Friday, June 10, 2011

From the Vault: My Interview with WWE Superstar CM Punk from 2002

Like I mentioned in my introduction blog, I used to do a lot of writing online about the independent wrestling scene for the website, which is currently deceased.  Back in 2002, Al Lagattolla was kind enough to invite me along with him to interview CM Punk at a sushi restaurant in downtown Chicago.  CM Punk was recovering from an injury that put his streak of consecutive weekends worked to an end.  Now, CM Punk is a big WWE superstar with fans all over the world.  Nine years ago, he was a popular Indy wrestler with a loyal fan base of dedicated followers. He was known for his great matches that displayed amazing craft and skill.  I thought this interview would be a great blast from the past, as you see what it was like working on the Indy scene almost ten years.  It’s a very detailed and honest interview that shows you what it was like before he made it big.  I hope you enjoy this interview.
CM Punk knew it would take a serious injury to end his streak of consecutive weekends worked - it had reached as high as 88. When he fractured his skull in a match against Reckless Youth at the Jersey J Cup last month, he finally suffered the injury that made it necessary to step away. He has done that.

Punk says he had a concussion the night before in the i8 tournament, and he talks at length about how he got hurt and how long it'll take for a recovery.

Ideally, he'd like to be back by the IWA MidSouth's Sweet Science 16 Tournament, which takes place in early September.

In his first lengthy interview since his injury, Punk sat down with's Tony Farinella and Al Lagattolla. He talked about his injury, the retirement of Vic Capri, his perception of the East Coast, the Chicago scene and the LWF using the fact he is Broox's brother in a storyline, and the amount of email and calls he received from concerned fans about his injury.

AL: What exactly happened on the East Coast?

PUNK: The official diagnosis is I fractured my skull. I have blood in my spinal fluid, which I'm assuming is what really messed me up. It was something I've done 1,000 times, a corkscrew neckbreaker. I think Reckless was a little too far out. I grabbed him anyway, and I somehow straightened out in midair and I brought him down on top of me. His head hit my head. We hit the mat at the same time. I'm assuming that's what did it. I landed on my head a lot during that match and everyone says that was the most brutal. As soon as I did that, I knew something was wrong.

AL: You got up, right?

PUNK: Yeah, I covered him for a pin, he kicked out. I finished the rest of the match. I also did a senton from the inside of the ring to the floor and wound up whacking my tailbone pretty good. So everything else after the skull fracture was pretty much downhill.

TONY: How about the i8 tournament. You got a concussion. What happened?

PUNK: I was gonna hit Capri with a rana from the apron to the floor and I don't know. It wasn't his fault at all, because Capri rules, but he wound up powerbombing me on the floor and I whacked my head.

AL: You said it wasn't Capri's fault and I'm sure you're not blaming Reckless Youth.

PUNK: Not at all. The skull fracture was a complete freak accident. I thought I had the hardest head in the world and I'm surprised I broke it. It was weird.

TONY: Did you have second thoughts about working the J Cup after the concussion?

PUNK: Nope. Never thought twice.

TONY: Did they know you were hurt?

PUNK: I think they knew, but it's not like I broadcasted it.

TONY: I think Billy Reil was worried, because he said with a concussion, he could hurt you.

PUNK: Billy Reil should worry about himself.

AL: You wrestled so many weeks in a row.

PUNK: Somebody said it was 88.

AL: You've had to have had concussions before.

PUNK: It never really affected me. Like I said, even when I fractured my skull, I didn't black out. I was conscious. If I've had a concussion, I've always been aware of what's going on.

TONY: So what have the doctors told you to do?

PUNK: I don't know. I didn't really listen. The doctor in New Jersey told me one week off of work, but even after a week off it got worse. I was sleeping 20 hours a day. I pretty much sat on the couch for three weeks and I just got back in the gym. I just started working out again. As far as when I can wrestle, the doctors really haven't said anything about that. I'm shooting for September. I'm probably going to see my doctor here, get another CAT scan. But that's probably going to be after constant nagging from Chez. I don't want to go to the doctor.

AL: Do you have to go to a doctor before you go back? You couldn't just go back, right?

