As wrestling and the world outside of it continue to evolve, the art of storytelling does the same. Paul Heyman shared his thoughts on where things may go next.
Speaking with Rick Rubin on the Tetragrammaton podcast, Heyman covered a variety of things, including the Roman Reigns and The Bloodline saga and how they’ve revolutionized wrestling storytelling by using backstage sequences (which he referred to as “movie scenes”) to progress the angle even further. He also spoke about what comes next, stating that he believes inclusive storylines are the way of the future.
“The safe answer, to sound pseudo-intelligent, is inclusive storylines. A transgender hero. A female that competes at the same level, with the same marketing behind her as any of the male competitors. [One] that’s not Ronda Rousey from the outside world coming in as a celebrity, but a homegrown Rhea Ripley. Or Bianca Belair. Or Charlotte Flair. Or Becky Lynch. Or Bayley. Or Nattie. Or any of these fantastic performers that we have on the roster. That [they] get a platform as lucrative and that carries as much opportunity on a global basis as any of their male counterparts. That’s a very safe thing for me to say. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that’s a place we should go, could go, and will go.”–Paul Heyman
Heyman also suggested that an amplified aura of theatre may also be in the industry’s future, citing the recent Bloodline segments as an example of these adding to the product and the stories the company tells.
“The unsafe answer. The one that I will preface [by saying that] when I pitch things that I’m not all that sure about, I say, ‘Well, let me just reserve the right to be really stupid in what I’m about to suggest.’ The other answer is an amplified aura of theatre without theatrics. The transformative, the revolutionary, the evolutionary disruptor in this industry towards that theory is Roman Reigns. We do movie scenes in the locker room to further tell the story. 3, 4, 5 minute movie scenes showing the vulnerability of his character, the angst of his character, the worry of his character, the sensitivities of his character, idiosyncrasies, nuances of his character, with his cousins, by his cousins, with a spotlight on his cousins at times, and sometimes on me. Sometimes in my sycophantic nature of appeasing The Tribal Chief, while at the same time, also appeasing him based on the fear that he can behead me at any time. A couple of years ago, if I said to you, ‘We’re going to do these locker room scenes that are movie scenes, and this villain champion for 1000 days, unbeatable by anybody is going to cry. Or he’s going to pivot because he’s exposing his own fears. His jealousy, his envy, his rage. If I would have told you this, you’d say, ‘No, that’s not what to do backstage.”-Paul Heyman
He further explained how he believes The Bloodline has revolutionized wrestling storytelling, why he believes Roman Reigns to be the best actor in WWE at the moment, and how his abilities as an actor have led to them being able to take the story as far as it’s gone. He also spoke about his belief that the multidimensional nature of Reigns’ character work over the last several years has set a new standard for WWE’s top stars.
“But you’ve never seen just scenes play out the way that we’re doing it now. And ones that completely propel the storyline into its next chapter. That was the secret of the Sami story, is what we were doing backstage with Sami. So that when we took the stories out to the ring, and the story of his desire for acceptance, and our refusal to give it to him, and Jey being the strongest minded and not giving it to him, which pissed off The Tribal Chief for Jey to make the decision and not for Roman to make the decision. So to spite Jey, and to show Jey who was the boss, that Roman would accept Sami a little more every week just to piss off Jey. The jealousy and the envy within one’s own family. Spite. We’ve all dealt with spiteful people and it’s and it’s not a pleasant personality trait. So, The Tribal Chief as a villain will display spite. These are all things that came to life in the ring based on the backstage drama that we were displaying. Not caring that the camera’s right in front of us. Never pretending that it’s not there. We’re playing out scenes. Now, this is a moment in time where it’s being done so well by Roman Reigns and The Usos, and Sami, and all those around him that it’s accepted. That people get into the story. The same way when I opened the door and The Usos left on Monday, I said, ‘Took care of it, my Tribal Chief.’ They gasped. If anybody else tried this, it would have bombed. Because Roman Reigns as an actor is better than anybody else in WWE, and he pulled it off. So we tailored this to his strengths and now it’s become an accepted part of the business […] I think it’s now part of the expectation of a top star to be able to act in that way. Yeah. I think he’s added a dimension to a top star that we didn’t have before.“-Paul Heyman
The wrestling world changes every day, and as it continues to become a more inclusive medium, the stories that are told will change with it. As for Heyman, his involvement in The Bloodline’s story continues, with his character attempting to convince a conflicted Jey Uso to stay in the group so that he can be next in line at the “head of the table” when Roman Reigns decides the time is right.
H/T to Fightful for the transcription.