I was looking through old issues of Power Slam, a wrestling publication based in England. I found this interview with C.M. Punk, conducted shortly after Wrestlemania XX, in April 2004. I thought I'd type it up and post it here, because some of the comments really are an interesting insight into Punk's mindset, which is pertinent if Punk really is becoming a locker room leader and is influencing the shows so much as of late...
Credit must go to Findlay Martin and Power Slam Magazine. Here it is... ------------------------------------------------------------
Your ‘Straight Edge’ (drug – and alcohol-free) gimmick is something you abide by in real life, right?
“Yeah. I’ve got ‘Straight Edge’ tattooed on my belly, and I’ve got ‘Drug Free’ on my knuckles. I have never taken drugs and I never will. That’s who I am – and I think, in pro wrestling, the best characters are an extension of somebody’s (genuine personality). People don’t like me because I don’t do drugs, which is kind of weird, but it works.”
What’s happening with you and NWA:TNA? We haven’t seen you I the Asylum since February 25.
“Because TNA has stopped using me, a lot have people have speculated that I’ve gone for good. But that’s not true. Now that Punk and Julio Dinero vs. Raven feud is over with, TNA doesn’t have any immediate plans (for me). They are just waiting for something else to come along.”
So, your absence is not punishment for the real life fight you had with Teddy Hart on the afternoon of February 25?
“No, that’s not true.”
You publicly condemned Teddy Hart’s glory seeking behaviour on Ring of Honor’s November 1, 2003 card. How did you feel when Hart returned to ROH on March 13?
“To me, it’s over and it’s done, and I’ve proved my point. Besides, the Rob Feinstein thing completely overshadowed (the whole Teddy Hart situation).
My heart is with Ring of Honor. I train at its school, I do commentary on it’s tapes and I’m the company’s top heel. Everybody’s problem with Teddy was that he was the first guy to wrestle for Ring of Honor who put his interests first – instead of the company and the other guys. Ring of Honor is all about teamwork, That was the reason me, (Steve) Corino and (Samoa) Joe had heat with him.
I think the wrestling business is so down right now because people don’t work together. Everybody’s trying to stab each other in the back to get over more or kill somebody’s push – or to remain on top for as long as possible. That’s why I would rather work in Japan than in the States: over there, I’m well-received and well-respected, and I can work for a company (Zero-One) that treats me well.”
Does it frustrate you when you hear fans say your fight with Teddy was a work, to build interest in a story line feud somewhere down the line?
“No, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Can you see yourself wrestling Teddy Hart in the future?
“I never say never. I will go on the record and say I think he’s a tremendous high-flyer… but, I watched a couple of his matches and the wrestling is just not there.
I think Teddy Hart has a lot to learn. He needs to be led, but I think his ego is too big for him to allow somebody to lead him. I don’t think it’s his fault – he just doesn’t know any better.
But everybody gets humbled, sooner or later. I’ve been humbled. Raven once told me: ‘You don’t know shit, kid.’ “
You wrestled Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio in a Triple Threat match on an IWA Mid-South card in 2002. What was that experience like?
“Amazing. An honour. It was one of my favourite matches. (Guerrero and Mysterio) were both humble as hell. Eddie was between jobs with WWE and was cleaning himself up, going through rehab and in the midst of a divorce. I became really good friends with Guerrero because he looked at my knuckles and said: ‘Drug-free? Man, I really need to hang out with you!’
I was flattered because he told me: ‘I don’t like three-ways; I don’t think they make sense, and I’m not good at them – Rey’s better than me.’ Then we went out there and, without being egotistical, we rocked (the place). It looked like I belonged in the ring with an Eddie Guerrero or a Rey Mysterio. And I think it’s great now that Eddie and (Chris) Benoit have got what they deserved. These guys should have been champions five years ago.”
While teaming with Doug Delicious, you faced The Road Warriors in a dark match at the Smackdown! television taping on May 13, 2003, How was that?
“Amazing again. I’ve been so fortunate in this business: I’ve been able to work with The Road Warriors, Terry Funk, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio – these guys are legends.
The Warriors bumped for me, and they work easy to work with, and the pop when Iron Man hit was deafening. That, and when Ricky Steamboat armdragged me (on last month’s Ring of Honor show), was the loudest think I ever heard in my life.
Unfortunately, Hawk passed away, but what an odd footnote in history. I was part of the Road Warriors’ final WWE match.”
Last year was certainly a breakthrough year for C.M. Punk. What, if anything, did you do differently to gain this international recognition?
