This past Saturday, former WWE Champion CM Punk addressed many that fans have been wondering about since his departure from the WWE five years ago. In his panel during the Starrcast III event, Punk addressed his thoughts on the pressure pro wrestlers have when trying to work both live and house shows, and the idea about toxic masculinity in the business.
"I think in wrestling culture, there's a lot of toxic garbage," Punk addressed. "I think it's like that with sports across the board. There's always that push to be the 'tough' guy, 'oh I've got to work hurt.' Obviously, in pro wrestling, it's more so because back in the day if you didn't work, you didn't get paid. It was still very much like that when I was on the road full time. If I missed a house show loop, which I never did, I wouldn't get a f---ing paycheck that week.
"It's 2019, and I think that these sports organizations need to address that. Yes, there's always going to be people who will abuse the system and be like 'oh, I'm hurt.' But in pro wrestling, there's always this pressure, and it's very real from the office about how you have to make these shots. They make it that this massive toxic masculinity thing about you have to do this and look how tough I am. I think that it's really, really stupid, and I think that it gets people hurt, it gets people killed, and it's a dangerous thing."
During his time in the WWE, Punk has had some memorable rivalries that brought out the best in him and vice versa. Of those who he got to share the ring with, one of the best long-lived feuds he had was with John Cena. Punk said that he enjoyed working with Cena, and discussed how they learned to work together since both men were trained in different wrestling styles.
"I always liked working with John because it was easy," Punk said. "I think John was in a position where he was almost kind of glad somebody else came in and forcibly took the reigns."
Punk then recalled a time where he was able to take control of a match, after overhearing how the match was supposed to go.
"I remember the first time I worked with John in 2009. You know in wrestling, the bad guy normally calls the match. It's kind of traditionally how it went. I remember locking up with John and he was doing an appearance, so we couldn't talk about the match. I hated talking about matches anyway. It's like John Cena, you know what he does. He does the five things (set moves) and that's it. So if you can't figure that out, then you're in trouble.
"I remember Mike Chioda was referring the match. I remember locking up with John and grabbing him into a headlock and taking him over and I'm happy just to sit there a minute and get the lay of the land. He started going 'drop down, hip toss, etc.' He starts calling all this s—t and I was just like (expresses a puzzled look on his face). I remember looking at Chioda and saying 'Mike, who the f--k is calling this match?' He's laughing so hard. (After Punk decided to change the structure of how the match was supposed to go) John just said 'oh, ok.' I think John was stoked that he didn't have to be that guy directing traffic. He let me do whatever the f--k I wanted. I think he was relieved. I think that's why we worked together so well.
"I never like to take credit for s--t, because in the end, it doesn't matter. But I was the first guy to be like why is everyone always taking the shoulder? You know what's going to happen. Why do you let him do the 'You Can't See Me' gesture and not kick him in the head? I broke down the John Cena comeback in a logical way and he was like, "This is great. How come nobody has ever done this before?'"
In 2011, Punk one of his memorable matches at Money In The Bank for the WWE Championship against Cena in his hometown of Chicago. Fans were in shock when Punk walked out the winner, even though he allegedly had not renewed his WWE contract heading into the match. Some believed that match was the best one Punk had and was the most fulfilling one of his career. Punk, however, did not feel the same way. He addressed that match was not his happiest moment in his career with the WWE. Instead, working with other wrestlers and helping them shine in their matches against him was the biggest highlight in his career.
"The happiest moment in the company, it's hard to say," Punk said. "I legitimately did not sign a contract until that day. Vince was like what's the finish, because if you don't sign the finish is John. If you do sign, we have to figure out a finish. I was like OK and I got what I wanted and signed the deal. But I don't know if that was my happiest moment. I was stoked when I got to help someone else have a happy moment. That was always happier for me."
Punk also discussed how ecstatic he was to hear that Kofi Kingston became the new WWE Champion after successfully defeating Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35. He said that he was told about the good news by a colleague of his. Though he believed Kingston should have won the title 10 years ago, he says that now that Kingston is a father, his title reign has more of an impact than it would've back then.
"Man, it's so f--king awesome," Punk exclaimed. "Looking at where Kofi is, I know he has two kids and that's probably so rad that that happened now. My first comment was 'it should've happened 10 years ago.' It might be better for him that it happened now because his kids get to see it and enjoy it, and I think that was the best thing in the world for him."
You can watch CM Punk's full interview at FITE TV by clicking here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit CM Punk Best In The World (Starrcast III) with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.