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

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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

Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs leads Republican Primary for mayor of Knox County by 17 votes

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After 100 percent of the precincts reported their data, Glenn Jacobs, known to wrestling fans as “The Big Red Machine” Kane, is leading the Republican nomination for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee by just 17 votes.

The race isn’t over just yet though. According to the ABC affiliate in Knoxville, there are still provisional ballots that need to be factored in, so an official winner won’t be announced until next week.

Jacobs has worked under the umbrella of World Wrestling Entertainment since 1995. After announcing his candidacy last April, he’s been seen very sporadically on television. The last time he worked a match on TV was the main event of the March 26th edition of Raw against John Cena.

Adam Cole: I want to have the biggest personality in the room and not just on the microphone

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Before Adam Cole heads to the Smoothie King Center for NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, this Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on WWE Network, I chatted with him about how much he’s learned during his time in NXT, what makes the NXT crowds special and what it was like to meet Shawn Michaels. 

About a year ago you said that if you made the jump to WWE that you would want to start off in NXT as opposed to going right to the main roster, flash forward to now and you’re an established star in NXT. Is this part of your journey everything you thought it would be?

“Yeah for sure. When I come into a situation, especially like this one in NXT, my goal is to get to perform in front of these fans, to get to wrestle with these guys, who are in my opinion, some of the best wrestlers in the entire world. I felt like I could fit really well in this environment and I think I have. To get the chance to do what I’ve done here so far has been a total blast and so much fun.

But at the same time it’s exceeded my expectations in many ways. I’ve gotten to do things in NXT, and even WWE, that I didn’t imagine I would get the chance to do. Very happy with the journey so far.”

In what ways have you grown as a performer since coming to WWE?

“There’s just such a better understanding of who I am actually as a performer. You fall kind of into … I don’t want to say a routine because you’re always trying to improve and get better, but when you wrestle for certain organizations time-and-time again, you kind of fall into this routine of performing a certain way and having matches a certain way. Also, after a while you’ve wrestled everyone over-and-over again.

Getting to come here and getting to wrestle a bunch of new talent, some guys I’ve met before and some guys that I’ve never met before. It puts you in a situation where you learn to adapt and change, whether it be character wise, things that you do in the ring. It just gives you new challenges.

I’m teaming a lot more with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, so that throws me into a different situation as far as learning to wrestle as part of a team as opposed to working solo most of the time.

Also the fans, I’ve noticed in each and every promotion, even though there are a lot of similarities in many different ways, NXT is a totally different animal.

Overall, adapting has been the biggest growing point for me.”

Interesting, in what ways are the NXT crowds different from the other promotions you’ve worked for.

“The NXT fans to me are in love and so infatuated with the characters. So to me when you see a guy like Velveteen Dream or No Way Jose and the way that they’re so invested in them as performers, not even necessarily with what they’re doing between the ropes, but in their entrances.

I feel the connection with the audience is just so much greater than anything I’ve felt before. It’s pretty incredible, especially when you’re at TakeOver events.”

When I watch the backstage segments with you, Kyle, and Bobby, they come off like old school nWo style promos. Obviously the music playing in the background, which sounds like a new age nWo theme, and the camera angles help, but it’s the natural chemistry you guys have on camera because it seems like you’re just having fun and being yourselves on camera. I would imagine it has to be awesome to just bounce off of each other while filming those.

“Oh man yeah, it’s so much fun. I think that’s exactly why it comes off that way. Me, Bobby, and Kyle are as close as it gets. That’s not just a performance. I’ve known Kyle O’Reilly since 2009 and I was in his wedding. I’ve known Bobby Fish for years and years, we used to travel together all of the time. We talk every single day.

So when we’re there and we’re talking in front of the camera, that’s just us having a good time and I think that’s a big reason why the group works so well. It’s very natural because it’s very real. So I think in turn how we project ourselves comes off as fun because we are genuinely having a great time together.”