“Nothing changed: it was just my hard work. Ever since I started, (wrestling) has always been priority number one. I have missed birthdays, college graduation; I’ve skipped out on weddings; I’ve missed funerals of family members… and I don’t regret anything.
It’s always been wrestling and hard work. Some people take short cuts and do steroids, but that’s not my style. I prefer to do things the hard way, so I feel like I’ve earned them more. And, last year, I think it was my time.
I was busting my ass three days a week, driving all over hell and creation for little or no money. But then I reached the point where I could make a living off it, so I quit my day job, uprooted myself from where I had first made my name in the Midwest and moved to Philly. Since then, I’ve wrestled in Japan, England and Germany, and I’m preparing to go to Mexico and Puerto Rico. So, I’m living my dream.”
Your long-running feud with Raven – which has taken in ROH, MLW, NWA:TNA and the FWA – has been tremendous. Was Raven someone you especially admired before you began working with him?
“No. I lived in Chicago, so I didn’t really see ECW until the tail-end, when Taz was the champ. I knew about Raven, of course, but the guys who inspired me to get into the business were Steamboat, The British Bulldogs and Roddy Piper. It was only when I started working with Raven that I opened my eyes as to how good he really was. I’ve been fortunate to work with him as often as I have.”
You said earlier that you prefer working in Japan to America. Does that mean you would rather become a major star over there than take a full-time job with WWE?
“Yes. If I had the choice, I would like to go down in history as someone who made his name in Japan. I’ve always been a fan of Japanese style and Stan Hansen, Bruiser Brody and the other Americans who did well over there. That said, I’m realistic about this: I’m not six-foot five-inches and (on steroids).
WWE isn’t necessarily about wrestling. To get a push there, Vince McMahon needs to be a fan of yours, and I don’t see that happening (with me). But I think I am good enough for WWE. I haven’t given up hope on it, so to speak. But my goal is to make money in this business to support myself. “
You must realise there would be a good chance that WWE would change your gimmick, if the promotion did sign you.
“Right. Which I think would be stupid.”
But, in WWE’s defence, how could the ‘Straight Edge’ gimmick exist in that group? If you climbed into a WWE ring and claimed to be uniquely drug free, it would be as good as saying the rest of the roster is on drugs – which is not a message Vince McMahon would allow on his wrestling shows.
“Yeah. But I think in the eyes of WWE, I’m the exact opposite of Steve Austin. He is over because he kicks and punches people, he doesn’t trust anybody and he drinks beer. In Ring of Honor, I berate people, I think I’m better than them, I have this gigantic ego, and I say I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs.
In my opinion, I would fit in WWE. I can cut a lot better promo than I can work a match, and I think it’s just a matter of them having a space for me – but, if that never happens, then so be it. If they offered me a spot, I would give it strong consideration.”
Changing the subject: What was your reaction when you first heard about the Rob Feinstein internet sting?
“I didn’t react at all. I read it on the internet two days before it really exploded. The next thing I knew, it was on the news. At that point, my mind was focused on getting through the show on March 13.
There were a lot of problems leading up to it, and I think, unfortunately, ROH is always going to have that stigma. There’s a million people out there who hated Rob and jumped all over (the scandal) – and they still hate Rob. So, although he has nothing to do with the company any more, they are still going to attack Ring of Honor. I think that’s a shame.
But, we persevered, and we drew (ROH’s largest crowd ever) on March 13. I think it was our best show, and I got to work with Ricky Steamboat, which – God! – was a dream come true.”
Is it true that NWA:TNA officials have approached talent such as yourself – who work for both ROH and TNA – and asked you to “distance yourself” from ROH in the wake of the scandal?
“Nobody has said anything to me yet. I was hanging out at TNA last week, and I haven’t heard anything.”
If you were given an ultimatum by TNA to choose to work for one company only, what would you do?
“I can’t see that happening: the TNA contract allows us to work other places. If they straight up come and tell me: ‘You can’t work for Ring of Honor’, I will talk to them about it and see where it goes from there.”
What are your goals for the rest of 2004?
“Apart from going to Mexico and back to Japan, I’ve set goofy goals for myself: I’m getting my own action figure through TNA, and (laughs) I really want a sneaker deal.”
Really interesting. Seems like the same guy he is now for the most part. Liked the Eddie story.
Man, TNA could have basically absorbed ROH during the Feinstein stuff if they'd put the effort into it instead of obsessing with WWE. Had they done that, they'd likely have Joe, Punk, AJ, Daneilson, and Daniels right now.
Not exactly that it "doesn't matter" per se. Just that it can be such an overrated attribute in the presence of other factors -- skill, natural talent, showmanship (ahem). I think the Angle/Rey-Rey match should be very, very good.