By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
The following are the highlights of CM Punk’s panel from Starrcast III in Schaumburg, Illinois at the Hyatt Regency.
-FITE.TV Starrcast hosts Scott Hudson and Mark Madden set the table and then introduced the Q&A host Mike Johnson, who introduced CM Punk. Johnson asked if it was fun or weird to be back in the pro wrestling environment for a little bit. Punk, who was wearing an A Lee t-shirt, recalled hosting a comic con panel and how it was a pro wrestling crowd.
-Johnson noted the rumors about Punk returning for either WWE or AEW. “When are you coming back is always a better question than when the f— are you going away,” Punk said. He said he won’t be anywhere. He said he hasn’t seen his wife because she was in Los Angeles and would be hanging out with her tonight. Johnson noted that some people will assume he’s working. Punk said that’s the nature of the beast.
-Punk spoke about being in his own bed every night or at least having days off and sleeping in the same bed for weeks at a time if he’s shooting a movie. He said he’s been very fortunate and thanked fans who have supported him. He said it’s cool that people have asked him to do movies and work on comic books and he’s able to do what he wants.
-Johnson asked about his movie work and playing someone other than CM Punk. Punk said it’s fun to tell someone else’s story. He said he’s had two roles in films and they are both jerks, so that tells you what his friends think of him. Johnson asked about the pressure of playing the lead role in Girl on the Third Floor. Punk said he watched the movie at a screening and it was a nightmare for him because 85 percent of the movie featured his face. People asked him what he thought of the film after the screening and he said he didn’t hate it, which is a compliment coming from him.
-Punk said there will be premiere events for Girl on the Third Floor in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Punk said he knew the premiere date for the movie Rabid, but he’s not allowed to say.
-Johnson asked if Punk misses the performance of pro wrestling and having fans react the way they did when he walked onstage. Punk said he doesn’t miss it or pine for it everyday, but he thinks it’s because he’s fortunate enough to do it all. Punk said the hard answer is no. “I think I did alright,” Punk said. “I think I had a good career.” Punk said he doesn’t miss it because he thinks he did enough with it and had a good career.
-Punk was asked if there were certain people he sees in wrestling that he thinks he could have fun in the ring with if he were to return. Punk recalled being in San Diego in roughly 2010 and asking Steve Austin to give him a Stunner after the dark main event. Punk said Austin noted that he’d been back several times and no one had asked him to do that before. Punk said he thinks that’s when Austin took a liking to him. Punk mentioned meeting Marty Scurll and thinking he was a nice guy, and Scurll saying he wanted to wrestle him, which Johnson said kind of puts him in the Austin position. Punk said he doesn’t know Will Ospreay, but he’s seen his clips online and seemed wowed by what he can do.
-Johnson noted how the landscape has changed and WWE wrestlers actually go on vacation. Punk was stunned when Johnson told him that Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch just went on a two-week vacation. The crowd laughed at Punk’s reaction. Punk questioned if it’s true that WWE wrestlers can ask for time off. Johnson said he thinks some of the change was because of Punk banging his head against the wall and breaking it down. Punk was still stunned. “Holy shit,” Punk said. “I don’t know if I had anything to do with that.” He said if he did it’s probably because he left after asking for time off ad nauseam. He said it it’s true they get time off then good for them.
-Punk looked back on asking to go home when he had an infection and finally just going home. Punk said Vince McMahon texted him four days later and asked if he was ready to come back to work. “It’s been f—ing four days,” Punk said. Punk noted that he was suspended for two days and said fine. He said he noticed that the suspension ended right after WrestleMania. Punk also said he found an uncashed royalty check that was over a year old. He said he reached out to ask if they would reissue it, but no one responded. Punk also recalled being fired two days after his honeymoon.
