Thankfully, David Lagana - himself a former WWE writer - has access to said people. And on his website, IWantWrestling.com, he let one of them write a blog.
Andrew Goldstein wrote a pretty good piece on what he observed of Punk during his run in WWE. And told a great story about Paul Heyman. So I figured I'd share it on here, too.
“A Holy Sh*t Moment within a Holy Sh*t Moment"
by Andrew Goldstein, for IWantWrestling.com
Well, we got another one Monday night… and boy, was it a big one. In the long, storied and sordid history of professional wrestling/sports entertainment we’ve seen the Horsemen break Dusty’s leg, Orndorff turn on Hogan, Hall and Nash show up on Monday Nitro, Steve Austin invent his own bible verse… and those are just during my lifetime… They are snapshots of gut-wrenching honesty captured thru a dishonest prism. They are the engine that keeps a flim-flam, circus world of faux competition, surreal spectacle, and cartoon melodrama moving along from town to town, non-stop, without anyone ever calling “bullshit” loud enough for it to ever come to a complete stop. And they are the Flux Capacitor in the back of the Delorean that, with a flash of lightening, and 1.21 gigawatts of power can catapult certain, special performers thru time and space to impossible, unimaginable places in their careers. These moments literally can transport a performer from the middle of no where to the middle of EVERYWHERE – which is exactly where CM Punk finds himself at this very moment. His name is on the tips of our wagging tongues as we salivate for the next seismic aftershock from the verbal earthquake he erupted on live television Monday night.
Sitting Indian style atop the aisle a hundred feet from where he just completed the last of his “instructed” physicality for the night, CM Punk filled the remaining minutes of Monday Night Raw with a seemingly impromptu, verbal assault on his employers, colleagues, and fans that nobody saw coming. (The irony of man sitting in the most peaceful of positions declaring war on his oppressors setting a perfect stage for what was about to unfold) And what we saw coming was something we get far too little of in arenas of public intrigue. Can you imagine Lebron James answering his critics after game six of the NBA Finals with the fearlessly passionate, brutally honest fervor that Punk showed Monday night? Can you imagine if Anthony Weiner had the balls of a CM Punk (no pun intended) and stood up there at his press conference and told us why he really did what he did? Can you imagine President Obama – or any public servant for that matter – addressing their constituents from the heart instead of from a previously prepared, politically correct note card? Would that really make for a more tumultuous climate than we live in right now? Not sure, but it sure as hell would make life more interesting!
And that’s exactly what these, “Holy Shit” moments do. They justify our guilty pleasure and embolden our commitment to a cause few understand. They do to wrestling fans what a millisecond of unscrambled female nudity on Cinemax used to do for prepubescent boys in their parents’ basements in the 80’s. They keep us coming back for more. It doesn’t matter that we stare at static action week after week, for hours on end, as our eyes glaze over from boredom and annoyance and frustration. It doesn’t matter because we’re all perverted by that one glorious moment of jaw-dropping, spine-tingling, heart racing titillation that hooked us from the very beginning – when wrestling was first introduced into our bloodstream. That’s what we crave: Much more so than a 5-star match. More than the plot twists of a locker room soap opera… More than the spectacle put on by a weekly travelling circus. We crave those pristine moments of clarity born out of the otherwise confusing, topsy-turvey, convoluted incubator that is professional wrestling.
I spent a “cup of coffee” as they say, seeing behind the curtain of this mysterious world of wrestling, coming face-to-face with the wizard. And in that time I got to witness the birth of the WWE version of CM Punk. At the time, I had no idea who CM Punk was (having not followed his time on the indys and in TNA) but I remember as I watched his very first entrance on WWE TV (Standing in the wings of one of the arena tunnels as creative team members often do during TV – not because it was a strategic vantage point or gave me a majestic view of the ring btw, but because it was usually a good place to hide from the political shit storm you could face if you dared sit down in front of the backstage monitor with the boys and actually enjoy the fruits of your labor) Anyway, I remember hearing the crowd chanting, “CM Punk, CM Punk, CM Punk” with just as much passion as they would, “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky”. They knew something I didn’t know.Please visit David Lagana's IWantWrestling.com for more like this, including his Formerly Creative podcasts.