PUNK: I think I'm OK. I really do. I've been working out. Everything's been fine. I obviously haven't been back in the ring yet, but I plan to do that in two weeks. The doctor said it'd be a few weeks before I'm my normal self, and I'm almost there. I'm sure I'll be 100%. At least I'll feel that way.

TONY: How did everyone on the East Coast feel about you and Cabana? Was anyone threatened by you guys?

PUNK: Guys like Reckless and Quack and Montoya, the loved us. It was good to see Scoot, I hadn't seen him for a while. It was the first time I met American Dragon. He was really receptive. He said he's heard a lot about me, I was like, vice-versa. I don't think Billy Reil was too happy to see us.

AL: What was the tournament like? It's obviously a big deal. What did you think of the experience?

PUNK: They had me flying out Friday morning, and I was supposed to be booked in New York on Friday. But I had to do the i8 Tournament. See, no one knows the hellish weekend I had, besides the skull fracture. I went to get my plane ticket switched to Saturday morning. I got to the airport at 4:30, and the plane left at 6:30. So I missed my first flight because I was in line too damn long and they were boarding by the time I got to the sky cap. I was in the international line for an hour. Then I missed the 9 o'clock flight because I was put on stand-by because I wasn't originally on that flight. The whole time I'm not sleeping at all. Eventually, they wound up shuttling me to O'Hare to fly out on a different airline. I got to Jersey at 6:30 (p.m.). The show started at 7:30. I got to the building at 7 o'clock. I said hi to everybody, had to walk right to the ring to take pictures with the trophy and all that stuff. And then I wrestled. It was pretty much a blur, but it was a good experience. Two really sweet girls picked me up at the airport. The promoter is a big hockey fan like me, so we had a lot to talk about. I wanted to hang out with the boys afterward, but obviously I couldn't since I was in the hospital. AJ Styles was really cool, too. Overall, it was really good. The matches were all right, they could have been better. I'm booked to be back there against Dragon in September.

TONY: How did the crowd react to you?

PUNK: A lot of people knew who I was. People started chanting for Chris Hero when I showed up, but that's understandable. I heard when Hero was at CZW, they chanted for me. That is pretty cool.

TONY: Since Chris Hero has been at Combat Zone, have you got any offers to work there?

PUNK: I have bizarre phantom heat with Combat Zone, I think. At least that's what I heard.

TONY: How come?

PUNK: They tried to use me two times, but I've never been directly contacted. It's always been Nick Mondo calling me to tell me to call somebody. I don't work that way. If somebody wants to book me to work a show, they can call me. Nobody's ever called me. I'm not hurting for work and I probably never will be, so I'm not going to call someone to be booked for a show.

TONY: What about Ring of Honor?

PUNK: I was supposed to talk to Feinstein after the J Cup. He was there. Obviously, that didn't happen. But I wouldn't be surprised if you saw me and Cabana there by the end of the year.

TONY: What do you think of their product, the straight-up wrestling style?

PUNK: I haven't seen any of it, but I like the idea. Obviously, I like a lot of the guys that they use. It's a breath of fresh air, kind of like the Chikara shows. Straight-up wrestling, not focused on beating up women and all this other crap.

TONY: Do you trust Feinstein? I've heard a lot of stories.

PUNK: I don't see why not. I've met him, he seems like a nice guy. I've never ordered tapes from him. I don't have any heat with him.

AL: The whole weekend, you said was a real mess. With the i8, there was talk you wouldn't be showing up for it. Were you ever not in the i8?

PUNK: I was always in the i8. I did talk to the guy who ran it - Brad Drake - about the plane trouble I was having. It was horrible. I gave that guy a heart attack. But I've never missed a show in my life and there was no way I was gonna miss it. I had a car booked from a rental place and I was ready to jump in the car right after the i8 and drive to Jersey if I had to. I told him what was up, and he was looking for replacements just to cover his ass.

TONY: I know in the match against Capri, you got hurt, but what did you think about the match?

PUNK: It was fun. I always have fun working Capri. It pisses me off to think that could be our last match.

TONY: Do you think the tournament was a good idea, or are tournaments overdone these days?

