Manager, executive Paul Heyman selected to WWE Hall of Fame

Paul Heyman's secret to cutting a legendary wrestling promo (4:04)

In an interview from 2016, Paul Heyman opened up about the art of creating a character and cutting a promo. (4:04)

PHILADELPHIA -- Paul Heyman first hustled his way into professional wrestling as a teenager with a press pass at Madison Square Garden in the 1970s. Even then, working behind-the-scenes and mingling with the oddities in the outlier of the sports world appealed to Heyman. He struck up a relationship with Vince McMahon Sr. and was hired for $50 as a ringside photographer.

Heyman ditched the camera long ago, but he never stopped trying to tell wrestling stories through his vision. He was an advocate, manager and now, a WWE Hall of Famer.

Heyman and WWE told The Associated Press that the 58-year-old will be the first member of this year's class.

Heyman will be inducted April 5 at the WWE ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the city that served as home base for his old Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion in the 1990s.

Heyman's brashness made him a prominent force in the locker room. He schmoozed with some of the wildest personalities of the era - "Captain" Lou Albano, Gorilla Monsoon, The Wild Samoans - and even pitched storyline ideas long before the curtain was ripped open and wrestling became a top form of entertainment.

"I think everyone knew even back then I was going to find my place in this industry," Heyman said. "I wasn't shy about letting people know that. About letting people know that was my ambition."

During WrestleMania weekend, WWE will run live shows of Raw, Smackdown and it's developmental program, NXT. WWE World, which includes meet-and-greets and panel discussions, and memorabilia displays, is camped out for five days at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Highlighted by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson' s return to the ring, WrestleMania XL on April 6 and 7 is expected to pack Lincoln Financial Field. Heyman will be there, accompanying WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns to the ring for a match against Cody Rhodes on the second night. It's Heyman's sixth consecutive WrestleMania main event and seventh time overall.

On Hall of Fame night, the spotlight belongs to Heyman.

"I consistently feel like I'm just getting started, and I'm just figuring this out," Heyman said. "To me, what is an incomplete body of work, because there's still things I want to accomplish, I never felt comfortable accepting that is a reflection upon an entire career."

Heyman and the rest of the inductees - yet to be named - will be feted on the first WrestleMania weekend without Vince McMahon. McMahon resigned in January from WWE's parent company the day after a former employee filed a federal lawsuit accusing him and another former executive of serious sexual misconduct, including offering her to a star wrestler for sex.

"It's an exceedingly difficult situation to process," Heyman said.

Heyman worked for the National Wrestling Alliance and World Championship Wrestling before his now 20-plus year career in WWE. But it was time as the creative mind behind the ECW promotion in the '90s that revolutionized the industry.

Before Heyman formed WWE's Bloodline stable, his ECW was as bloodthirsty and violent as pro wrestling would get - think barbed-wire ropes and flaming tables - and many of its ideas and performers were later absorbed by WWE into the mainstream.

"The extreme in ECW stood for the work ethic involved, the passion that was necessary and the extreme connection to an audience to whom and for whom we were always obsessed with underpromising and overdelivering," Heyman said. "The legacy of ECW is firmly rooted in the very simple concepts of paying attention to the cultural curve and obsessively trying to stay a few steps ahead of it."