And so did Paul Heyman. Who pushed and prodded, and pleaded with Vince at every turn to capitalize on this unique instant credibility that CM Punk brought with him to WWE… sadly, to no avail. Fast forward to the lead up to the December to Dismember pay per view which featured an Elimination Chamber match and Pauley – his evil genius turbines pumping on all cylinders – asked me if I’d like to stay late after a full day of TV to help him produce a series of sit-down, personal interviews with the match entrants that he would later cut into a series of emotional, go-home vignettes to help sell an otherwise heatless pay per view main event. (Years later HBO would utilize this format brilliantly on their 24/7 boxing series) Pauley told me, “I did these all the time in the original ECW and they WORK.” (Once again Pauley was ahead of his time) I jumped at the chance.
That night I watched Paul Heyman work his art. Drawing out of these men emotion I had never seen before from professional wrestlers. I watched as he got them to speak from the heart, not from the page. I saw them step out of their cartoon character personas and talk as human beings with feelings and relevant motivations for why they would want to engage in such a barbaric match. I saw Bobby Lashley break down in tears talking about how much he wanted to be successful for the love of his family. And I remember watching CM Punk – this nobody to me at the time – exude the kind of confidence HHH and Shawn Michaels walked around the WWE jungle with. It was remarkable. As a wrestling fan, it was Xanadu. As a fledgling member of the creative team, it was salvation to collaborate and learn from Paul. It also made me a fan of Punk’s for life. (Of course the vignettes never saw the light of the day. I heard Vince laughed his hearty chairman’s laugh in Paul’s face at the mere suggestion that he pepper them into the upcoming week’s episodes of ECW.)
To finish the story, Paul was undeterred in his vision for and his belief in Punk. He was adamant that the Big Show (the ECW champ at the time) and rookie sensation Punk should be the first two combatants out of their pods in the Elimination Chamber match. As Pauley’s plan was to play out, Punk would have shocked the world by eliminating the giant champion in the first five minutes of the match – thus ensuring that there’d be a new ECW champion crowned that night – while emblazoning Punk as a giant killer. It was a genius plan, one which the entire creative team loved… and you know what, Vince probably did too – way deep down in the bowels of where his soul once collected its mail. But because it came from the demented mind of the human embodiment of Vince McMahon’s every pet peeve, Paul Heyman… it was met with scorn, contempt, and flat out dismissal. So as the story goes, the match was the “shits” and Pauley hit his wits end (not an easy task if you’ve ever experienced Paul’s wit). He knew he was right and now emboldened by the colossal failure of the match to even draw a murmur from the audience, he stated his “I told you so” case to Vince and Stephanie. Not surprisingly, he’d soon be gone from WWE, quitting before they could fire him.
The point of this trip down memory lane is that Paul saw something in CM Punk. That’s what Paul does. He sees things in people. And what he saw in CM Punk in 2006 was strong enough to sacrifice his cushy, corporate, high profile, high-paying WWE job just to go to bat for this tattooed kid from Chicago whom he believed in so zealously.
That’s why Monday night, watching Punk invoke the name Paul Heyman as he verbally broke every statute in the WWE rulebook -I had a “Holy Shit” moment within a “Holy Shit” moment. That whole synapse of time in my life had just come full-circle with every venomous word out of the Straight Edge Superstar’s mouth. You see, that kid I watched Paul Heyman pick a fight with a fire-breathing dragon for in 2006 and lose, just picked his own fight with that dragon, on live TV, and seemingly won. And in so doing, reaffirmed exactly why I’m still a fan of professional wrestling. Thank you CM Punk.
Andrew Goldstein (@AngeGold)