I am officially done listening to former WWE World Champion CM Punk’s 2-hour interview on Colt Cabana’s Art Of Wrestling Podcast.
It was great to hear from Punk’s first-person account of the last few years of his career in such a detailed way.
He got to all the “How’s” and “Why’s” and, unlike many of these in-depth interviews, it was free for everyone to listen to. So props to both Punk and Cabana for setting that up.
To be clear, this is Punk’s side of the story. And we don’t have the benefit of the WWE side. But, in my heel opinion,
Was Punk injured? Yes. Was he unhappy? Yes. Was he stressed out? Yes. Was he worried about money? Yes. Was he not getting a good feeling from the creative plans for his character? Yes.
All the little rumors floating around the Internet hold water and Punk says as much. Well done, Meltzer.
While money was a hot topic in this conversation, Punk makes it clear it wasn’t the only thing that made him walk out the door.
While it was very important and often used by him to gauge WWE’s dealings with him, it ultimately wasn’t the culprit on his decision not to stay with WWE.
It obviously helps that Punk has made his fortune and has all but assured his financial independence, but Punk takes time to point out the costs of securing it.
Which is what we get into next.
Creatively, financially and personally, things were not going Punk’s way.
On pretty much every front, his WWE tenure was slowly eating away at his body and his love of pro wrestling.
Creatively, the storylines thrown his way lacked what he believed was needed to make them the home-runs he wanted to see (and believed the fans wanted to see as well).
Financially, the arrival of the WWE Network put wrestlers’ PPV points in jeopardy and Punk mentions another big deal that Vince took off the table that would have made Punk a bunch of money. More on that in a bit.
Personally, Punk’s stress levels were getting dangerously high, as he battle multiple injuries, a hectic schedule with very little pit stops, and what he believed was an uncooperative office, way more out for themselves than “the boys”. More on this below, as well.
On the flip side, he does not regret leaving the company earlier this year and is happy to report that the unhappiness that plagued his WWE run has cleared up.
It is safe to say that, from Punk’s perspective, at that point in his life, he made the right decision in calling it a day.
Punk notes that there is no shame in “being bitter”, while recognizing he is guilty of that state of mind and that it trickles down onto his overall demeanor.
But he also goes out of his way to state that as much as he is/was bitter, he deals with that bitterness head on, in order to move on. And, for the most part, it seems he has, even though he mentions some things are still on his mind, as to be expected.
Punk lists off the several reasons that pushed him out the door, while pointing out the biggest one was his health and going into great detail about the physical and mental stress he was under.
Let’s cover that:
After suffering a concussion at the Royal Rumble, Punk underwent a standard WWE concussion test, which he labels as “worthless” from a serious medical perspective.
To attest to this, Punk mentions that right after he took and passed the test, WWE officials asked him to run the ropes in the ring, because they believed he still had a concussion.
He passed the standard WWE concussion test. But they believed he STILL had a concussion. Punk calls them on how baffling this is and asks that they just admit he has a concussion.
For my money, this deserves to be cleared up from a purely scientific perspective.
What’s a MRSA (pronounced “Marsa”) Infection, you ask? Well, think staph infection on steroids. It’s a form of staph that is immune to broad-spectrum antibiotics.
If you’re unaware of how dangerous a staph infection can be, I’ll reluctantly recommend Google and Google Images. That’ll get you up to speed on why this point is critical.
Somewhere in October/November, Punk noticed a lump that eventually grew to be “the size of a baseball” on his back, near his waistline.
Despite Punk’s request to resolve the issue, namely by cutting into the lump to allow its drainage, Chris “Doc” Amann (the WWE physician Punk keeps mentioning as his go-to guy at events) avoids the issue numerous times, prescribing Punk some broad-spectrum antibiotics. You know, the ones that don’t help when it’s a MRSA Infection.
While Punk emphasizes Doc’s laziness to cut into his lump (first calling it a “fatty/calcium deposit”) – he points out Doc had done that several times for other wrestlers prior – and suggestions to simply increase Punk’s dose of Z-Pak (the wrong, broad-spectrum antibiotic he was on), one must note that the big point here is the one that follows.
Punk’s MRSA Infection went misdiagnosed by WWE for 3 months. It was only when AJ Lee suggested Punk see her doctor in Tampa that he was correctly diagnosed and put on the correct type of antibiotics. This consultation occurred shortly after Punk’s walkout.
The misdiagnosis caused 2 major problems:
a) Punk spent 3 months taking the wrong kind of antibiotics, consistently suffering from fever, diarrea and nausea, which pile on top of a hectic road schedule and little to no sleep. These are symptoms of the infection and of the (wrong) antibiotics.
b) According to the doctor recommended by AJ Lee, considering that Punk went from October/November to January, he “should be dead”.
