It’s been quite a year for CM Punk.
Since cutting the promo that changed his career, the straight-edge superstar has had classic matches, been proposed to, and most importantly enjoyed a WWE Championship reign that is one of the longest in recent memory.
So why would he let the Rock come in and steal his thunder?
I spoke to the Voice of the Voiceless in the days leading up to his SummerSlam title defense to find out why he put the People’s Champ on his back, what we can expect from his triple-threat match, and his take on Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H…
Gordon Holmes: At Raw 1000 you shocked the world when you made the Rock eat your knee. What inspired that sudden move?
CM Punk: I don’t think it was sudden at all. I’d been very vocal about the Rock coming back and cherry-picking the days he comes in. So, when he comes in I’m going to smack him in the face.
Holmes: And how did it feel to finally act out on that?
Punk: It felt very good. It felt like instead of talking that I was backing it up with action.
Holmes: For those who are unfamiliar with your complaints about the Rock, why exactly did you make that move?
Punk: I just think there are a lot of people who work their asses off here. I’m here 24/7, 365 days a year and he’s here like three days a year. So when he comes in here and tries to lay claim to our success and things people have worked hard to establish, it’s a little offensive.
Holmes: It has to be a big compliment career-wise to be the next guy in line to face this huge name. The guy’s had something like two matches in the last eight years.
Punk: We’ll I’m in line to face the huge name if I hold on till the Royal Rumble. The WWE’s like a minefield. Any guy can beat anyone on any given Sunday. So hopefully I’ll make it and I’ll prove to the Rock that you can’t just walk in and pick your days. There’s some tough bastards here.
Holmes: This past year has been pretty amazing for you. And all throughout this, I don’t want to say you were clean-cut, because you’re not, but you were clearly the good guy. Now there seems to be more shades of grey in your character. What is your goal with that?
Punk: I think the goal is to just be myself. Not try to play a character; I’m trying to be me. The best characters in wrestling and sports entertainment are just extensions of themselves. I think the Rock is a great character because that’s him. He’s larger than life. He dials himself up to eleven.
Holmes: But it does feel like there’s a bit of an edge after Raw 1000. Were you holding back before?
Punk: I wouldn’t say I was holding back. There are necessary evils to everything. And, it’s a television show. You can’t show all your cards. We need things to do on a weekly basis and this is a progression of the storyline.
Holmes: What kind of feedback have you been getting about the recent change?
Punk: It varies from extremely positive, like “Welcome back, Punk” to “You’ve turned your back on the WWE Universe.” I think it’s very interesting and dynamic because I really haven’t done anything bad.
Holmes: You’re the WWE Champion, yet John Cena’s matches always go on last at the Pay Per Views. You’ve taken the attitude that it doesn’t matter where you are on the card as long as people are talking about you when it’s over. Is that something that drives your character?
Punk: One hundred percent. I’m the kind of guy, you put me first? That’s the main event. Everyone else can follow me. You put me fifth? That’s the main event. There isn’t going to be anything else on the show that reaches the quality of what I do. You can put whoever you want on last. On the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday show? I’m going out last. That’s the way it is. If they want to put someone else last on television, that’s fine, but they have to follow me.
Holmes: This Sunday is SummerSlam. You’ll be defending the WWE Championship in a triple-threat match against John Cena and the Big Show. What can we look forward to in that bout?
Punk: I’m looking forward to it, first of all. I find it interesting because my last two SummerSlam opponents the previous years have been John Cena and the Big Show. There is a variable in there in a triple threat match where the champion doesn’t have an advantage. The Big Show could pin John Cena, John Cena could make the Big Show tap and I’d lose my title. I don’t have to be involved in the decision. I think that’s going to make me more aggressive. And you’re definitely going to look for the three of us to try to steal the show.
Holmes: The whole Voice of the Voiceless thing kind of kicked off with you against Cena. And Cena, people either they love him or they hate him. But it’s one thing to chant “Cena sucks” and another thing to chant “You can’t wrestle.” Does that get to him?
Punk: You know, I don’t think that gets to John. I think our audience; some of them can be pretty cruel. And they like to hang their hat on that “John Cena isn’t a good wrestler” thing. I haven’t seen that for years. The guy has been a top-level performer for almost a decade.
Holmes: Brock Lesnar is going to get back into the ring this Sunday against Triple H. What are your thoughts on that bout?
Punk: I’m very much looking for to it. Last time Brock Lesnar was in the ring it was a complete spectacle. The guy commands attention, you want to see him wrestle. It’s going to be interesting to see how he mixes with Triple H. He busted open John Cena. Could he do the same to Triple H? I don’t know. Triple H is no slouch himself. He’s a multiple-time WWE champion.
Holmes: My thing with Lesnar is; he’s so entertaining. He’s so fun to watch and seems like he was genetically engineered to be a sports entertainer. It’s a crime that he doesn’t seem to enjoy it.