-Johnson noted that everyone who has had a public issue with WWE has ended up returning. He asked when the last time Punk had any conversations with WWE, noting that they could do things with the character even if he doesn’t want to wrestle. “I’d do it just to be like, I’m going to get some time off,” Punk cracked. He joked about signing a full-time contract and then going on vacation the first day. Johnson asked if Punk would be open to a conversation if Vince McMahon called. “I wouldn’t not talk to them,” Punk said. Punk said he’s 40 now and he tries to be as zen as possible so he wouldn’t make it confrontational. Punk stressed that what he was about to say would be used as clickbait. He said he would have a conversation with anybody, but he’s not calling them. Punk said he had a pretty good career and doesn’t feel like he has anything left to accomplish.
-Johnson recalled Punk’s desire to headline WrestleMania and questioned how he’s come to peace with that. Punk said he has friends who play baseball and hockey and there’s always a mentality to work hurt, which is also the case in pro wrestling. Punk said he thinks it’s something that needs to be addressed. He said there are people who will abuse the system. He said there’s a very real pressure from the office that becomes a “toxic masculinity thing.” He feels that pressure is a dangerous thing that gets people hurt and killed. He said he thinks it’s great that talent can ask for time off now, but they still need to address other things. Punk said every team and organization should have a neurologist on hand and added “they should have better doctors.”
-Punk got back into the WrestleMania question. He said it became evident on the last WrestleMania show that it wasn’t going to happen and he just wanted to be paid the most. Punk said he looks back and thinks he should have just asked for more money.
-Johnson asked if the urban legend is true that he was booked to wrestle Undertaker at WrestleMania. Punk said he doesn’t remember being mad about that. Punk said The Streak was a big thing and he was probably mad about how it was presented. Punk said if you’re just another guy facing Undertaker then that’s what you are. He said he wanted to be built up as a threat to Taker and he wasn’t, but he thought it was a good match.
-Johnson noted that Punk was heavily influenced by the late Harley Race. Punk said he wishes Race was still around, but at the same time the last couple years were cruel and so it’s also a relief. Punk said Race was in and out when he spent time with him in recent years in that he wouldn’t know him one moment and then would another moment. Punk said Race took a bump for him and that was cool. Punk noted that Ace Steel moved to Kansas City and worked for Harley and ended up buying his gym.
-Punk impersonated Race while recalling him telling him not to do all the “1-2, 1-2 shit” while he was refereeing his match. Punk also recalled giving Race a ride home and Race throwing up all over Punk’s new car. Punk impersonated Race telling him not to pull over so he could throw up because “it will alert the authorities.” Punk recalled Race asking if he could ever forgive him for throwing up in his car. Punk told him not to worry about it, then Race hugged him while covered in vomit. Punk said he and Steel had to drive the car back to Wisconsin.
-Johnson recalled Ring of Honor struggling and then Punk and Samoa Joe had their 60-minute draw and it changed the narrative. Johnson asked Punk about what it was like to carry the company on his back. Punk said he and Joe never approached it with that mentality and didn’t put that type of pressure on themselves. Punk also recalled TNA forbidding him and other talent from working an ROH show. Punk said a lot of people said they were going to work for ROH and then dropped out, but Punk said he’s an independent contractor and worked the show anyway.
-Johnson asked Punk for his memories of working with Samoa Joe. Punk spoke fondly of working with Joe and said he hopes he’s happy doing whatever he’s doing now.
-Johnson asked if it was tough for Punk to divorce himself from ROH after becoming such a big part of the company. Punk said he was entering the unknown of WWE, but he had to see what he was going to do. He said you climb a mountain and then you find another mountain. Punk said he didn’t look at WWE as “the final final.” Punk said all his heroes wrestled in Japan and he thinks All Japan in 1993 is the best wrestling of all time. He said he thought he made it when he went to All Japan and it didn’t work out. Punk said Gabe rebooked him and he decided to stay. Punk said he’s proud of that time in ROH and it was a place to get paid well and learn. Punk said it was hard to leave, but he felt like it was time to go.
-Punk was asked about a backstage story involving Tony Atlas. Punk said he became ECW Champion and finished up at OVW and didn’t have to stay, but he decided to stick around and hang out. Punk recalled Joey Mercury telling him that he was signing with TNA. Punk asked Danny Davis if he could work a dark match because it would be their last time working together. Punk said it turned into a four-on-four match. Punk was looking forward to the match because it was going to be fun. Punk said he was taping up his hands when Atlas approached him backstage and told him it looked like he had two broken arms. Punk explained the tape, but it didn’t register.