Thankfully, that was not the case and, with the right diagnosis, his health quickly improved. And Punk’s voice clearly demonstrates how important that was for him.
3 times during Punk’s main event tenure, Vince McMahon asked him to acquiesce to his creative plans, in spite of Punk’s own reluctancy, making it clear that he would owe Punk one.
This instances were:
Long story short, while Punk doesn’t say it, it’s obvious he never cashed in and Vince appears to never have appropriately returned the favor, despite Punk being consistently there for him.
While Punk was rehabbing from knee surgery in December (you might remember he missed TLC 2012, which had no WWE Title match and was headlined by Cena vs. Ziggler), Vince informed by phone that he was booked against Ryback in a TLC match in early January.
During the conversation, as Punk does the math, it becomes obvious that the timing for the match makes it so it happens during Punk’s rehab time (2-3 weeks when rehab was 4-6).
Forever trying to soldier on, Punk agrees to wrestle on January 7th, doing as much as he can to be in shape and strengthen his knee before the match.
Punk is very critical of Ryback’s in-ring performance, citing multiple instances where he was put in harm’s way by The Big Guy.
He states – with what from his perspective is absolute certainty – Ryback hit him with a kick to the gut that broke one of his ribs (for which Ryback never apologized) and makes it clear it was anything but an isolated incident.
On the second go-round with Ryback (with Punk again a babyface feuding with the Heyman Guys), Punk tries to bury the hatchet with Ryback and the two come to terms in order to make their program a main-event feud, instead of the intended midcard one.
By Punk’s own account, this meeting of the minds was short-lived, as Ryback press-slammed Punk onto a table. But missed the table. And Punk landed on concrete, the last thing you’d want when you’re already very banged up.
Meeting Ryback backstage to call him on it, an irate Punk asked Ryback if he was stupid or doing it on purpose. Punk remembers Ryback chose a subdued “Yeah, I’m stupid” to retort.
After The Rumble, Punk was backstage at Monday Night Raw and getting conflicting reports about his eventual participation in Raw that night, and decided to meet with Vince McMahon backstage.
Triple H offered to leave the office where the impromptu meeting was about to happen, but Punk asked him to stay (“You need to hear this as well”).
Punk details the conversation, namely his frustrations with WWE’s treatment of him (financial, creative and personal).
Following the aforementioned creative misdirection about Punk’s role for the night, his shaken state (a suspected concussion suffered at the hands of Kofi Kingston the night before) and WWE officials’ insistence that he take a Wellness test and get to signing his upcoming foreign tour’s paperwork in spite of his condition, Punk had had enough.
He was concussed and the baggage was such that he was no longer willing to carry it.
Punk does his best to re-tell what he told Vince, in Triple H’s presence:
“I do not love this anymore, I’m fu***** sick, I’m fu***** hurt, I’m fu***** confused, I don’t know as a business what we’re doing anymore. Every day, you tell me this is a team effort. But every day, it’s a fu***** individual effort by me to find what’s necessary to even fu***** come here.”
“It’s not fun, I have zero fu***** passion for this. I am fu***** concussed, I’m fu***** hurt and all you care about is what segment I am, how soon I can get my fu***** gear on and pee in this fu***** cup.”
Punk goes on to mention he questioned Vince’s notions of what the fans want by bringing in Batista as a babyface (for the at-the-time-planned Mania Title match with Orton).
His speech then turns to the piss test Punk was being asked to take, while dealing with all of the physical and mental tribulations he listed.
To this, Triple H retorts with “Dave [Batista] just took the same piss test”. Which prompts Punk to ask him if he too submit his urine. At this point, Triple H remained quiet.
This had me having all kinds of flashbacks to Scott Steiner’s telling of how he too refused to take any tests Triple H himself wouldn’t take.
Punk continues, going into as much detail into the conversation as he can:
“Look, I thought when I re-signed 3 years ago, Vince (…) I told you if I couldn’t be all that I could be that you should fire me, that if I was a fraud and anything less and fell short of the fu***** mark (…) I sold more shirts than John Cena… until I turned fu***** heel for you. You said you owed me one. I worked guys that were fu***** dangerous and you said you owed me one.”
“I did all these fu***** things and all I wanted was the main event of Wrestlemania. And it’s fine if you think (…) that I’m that caliber of a Superstar. But then you need to fu***** fire me. Because I do not want to be here and I do not want to be anything else.”
