Paul Heyman: Cody Rhodes found himself in the same way Stone Cold Steve Austin did when he left WCW


I had the opportunity to interview Paul Heyman last week and the last question I asked him was about Cody Rhodes’ success outside of WWE and if it’s a route that more performers within the company should think about taking in order to raise their stock.

For 15 minutes I was captivated as Heyman explained why it wasn’t a path that many would be able to find success on and why it’s incredibly important for young talent to speak up and not be content with their current placement.

Cody Rhodes is someone who was “stuck” in the role that he had as Stardust. He decided to leave, found himself, found his creative voice and is now excelling in a big way as a main event level talent. Who are some other people right now on the main roster who would benefit from a creative cleansing in a place outside of WWE?

“See I never look at it that way.”

Interesting …

“Cody reminds me a lot of when Steve Austin got out of WCW. In that Steve needed to find himself and when I put him on camera in Philadelphia at 5 o’clock in the morning, after a show, is when a truly pissed off, tired, aggravated Steve Austin found his inner persona that morphed into Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Cody has found himself in that very same way in that his angst over not being able to bring forward what he envisioned for himself in WWE has propelled him to new heights outside of WWE. He would have never found that within the company. Kudos to Cody for leaving and for sticking to his vision and to finding that box office appeal that has always lived inside of him.

There are others in WWE who could probably use the break from what they’re doing now, but I’ve always been of the belief that half of the battle is getting in the door at the right time. So once somebody is in here, it’s all a matter of explaining to whomever, be it the writers, be it the executive producer Kevin Dunn, be it Vince McMahon, be it Paul Levesque, whomever, it’s all about explaining to someone in a decision making capacity: This is how the company can make more money with me.

So sometimes it’s simply a matter of the right pitch at the right time for the right person. Sometimes it’s beneficial to give a presentation, the same way you would pitch a perspective employer, ‘Here’s why you should hire me.’ It’s the same thing, it’s a business.

Vince McMahon hates when I say this, but it’s the exploitation business. We exploit larger than life personalities, in relatable storylines that drive box office appeal.

The job of the performer, if that particular performer is unhappy with their lot in life, is to present themselves to the decision makers in such a different way that makes the decision makers say, ‘Here’s a way we  can make more money with this person.’

So going outside to do it worked for Cody Rhodes, but that’s not for everybody. Once you’re in the door here, exploit the opportunity because you’re already in the door! You have the open line of communication. Your deal is already in writing. Go for it. Tell them how they can make more money with you. They’re going to listen! They’re in the money making business!

It just feels like so many young guys are OK with where they’re at right now and …

“But that’s on the young guys!”


“That’s on them. The Usos are a great example, a GREAT example. The Usos were always frustrated because they always felt that they could be the defining tag team of this generation. They didn’t just want to put on good matches, they didn’t just want to have a catchy entrance tune, they didn’t want to just look good on pay-per-view and on television, the Usos wanted the opportunity to be the defining tag team of this generation.

They tried all of these different ways to get to that level until finally they just came out of the box with their promos and their promos now are so innovative, so progressive, so ahead of everyone else’s that they are now truly in my opinion now have an argument to say, they are not only the best tag team in WWE right now, but certainly of the last decade and could certainly wind up being the best tag team of all time.

Look at Rusev, it took Rusev Day to put Rusev over the top. One would think that someone who debuted in WWE with the idea of being a WrestleMania opponent for John Cena, someone who’s initial presentation in WWE was with Lana, who is fantastic at what she does, would be the defining moments for Rusev, but what put Rusev over the top? Rusev Day. He found something that the audience could relate to that became a box office draw. He didn’t have to leave and go to Japan and beat up everybody in Japan to do it. It was all internal. Once he found something that he thought would click, it clicked and now look at him, he’s a shining star on SmackDown.

It all depends on your own initiative. If you don’t have the initiative to scratch, claw, and fight for a top position for a top position, you can’t expect WWE to put you in that top position because obviously you don’t want it that bad.

There’s a great story. Do you know who Stella Adler is?

I do not.

“Stella Adler, was along with Lee Strasberg, known as the greatest acting coach in New York. She had students like Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel. As much as Lee Strasberg had Richard Dreyfuss and Al Pacino, Stella Adler had an A-list clientele.

So one day De Niro and Keitel are doing a scene and Stella Adler said, ‘Great, now flip roles.’ So they flip roles and Keitel had found his groove and he did the other role the same way and she says, ‘OK now switch roles again and do it completely different.’ De Niro did it this time with a different accent, but Keitel stuck to what he was doing.

Stella Adler lights up a cigarette and says, ‘Harvey darling, why? Why are you doing this the same way? You’ve done this three times now and even in different characters you’re doing it the same way.’ And he says, ‘Well it works.’ And she says, ‘But I want you to do if differently.’ And he responds, ‘But I’m content.’

She cancels class for the rest of the day and throws everybody out. So the next day they all come back to class and at the beginning of class she asks if there are any questions and Harvey Keitel raises his hand and says, ‘I have a question for you, why did you throw us all out yesterday?’ She says, ‘Well you’re content and in the performance business that’s death because Harvey, only cows are content.’

If you’re content in WWE, then you have peaked. You have peaked in your own earning capacity for what you’re going to bring home to your family and you’ve peaked in what you offer to WWE in terms of your own talent to exploit. The best two examples that I can give you and it just so happens to fit perfectly are Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.

Roman Reigns is main eventing his fourth consecutive WrestleMania and he’s not walking into this WrestleMania thinking, ‘This is my last main event.’ Roman Reigns is thinking, ‘This is my fourth consecutive main event and it’s my audition for my fifth consecutive WrestleMania main event.’

Brock Lesnar is looking at April 8th as the defining moment in his career. In the very same city that he conquered The Undertaker’s streak, which is arguably the most shocking moment in the history of WWE.

Neither Brock Lesnar nor Roman Reigns are content. Not with their history and not with their current position. They both want to obtain higher ground. They will always have the ambition to do more.”

Well said, that was amazing.

“It’s the truth.”

Absolutely. Roman said something to me a few days ago that I thought about as you were talking about their ambition to do more. He said that in some ways he was glad that The Shield reunion didn’t work out because it allowed him to refocus on his singles run and he still has so much that he wants to accomplish in that role.

I think the audience falls into the trap of, ‘But the only reason he’s in this position is because he’s Vince’s guy,’ but they don’t actually see how much work he’s putting in.

“The only thing I can add to what I just said is, it’s not only a matter of doing more. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns are the main event of WrestleMania 34 because neither one is content and both are ambitious enough to push the limits of what is now considered their greatest moment and that’s the point that neither one will ever accept. They will never accept the idea that they’ve peaked as individuals. They both aspire to achieve a higher level of greatness.

That’s also Vince McMahon’s mindset. At 72 years old he’s launching a football league in two years and that’s not all he’s going to be doing. I’m sure Vince is looking for other projects. That’s just who he is. Vince McMahon is not done carving out his legacy.

He doesn’t want the main event of WrestleMania to feature somebody that says, ‘I’ve put in my hard work and the main even of WrestleMania is me cashing in my chips.’ He wants someone to look at WrestleMania as merely the demonstration as to why more should be offered to this person.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis