Jan 21, 2013

Q&A With Paul Heyman, Part 2

Heyman is a "friend, advocate, strategist & advisor" to Punk. (Photo courtesy WWE.com)

USAC: What do you think makes CM Punk the so-called “Best in the World”? 

Heyman: He doesn’t compromise and he never has. CM Punk has never compromised anything in his life. He has a strict set of principles and disciplines in being straight edge. You know, he never drinks and never will. Its’ not even like, “Hey, here’s a toast, I’ll take a sip.” He doesn’t even take a sip. He doesn’t smoke and never will. He doesn’t do drugs and he never will. The man got surgery on his knee and even right after surgery would not take any sort of pain medication. That’s it. He has a set of disciplines and he lives by them. He lives by a code and he lives by a belief, not only in himself, but in the way that he envisions himself, which is to be as righteous a human being as you’re ever going to meet, while at the same time have a ruthless pursuit to be the best performer and box office attraction in this industry today. He challenges himself every single time he walks through that curtain. CM Punk is never satisfied that last night he had the best match of his career, or that last night he did the best interview of his life. All that does is make him realize that today he has to top yesterday, and tomorrow, he has to top today.

USAC: There have been a lot of guys who were great on the mic. I immediately think of guys like Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, The Rock and Mick Foley. Have you ever seen a wrestler, though, as good as CM Punk? His "pipe bombs" are very intelligent, inside and feel very authentic, and off the cuff.

Heyman: Well, he thinks like a writer, a producer, what we used to call a “booker.” He has a booker’s mindset. He looks at things from the perspective of “How do we design this?” so that it not only elicits the greatest response from the audience, but it draws the most money and creates the most interest. He doesn’t just look at his performance from the perspective of “How do I deliver this line the best?” or “What’s the coolest thing I can say under these circumstances?” He’s always looking on the fly, while he is out there, while he’s improving it, he’s always looking for a way to hook the audience to increase the box office potential of what he’s involved in. It’s amazing to watch.

USAC: Does he remind you of anyone?

Heyman: CM Punk reminds me of a lot of people. He has Rick Rude’s ability to feel the crowd. He has Steve Austin’s ability to change direction mid-stream, if he doesn’t like the way something is going. He has Brock Lesnar’s drive and ambition to be the absolute very best at what he does. He brings to the table the best of a lot of A-List people that I’ve worked with, and, as you pointed out, he is perhaps the most intelligent man that I have ever been in a conversation with in my life.

USAC: Going into next weekend’s Royal Rumble match with The Rock, he will have been WWE Champion for 434 days, the longest in the “modern era,” as they say. Did you ever think you would see someone hold the championship that long in today’s WWE, which has so much more television programming and a new pay-per-view each month?

Heyman: Did I ever think? I thought if it could ever be pulled off, he was going to be the one to do it. You know, when I got involved with him in September, we looked at it from the perspective that “We’re heading towards the longest title rein in 25 years.” Since we realized that, never did I once say to CM Punk, “We’re not going to make it…. Uh oh, we’ve got a problem coming up… What’s our contingency here?” It’s always been, “We’re this many games away from accomplishing this goal.” Or “What’s the goal after that?”

CM Punk always looks two goals ahead. That’s the biggest difference between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar looks at what’s directly in front of him and that’s the goal. Once he perfects that goal, conquers that goal, he’s ready to move on to the next goal. CM Punk has a long-range plan and has his eyes firmly set on what follows that, and therefore what leads to the next.

USAC: What do you think is his long-range goal at this point?

Heyman: I would suggest, in all honesty, that CM Punk’s long-range goal is to surpass Bruno Sammartino as the longest-reigning champion of all time. Everybody can have their own perception of the politics and the realities of the sports-entertainment, slash pro wrestling, slash WWE Universe. But if you were to say to CM Punk, “Cut off your left arm right now and you’ll be guaranteed to be the longest reigning champion of all time,” he’d leave the room without his left arm.

The only circumstance I can imagine CM Punk saying, “I don’t want to be champion anymore. I don’t want to be indicative of being the best in the world. I don’t want to be the guy that main events and carries the company,” is if he sees somebody that’s better than him. Because then he’ll want the title on that person, because that’s what will be best for business. But right now, CM Punk is the best wrestler, the best talker, the best attraction, the most versatile performer, who works the most demanding schedule. So who better to carry the company and to be the WWE Champion. And he doesn’t see anybody that’s going to take that away from him.

I mean, the man had a TLC match on live, global television three weeks after having knee surgery. And it’s not like he went out there and took it easy.

USAC: Punk has called out or put down a lot of former WWE greats in recent months, from The Rock to Stone Cold, to Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, to Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino. Is that purposeful, in an effort to put his name in the same class as those legends, or something?

Heyman: To surpass them. Absolutely. How could that not be your goal? If you want to be the best in the world, how could your goal not be to smash every box office record, and to entice the audience to have the opinion that you are the best that’s ever stepped foot into a ring?

When a rookie baseball player comes up and he hits his first home run, if he’s not thinking of passing Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, etc, etc, what’s he swinging for the fences for?

If you’re going to be complacent or you’re going to be satisfied as just mentioned in the same breath as Bruno or Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair or Randy Savage or the Rock, then your goal is pretty low. Your goal should be, “I want to surpass them,” to the point where you interview a kid, he says, “I want to be the next CM Punk.” And when you interview a legend, the answer is “CM Punk is better than me and it’s a pleasure to watch him.”