PUNK: Tournaments are completely overdone. The i8 was decent, but I don't like when people compare their tournament to the Super 8. Zenner, I'm doing the Super 8, but it's tag teams. Right. Come up with an original idea. I haven't seen CZW's Best of the Best, but I think it's a good idea to have 3-way dances in the first round. Then those who advance go into singles matches. It's different. They're not trying to be the Super 8. Everyone else tries to duplicate what Kettner does, and it's not going to happen.

AL: What about the Super 8, any possibility of you going in?

PUNK: I don't know. I'm not the booker. There's always a possibility, but I haven't heard anything yet.

TONY: How is the East Coast style different from the Midwest style?

PUNK: The style?

TONY: The fans, everything.

PUNK: I don't think it's an East Coast, West Coast style. I don't think there's a certain East Coast style.

TONY: Talent wise. What's different, what's alike?

PUNK: A lot of guys on the East Coast I haven't really seen, but I've read good things about them. Everybody says Trent Acid got really good, but I haven't seen his recent stuff. The Midwest has a lot of good workers, but a lot of lazy people as well. The East Coast people seem to branch out a lot more, but maybe it just seems that way because they get a lot more press.

TONY: How do the fans compare?

PUNK: Everybody gets tapes from Feinstein and Smart Mark. The fans aren't really any different. Because of Smart Mark Video, fans at the J Cup knew who I was. The fans aren't really any different. Going to the East Coast and see fans for the first time. ... they anticipate us more because they've never seen us live. Maybe they come to the show with a little more anticipation.

AL: Did the i8 work?

PUNK: I think the i8 worked. I didn't get to watch all the matches, but I thi nk it worked, for what it was. Everybody from a different fed. It was decent.

TONY: How was Chikara?

PUNK: It was a blast. Chikara was the best place I've worked in a long time. The fans were awesome.

TONY: How are the fans different?

PUNK: The best way I can describe it is it was the closest I've ever had to wrestling in front of a Japanese audience. The fans were really respectful, and they applauded for all the spots. There were a lot of kids there, too. So that was cool. I worked the kids the entire time. The smart marks appreciate the wrestling and I'm sitting on the apron goofing off with the kids. It was a cool atmosphere. I love Quack, I love Montoya. I love Reckless. They run a good school and their students were super respectful. I've been in locker rooms in Chicago where some kid will come in and he doesn't introduce himself. But their kids were really humble. They came up to me, Cabana and Hero and introduced themselves. I'd go back there in a heartbeat.

TONY: What did their students work like?

PUNK: They did really good. They were dynamite. A lot of them have cool gimmicks like hoods and stuff. Those kids are over.

AL: You don't know exactly when you're coming back, but do you know which show you'd like to be back for?

PUNK: Most likely for the Sweet Science 16, in September. That's what I'm shooting for.

AL: I know it's been special show.

PUNK: This would be the third year I'd be in it. Me, Cabana, Hero and Ace have been in all of them. I don't want to miss it.

TONY: Did anyone at Chikara come to you for advice?

PUNK: No, not really. They were just really cool. They'd just talk about what bands they listen to. They didn't ask for advice, and I'm grateful, because it'd probably be really bad at giving advice.

TONY: What do you think of the fact they can't run shows at their school anymore?

PUNK: Obviously, it sucks. Especially for the students who were getting great experience. But they're working on different buildings. It's not like it's dead. They still run the school, but they just can't run shows.

AL: Zoning laws just seem to be some sort of problem. I know Ian's had problems.

PUNK: Everybody just hates pro wrestling for some reason.

AL: It's been a while since even the Morris show. Will Ian make a move here? Some of the Dayton shows didn't really draw.

PUNK: Some of the Dayton shows didn't draw at all.

TONY: 38 was the draw at the last one.

AL: Considering the people who were wrestling. ... would you say Dayton just may not be a good place to run?

PUNK: I don't think Ian's running Dayton anymore. I think Ian could grab a really good stronghold and get footing in Chicago. But he just got a new building and I'm sure he's focused on that. It's tough to say. ... Never know, I might start looking for a place he can run in Chicago. God knows, Chicago needs it.

TONY: You were going to work at RCW before the injury. What do you think of RCW? The talent? The philosophy?