Speaking of coming off natural, you come off so natural on the microphone. I talked with Ronda [Rousey] this week about where she’s at in terms of speed while talking in front of the live audience and then I asked Roman [Reigns] about it and he talked about how he was able to process the idea of taking his time to make sure he stopped rushing through his material.

Is the speaking part of the business something that you were able to gravitate towards and get comfortable with quickly?

“I think so. There is a constant growth process. I think that’s why I love this job so much. There’s no such thing as completely perfecting every area of it, you’re always trying to get better at it.

For me, I picked up the promo aspect of pro wrestling much faster than the actual wrestling part of it. I was always fairly athletic and I could do things even from the beginning of my career, when I was 18 and 19 years old. I was always the guy who could always string words together and found what I was saying to be actually believable however I was trying to come across, whether that be somewhat likeable or somewhat of a jerk.

I don’t know why that is, but I remember as a kid just being so fascinated by guys who were good talkers. Even in movies. I used to love the way James Bond villains would act and how cool they came across and how awful they seemed, but what they were saying was so believable.

I’ve always been fascinated by guys, especially bad guys, who were able to talk a certain way, tell stories with their words and just paint this beautiful picture for that you just completely rode along with. I’ve focused a fair amount of time on making sure that promos were something I really focused on.”

Your in-ring style is very interesting to me. You’re a smaller guy, but you work a style that is similar to a lot of bigger guys and it’s because of this slower pace that the spots actually mean something, especially when you build up to the climax of a match. Is that a pace that you’ve always had, or was there a certain point where you were like, OK I need to slow down now and figure out what works for me?

“That was something I developed over time. When I first started, I was definitely a guy that was doing every move under the sun and I was going a million miles an hour and just trying to wow the fans as much as I could. I thought that was the way to get them invested in me. Don’t get me wrong, that style is very impressive, but I on purpose work a certain style. It’s very important for me to do that.

It’s obvious that I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but I want to have the biggest personality in the room and part of that personality isn’t just on the microphone. That’s the way I have to project myself in the ring as well.

All of my favorites in this business really took their time. They made everything they did mean something. Every movement they made had a purpose and that’s the type of performer I’m most comfortable being and that’s the type of performer I want to be too.”

There are so many performers doing unbelievable things we’ve never seen before on what feels like a weekly basis now, but after 20, 30 minutes go by and the match ends, I’ve seen so many big spots that it just feels like a blur, where as your matches build up to a few big spots that are easy to remember.

For instance, I watched your match with AJ [Styles] in Ring of Honor recently and you guys worked such a slower pace, but it built up to a huge finishing spot that is going to stick with the viewer. When I come across a match like that one it just feels so different in comparison to a lot of the matches we’re seeing nowadays.

“Sure, sure. You bring up AJ and he’s the king of that. AJ is a guy that can do anything under the sun. He’s one of the most athletically gifted guys there is, but AJ is able to place his stuff and put it in situations where he has the fans completely in the palm of his hand.

He knows he can do anything, but he knows that the biggest reaction he’s going to get from the audience is working a certain style and taking them on this ride by building a story within the match.

Doing a million things is very impressive, but if you forget 90 percent of it, it’s kind of a shame.”

How many times has someone come up to you at the Performance Center and said you look like Shawn Michaels?

“(Laughs) More times than I can count. Whether that be at the Performance Center, whether that be fans. I think I get at least five or six tweets a week about how I look like Shawn Michaels. To me it’s just a giant compliment.”

Has he said that to you?

“Yeah! When we first met he said, ‘A lot of people tell me that you and I look alike and now that I met ya I see what they mean.”

Who is somebody in NXT that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with yet that you’re looking forward to getting in the ring with?

“I’ll tell you what, I would love the chance to have any sort of a program with Velveteen Dream. I think that guy has so much potential. He’s so good now. His understanding of the industry for his age is unbelievable. His natural talent is the same. I watch him, I’m captivated by what he does, so to get the chance to be in there with him in some capacity would be great.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis