AEW’s CM Punk caught up with ET Canada to discuss his time working on the Starz series, Heels, in which Punk portrayed the character “Ricky Rabies”. Punk says the experience was therapeutic for him because backstage politics didn’t play a roll in making the TV series.
“Oh, for sure. I think therapeutic is a good word for it. It was fun to be involved in something that was wrestling that wasn’t wrestling. There were no politics and none of the silly drama that you have to deal with backstage,” Punk said. “I’ve been saying it a lot lately, it was fun just making the art and not worrying about anything else.”
Over the decades, films like Ready To Rumble, The Wrestler, and series like GLOW and Heels have approached showcasing pro wrestling in different ways. Punk sees this trend continuing as more pro wrestling fans get to an age where they can influence Hollywood projects.
“I think the meek have inherited the Earth. I think a lot of people who are shot-callers or are on their way to being shot-callers in Hollywood used to be or still are huge professional wrestling fans,” Punk explained. “I think they grew up watching it, they get it, and now in their chosen profession, they get to kind of turn the light onto it, so to speak, shed a little bit more light on it and show it the love that they’ve always given it. Guys like Michael Waldren, he’s writing the next ‘Star Wars movie. The dude loves pro wrestling. He was the writer on ‘Heels’. That’s what I mean by the meek inheriting Earth.”
Fellow Heels star, Stephen Amell, has made it known in the past that he’s a dedicated fan of pro wrestling, even appearing in a tag team match at WWE SummerSlam 2015. Punk had nothing but praise to say about the actor, maybe most notably recognized for his role in Arrow.
“I can’t say enough good things about Stephen. I think Stephen is not only an accomplished actor, this is a guy that has gotten into the ring on a number of occasions for a number of different companies. It wasn’t just about, ‘Oh, I need to wrestle in the WWE’ for Stephen. It was just, ‘Oh, I need to wrestle.’ He’s wrestled for WWE, he wrestled for Ring of Honor. Before AEW was a thing, he did their one-off show in Chicago. So, just a guy who follows his dreams, does what he wants,” Punk noted. “He’s just such a great dude, and I think that lends credibility to both sides of things. It helps ‘Heels’ out tremendously but it also helps out the wrestling side of things. It makes ‘Heels’ feel like more of an authentic show when you have someone attached to it who loves the source.”
Punk intends to continue acting for various projects while also keeping his full-time roll on the AEW roster. He admits that it will be a jam-packed year ahead but he’s ready for what challenges await him.
“We’re lining things up and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Obviously, it’s built into my deal with AEW that I have the freedom to explore other opportunities. I have such a great relationship with Tony that all it really is is a conversation,” Punk said. “I think the more visible I am, the bigger roles I get. I think it’ll help AEW internally. That being said, I am being pulled in a couple of different directions, but my heart is 100 per cent behind every project that I do, AEW being one of them. It’s going to be a busy year, but it’s going to be a good one.”
Another pro wrestler continuing to make waves in the film and television world is none other than John Cena. The Suicide Squad actor is someone Punk praises for his improvisational abilities, as well as his knack for comedy projects.
“I think a lot of people conflate the two. You see a guy like Dave Bautista killing it with this myriad of different roles. Dave can do comedy, Dave can do drama, he can do it all. Cena has always been that funny guy. I always thought that behind the scenes, and I think anybody who has worked with him always thought it,” Punk stated. “A lot of the guys at that top-level in WWE may not want to admit it, but all we are are theatre actors. We’re doing live theatre every Monday, every Friday, Thursday, Tuesday, whatever the hell the schedule is now. All that is is theatre. It gets you accustomed to improv and working on the fly.
“I read James Gunn said that John Cena was the best improv actor he’s ever worked with. That does not surprise me in the least. We do it every week for decades. When we transition to film, I think people are pleasantly surprised like, ‘Oh wow, I thought you were just going to be this muscled up stiff guy.’ I’m not surprised that John is killing it.”