Punk recalled Atlas telling him that if he didn’t listen to his coach then he wouldn’t get called up to the big show. Punk looked down at his bag and the ECW Title was inside it. Punk said he thanked Atlas and went on to have the fun match. Punk said he was at the post show meeting when Atlas said most everyone was nice, but one person was an asshole. Punk said Mercury elbowed him and then he realized that Atlas was talking about him. Punk asked Atlas if he was talking about him. Atlas told him he’s an asshole, so Punk responded “f— you.” Punk recalled getting fired up and stressed that he and Atlas made their peace and hugged it out.
-Johnson asked what the fallout was from WWE management. Punk said people were suggesting he talk to Undertaker and he couldn’t understand why because he hadn’t done anything wrong. Punk said Nova (Mike Bucci) couldn’t wait to tell the office. Punk said he eventually went to Undertaker and asked if he’d heard any good stories lately. Taker laughed. Punk said he asked if they were good and Taker said yes.
-Punk spoke about working for Vince McMahon and Triple H. He said he doesn’t think they ever got him and noted that everything was a fight (I had some buffering issues, presumably due to watching NXT UK simultaneously).
-Punk spoke about some good memories of WWE, which included traveling with Kofi Kingston and working house show matches with Daniel Bryan.
-Johnson asked about working with John Cena and now Cena moving on from WWE. Punk said he liked working with Cena because he was easy and he thinks Cena was happy that someone else came in and took the reins. Punk said Cena was never worried about his spots. Punk said the same was true of JBL. He said there were always other guys who were worried about getting their spots in. Punk said he re-signed with WWE the day of his and Cena’s match in Chicago and the finish hinged on whether or not he re-signed.
-Johnson asked when Punk figured out that he had the gift of gab. Punk said he doesn’t know. He said he thinks it was always there and wondered if it stemmed from being a punk kid, getting beaten up, and still talking shit. Punk also recalled using different material based on the region or people in the crowd.
-Johnson was asked about writing an autobiography. Punk said it would be tough to write the three books it would take. He said he might have to leave things out and that sucks because people should be allowed to speak the truth. Punk also said his wife wrote a great book and joked that he wouldn’t want her over his shoulder.
-Johnson recalled The Rock trying to call him live on Raw from Staples Center. Punk said he was actually in an elevator at the time. Punk said he texted Rock shortly after. Punk said it was brilliant of Rock to do that because the fans weren’t going to stop chanting his name and he created a cool moment. Punk said people texted him and said it was crazy and there were some broken headsets. Punk said he and Rock traded texts. Punk recalled telling Rock that he may have been a dick to him due to politics, and Rock said he also felt weird returning, and they were fine after that.
-Punk recalled having knee surgery and Vince calling him. Punk said he gave the phone to Lita, who he was dating at the time. Punk said it was Vince, who eventually informed him that he was advertising him for a match with Ryback in three weeks. Punk indicated that he hung up the phone.
-Hudson and Madden wrapped up the pay-per-view portion in mid-sentence from Punk. The conversation continued via FITE.TV.
Powell’s POV: Everything below is the post pay-per-view portion that I was unable to cover live due to the NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff event. I touched up the previous couple of paragraphs as well since I was distracted by covering the UK show simultaneously.
-Punk said the night before he wrestled The Rock, it was requested that he go to his hotel. Punk said Rock had the entire top floor to himself and someone from his team handed him the promo they wanted him to read. Punk said he felt outnumbered, but he explained how he operated. Punk said it wasn’t negative, but they both explained how they do things and they had to figure out how to get on the same page. Punk said they had a one-on-one conversation in a crowded room and that part of it was uncomfortable. Punk said Rock was fun to work with and he liked working with him. Punk said he brought that up to Rock via text that it may have been rough on that first night, but Rock said it was water under the bridge.
