B/R Exclusive: AEW's CM Punk on Eddie Kingston, Promo Advice, Marvel and More
When CM Punk showed up on AEW Rampage on August 20 in Chicago, he immediately became one of the most talked-about pro wrestlers on the planet.
He had spent seven years away from the business after leaving WWE, but something about All Elite Wrestling pulled him back in.
His first match back was a win against Darby Allin at All Out on September 5, and after a few wins since then, he is now set to battle Eddie Kingston at Full Gear.
Ahead of Saturday's match, we had a chance to speak with Punk about the upcoming pay-per-view, how he has felt physically since returning, the roster in AEW, and much more.
Returning to the Ring Against Darby Allin
For Punk's first bout in seven years, he stepped into the ring with one of the biggest risk-takers in all of AEW, so he didn't exactly give himself an easy challenge.
The 43-year-old has since faced several people, but it was that first bout with Darby Allin that hit the hardest.
"Just because it was the first one back taking bumps after seven years, the Darby [Allin] match is probably the one where I woke up the next day feeling the most sore," Punk said.
Taking seven years away from any physical activity will always make it hard to get back into the groove, but Punk said the adjustment hasn't been as difficult as you would expect.
"I don't find it difficult [to adjust]," he said. "To me, it's like working out. Take a couple of weeks off and you go back and you're probably going to be more sore because your muscles aren't used to that consistency. And that's really all it's about is just kind of building up the callus and getting back to the consistency."
In preparation for his match against Allin, The Best in the World had to make sure he could keep up with his 28-year-old opponent, so he focused heavily on his stamina.
"I was just doing a lot of cardio, and trying to lift weights," Punk said. "I wasn't necessarily in a ring too often. I was in a ring when I was shooting the TV show, Heels. So I got to do a bit there. But my idea of training for a match, I don't want to just take a bunch of bumps. That'll happen in a match. And it'll happen when it has to happen.
"But I probably only have so many bumps left in me, so I don't want to waste them just in a warehouse somewhere. It's making sure my cardio is on point, blowing my lungs out, sprints, stuff like that."
Facing Eddie Kingston
Punk will face Kingston on Saturday in his second PPV bout since returning to the business. With only a few weeks of buildup, the two veterans have already managed to pique the interest of many fans.
"I'm looking forward to it just because there seems to be a huge, tangible buzz about it," Punk said. "I think if you're a performer, when the crowd is invested, it doesn't matter if they love you or hate you. It just seems to be an intriguing pair of guys going at it, right?
"We've kind of breathed life into what some of the classic legends of pro wrestling used to do on the regular. It's just two normal dudes talking normal trash. The fun part about pro wrestling is you get to go in a ring and you get to beat the crap out of each other."
While Kingston and Punk have some history together, it has been many years since they had a chance to share the same locker room. The Second City Savior sees The Mad King as somebody who can connect with fans because of his journey.
"Kingston is a guy who fans can latch on to because he is somebody who was told he should not make it or he's not going to make it," Punk said. "He's given up on himself and he's dusted himself back off and gotten back on the horse. And through a pandemic, he is still doing what he loves to do.
"Sometimes you fall out of love with stuff, you fall back in love with stuff. And everything kind of happens for a reason. This is a dude who was in the right place at the right time because he's always in the ring. Now he gets to display his art on a national platform, and I think that's a beautiful thing. What's beautiful about pro wrestling is that there are different styles from all over the world."
His Approach to Promos
While Punk has always been known as a great in-ring performer, one could argue he has been more lauded for his mic skills than anything else.
He spoke about his approach to promos and the advice he gives younger talents that was passed onto him from legends he has known.
"Because I was in a system that relied heavily on written and scripted promos but coming from a place of freedom where I could do and say whatever I wanted, my advice and normally my approach is to talk from the heart," Punk said. "That's something Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper would always tell me.
"You can take the best stuff, you can have a couple of cool lines you know you want to say that you heard from a movie or a song or something like that, but the more you talk about it, you tend to kind of overcook it. You want your food to be cooked just right.
"But I found that dwelling on stuff and coming up with exactly what you're going to say is never the right thing to do because you're in front of a live audience and you don't know how they're going to react. So you need the wiggle room on either side of what you're going to say to kind of creatively better whatever you're doing based on the crowd's reaction."
During his most recent appearance on Dynamite, Punk spoke about Jon Moxley's decision to enter an inpatient alcohol treatment program.
"When the Moxley news broke, first and foremost, we needed to make sure he was in a good spot and that he knew he didn't have to rush back and he can work on himself and his family," Punk said. "But I didn't know exactly what to say or how to approach it. I just knew that I would figure it out once I got in front of the people.
