Each part is somewhat lengthy, so I put them each in spoilers to help break it up a bit. Maybe that'll work OK. Part 1: Spoiler (Move your mouse to the spoiler area to reveal the content) Show Spoiler Hide Spoiler USAirwaysCenter.com: What are your earliest memories of CM Punk on the independant scene, and what made you think he had potential to be a star? Paul Heyman: You know, it’s that intangible “it” factor that separates guys that are great talents from guys that are great talents who also become great attractions. It’s an indescribable charisma that takes over a room and jumps through your TV set. The first time I saw a video of CM Punk, he was wrestling in some non-descript town on a little Indy show, and he came off like a gigantic superstar that was appearing on this small show. It jumped out at me how much star power he had. In addition to how talented he was in the ring and on the microphone, he just exudes star power. USAC: In the WWE’s recent documentary on Punk, “Best in the World,” he says he owes everything to you. But others interviewed in the video suggest that being a “Paul Heyman guy” may have actually held him back. What role do you think you have played in his career? Heyman: (Long pause) Um… It’s a great question, because it’s one I don’t really know how to answer. I find it surreal at times when someone like Stone Cold Steve Austin, or Mick Foley, or CM Punk, or Brock Lesnar, will say, “I owe so much to Paul Heyman, because he saw things in me that everyone else didn’t.” I am reluctant to accept the praise that I had some sort of advanced knowledge, or that it’s a sign of genius that I saw talent in this person, because I don’t buy that. There are just so many people in positions that are supposed to be able to spot these things and don’t. It’s the old expression that “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” I mean, how do you look at CM Punk on television and not immediately realize this guy’s a star, because he is? But it was the same thing with Steve Austin and it was the same thing with Mick Foley, and a lot of other people. I don’t understand how anybody could look at these people and not realize you are in the presence of greatness. So I am reluctant to accept the praise because all I did was notice how great of a star he could become. USAC: Maybe, but according to the video, you did take him under your wing and teach him the ins and outs of the business. Heyman: I appreciate the fact that he acknowledges that, but I was such a fan of his, and working with him was such a pleasure for me, because I learned from him, as well. To say that I taught him is to make me the sensei and he is my pupil. I just found that it was a creative collaboration between someone who had a lot of experience, which was me, and someone who was getting that experience, which was him. So I knew all of the pitfalls he was going to face and could help steer him clear of some of them. But at the same time, I was motivated and inspired by his uninhibited and unbridled creativity. He was not held back by convention, and was not held back by the knowledge of the things that you’re not supposed to do. Experience ends up becoming the greatest inhibitor of creativity. So when you take someone with experience like me, who wants to be creative, and you give me someone who is not jaded, and who wants to break down barriers and change the system, then it’s just an explosive combination and everybody wins. USAC: How much fun is it for you to be collaborating with him again, now that he is on top as WWE Champion? Heyman: Career highlight. I have such passion now for going to work because I get to collaborate with and brainstorm with, and perform with someone who I have the utmost respect for. It’s just a pleasure. We are best friends, who get to work with each other and get to challenge each other to be better. There has never been an interview that we’ve had to go out there to do, that if I had something to say, he doesn’t say “How about this line? How about if you say it this way?” And vice versa. We play off each other and most of the things we’re doing out there, we’re just winging. And most of our ideas come at the very last minute, because we are so motivated by this opportunity to get out there together and have fun in doing what we do. Part 2: Spoiler (Move your mouse to the spoiler area to reveal the content) Show Spoiler Hide Spoiler 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.” Part 3: Spoiler (Move your mouse to the spoiler area to reveal the content) Show Spoiler Hide Spoiler USAC: Switching subjects a bit, my 11-year-old son has become a big WWE fan in the past year and wanted me to make sure and ask you about Brock Lesnar. Specifically, he wanted to know if Brock is okay with you calling CM Punk the “best in the world.” Heyman: Of course, Brock is okay with me calling CM Punk the best in the world. CM Punk is the best in the world. Brock’s designation in WWE, Brock’s desire and Brock’s goals in the WWE are no longer to be recognized as the best. Brock doesn’t have title aspirations. He’s been there. He’s done that. Brock Lesnar is a beast and he’s an old-school pugilist. He’s a prize fighter and much like his reign in UFC, Brock looks like big money matchups that draw the most interest, garner the biggest box office, so that he can perform at the highest dollar value, which is what he likes to do. His goals are completely different that CM Punk’s. CM Punk wants to work 365 days a year to be the best in the world and to carry the company. Brock Lesnar is a selective prize fighter that wants to wrestle or fight in the biggest possible money-drawing attractions, and against the opponents that are most likely that the audience will pay the most money to see. It’s a totally different mindset. Much different goals. Much different values. USAC: Any chance we see a Punk and Lesnar team, or Heyman Stable in the near future? Heyman: Only if WWE chooses to write some very heavy paychecks. USAC: Do your arms ever get tired holding CM Punk’s title up in the air while standing ringside during his matches? Heyman: Never and the reason why is because I do know that once he surpasses Bruno Samartino, it will be like Alexander the Great conquering the whole known world and there will be no other known worlds to conquer, and probably then, he will be willing to pass the title on to somebody else. So I know this is only going to be a certain number of days in my life that I will have the opportunity to stand at ringside and hold that title up in the air. So I cherish every single, solitary moment of my life that I get to perform that task, because I do know that at some time in the future, I won’t be able to. USAC: The last time Punk was in Phoenix, last July for Money in the Bank, he was a fan favorite and cheered wildly after his victory over Daniel Bryan. What has led to his change in attitude since then? Heyman: I don’t believe CM Punk’s attitude has changed. I believe CM Punk has shot straight with the audience since Day One. Because he was pitted against, he was received with love and aaffection. Now that his focus is on pointing out the corruption that he sees, and how fickle the crowd can be, then I think a lot of people don’t like it when the finger is pointed at them. They get their jollies when the finger is pointed at someone else, so they can say “Ha ha!” It’s the same thing I said on television, when we did the Jerry Lawler heart attack. Everywhere that I go, I hear “We want the attitude era back!” Or “Why don’t you open up a new promotion and be extreme again?” Yet here we were on television, pushing boundaries, breaking rules, being extreme, doing the same type of thing that would have been done in the attitude era, and everybody had a conniption. So the fact is, they claim they want the attitude era, but they really don’t want it. They claim they want extreme, but they really don’t want it. They claim they want CM Punk to drop a pipe bomb and point his fingers the hypocrisy and the corruption that he sees, until the finger is pointed at them, and then all of a sudden they don’t like it. USAC: What can Phoenix fans, as well as those watching around the world on pay-per-view, expect from the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and The Rock at Royal Rumble, this coming Sunday? Heyman: The fans can expect CM Punk holding the title up in the air, having soundly defeated The Rock via pinfall or tap out. The same way he did to John Cena. The same way he did to Ryback. The same way he did to Chris Jericho, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on. And the fans can look forward to finding out the winner of the Royal Rumble, and if that winner will challenge CM Punk for the WWE title at WrestleMania, which is CM Punk’s next goal after soundly defeating The Rock at the Royal Rumble.