in 2006, which contributed to Heyman leaving WWE, but he also recognized that Heyman would be good for business to associate with Punk in 2012.
Mates and Goldstein, drawing from their time in the trenches in WWE, noted the dynamic between McMahon and Heyman extends to Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, who also cannot stand Heyman, but view him as useful as a TV character. Using his ideas is another story, which is one of several reasons why Heyman will likely never be a full-time member of the Creative team again.
"The three of them cannot stand Paul Heyman," said former writer Andrew Goldstein, who was in WWE during Heyman's final days in 2006. "They sit around and they joke about Paul Heyman - about him sweating and his suits are cheap and he showed up in a rented, broken-down limo the first day he signed a contract to make himself look like a big deal, and they make fun of his ideas and they do imitations of him. But, I think all three of them are extremely jealous of his brain."
Continuing the theme of behind-the-scenes pushed to in-front-of-the-cameras, Goldstein said he's sure there were shoot elements when Stephanie returned to TV in July and slapped Heyman across the face while Hunter stood in the ring. "I know how real that was - how much enjoyment Stephanie got from actually getting to do that," said Goldstein.
In addition to Heyman's political style, Heyman's pattern of pitching new ideas seems to be one of the main points of contention between Heyman and the McMahons. Whereas McMahon sticks to what works and "gets every ounce out of it," as Mates said, Heyman is always looking for "the next big thing."
Mates recalled how this came into play at Summerslam 2002 when WWE focused heavily on The Rock and Brock Lesnar in training videos to build toward the PPV.
"I'll never forget," Mates said. "Paul said to Vince, 'Vince, those vignettes changed our business.' Paul understood that the next big boom in terms of competition was going to be legitimate fighting combat and how that comes together. Paul had touched on the UFC boom before it ever happened. We ran those vignettes up to Summerslam and they went over really well, and by the next month, we're back to wrestling storylines again. I'm not saying Vince should have fundamentally changed things. But, that's Paul's strength. Paul is that contrary voice screaming that the emperor is naked when everyone else knows that the secret to their own job stability is to pretend that the emperor's clothes are beautiful."
Goldstein echoed Mates's story recalling the final blow-up between Heyman and the McMahons at the December to Dismember PPV in December 2005. "Paul was adamant," Goldstein said. "We have to have Punk go over the Big Show and put the ECW Title on this guy and let's ride him. And, Vince, whether it was a good idea (or not), because it came from Paul, he said, 'Oh no. Big Show. Big Show. Big Show. (Bobby) Lashley. I'm going to make this my own. Paul, shut up."
What brought Heyman back to WWE was Brock Lesnar, and WWE realizing (too late) that Lesnar needed a mouthpiece. Now, Heyman is able to contribute ideas again, albeit not in a formal setting. Whether it works out in the long-term between the Heyman Camp, which also includes current WWE champion C.M. Punk, and the McMahon Trio remains to be seen.
"Paul doesn't care what anybody thinks of him, but the three of them can't stand Paul," said Goldstein. "But, I will give Vince credit to this - he will do whatever is right for business."