Punk: Yeah, and that’s why a lot of people are going to want to see this match. I know they called John Cena and the Rock at Wrestlemania “Once in a lifetime,” but this thing is definitely once in a lifetime.
Holmes: Brock will of course have Paul Heyman in his corner. You have called yourself a “Paul Heyman guy” in the past. What’s your relationship like?
Punk: I’m happy to see him when he’s here. It’s great. Before I could only hang out with him when I did shows in the Northeast. I got to grab a bite to eat with him. Now, he’s not here as often as I’d like, but when he shows up on Mondays it makes my day easier. He’s a dear friend I can bounce ideas off of.
Holmes: He gives you advice?
Punk: Of course.
Holmes: Is he someone you’d want to work with in the future?
Punk: I’d love to. But he’s busy with Brock. And I don’t know if the Paul Heyman/CM Punk dynamic would work on screen. I don’t need a mouthpiece. And I think we’re two separate entities. But behind the scenes we get along famously.
Holmes: Last time we talked, I asked you if you could work in any territory, which would you choose. You went with the Crocketts in the ‘80s. I spoke to Arn Anderson a few weeks ago to get his thoughts on that.
Punk: Oh man.
Holmes: I asked him, would CM Punk be the fifth man on a Horsemen War Games team or would he be the guy the Horsemen stomp in the parking lot?
Punk: (Laughs) I’m so interested to find out what he said. This is awesome.
Holmes: What do you think he said?
Punk: I think he said I would have been on the team.
Holmes: No, he said you would’ve been selling tickets with Dusty Rhodes and the Rock and Roll Express.
Punk: Wow. (Laughs) I don’t know if that’s an honest answer cause he always calls me such a heel. It’s flattering either way.
Holmes: I think I agree with him because I have a hard time seeing CM Punk with the tattoos, the piercings, and the straight-edge lifestyle meshing with the limousine-riding, jet-flying playboys.
Punk: Maybe not in this lifetime, no.
Holmes: Another thing we touched on was how you wanted to work with Ricky Steamboat. My question for you now is; how does that feud work with you and your no drugs and your no alcohol in the era of “Just Say No” against someone who was ridiculously clean cut.
Punk: It’s how you spin. I think that’s the fascinating things about me is I can spin it any way I want depending on how I want the crowd to react. There’s a million ways you could do it.
Holmes: Let’s hear an example.
Punk: That’s way too easy, just pick on his family. Remember when I sang “Happy Birthday” to Aaliyah Mysterio?
Holmes: That’s fair…and creepy.
Punk: (Laughs) Thank you.
Holmes: So you serenade Ricky Jr. and boom, instant Clash of the Champions main event?
Punk: I wish. (Laughs) That would have been fun. I was born in a different era. For me, the most flattering compliments I get are from those old-school guys who say I should have been around 20 years earlier.
Holmes: I was reading about your appearance at Chicago Comic Con, and you spoke of a retirement looming in the future. Is that accurate?
Punk: Well, eventually. I’m not going to wrestle forever.
Holmes: Well, yeah.
Punk: (Laughs) I would definitely say I’ve passed the middle point of my career for sure.
Holmes: What goals remain for you?
Punk: Not many. I kind of want to make a few guys and girls. And I think I’ve done a little bit of that with AJ (Lee). I want to make sure there’s a future for the wrestling business when I leave. I want to make sure there are people that fill that void.
Holmes: Are you someone who could just stop, or do you have some Terry Funk in you and we’ll see you two weeks after your retirement?
Punk: I don’t know. I can’t really figure that out. I’ve never done nothing, I’ve never had a break. Maybe I’d miss it in a year.
Holmes: Chris Jericho seems to do it right. It’s almost like he’s got a territory thing going on where he can wrestle, then take a break to let the people miss him, then come back.
Punk: I think that’s a smart thing for anybody. Look at anybody in our industry who’s been injured for any period of time. Like Triple H for instance, he tore his quad and when he came back the response for him was overwhelming. That kind of put him on a new level.
Holmes: When you do call it quits, what’s next? Straight-edge husband? Straight-edge dad?
Punk: (Laughs) Oh boy, I don’t know. Maybe a dog owner first.
Holmes: It’s all baby steps.
Holmes: The one movie I was super psyched to see this year was “The Avengers.” Now that I’ve seen that, the next thing I’m psyched for is the CM Punk DVD I keep hearing about.
Punk: To me it’s not a wrestling DVD, it’s just a hell of a story. Obviously I’m biased because it’s me, but I don’t think we’ve put out a DVD that’s this honest and raw and touches on where somebody came from, all the way to the point where they are now. There’s a lot of real-life stuff in there, Family stuff, from the day I started to Wrestlemania. Some of it’s touching, some of it gets me mad when I watch it. It’s an emotional story. And I don’t think you can write something better than that. It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s me.
