In the history of wrestling, there have been a hell of a lot of controversial performers. It makes sense, considering that the entire industry is predicated on featuring people who in most cases need to have massive enough egos to pull off playing larger than life figures. Missed by fans who love him enough that even now, a full two years since he last appeared in a WWE ring, there are still occasional crowds that chant CM Punk‘s name. On the other side of things, several of his bosses, peers and people he’s interacted with see him in a very different light.
For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most arcane facts that make his career so fascinating and in some cases had a direct impact on why he is so loved and so hated today. Some fans quite possibly could already be aware of some of the entries on our list but only true wrestling devotees won’t find some pieces of information here that they had no idea about.
15. Extra in John Cena’s Mania Entrance
In the history of Hollywood, Extras are often the unsung heroes that make the movies we watch possible. A relatively simple job, these professionals serve as human set decorations that fill up the background of the frame when the principal characters are out and about in public. It stands to reason then, that the greatest test of an extra being good at his job is that they go unnoticed. Somebody needs to explain that idea to the WWE, who routinely cast indie standouts and their future stars in the roles of extras, despite many of the chosen having an innate chemistry.
Case in point, during John Cena’s WrestleMania 22 entrance, he came out after an old style car flanked by men clad in fifties gangster-style suits while brandishing fake Tommy Guns drove to the ring. As you may have guessed by now, one of Cena’s escorts was played by none other than his future onscreen foe, CM Punk. CM almost always managed to come off as cool and even back then, when many future fans had no idea who he was, Punk stood out, which goes against the concept of extras.
14. He Used Offensive Language
WWE’s summer of Punk, it could have been the coolest thing to hit the industry in years. Instead, it was an incredible storyline that was mired by a series of poor decisions. Vince McMahon and his bevy of writers should shoulder a lot of that burden, with Kevin Nash and Triple H going a long way to decimate a very promising star’s momentum but Punk didn’t help himself.
In the midst of the build up to the 2011 Money in the Bank event, CM Punk, the hottest talent in the industry, in a moment of passion, said something totally unacceptable. While he was working a live event in Adelaide, Australia, Punk got into a shouting match with random attendees. Interacting with heckling fans, a very common occurrence that is largely encouraged in the wrestling world, Punk took several unnecessary shots. First yelling that the men had vaginas, he soon followed up by saying “nice faux-hawk you homo”. A very inappropriate thing to say, Punk, to his credit, took to Twitter where he called himself a douchebag and said he sincerely apologized for his conduct.
13. Friend to Nerdist
Cm Punk is a lot of things, pro wrestler, budding MMA fighter, and as it turns out the man is an unapologetic nerd. The Nerdist network is a YouTube channel, podcast empire and all around conglomeration of people who know a lot about pop culture coming together to entertain and inform the masses. As a result, it only makes sense that the Chicago native and the Nerds would make a pair made in heaven.
A multiple time guest on Nerdist head honcho, Chris Hardwick’s Walking Dead post-show The Talking Dead the two men seem to have grown close. CM has also made an appearance on Chris Hardwick’s All Star Celebrity Bowling alongside his wife, where two groups headed by the two pals clashed in an epic bowling feud. That’s a thing, right? If anyone could possibly question Punk’s Nerdist allegiance, the straight edge superstar put that to rest as he now hosts a recurring show on the network. CM Punk’s Grammar Slam features the man yelling instructions of basic grammar principles at the camera before attacking a bystander who abuses the rules in question.
12. Comic Book Writer
Remember in the previous entry where we mentioned that CM is a little bit of a nerd. Well, his move into writing comic book storylines for Marvel Comics is yet more proof that the man deserves some serious nerd cred. After his unceremonious departure from the land Vince McMahon built, he was in need of a new career. Not content to simply sign a UFC contract and train tirelessly for a debut that hopefully will still happen, Punk embraced another one of his passions.
After tackling a perennial Avenger and Asgardian native in Thor Annual # 1, an issue which focused on the new female version of the character, he was no longer content with just writing standalone issues. Tapped to take on the character Drax, played by his former co-worker Batista in The Guardians of the Galaxy movie, in an ongoing series, it just may be a dream gig for CM.
11. ROH’s First Head Trainer
Long before the straight edge Superstar took the WWE by storm, Punk was an indie stand out for companies like Ring of Honor. Taking part in hugely popular feuds and matches with men like Raven, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe, if his in-ring contributions to the company alone were considered he would be incredibly impactful. Of course, he did a little bit more than wrestle for the company.