PUNK: I don't really know what the philosophy is. I was looking forward to working there. I was supposed to work Eric Marx. I was looking forward to that. It would've been fun. I was supposed to replace Vic Capri, so I would have worked my ass off. I'm looking forward to working there when I come back, if they'd want to use me. It seems like a fun place to be.

AL: Is LWF still a place you will work?

PUNK: We'll have to see. I'm probably going to be a little picky about where and who to work because of my head. ... we'll have to see.

TONY: How do you feel about Billy Whack bringing out the angle with your brother, making it public?

PUNK: I don't know. I'm not pissed that they did it. I thought they'd have done it a long time ago. It made me laugh when I heard about it.

TONY: Did they ask you or just do it?

PUNK: They just did it.

TONY: Think it'll draw?

PUNK: Probably not. Everybody who knows we are brothers is already in the LWF. We'll see.

AL: Has the return to LWF been what you thought it'd be?

PUNK: It's enjoyable. I told Whack I didn't mind it. There are some goofs in that locker room. People don't understand, you've got to be cordial. I'll say hi to everyone in the locker room, but then I'll see people come and go. They're booked on the show, but they don't say shit to me. To me, that's ignorant. But a guy like Kaleb Pierce, he doesn't fucking know any better.

TONY: Speaking of Kaleb Pierce, what do you think of what happened to him and Chuckie Smooth at the LWF show?

PUNK: I don't know the full story. I know Kaleb was talking shit about Chuckie. I know if I'd have been at the show, I would have had Chuckie's back.

TONY: But is that something that should be done at a show, or is that something that should be handled in back?

PUNK: I know Chuckie better than most people know him. He doesn't really have a temper or anything like that. So for him to do that at a show, he must have been really hot. He'd probably be the first to tell you that shouldn't have been done at a show, but shit happens. I'm sure he's learned his lesson, and I'm sure Kaleb Pierce, and I don't even know the other kid, I'm sure they learned a lesson.

AL: In Chicago, you worked for a really brief time at MCW. What happened. Did Brian Zenner just not want you anymore?

PUNK: Brian Zenner says Jayson Reign and Danny Dominion don't want me on their shows. Dominion says it was Zenner and Reign. And Reign says it was Dominion and Zenner. So all I know is Danny Dominion shit canned me from working on the show because I worked LWF. How's that for a kick in the pants.

AL: Why would he do that? You're his guy, right?

PUNK: I thought so. I thought I was his friend. Shit changes, though. It's a fucked up business.

TONY: Was anybody else mad at you for working the LWF?

PUNK: My side of the story is this - I took the LWF date a long time ago. A month before, I had to cancel out on them. Whack was really understanding about it, because Norm Connors in Pittsburgh wanted me to work Eddy Guerrero. So I called him up I said, I got this booking with Guerrero. If it's cool with you, I'd like to do it. So I worked with the IWC instead of the LWF. So #1 I owed Billy Whack one, and I hate owing people anything. I told him I'd definitely be on the next show. I didn't realize the next show was also an MCW date. Zenner emailed me and said he heard I was trying to work the LWF show. I told him I will gladly work twice, I will work the LWF, too. I wasn't trying to do the double booking thing again. I did promise him and Jayson Reign that I'd never double book myself again. It was completely by accident. I apologized to Zenner about the double booking thing. But I had the LWF show. If you don't want me to do the double booking, I can't do your show. So he told me not to show up. So I didn't. And the next thing I know, Danny Dominion was furious and told Zenner not to use me anymore. I did look Reign in the eye on February 2 - the last time I was double booked - and said it would never happen again. So I tried calling him to apologize, but he never called me back, and Zenner never called me either. I'll swallow my pride and apologize, but he's got to have the balls to call me back. I don't understand. I emailed Zenner a few times and called Reign twice, but nobody's ever gotten back to me. A week later, I got a "we're not gonna use you anymore" email from Zenner.

AL: I would say, yeah, if you called a guy two times to apologize and he never called you back that would probably...

PUNK: Piss you off.

AL: Yeah. And I've known that to happen with Jayson.

