“It’s clobberin’ time.”
With those famous words before every wrestling match, Chicagoan and current WWE heavyweight champ CM Punk makes his entrance. Punk’s not only at the top of his game, but he put a spark in professional wrestling this summer with his seemingly off-script rant about WWE owner Vince McMahon and his ascension to the championship—in Chicago, no less.
He talked with RedEye recently about a variety of topics, including his fondness for MMA, as he prepares to return to Allstate Arena on Monday for “Raw.”
Going back to July, how was that feeling of winning the WWE Championship in your hometown?
I don’t think it could have gone any better. It’s an awesome feeling and it was a very hostile environment, and I deal well with those kinds of situations. What better place to win the WWE Championship than in Chicago where I grew up and started my wrestling career.
Before that match you had a contract that was expiring and many didn’t know what was going to happen or where your career would continue. Was that situation on your mind while wrestling in the that match?
That wasn’t something that weighed heavily on my mind during the match because I had all my friends and family watching ringside. That was the real big pressure, trying to impress the fans, and I opened my mouth weeks prior with doing promos. I had a lot to prove.
A lot of past fans who have stopped watching the product since the PG rating are calling for the TV-14 rating to return. You toe the line really well with your promos, but do you think the “Attitude Era” needs to return?
I don’t think the WWE is going to go anything but PG. I don’t see the need for the TV-14 rating because that was the past and we are opening new doors to fans across the world. Swearing to just swear isn’t entertaining to me whatever you’re watching. There are some things I get away with, but at the same time I have to remember it is a family-orientated show. I think the product in general is a lot better when we have to police ourselves, knowing that families are out there watching and listening to every word. The so-called “Attitude Era” is not needed in this day in age of sports entertainment.
How did you become a Cubs fan and whom did you idolize throughout the years.
I think you have to root for whatever sports team your father rooted for, isn’t that the rules? My father would watch every game, and even if he fell asleep, the TV would still be blaring. Good or bad he couldn’t change the channel.
I don’t think I had a favorite player or one I wanted to be, but I was really fond of the catchers. I grew up playing catcher with my friends and in leagues, so they always drew me in. Jody Davis was a great catcher back in the day and was somebody I always enjoyed watching. But you can’t go wrong with Ryne Sandberg either.
You’ve been very vocal about your fondness for MMA and particularly the UFC. When did you first starting getting into MMA and who are some fighters that impress you.
I remember watching the first UFC. A couple of my friends got together and we heard that it was “no-holds-barred and anything went.” So we ordered the PPV and then later I got to train with Dan Severn in Chautauqua, Ill., and that’s how I fell in love with jiujitsu. I was never the biggest, but I was fast, and look at Royce Gracie, who had the same mold and he was taking out guys who were 150 pounds heavier than him.
Right now I think Frank Mir is an excellent all-around MMA fighter. Right now the heavyweight division is jammed pack and a lot of fighters who will be waiting for that next shot at the champion. With Frank Mir, though, he has evolved so much over the years—not only his body, but his skills have been sharpened. He is a tremendous boxer and has brought up his grappling skills beyond recognition over the years. With his jiujitsu being sharp as ever I think he can really make another run at the title.
But I have to give a shout out to Dan Henderson as well. For his age and the years of fighting he has gone through, he is amazing.
Back in the early 2000s there were these popular ice-cream bars that had WWE wrestlers on them. You recently brought the idea back into play and there has been a lot of demand for them to make a return. Will we see them reintroduced by next summer?
I really am hoping that does happen. A lot of people don’t realize that when I mouthed off about the ice-cream bars they wanted them the next day. It’s a licensing issue, and we are working with the proper people to bring them back. We want them back by the “ice-cream season,” as you can say, so next summer is a good possibility. Although I don’t think there is a day where I wouldn’t go without eating ice-cream.
Currently the broadcasters for the majority of your matches are Michael Cole on play-by-play while Jerry Lawler is the color commentator. With Cole’s heel persona being used during matches, do you feel former broadcaster Jim Ross should be brought back?
The thing with Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler is that they are missing exactly that, the straight play-by-play guy. Lawler is there for color, and Michael Cole is there to be the antagonist. So basically you have two color guys there and nobody really calling the match. With Jim Ross, he focuses on the play-by-play and brings that game-day feel when he begins to explain the action in the ring. I would love to have Jim Ross call all my matches, but that’s not a slight at Michael Cole, more of personal preference.
I think Michael Cole would be a great manager but at the same time he’s awesome at what does. But that’s what is so good about it; he does something that hasn’t been done before. It’s different, and things are changing, and he’s pushing the envelope. He gets people to talk about his antics, and that’s always a good thing. He knows how to get the most of the situation without being physical.
Where do you see the wrestling product in 10 years?
Hopefully in a better place than it is now. I would like to see younger talent introduced to the fans and they get chances to show they have what it takes. I’ve been very vocal about the things that are wrong with the sport and hopefully they are being looked at to be changed.
As for what I’m doing in 10 years? I don’t know what I’m doing in the next 10 minutes but surely I don’t want to be in the ring 10 years for now. I know guys that have done it and I’ve done so much already in the sport. I would like to be one of those guys that doesn’t need surgeries to continue to try to get that extra payday. Hopefully I can just disappear.