If Lesnar and Reigns were ever to step into a time machine with now 56-year-old Heyman, somehow travel back to the future and land in Philadelphia – a city that knows a thing or two about being revolutionary – in front of a rabid crowd in the ECW Arena in April 1997, Heyman believes there would have been only limitless possibilities for in-ring magic on the screen.
“Rob Van Dam could have hung out with them, or anyone for that matter,” Heyman says. “I think Taz was a compelling character who could believably hang with anyone. The Dudleys can get along with anyone.”
ECW’s biggest misconception is that it was all blood, guts and nudity. While these were all prominent hallmarks of the brand, it would never have lasted if there had only been style without substance. The backbone of ECW has been wrestling, whether presented by Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Tommy Dreamer, Too Cold Scorpio, Bam Bam Bigelow, Mick Foley, Mikey Whipwreck, The Great Sasuke, Lance Storm, Psicosis or the aforementioned stars such as Van Dam, the Dudleys, Sabu and Taz. That gave the promotion a pulse, a justification for all the wrestling fans who had become frustrated with a product that no longer appealed to them. And ECW wouldn’t have been – and couldn’t have been – ECW without the legendary, timeless Funk, who would have made a masterpiece against Reigns of Lesnar.
“Terry Funk was a very different style,” Heyman says. “He was a genius at executing the vision and expectations of the audience he performed for. The bar, the standard for classic professional wrestling, in terms of wrestling, remains Flair vs. Steamboat and the Briscos vs. the Funks. While Terry Funk’s reputation is lauded for his wild antics, he was also one of the great mat technicians of his day who could credibly play 60 minutes with Jack Brisco anywhere in the world. And when Terry Funk was paired up with Jack Brisco, that was the feat he delivered. When Terry Funk was paired up with Harley Race, you saw a dejected, bald-boned brawl. When Terry Funk was paired with Ric Flair, you saw Terry Funk’s wild man antics against the purity and fluidity and finesse of Ric Flair.
“What Terry Funk was good at was understanding what people were paying for. He did not define a specific role. He controlled them all. So anyone against Terry Funk would be great because he would make it great.”
There is no known way to travel through time, but there is an attractive alternative. Heyman’s presence on Sunday
rivals will provide an illuminating view of the past, present and future of professional wrestling, all through the lens of his most advanced mind.
“I’m going to shed light on some of the history that A&E does a
on,” says Heyman. “So far I have been blown away by the quality and story told on this A&E biographyh biographies. I answered truthfully for historical purposes, and much to A&E’s credit, they’ve hired some top flight directors to present these stories.
A fascinating topic for the show is Heyman’s 1997 collaboration with WWE, which led to a memorable edition of
Monday night Raw and the introduction of Van Dam as “Mr. Monday Night.” By separating fact and fiction, Heyman made it clear that his time as partner of Vince McMahon came with its own set of risks for ECW.
“The understanding I had with Vince in ’97 didn’t stop him from competing with us, or us from competing with him,” Heyman says. “There was just an understanding that if an aggressive move was made, I would at least be notified in advance that it would be made. I got the same tips in WCW through Kevin Sullivan. When Sullivan ran out of power, those tips stopped. Then they just aggressively came after talent signing bonuses instead of a phone call to let us know they’re ready. That was the heads up I would get from WWE. It was, ‘Hey, we’re interested in this person. How can we make sure this doesn’t harm your business?’ That was a courtesy of Vince McMahon to ECW. But it was still all business, and ideas and concepts and talent could be raided.”
Heyman’s longevity is remarkable, as is his ability to tell a story. The two irrevocably connect with each other and that can be seen this weekend. Just days after Lesnar, Reigns, Heyman, The Usos and referee Chad Patton received a standing ovation backstage from their colleagues on
SummerSlam out of genuine appreciation for the classic competition that was presented, viewers now have the opportunity to learn how the past has become the present. While the ovation backstage was a topic Heyman wouldn’t discuss, he won’t hold back this Sunday rivals.
“These episodes are of such high quality,” Heyman says. “If they aren’t nominated for Emmys, something is wrong here.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @ JustinBarrasso .