PUNK: I'm apologizing to you right now, Jayson Reign. I looked you right in the eye and said I'd never double book again and it happened. I'm sorry. I'm still also completely broke, and I need to pay my car insurance. So the double booking would have come in handy.

AL: You were double booked a lot for a while, and then it seemed to start a trend. Suddenly Capri was double booked. Double M was double booked. Then there started the war between the workers and the promoters. You never considered yourself to have a problem working two shows in a night.

PUNK: Not at all. I worked twice in one night. May 11, I was trying to triple book myself. I was trying to do MAW, go to Zenner, and then LWF. That would have been awesome. I don't give a damn about what anybody says about me cheating the fans because I've already worked. That never happened. I've never missed a show. I'm sort of glad I fractured my skull. I'm chilling out. Everyone keeps asking if the first weekend off was hard. It was easy. I slept for 20 hours that Saturday. ... But double booking is in my blood. I will work anytime I can. It helps me gain experience. I think I read a post on your message board about how me and Capri got hurt because we were double booked all the time. I don't give a damn what anybody says about me, but if you're gonna shit talk Capri, I'll punch you in the mouth. We got hurt because it's rough on our bodies, regardless if I do it once a month or whatever. It doesn't matter. Accidents can happen. Fracturing your skull is a total freak accident.

TONY: So what was it like working Low-Ki? Was he as stiff as everyone says he is?

PUNK: Nah. I think Ki's stiff if he doesn't like you. It was the first time I worked him, and he wasn't stiff at all. I was probably more stiff than he was. It was a really fun match, it was cool, and I can't wait to do it again. I really liked working him, a lot.

AL: You talked about working stiff. But it's not like your injury happened when you were working hardcore. Your injury didn't happen because you were doing anything you don't usually do.

PUNK: It's something I've done a million and one times. I've done it to Cabana. I've done it to Chris Hero. I did it to Eddy Guerrero three times. It's nobody's fault. I could have landed on my head doing a sunset flip.

TONY: When you come back, are you going to be toned down a little bit, or are you going to be the same CM Punk?

PUNK: I'm gonna be the same CM Punk. The first two things I'm gonna do when I get back will be the corkscrew neckbreaker and the senton from the ring to the floor. I guarantee it. It'll happen.

AL: You're not worried at all?

PUNK: Nah.

TONY: What about Acid. You guys were in a tag match. Are you getting along now?

PUNK: We get along. I still don't think he likes me, but I like him fine.

TONY: Do you think it'd be a good match?

PUNK: Yeah, I think that could draw. It could be interesting.

TONY: Would you be a heel or a face?

PUNK: I'd want to be a heel.

AL: He's pretty over as a face in LWF.

PUNK: Totally over. Plus, I'm naturally a heel. If I had to be a face and work him as a face, it'd just be a wrestling match. Where if I'm a heel and he's a face, it's a lot more fun. It'd get a better crowd reaction.

AL: It'd obviously be different than the last time you met.

PUNK: Totally. Completely different. That's why it'd be interesting to do.

AL: You've worked most everybody you could work, and he's one guy you haven't.

PUNK: There's actually a few guys I'd like to work. I'd like to work American Dragon and I'm booked against him at the end of September in Jersey. Harley Race's guys, they've been working IWA, so when I get back, hopefully I'll work those guys. I really wanted to work Eric Marx, too. I'd have fun throwing him around.

TONY: How about the match with Ace and Matt Murphy from Clarksville?

PUNK: It was nice and basic. Matt Murphy's a decent heel. We didn't really do a whole lot. We didn't talk about much, two heels and a babyface in a three-way dance. So we double teamed on Ace and then tried to cheat to beat each other. Matt Murphy is definitely a good hand.

TONY: Any offers from Harley Race to do his shows?

PUNK: Harley knows who I am. Harley likes me. Probably not as much as he likes Ace. He loves Ace. It's ridiculous. Harley calls the apartment all the time. I've talked to him a few times.

TONY: But no offers to work there?

PUNK: No, I've always been booked other places, too. I'd drop everything for Harley.

AL: You have an interesting, fun story about Harley, don't you?

PUNK: I got a very interesting story about Harley, but that's gonna stay between us. If you already know it, good for you. I'm not telling that story.

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