Initially trained to wrestle by Ace Steel, Danny Dominion and Kevin Quinn at the Steel Domain Wrestling School, he graduated and before too long became a trainer there himself. With that experience and his time training people as a part of Primetime Wrestling, it is clear that CM was accomplished in the role and was willing to take on the responsibility. That is why it should have come as no surprise to anyone that once he’d become an integral part of ROH’s onscreen presence he took on a teaching role in the back. Tapped to be the first head trainer of the Ring of Honor wrestling school in October of 2003, he made his mark once again in a business he loved at least on some level at the time.
10. Beaten by Simon Dean and Maven
It is a fact of wrestling life, that with very few exceptions, most wrestlers we’ve enjoyed on major WWE cards at one time or another took part in matches for the company where they were trounced. A time-honored tradition exists where WWE employees who haven’t yet made a name for themselves in the company are fed to wrestlers who have, in order to make their foes look stronger.
On the April 17th, 2005 edition of Sunday Night Heat, Punk teamed with a man named Chad Russell Simpson to take on Maven and Simon Dean in a losing effort. The future Straight Edge Savior losing to men who despite decent sized tenures in the company are mostly forgettable is a shocking enough turn of events for any list like this. Taking the lion’s share of the beating, at least, Punk didn’t take a pin in the match that would have been swiftly forgotten forever had he not taken part in it.
9. Fired on His Wedding Day
When CM Punk left the company the night after the 2014 Royal Rumble, a lot of fans held out hope for a very long time that it was a short term scenario. As we found out when the man himself gave a long-form interview on the podcast his best friend, Colt Cabana, hosts, we weren’t the only ones. Turns out that Punk assumed that in a few weeks cooler heads would prevail, he’d be asked to return by his bosses and he’d do so.
Of course, that never happened and the two parties would eventually sever ties when Punk received his walking papers on the day he was set to marry fellow wrestler AJ Lee. The exact nature of the timing of this delivery has become a much-contested situation. Punk and many of his fans saw it as an intentional slap to his face and the ultimate sign of disrespect. Vince McMahon himself, while appearing on the Stone Cold Podcast claimed that it was all an unfortunate coincidence. The fact that AJ, his wife to be, was still an employee of the company at the time has made many observers find Vince’s version of events difficult to believe.
8. Saved his Friend’s Home
When a DVD was released on the life and career of CM Punk, one of the most interesting tidbits for people who weren’t familiar with his life story was how strained his familial situation is. Although we won’t go into detail about the schism that exists as he tells it, we will say that he makes it abundantly clear that his family has no part in his life. Instead, Punk makes it known that his chosen friends fill the whole that family typically takes up.
Joey Mercury, WWE producer, a former member of Seth Rollins entourage, otherwise known as J&J Security, former tag-team champion, and most notably for the purposes of this list, is a friend of CM Punk’s. One thing that we as wrestling fans have consistently heard about Punk is that once you earn his friendship, he is incredibly loyal, as long he feels you haven’t betrayed him. When Joey fell on hard times after he became horribly addicted to drugs and alcohol, Punk attempted to help him clean himself up. After Joey’s issues got the best of him and he lost his job for a while with WWE, his finances were bad enough that his home was about to be foreclosed on. When Punk found out about his pal’s housing issues, he wrote a cheque and bought it for him, which according to Mercury was an expensive transaction.
7. Possibly Created The Shield Concept
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns, collectively known as The Shield have in the matter of a few years become three of the biggest stars in the entire wrestling industry. If Punk is to be believed, the trio may just owe him a debt of gratitude. Quoted as saying “The Shield was my idea” on Colt Cabana’s podcast, CM elaborated by explaining that after an upcoming heel turn WWE’s power brokers wanted to team The Big Show and Daniel Bryan under him. Believing that the proposed duo was a bad idea, Punk suggested he should be surrounded by guys from the feeder system, Rollins, Ambrose and Kassius Ohno. When Reigns was suggested as a replacement, Punk agreed and the plan was set.
A version of the team’s origin that Reigns disputed in 2015 by saying “the only thing Punk created was the Pepsi tattoo on his shoulder”, we will likely never know for sure who is right. With that said, we will say, the fact that The Shield debuted by aiding Punk and worked with him for the first while after their debut is consistent with Punk’s claims. Additionally, if Reigns was a late addition, it stands to reason that he may not have been aware of all the build-up. Punk conversely could have changed his story to fit the history of their debut.
6. Accusations on Podcast
As we’ve already mentioned, CM Punk made an appearance on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast and seemed to speak very candidly about his issues with the WWE. Leaving a company under highly contentious circumstances after a tenure that lasted a decade is likely to sour even the happiest of people and as we know Punk can be a very prickly fellow. An appearance that resulted in both interviewer and subject being hit with a lawsuit, the picture that was painted was not a pretty one.
