Paul Heyman offered insight but not good news when talking about CM Punk and Punk's WWE future.
In an recent interview on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Heyman gave a glimpse into Punk's relationship with WWE and how The Best in the World views the prospect of returning to the ring.
Heyman offered hope amid all the doubts he placed in fans' minds, but he didn't give Punk fans what they truly wanted to hear.
An ally and advocate for Punk both onscreen and off, Heyman knows how the former WWE champ's mind works better than just about anyone.
The topic of Punk's hiatus and possible comeback comes up with nearly anyone associated with WWE. With Heyman, though, one knows that it's not just conjecture that he's spitting—it's inside information.
The interview, like most moments involving a live mic and Heyman, is fascinating.
He talks about why his partnership with Cesaro didn't work, Brock Lesnar nearly fighting in UFC again and his strange relationship with Vince McMahon. It's his thoughts on Punk, though, that will create the biggest waves.
The abruptly retired star is an enigma fans continue to focus on. Who better to talk about Punk than Heyman? As he told Helwani, Punk and Heyman was "as compelling as the partnership between Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman."
Chances of a Comeback
Punk keeps telling fans that he's not returning. It's not just him toying with the audience, playing coy to cover up a surprise appearance.
It's a truth that Heyman reiterated to Helwani.
When the topic of Punk came up in the interview, Heyman said, "I think Punk's mindset right now is to never come back." He later went into greater detail, telling Helwani, "I think in his heart of hearts, CM Punk absolutely has it in his mindset, in his heart and his soul, and passionately feels, 'I will never put on a pair of boots again.'"
That's about as definitive as you can get.
That follows Punk telling Chris Van Vliet of Cleveland's CBS affiliate in July that he would "never, ever" step into the squared circle again.
(NSFW note: Punk uses some brief profanity here.)
One could easily write that off because he seemed to say that in such a tongue-in-cheek way. Heyman's comments make that statement feel far more genuine.
Punk may shift his stance after longer away from the company, but there's no reason to doubt that WWE will be Punk-free for a long time to come. Heyman paints a picture of a passionate man staying firm about his decision to leave.
How CM Punk Would View a Return
A part of that steadfastness regarding staying away from WWE is inspired by a surprising thought process. Heyman said that Punk would see it as a failure should he come back.
Heyman noted of Punk, "He is driven and determined never to go back, and in his mind, if he ever does go back, it will be a sign of a failure on his part, that his success in life is predicated on the move to never come back."
Fans knew that Punk had issues with WWE, being that he was upset enough to walk out while still under contract, but this is an eye-opener in terms of how deeply the situation runs.
This doesn't sound like a man who is a good conversation away from patching things up. It sounds like he is as tenacious about staying away from the ring as he was about performing in it.
Punk is wrong that his return would be a failure, though.
Perhaps if he came back under non-ideal circumstances and took a spot that was below him it would be, but not if he returned as a special attraction a la Lesnar or The Rock. His legacy wouldn't be hurt by him negotiating a deal that benefits both him and WWE.
The sudden way in which he left and the pining done in his absence will instead make him an even bigger star should he ever come back.
Fans have had no chance for closure. That has made audiences hunger for him, inspiring them to chant his name long after it's clear that he's cut ties with WWE for the foreseeable future.
He would come back as a hero, finally giving those chanting fans what they have been calling for.
WWE's Mindset Regarding The Second City Saint
According to Heyman at least, WWE is not the scorned lover sitting by the phone waiting for the one who left.
He said that he believes that the company shares Punk's feelings and "they never want him back." Heyman added, "I think their attitude is 'We're going to show this guy we don't need him and we'll never use him again.'"
Heyman may be wrong about WWE's position, but it's plausible that this is how officials feel, at least right now. Punk left in the midst of WrestleMania season while still under contract. Dave Meltzer even noted on Wrestling Observer Radio (subscription required; h/t Keith Harris of Cageside Seats) that a threat of possible legal action against Punk looms.
That still doesn't mean that one should use the word "never" when talking Punk and WWE.
The years have a way of allowing one to forget old wounds. Bruno Sammartino recently joined the WWE Hall of Fame after taking a firm anti-WWE stance during his retirement. The Ultimate Warrior and WWE made it past their own animosities and formed a partnership before he passed.
Heyman thinks a reunion between Punk and WWE is possible as well.
He doesn't believe it will happen this year or next, but the right money and opportunity will eventually lead to it happening. Heyman is absolutely right there.
With as big a draw Punk would be now after his departure, with as young as he is compared to the others fans demand to see in the ring again, chances are he and WWE work things out at some point. Politics and hurt feelings are mighty powerful, but money usually trumps both in the end.
Should a WrestleMania match arise that piques Punk's curiosity, one WWE knows that it can sell truckloads of tickets for, ill will can turn to an amicable business partnership.
Heyman's story is the perfect example of that. As PWTorch.com detailed, Heyman had a tumultuous relationship with McMahon and WWE. After his exit in 2006, few would have imagined Heyman being in the ring for the company once more, much less alongside Lesnar, who once filed a lawsuit against WWE, per PWTorch.
Punk, as Heyman revealed, is determined not to come back.
Minds change, though. Punk is susceptible to that like everyone else.