Not long after WWE Champion CM Punk attacked The Rock to close the 1,000th episode of RAW, he joined forces with one of the most well-known promoters and managers in wrestling history: Paul Heyman. The partnership has been fruitful for both men thus far and many fans are probably hoping that it remains intact, but it can't last forever.
While Punk is with question a "Heyman guy," a lot of people were puzzled by their alliance initially. Heyman has traditionally been used by the WWE to further guys who aren't particularly good on the mic, such as Brock Lesnar, Big Show and Rob Van Dam. Punk is arguably the best in the business at cutting promos, though, so it was a case of the rich getting richer.
Punk has still been allowed to do the majority of the talking on his own with Heyman acting as a propaganda machine more than anything. The goal was to transition Punk from one of the most popular faces in the company to the biggest heel in a matter of weeks and Heyman's constant yammering about Punk being the best in the world has been helpful in that regard.
With that said, Punk isn't going to remain heel over the long term. Punk has proven to be very capable as a top heel, but his fanbase is still sizable. The real money is in Punk being a face, and he will revert to face status at some point. When he does, there is no question that his relationship with Heyman will come to an end.
As much as the majority fans don't want to believe it, I maintain that there is a good possibility that we'll see Punk face "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at WrestleMania XXIX in April. It's going to happen eventually, and most figure that it won't be until WrestleMania XXX, but the WWE will certainly want to make WrestleMania in the New York/New Jersey area something special.
Punk and Austin have been having a war of words as of late, most notably during an interview session with Jim Ross about the new WWE '13 video game. The theme of the game is related to the Attitude Era and Ross' interview focused on whether Punk could thrive in the Attitude Era and whether Austin could excel in the present day.
Rather than discussing the game, though, Punk and Austin slung mud and talked about what would happen if they competed in a real match against each other. Perhaps it was just a ploy to sell video games, but the WWE wouldn't have gone through the trouble of setting something like that up if it wasn't relevant to real-life storylines.
The WWE built John Cena vs. The Rock for a full year and that build was widely criticized, so I feel like the WWE is going in a different direction this year. I anticipate Punk beating The Rock at Royal Rumble thanks to some interference from perhaps Lesnar and then Austin entering the Rumble match itself No. 30 and winning it for an unprecedented fourth time.
I realize that Austin underwent knee surgery several months ago, but as long as he's ready by April, it won't be an issue. All Austin would have to do in the Rumble is eliminate a couple guys and hit a couple Stunners, and then he would have nearly three months to get ready for a match against Punk at WrestleMania.
If Punk is going to face Austin, then he has to be heel, so now is the perfect time to pull the trigger. I simply don't believe that the WWE will be able to keep Punk heel for two years, so waiting until WrestleMania XXX is a dangerous proposition.
Punk is at his height in terms of being a heel right now thanks, in part, to Heyman's involvement, and he'll never be a more convincing opponent for Austin than he is currently.
The important thing to remember is that Lesnar is going to be back in the fold within the next couple months and he's likely to align with Heyman as well. Punk and Lesnar may work together loosely, but there figures to be some jealousy and turmoil at the same time.
I would book Punk to lose the WWE Championship to Austin at WrestleMania XXIX. That loss would cause Heyman to turn on Punk and go back to being the manager for Lesnar exclusively. We could then have a face Punk take on a heel Lesnar at Extreme Rules in order to maintain the momentum created by a top-notch WrestleMania.
That would require Lesnar re-signing with the WWE, and since he isn't going back to UFC, I have to believe that the odds of that happening are quite good. Not only would it be a quick and logical way to transition Punk from heel back to face, but it would instantly create a feud that a lot of people have wanted to see, so it's a win-win situation for the WWE.
Punk may have turned heel because of the WWE's lack of top heel depth, but I believe that his match at Royal Rumble with The Rock as well as a potential match with Austin at WrestleMania had just as much to do with it. His partnership with Heyman has been really helpful, but it was always going to be temporary.