But on this particular March afternoon on the Blue Line — the train he takes to and from O'Hare International Airport every week with the diamond-encrusted WWE Championship belt in his suitcase — Punk appears to have gone unrecognized by those sitting around him.That's just how he likes it."I'm so cranky," admits Punk, holding onto a pole by the"L"train's doors to keep his balance.The difference was Punk clearly belonged among the elite due to his superior wrestling skills and mic work — and he knew it. (Afterward) I went up to him smiling — 'That was incredible' — as people hugged him. Besides, WWE's higher-ups are starting to see what many fans have been seeing in Punk all along — well, most fans."We heckled him at a house show here in Hartford (Conn.) a year and a half ago before he had blown up," says Michelle Beadle, co-host of ESPN's "Sports Nation" and a die-hard wrestling fan, over the phone from ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn. ' Fast-forward a few months, and now I'm, like, 'That's the greatest wrestler of all time.' ...But after years of wrestling through injuries only to see the same guys holding the title, he revealed to the company six months before his contract expired in July that he would not be re-signing. It's 'cause he surrounds himself with glad-handing, nonsensical, yes men. I'd like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince Mc Mahon's dead, but the fact is it's going to get taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family."Punk's closest friend on the WWE roster, Kofi Kingston, was well aware of his frustrations. We thought he was a dork, and now we're big fans."Asked whether he has the marketability to be the face of WWE, Beadle, who calls Punk a friend, says, "He's where he is because he's been very successful.Look: First of all, when I'm flirting people will know I'm flirting. The next thing I know, she's in my face yelling at me and I honestly, I swear to you, thought it was a joke.I've also known Phil for a few years at this point and I had, at that time, considered him a friend. I call them all kinds of names, that's how you know I like you. I thought I was being set up for like a 'ha ha ha'. WWE was apologetic to me on site and I just said 'it's not your problem, people are who they are' and that was it.The earliest thing I remember is him coming up to me and saying, 'Hey, want a piece of advice? Remember, they all came here to see you.' I had been jumping around nervous, and he went out of his way to make me feel comfortable."On the road, Punk takes Kingston along on his personal bus, which saves them the trouble of having to drive and find time for sleep. Still, he did make sure it was enough to make WWE think twice about not using him again.
"Nobody believes me."Whether to make conversation or move the focus away from the tattoo, Punk praises the waitress for refilling his tea without his noticing. I think I just want my hands to be all tattooed to make it look like I was in a Russian gulag, and it made sense at the time, so …"The conversation soon shifts to romantic comedies."Dude, you know what's a good movie? "It's got Ryan Reynolds, and he has a daughter and tells her stories about four different girlfriends and she has to figure out which one was her mom. It kills time."Punk says part of the reason he likes the movie "Definitely, Maybe" is because he can relate to it, but he doesn't elaborate. He has a soft spot for children — even if they do stare at his tattoos and lip ring — and tries to make time for the young fans who want autographs and photos."I do envision myself having kids one day, and I always wanted a little girl," says Punk.What I do on international flights is watch crappy, sappy love movies. "I figure it will happen regardless — especially if I don't want one. It would be torture if I have a little girl.' It's like a wrestling curse."Ever since he re-signed, Punk seems to have taken a greater leadership role in the WWE locker room.He volunteers to do interviews on his days off when a show's ticket sales could be better; he is adamant that wrestlers leave the locker room the way they found it; and he is giving more of the younger guys advice on their matches.When one follower tweeted, "I'm going to Chicago for the 1st time for St Pattys Day. " Punk simply replied, "Indiana." When another tweeted, "noone cares where ur going or what your doing," Punk fired back, "You mean 'you're'. Or kill yourself.""I've tweeted a few things that I thought for sure would get me a call from (WWE's) office," Punk says as the train approaches his stop. "The restaurant, just like the neighborhood, has a hipster feel to it. He says most of the hipsters who recognize him are "too cool for school" to approach him. Eight days later, Punk returned to WWE TV, lost the title at the next pay-per-view and then lost his match at the pay-per-view after that.