Why Some Paul Heyman Guys Over The Last Decade Haven't Worked Out

Having a manager that accompanies you to the ring and sometimes speaks on your behalf usually bodes well for a rising WWE star. But it also depends on who they stick by your side — certain managers throughout history like Bobby "The Brain Heenan," Jimmy Hart, and Paul Heyman have been credited for getting their clients over with audiences. The latter, Heyman, continues his role on WWE television to this day, currently as the "Special Counsel" and wise man to WWE Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns and The Bloodline. Roman is one of many men, all with varied results, that have had the label of "Paul Heyman guy" linked to their name over the years.

One star that received the services of Heyman but didn't find a level of success on par with Reigns, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, or others is Curtis Axel. Axel was introduced to WWE audiences in 2013 as a repackaged version of Michael McGuillicutty from The Nexus, with his arrival hyped up for weeks as the new "Paul Heyman guy." The stage was all set for Axel to make an immediate impact — he was even booked to go one-on-one against Triple H the night of his re-debut, a match he actually won! But it wasn't a decisive victory like his re-debuting character needed — he defeated Triple H by referee stoppage due to "The Game" selling the effects of a concussion. In the following weeks, Axel typically won his matches by count-outs or disqualifications, furthering his image as someone who couldn't get the job done.

Ryback Is Added To The Mix

Axel reached the peak of his WWE run when he captured the Intercontinental Championship at Payback 2013. Throughout the time he was starting to shine, Heyman's promos rarely focused on the accomplishments and momentum of Axel and instead brought attention to his hatred for CM Punk. This mirrored what would happen in the ring, as well. With Punk and Heyman feuding because Lesnar was only around part-time, Axel would get dominated by Punk in matches which would indirectly disgrace the legacy of the IC title. These problems only became exasperated when another Paul Heyman guy was introduced into the fold: Ryback.

It was apparent through the way WWE was booking the ongoing story that Ryback was immediately meant to pose a bigger threat to Punk than Axel could, once again knocking the Intercontinental Champion down a peg. But even with such a domineering gimmick, Ryback lost in forgettable matches to Punk at Battleground and Hell in a Cell 2013. Over these months, the feud between Punk and Heyman was the main focus, while Axel and Ryback were essentially martyrs to the story. After HIAC and a loss to Punk the following night, Ryback and Axel were no longer affiliated with Heyman, doing more damage to their WWE personas rather than improving them. This was baffling, considering that from late 2012 through Summer 2013, Ryback was booked strongly, was an established fan-favorite, and quickly went into feuds with top talents like John Cena and Mark Henry.