-Johnson said there should be The Expendables type of movie with all the wrestlers who are making movies. Punk said he pitched them years ago on doing a remake of The Cannonball Run. Punk expressed more shock that the wrestlers are getting time off. Johnson asked how close they were to getting WWE Ice Cream Bars made. Punk said he didn’t know. He said he reached out to people about it. Johnson informed Punk about New Day having their own cereal and throwing pancakes to the crowd. Punk asked if they sell the cereal, then said it’s smart once he found out they do.
-Punk was asked about Kofi Kingston becoming WWE Champion. Punk said he was asked about it and he said it should have happened ten years ago. Punk said it might actually be better that it’s happening now because his kids get to see it. When Johnson noted that Kingston is wrestling Randy Orton again, Punk replied, “Bless your heart, Kofi.”
-Johnson brought up the idea of Punk playing a Marvel or DC Comics movie role. Fans threw out some ideas. Punk said he’s too old for Spiderman. Punk said playing the Kraven character would be cool. He also mentioned Casey Jones. Johnson brought up Marc Spector from “Moon Knight” which appealed to Punk. He also said he’s thrilled to have done two horror movies. Johnson noted that John Cena will be in Suicide Squad and he wasn’t sure who he’d be playing and joked that Punk should text him to find out. Johnson said Rock will be playing Black Adam. “Oh, should I call him?” Punk teased.
-Punk said it was Marvel vs. DC when he was a kid and he was a Marvel guy. Punk said it doesn’t have to be like that and people can enjoy everything. Punk said he saw a lot of AEW hats in the crowd. He told the fans that they can watching everything out there. He told them not to let either company convince them to choose because it’s okay to watch it all.
-Johnson asked Punk how he defines happiness in 2019 and what’s his advice to people who are down and frustrated. Punk said life is a little complicated. He said he’s never seen anything like what we have politically with the divide in the two party system. Punk said he’s a human being who thinks that if somebody is not as good as you because of where they come from or because of the color of their skin then he’s had it with you. Punk said he’s always felt that way. “But my wife is brown and I never, ever, ever looked at her that way.” Punk said he was walking in Milwaukee with her one day and someone rolled down their window and yelled “Go home, go back where you came from.” Punk wondered if he was wearing Chicago Cubs gear. Punk said he’d never been in a situation like that before (aside from Japan where little kids mocked him for having round eyes).
-Punk said he tries to start each day by taking a moment to appreciate waking up. He said he doesn’t go right for his phone. He said he doesn’t like that people speak publicly about doing things for charity, but he likes to help people. Punk said it sucks that we’re in a spot in the country where we don’t know what’s real or true, but being nice to the person next to you on the subway is real and true. Punk brought up NXT and AEW running head to head and said it’s awesome for fans because they get to watch it.
-Johnson asked if there’s anything that he wants to clear up that maybe people don’t know about him or his story. He said he doesn’t know. He said people have their own version of “Phil” in their head. He said he tries to be nice and kind to everyone. Punk said Twitter has become a better place since he learned how to use notifications so that he doesn’t even have to read what certain people write.
-Johnson wrapped up the interview. Punk thanked the fans and said he hopes no one is disappointed that there wasn’t a big announcement. Punk said he hates the words “put smiles on people’s faces” but he hopes he can give the fans a couple memories. Punk thanked the fans in attendance and they responded with a “Thank you, Punk” chant. Punk closed the show by yelling, “I”m going on vacation!”
Powell’s POV: A good interview that went over the listed 90 minutes. Unfortunately, there was a hard window for the pay-per-view broadcast, but the full interview was available via the Starrcast weekend stream. Punk seems at peace with things and he was clearly unaware of WWE talent getting time off, which shows that he’s not keeping close tabs on the pro wrestling business. At the same time, it was good to see him seeming relaxed and at home in front of a crowd of pro wrestling fans. Life outside pro wrestling seems to be good for Punk, who seems to be in a really good place away from the business. Perhaps some of that is due to maturity as well. Johnson did a good job with the interview. I was hoping to hear Punk speak more about his dealings with the AEW office or even his UFC run. Ultimately, though, there’s no way to fit everything into the window they they had even with the added time, and it turned out to be a good and interesting conversation.