“I will go somewhere else and I will get more fu***** over because I know I can. You have shackled me, you have creatively stifled me, you have made this a toxic environment, I no longer want to be here.”
Punk then goes to bat for Daniel Bryan, drawing what is, in my opinion, a very reasonable comparison:
“It boggles my mind how Daniel Bryan has not figured into your plans to be in the main event of Wrestlemania. Because this is his fu***** year. Just like 2 years ago it was my fu***** year and I was white fu***** hot just like he is now and what did you do? You fed me to this guy [Triple H].“
Vince then attributed Punk’s comments to him being concussed and re-pitched his proposed Mania match against Triple H as a main event type match.
As you can imagine, Punk wasn’t exactly ready to embrace this notion and states loudly and clearly that he resents Triple H for not doing him the honors in 2011 when Punk was white hot. As he says this, H is grinding his teeth.
Triple H and Vince then try to reason with him (the arguments aren’t stellar, IMhO, unless you think telling Punk his match with Taker at WM29 was, surely, the main event) but it’s too late.
Punk shakes their hand (in Vince’s case, Punk has to endure a hug) and leaves.
And, for my money, listening to his interview and how happy and healthy he describes himself to be… Good for him.
Fast-forwarding a few months, Punk is inactive and trying to get two royalty checks from WWE: an old one hee never cashed and a recent one WWE is withholding, seemingly as a response to Punk’s walkout.
While WWE executives give him the runaround in their phone and text exchanges, Punk does receive a message from Triple H, mere days before his wedding, asking if Punk has time to talk.
Punk mentions the timing of his upcoming wedding and honeymoon, proposing to chat with Triple H as quickly as he returns from his honeymoon. He also asks Triple H to look into his royalty checks issue, as the new one is sitting at the desk of WWE’s legal counsel.
On Punk’s wedding day, he checks the mail and finds his contract termination. Given that he indicated the timing of his wedding, Punk seems comfortable in putting 2 and 2 together and concluding that the timing of his official firing wasn’t accidental.
But despite that, as time goes on and Punk settles into married life, new projects and a more relaxed setting:
And given his contributions, his sacrifices, the mental and physical strain he has gone through, I for one am only too happy to see him roll off into the sunset intact, mind, body and soul.
Whatever happens next, wrestling fans have their memories and Punk has his life secured.
Like I said earlier on Twitter:
After hearing Punk’s side of the story, all I have to say is I probably would have left sooner. Have you listened?
— Heelbook (@Heelbook) November 27, 2014
Not that me saying it makes any kind of difference, but good for @CMPunk. In this world, happiness is unbelievably underrated.
— Heelbook (@Heelbook) November 27, 2014
Rest easy, Punk. Because, as we vocal fans say: “YOU DESERVE IT.”
A few more interesting things Punk mentions:
Punk makes it clear the entire roster is very dedicated to Make-A-Wish, but only John Cena’s contributions are actively advertised.
After being shot down on things like accompanying UFC fighter Chael Sonnen on his walkout and seeing Triple H walk out boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather weeks after, Punk concludes he probably won’t ask for permission next time.
With wrestlers earning a share of the PPV buys as part of their salary, Punk recounts the various times he asked about what would become of the roster’s pay with the inception of the WWE Network.
From Vince, he never got a clear answer.
Punk retells several instances where he would try to book himself as much in advance as he could, because WWE patently neglects to go long-term with their stories.
While Punk puts a lot of energy into name-drop those in WWE whom he feels wronged by, he also does recognize he should have taken time off.
His Harley Race-type mentality (“Injured? Tape it up, keep going”), while absolutely commendable for its inherent work ethic, did his body and mind little favors.
WWE’s refusal to let him go on a break to recharge his batteries and heal his injuries got Punk to the point where, by his own words, he wrestled Taker “with a death wish”, because it looked like WWE would only let him go away if he was critically injured.
While on antibiotics, Punk ended up discharging his intestinal load inside his Levi’s on an episode of Smackdown. He took to Twitter with some self-deprecating humor, letting everyone know they should watch Smackdown, “because I sh** my pants”.
Even though Punk mentions people like Vince and Ambrose laughed, WWE corporate advised him to take the tweet down because of the curse word. Oh my, do it quickly, Punk, before the world as we know it ends.
While Punk’s funny tweet did disappear and get replaced for a more PG (and bland) version of the same message, Colt Cabana reminded Punk he literally blocked WWE’s Twitter account.
That makes me happy.
Finally, why don’t we all basque in the irony of listening to Punk shoot for 2 hours in a podcast sponsored by WWE 2K15?
How about you? Where do you stand?