Holmes: Any word on which matches are going to be included on it?
Punk: The funny thing is when I heard we were doing the DVD, I immediately was like, “Well, I need to be hands-on with this project.” I thought I was going to be picking all these matches and be really nit-picky about what goes on there. But, the documentary is really where I focused all my energy and I really didn’t care which matches went on. The thing about WWE DVDs is a lot of matches get put on different DVD, I just wanted to make sure that the matches that I picked told the story. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. You see the progression of my career and how I got to where I am now.
Holmes: Now that “Monday Night Raw” has been extended an hour, who would you like to see featured more often?
Punk: There’s a crop of young, hungry talent in FCW who are hopefully going to get their shake. As far as the people you’ve seen on TV now, Antonio Cesaro is somebody who has a good future in this sport. I’d like to see guys like Tyson Kidd get more air time. And really a lot of the girls. Having an extra hour will give us more time to tell more stories with matches. Hopefully we’ll get to exploit a lot of the hidden gems that we have.
Holmes: You’re also the cover…guy. Wasn’t sure what to call you there, for the new “WWE ‘13” video game. Congratulations.
Punk: Thank you, thank you very much.
Holmes: Is there added pressure on you to be better at the game now that your face is on it?
Punk: (Laughs) No, that’s the one thing I haven’t been asked to do yet, is play it. I’m out promoting it. I’m shooting commercials for it, I’m talking about it. I really haven’t had time to play it, but it is awesome. I can’t wait for it to come out.
Holmes: If I’m Kofi Kingston, and I school you in the game that has your face on it, you’re going to hear about it.
Punk: Yeah. But to go back to my DVD, there’s a Blu-ray extra entitled “Kofi vs. CM Punk.” We throw down a video game challenge. I’m not going to tell you what happens; you’re going to have to see the DVD to see who is the true video game master.
Holmes: I think I know who wins with the way you’re building it up.
Punk: (Laughs) I don’t think I’d be talking about it otherwise.
Holmes: I heard you’re going to be a “Scooby Doo” character?
Punk: Am I?
Holmes: There’s some kind of “Scooby Doo” movie that takes place at Wrestlemania. (To the WWE representative) Is this accurate?
WWE Representative: There’s going to be a variety of voices, but I can’t check my email so I’m not sure. But I think Punk is going to be one of the voices.
Punk: That is awesome. You bring good tidings, my friend. I would love the chance to say, “And I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and John Cena.”
Holmes: So you’re hoping when they pull the mask off of the ghost or whatever that the face underneath has slicked-back hair and a lip ring?
Punk: That would be nothing short of amazing. That’d be awesome.
Holmes: I have a theory about you.
Punk: (Laughs) A lot of people do. But I’m interested.
Holmes: Are you immune to peer pressure?
Punk: Yes, one hundred percent. I can’t put into words how I’ve never understood peer pressure. And I’ve seen people cave to do numerous amounts of things. The same people have tried to get me and they give up pretty quickly because they see I’m not interested.
Holmes: Is that the trick? You need to shut people down immediately and then they’ll learn not to even bother?
Punk: I think it has something to do with body language. Because if you dare someone to do something, you can see they’re nervous or scared about it and then you can kind of push their buttons and can goad them into doing something.
WWE Representative: Hold on one second, just to go back to the “Scooby Doo,” I just checked the press release and as of right now CM Punk is not a voice.
Holmes: Now I feel terrible.
Punk: (Laughs) Get me on this!
Holmes: C’mon, work some magic!
WWE Representative: We can do our own.
Holmes: Social media is changing the face of entertainment. When I was a kid, the WWE Superstars were these untouchable heroes, now you can jump online and have a conversation with them. Do you lose some of your…I don’t know…your aura by opening yourself up to the public?
Punk: No, I don’t think so. I think the appeal of my character is I’m just a regular guy. I’m one of the people. A kid who wants to tweet something to his hero John Cena? I think that’s awesome. Making us more accessible to the fans makes us larger than life. A lot of kids look up to us like we’re heroes, and tweeting a yes or no answer to his question can makes his day.
Holmes: You strike me as very much an “I’m not a role model,” kind of guy. And yet, straight edge, with the no drinking and no drugs, does seem to be a very positive message for kids.
Punk: I get a lot of moms and dads at autograph signings. Their kids will come up with “Drug free” written on their fingers in markers and they’ll be X’d up with their wrist tape. For me, it brings me down to Earth and makes me feel nice to hear moms say, “My kid wants to be like you. Thank you.” That’s humbling to me. I try not to be preachy about it, but if a mom thinks they can put their kid in front of a TV and say, “OK, you can watch this.” That’s very flattering.
Watch WWE: SummerSlam, Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. ET on Pay Per View.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes