Jim Ross has discussed Paul Heyman leaving ECW and jumping to WWE in March of 2001 and joining JR at the announce table on Raw.
In March 2001 JR’s long-time announce partner Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler left WWE following the firing of his wife Stacy Carter who portrayed The Kat. With a space at the announce desk needing to be filled, Ross suggested a broadcast partner he had experience with – Paul Heyman.
Heyman ran Extreme Championship Wrestling for several years before the company’s demise in 2001. Two months before ECW officially entered bankruptcy, Heyman returned to television at the announce desk on Raw.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Jim Ross detailed his time working with Heyman and what he felt Heyman brought to the role.
“It was a different presentation. Jerry [Lawler] – at that point in time we’d been together so long that the dynamic between the heel and the babyface announcer was kinda passé. Not in a sense that the concept didn’t work anymore because it worked with Heyman and I. But the Lawler dynamic had changed over the years.”
“When Stacy Carter was let go and Lawler left in somewhat of a protest, to me Heyman was the logical successor. I’d worked with Paul in WCW. I helped him get his first real gig on national television because the booking committee didn’t want to work with him. He was a pain in the ass to them and sometimes he was a pain in the ass to me. But he was so talented that he knew his role and did a good job. I enjoyed working with Paul.”
“I see it all the time on social media that Paul Heyman and myself were [the fans] favourite announce team. We weren’t together long, I think if we’d been together longer then it might have stood the test of time. I truly enjoyed working with him. He’s just so damn smart and he gets it. He knew what the hell he was doing. He was a really good antagonist because sometimes the best antagonists are the villains that say things that you know are true but you just don’t want to hear them. Heyman had the ability to tell his version of the truth, [he was] plausible. He just wasn’t a heel getting himself over, he got talent over and did a great job. And obviously, he’s still doing a great job as a mouthpiece for Roman Reigns and so forth. It was a good experience.”
Ross and Heyman debuted as a commentary duo on Raw on March 5th, 2001. Little less than a month before one of the WWE’s biggest shows of all time, WrestleMania X-7.
JR shared his thoughts on how he felt himself and Heyman handled the big occasion:
“I think we were both a little bit apprehensive going into [WrestleMania X-7}, we knew we had to deliver. It wasn’t ‘well we’ll be ok, we’ll get through it,’ that’s bulls**t. I don’t wanna get through something, I wanna make it good. We got through it alright obviously but I thought it was better than just getting through it, we did a good job that day. [Heyman] did a real good job and I’m proud to have worked with him.”
Ross’s co-host Conrad Thompson then asked about how Heyman was arrived at as Lawler’s replacement. Reportedly, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon had helped fund ECW over the years and so had a prior relationship with Heyman.
Jim Ross elaborated:
“I’m sure being the smart guy that he is he kept his pipeline to Vince open. You go to the decision-maker, you want to maintain communication with the decision-maker in any environment that you’re working in. Whether it be wrestling you’re working in or something else. You don’t wanna p*ss off the decision-maker, you want to ingratiate yourself to them. So I’m sure Paul went to Vince about coming in.”
“Vince did talk to me about ‘now that Jerry’s gone, what would you like to do?’ I said, to me the logical choice is to deviate from where we were and give a completely different coat of paint would be to have Heyman work with me because he’s going to be a heel. He’s going to be caustic and he’s smart and he really was motivated to do a great job. Heyman, like any other performer, has an ego. And you don’t wanna go on television and fail or be less than you should be. So I knew it would be a different dynamic and I think Vince was intrigued by that. I don’t wanna say that WrestleMania X-7 was a dry run but it was a new voyage. How are the seas gonna be? Are the seas gonna be rough?”
“I had no regrets at all about working with Paul Heyman anytime, anyplace. He did such a great job. We were both fired up for [WrestleMania X-7], we were jacked up and ready to rock and roll.”
Jim Ross and Heyman shared the commentary table throughout the ‘Invasion’ storyline of 2001. Their on-screen feud heightened as Heyman joined the ECW branch of the Alliance. The storyline ended at Survivor Series 2001 when the WWE prevailed in a ten-man tag team match. The very next night on Raw, Heyman was relieved of his commentary duties to be replaced by Jerry Lawler.
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