As we’ve previously mentioned, it was on this show that he revealed he was fired on his wedding day but that was just a drop in the bucket. Claiming that the WWE’s in-house doctor, Dr. Chris Amann, had treated him (in a medical sense) poorly, his remarks were extremely scandalous. Saying that he had developed a lump on his back, he says Amann diagnosed it as a fatty deposit but it turned out to be a full blown staph infection, which could have been life-threatening.
5. Wrestled for TNA
CM Punk is one of the most famous, controversial, loathed and beloved wrestlers of the last fifteen years. Most famous for his time in WWE, the story of his career has largely been written as a wrestler who made a gigantic mark on indie standout ROH, before he made the difficult leap to wrestling’s big leagues. Obviously, that isn’t the entire story, as he plied his trade for many companies over the years including TNA, who at one time was the second biggest company in North America.
Debuting as a member of The Gathering, TNA’s version of Raven’s Flock, the story flew in the face of the long-standing and legendary, in some circles, feud Punk and Raven had previously taken part in. During that storyline, that took place in ROH, Punk compared Raven to his alcoholic father and the two men took part in an intensely personal battle which made their TNA union rather strange. Taken off the show after officials felt he wasn’t connecting, Punk ultimately quit after TNA would no longer allow their talent to perform for ROH.
4. Lady Killer
Over the years, there has been a bevy of beautiful women who have worked for the WWE. During CM Punk’s time with the company, he seems to have dated many of his female coworkers who made their money by appearing onscreen. Currently married to AJ Lee, a gorgeous and immensely talented wrestler, there certainly seems like there is fire to back up the rumor mill smoke.
Daffney, Traci Brooks, Kelly Kelly, Maria Kanellis, Beth Phoenix, and Lita are all women who seem to have confirmed that they’d dated him at one point or another. Becky Bayless, Allison Danger and Mickie James also according to some are female wrestlers he was involved with at one point or another. If some of the ladies he is purported to have dated were actually involved with him, two things seem to be abundantly clear. Punk’s taste in women runs the gamut and he is one hell of a ladies man.
3. Punched a Fan
October eighth, 2012, a date that will live in infamy for Punk fans across the world. At the tail end of a Monday Night Raw telecast, while being berated by the Mr. McMahon character, Punk escaped through the stands amongst the fans. One of the most popular stars at the time, it seemed like he should be embraced by most of the people who came to see him in the ring but that wasn’t the case.
When you add fans who love to interact with famous people and a man who highly values his personal space, we guess the results shouldn’t have been that shocking, after all. Standing and looking at Vince, Punk was snapped at the hands of anyone who touched him or his WWE Championship belt. Some fans didn’t take to that kindly and began to shove him which was a poor decision. Then a man standing behind him who appeared to be nudged by people behind him made contact with Punk twice in a few seconds and was greeted with a fist in response. The fact that Punk was facing the other way and had no way to know the fan didn’t seem to be hitting him intentionally, makes his anger understandable but he clearly could have handled the situation better.
2. Plays the Saxophone
Revealed in an interview for WWE.com about superstar’s secret skills, Punk spoke about how he began playing the saxophone in the fifth grade. Apparently he chose the instrument at the time because its rental rate was the cheapest, which seems surprising to us for some reason. Punk went on to briefly join Hot Stove Jimmy, a ska band before they told him his talent level wouldn’t suffice and his dalliance with the music world came to an abrupt end.
A man with a surly demeanor and look, the idea of listening to Punk blasting out a sax solo, is just too much fun to consider. On top of the look of the man, the fact that CM has always identified himself with more punk-rock music makes his instrument of choice all the more interesting. If only we could find some photographic evidence of a much younger Punk playing his heart out.
1. Reportedly a Jerk
Alright, at this point this may not come as much of a surprise, but it is a well-known fact that Punk has a reputation for being an absolute jerk. As with most people, he is a complicated person who has proven himself to be capable of immense kindness, but if he doesn’t care about you, interacting with him may be a sour situation.
Infamous for routinely being a ball of anger backstage, he seemed to take pride in being a man who is very difficult to deal with. Well-known to be extremely frustrated with his position in the WWE, throughout almost his entire run, Punk reportedly took the fact that he wasn’t the company’s top star out on people. Although we weren’t there, his behavior we have seen sure makes the tales of his conduct far more believable. Known to chew out fans that approach him in public or say things that rub him the bad way, it may be advisable to keep your distance. Interviewers also better beware, especially now that he is contracted to UFC, as a poorly worded question about his former career can veer you into a confrontational discussion or walk out.