CM Punk rose up the ranks of professional wrestling thanks to his in-ring prowess. Yet, his ability to command attention on the microphone took him to another level. Now he's creating problems for the WWE by using that talent to discuss his exit from the company.
The Superstar formerly known as the Voice of the Voiceless spoke out during an appearance on the Art of Wrestling podcast with Colt Cabana (some language NSFW). He talked about a wide range of topics concerning his departure after the Royal Rumble and the various issues leading up to that moment.
If nothing else, it's an interesting look behind the scenes at a time when getting factual reporting about backstage information in the WWE is difficult. Of course, it's also important to note the stories told by Punk are simply his side of the story about what happened. The company likely holds a different view.
There are numerous fascinating anecdotes about everything from feuding with Ryback to the role he played in helping create The Shield and getting fired on his wedding day. Those things likely won't be the lasting impact of the extended conversation, though.
Instead, it's the other things he talked about that will hit home for other wrestlers. Punk talked a lot about the injuries he built up over the years and the WWE wanting him to push through the pain. He also discussed the WWE Network and the lack of certainty about its impact on the pay scale.
CJ Blaze of Wrestling News World provided a recap of the podcast.
One interesting story involved a lump on his back. He discovered it during the time period leading up to the 2014 Royal Rumble. It continued to grow and grew painful, but despite asking for the WWE doctor to cut it off, they just kept him on antibiotics so he could continue to wrestle.
After he left the company, he went to a doctor recommended by his wife—WWE Diva AJ Lee—and was told he could have died due to his continuing to wrestle without having it removed:
I've had so many injuries and this was the most painful thing in my entire life, it hurt so bad. I sweat like I was in the Sahara desert, I clutched table and the doc was just squeezing this stuff. He patched it up and gave me three months worth of antibiotics. I've been working with this for three months and doc told me I should be dead or I could've died.
Along with being asked to fight through the injuries, he also had concerns about the WWE Network starting to impact the amount he was getting paid. He noted fellow Superstars as high up the chain as Randy Orton were asking him about the situation.
So he said he asked WWE chairman Vince McMahon to explain how the cheaper network compared to the normal pay-per-view prices would work and didn't get a direct answer:
But also, I knew this Network was coming out and for months I was asking everybody 'Hey, so WrestleMania is probably seventy bucks in HD and now you're selling it for $9.99?' I felt like I was the only one asking questions. And guys like Randy ask me, but I don't know either. I ask Vince and he just laughs as I ask 'Well don't you think you should figure it out before I work that pay-per-view so you can pay me accordingly?'
If Punk, who was one of the top wrestlers on the roster before his exit, couldn't get any clarity and was being questioned by others, it's safe to assume a lot of the other Superstars were in the same boat.
Now the question for the WWE is how to respond, if at all. The only comments it's made so far came about how it handles the wellness of performers. The WWE stated, per Marcus Vanderberg of Yahoo Sports, "WWE takes the health and wellness of its talent very seriously and has a comprehensive Talent Wellness Program that is led by one of the most well-respected physicians in the country, Dr. Joseph Maroon."
In the bigger picture, however, Punk raised a lot of concerns about the impact of the company's very busy schedule has on wrestlers and whether compensation will suffer in the WWE Network era. He has the freedom to speak about it. Those still on the road probably hold similar fears, but they can't talk publicly.
With WrestleMania season—the most important stretch of the year for the WWE—on the horizon, the company must decide if it should respond to the critiques or just move forward and hope they fade. That goes for both a public response or just backstage meetings to answer Superstars' questions.
Punk was never afraid to speak his mind. That's a major reason he became so popular among the older audience looking for something fresh. It led to a meteoric rise.
The interview will probably do a lot to help his post-wrestling image. Many fans felt slighted when he left, but the back story adds some context to the situation. Exactly how much of his commentary is true is the unknown and may push the company to tell its side of the story.
Ultimately, it leaves the WWE in a tricky position just as it looks to start building momentum toward WrestleMania. To respond or not to respond, that is the question.