"You saw signs [in the crowd] already from people supporting Moxley. We came to a point where we had a very powerful message to send: a message of courage on his part and a message of support on our part. And I think the real world needs to see that right now. We're all real people with real problems."
Facing Opponents at Every Level
Since his debut with AEW, Punk has had five matches. His opponents have spanned a spectrum of people from the bottom to the top of the card.
For the Chicago native, facing people at every level is vital for what the company is trying to accomplish.
"I think it's important. I think AEW as a whole has a bit of an uphill battle to kind of tell the stories we want to tell," Punk said. "I think the majority of people currently watching wrestling have been fed the same thing for 20-25 years so that when they see something different, they automatically don't understand it, don't like it, or try to dissect it.
"There are a million different styles of pro wrestling, there are a million different booking philosophies, and I'm just kind of doing what I want to do. You can't really look at the whole picture until you know we're done telling the story.
"I can’t tell you when we're going to be done telling the story. Stuff does change, we come up with stuff on the fly, some stuff is planned. There are a lot of moving parts, but I just think it's a different way to do stuff and that doesn't necessarily mean it's bad or wrong.
"And honestly, this is all meant for me to kind of have fun with, so as long as I'm having fun and I'm doing what I want to do, I don't listen to the criticism, I can understand the criticism because we're not doing what people are used to what they've seen for 20 years, but we're moving in the right direction and at the pace we want to go."
Being in the ring with some of AEW's young stars and getting to watch them up close has given Punk a chance to get a glimpse at who could be important to the future of the business.
"I think Dante Martin is a name that pops up if you ask me who is impressive," he said. "I mean, this is a guy who reminds me of the first time I saw Rey Mysterio in around 1995. Powerhouse Hobbs is a guy who I think is impressive. These are two guys who I think are the future. Darby Allin is a big one. He's just scratching the surface of what he's going to wind up meaning to the company."
How He Approaches Goals at This Stage of His Career
Everyone who chooses to enter the world of pro wrestling has goals in one way or another. Whether it's winning a world title, working with a certain person or fighting in a specific arena, everybody has something they want to accomplish.
For Punk, realizing that he had accomplished many of the goals he had set for himself has allowed him to broaden his focus to look at the big picture instead of focusing solely on his own career.
"Honestly, I think my goals pertaining to the business, I can look back at where I was 10 years ago thinking I still needed or wanted to attain a certain thing without realizing that I was already there," he said. "But, you know, it's a 'Sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees' sort of thing.
"But now that I'm on the other side of that 10 years and I'm at AEW, now I look back and I go, 'Well, yeah, I did everything I wanted to do.' And on top of that, goals change, too. I want to help build on the foundation that's already here. I want to sell tickets, draw money, do intriguing things and help people who genuinely want to be helped."
His Marvel Dream Job
The Chicago native has expanded his career outside of the ring in recent years. Not only has he acted in films and TV shows, but he has also written for Marvel for the characters of Shang-Chi and Drax the Destroyer.
When asked if there is any Marvel character he would write for if offered the opportunity, there was no hesitation in his response.
"Punisher hand down. Easy," Punk said. "I almost don't operate that way, either. Because when people present these ideas and opportunities, if I'm not interested in them, then I say I'm not interested. But there might be something that comes across my desk that I haven't even thought of.
"I never thought about writing Shang-Chi. And then they offered it to me and I was like, 'Oh, whoa, wait a second. Like I can really do something fun with that.' And it’s the same thing with Drax, too.
"I just think The Punisher is one character that I feel, especially in the 2021 political climate, a lot of writers just kind of never get it right. Or at least never get it right in my opinion. It's not the flavor I want from The Punisher, so I think I could tell a pretty good Frank Castle story.
"I love Jon Bernthal. I love everything he does. I think he's a very thoughtful actor, so I enjoyed his Frank Castle. And [Netflix] went in a couple of different directions that I never would have thought to go. That being said, by my high standard for Punisher, it still kind of fell short, in my opinion."
AEW Movie Reviews
To close out our AEW interviews, we have been asking wrestlers to pick a movie they have seen recently and review it for us.
Punk singled out two recent movies: Pig starring Nicolas Cage and Old Henry with Tim Blake Nelson.
"The last two movies I watched were Old Henry and Pig," he said. "I can't necessarily recommend Pig. I think Nicolas Cage's performance was good. It just kind of felt like it was treading water to me. But I also hate movie reviews because often I'll read one and it will differ drastically from how I felt about it.
"So, if you like Nicolas Cage, watch Pig. And if you like westerns, Old Henry is pretty badass. It had pretty cool performances and no curveballs. It's just fastball, down the middle, hardcore western. It's great."
CM Punk can be seen facing Kingston this Saturday at AEW Full Gear.