NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Perhaps it’s only fitting that, as Raw rolled into the Music City, the evening began with the metaphorical funeral dirge of one Paul Heyman, who came into Nashville, Tenn., with no less an intention than to announce his resignation. His reputation in shambles and his career in jeopardy following the events of the past two weeks, the former ECW mastermind took to the ring to say his final goodbyes. But more importantly, Heyman gave a heartfelt explanation as to why he would be leaving WWE: He would be leaving for the sake of his friend, CM Punk.
“That sword of Damocles is not just hanging over me, it is hanging over everyone around me, and that means it is hanging over CM Punk,” said Heyman, who insisted he had become a “distraction” for Punk and his presence was no more than a hindrance to The Straight Edge Superstar’s pursuit of the WWE Championship. With Mr. McMahon gunning for Heyman, the mad scientist explained, it was better for everyone involved if he stepped aside and let Punk handle his business on his own.
It was only when CM Punk himself came to the ring to comfort his longtime ally that Heyman’s self-eulogy came to a halt. The Straight Edge Superstar insisted that cooler heads prevail, that Heyman tough it out despite Mr. McMahon’s vendetta against him. Heyman first seemed dead set on making his exit, but Punk eventually broke through to his mentor and finally talked Heyman down from the ledge by promising to “make everything right” and take the WWE Title back from The Rock at Elimination Chamber.
“This Sunday at Elimination Chamber, this bad dream we’re living all goes back to normal,” Punk said. “I will beat The Rock, and when I do beat The Rock, you, Paul Heyman, you will be in the corner of the champ.”
Punk’s words appeared to have a galvanizing effect on his mentor, too: Only minutes after retracting his resignation, Heyman was up to his old tricks and got a potentially game-changing stipulation added to CM Punk’s WWE Title Match against The Rock: If The People’s Champion gets counted out or disqualified at Elimination Chamber, he will lose the WWE Championship to CM Punk
The WWE Champion’s history with Nashville is long and storied, and we don’t just mean the surreal yarn The Rock spun for the WWE Universe about a car he acquired through suspect means in his youth. The Music City is where The People’s Champion had his first match, it’s where he went to high school for a time, and in 2013, it was the site of a crass act of robbery against The Brahma Bull: the theft of the WWE Championship itself.
The Great One finished entertaining the WWE Universe with the stories of his youth when CM Punk and Paul Heyman made their presences known, emerging from the locker room and mean-mugging The People’s Champion from afar. Rock beckoned Punk and Heyman to “bring it,” and bring it they did. The Straight Edge Superstar swarmed the WWE Champion and seemed doomed to a Music City mauling when The People’s Champion planted Punk with a spinebuster and prepared for The People’s Elbow. But right as The Rock was running the ropes, Heyman struck and tripped up The Great One, allowing Punk to capitalize by nailing The Great One with the Go to Sleep.
With the champion unconscious, Punk committed an act of in-ring larceny, seizing the WWE Title beside the fallen champion and absconding with the prize, pausing only once to acknowledge his foe from the top of the ramp.
“Storytime’s over, Rock,” Punk sneered in the ultimate act of defiance from a lifelong rebel. “I want you to understand one thing: Every time you wanna bring it, because it belongs to me, I’m just gonna take it.”