It’s been seven years since CM Punk has been in wrestling and even he’ll admit that a lot can change in that timespan. In an appearance on Busted Open Radio, the new AEW star was asked what he found to be the biggest change since he signed with AEW and showed up at AEW Rampage: The First Dance two weeks ago.

“I think the biggest ones are probably, because of the pandemic, there’s no more house shows,” Punk said. “The travel is a lot less, it’s a lot lighter. Even if I’m going to be on every single AEW show, and if they’re taping Rampage, I’ll be at TV, what, once a week? Do a live Dynamite, tape a Rampage. That’s a far cry from getting on a plane Friday morning, get to a destination, rent a car, drive to a building, wrestle, get to a car, drive to a hotel in the next town. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, ‘oh we need you to at TV Tuesday.’ Do Tuesday, maybe fly home if you’re lucky on Wednesday. And then you have Thursday to sleep and rest, or try to have a family or connect with friends.

“That to me, from an outsiders perspective, is the biggest difference. There’s a lot of differences between AEW and where I used to work. But just for an overall analysis of the business, that’s the biggest one. Predominantly, these companies are making money based on their television deals.”

On the topic of his AEW debut at The First Dance, Punk talked about running into old friends like Mark Henry and meeting new friends. Punk compared himself to Terry Funk in the 1990’s, as the aged veteran who helped build up the young ECW locker room.

“I loved seeing Mark,” Punk said. “I don’t know how I missed him! I remember walking into a room and saying ‘hello’ to a whole bunch of people. ‘Hey! Nice to meet you, good to see you.’ Saw Dean Malenko, gave him a big hug. Then I turned around to settle in and I’m staring at Mark Henry, who’s sitting in front of me the entire time. I’m like ‘how did I miss you?!’ I can get my arms all the way around him. He’s fit, he’s in shape. Just super exciting.

“I don’t know if I was happier to see a bunch of old friends or if I was happier to meet a bunch of new ones. I’m Terry Funk now. I’m Terry Funk walking into the ECW locker room, where there’s like all these young, upcoming, future superstars. And they’re like ‘hey I remember watching you when I was ten.’ And I’m like ‘oh dammit, don’t make me feel so old.’ It’s neat to be me right now, that’s all I can say.”

Co-host Tommy Dreamer then talked to Punk about how he is regarded as someone who broke the mold for many talents who some thought never could make it. Punk said it was an honor to be thought of that way and that it shows just how far he’s come from a guy who started working shows in literal barns.

“It’s hard not to, it really is,” Punk said when asked if he got emotional over his reputation. “I feel like you have to balance all of that with being grounded and being humble. And it’s nice to hear it from other people. Because I can scream it from the rooftops, you know ‘I did this! First guy through the wall gets bloodied, yada yada yada.’ What this has all captured for me is the entire reason that I used to get in a car and drive to Southern Indiana and work for barely gas money for Ian Rotten, in a barn in Southern Indiana in front of six people, being told I’ll never work anywhere else because ‘Jim Cornette runs OVW and he hates Ian. And now you’ll never make it to WWE.’ I was like ‘well, they’re not the ones offering me a job. This guy is. And I get to work Tracy Smothers. Why wouldn’t I do it?’

“When I was OVW, they were sending memos saying ‘CM Punk is never to be brought to television, because he’s the king of the indies.’ And my thing was like ‘well I wish I could have a conversation with the people sending those memos, because where the f**k was I supposed to work? The indies! That’s what’s there because your father swallowed up all the viable territories.’ The only thing I ever tried to do was tell a good story in the ring and learn from the people that came before me. And I always thought it was funny that Dusty Rhodes loved me, Harley Race loved me, Terry Funk loved me, Tracy Smothers loved me. All these guys that gave me their stamp of approval, and then I got to the big show and was told ‘I’m nothing. I’ll never make it.’ And I was like ‘that’s weird. These guys like me and that’s almost all I care about.’ But then the chip on my shoulder came out and I was like ‘I’ll prove you all wrong.’ And I did.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription