You seem to be cognizant of wrestling history. For example, after Macho Man Randy Savage's death, you wore tights designed like his and performed his elbow drop. Why is the past so important to you?
Like they say, if you don't remember the past you're doomed to repeat it. Not that repeating pro wrestling's past would be such a horrible thing; there were certain aspects that were a lot cooler back then. When I was a kid, Macho Man was the s--t. When he passed away I just felt the need to do something. So I had some classic WrestleMania III Macho Man tights made and I wore them, thinking that maybe someone who didn't know who he is would hear people talking about him and check him out. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Macho Man. He is cooler than anyone around today, myself included.
Leading up to your championship you were portrayed as an outsider and an underdog. You've talked about how you weren't marketed correctly or enough. Now that you have been crowned champion, can you still make that claim?
Not without adding some sort of severe backlash from people. It's hard to say you're an underdog when you're the champ. There are still people who are crossing their fingers waiting to see me fail. This industry has always been about image, and I don't fit that image. I'm the one standing up and saying, "So what?" I'm the best wrestler in the world, and that is what this is about. Who cares if I don't look like you want me to? That's something I've been dealing with my entire life.
What's it like to wrestle alongside or against the same guys you idolized as a kid?
I wrestled independently for a very long time and wrestled guys like Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk, and Ricky Steamboat, so that stuff blows my mind. I met Mick Foley in 2003 and he said, "I think you're awesome and you need to be in WWE." Mick's been waving the CM Punk flag for damn near a decade. Having these old-school guys have my back, having Dusty and Terry Funk telling me that I'm the man after wrestling in front of 500 people in Philadelphia—to me that's bigger and better than any paycheck I'll ever get. That's validation from people who are as close to being my heroes as you can get.
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