Posted: Jan. 20, 2013
With the clock counting down to the WWE’s Royal Rumble on January 27, US Airways Center’s VP of Digital and resident wrestling fan Jeramie McPeek interviewed Paul Heyman.
Originally making a name for himself as the founder of Extreme Championship Wrestling in the ‘90s, Heyman has spent the past year in the WWE as a manager to Brock Lesnar, and is currently the "friend, advocate, strategist and advisor" to WWE Champion CM Punk.
The following is a transcript of the in-depth, three-part interview with the colorful and controversial figure, who will be in Punk’s corner when he defends his title against The Rock this coming Sunday in Phoenix.
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.