Originally published in The Kingston Whig-Standard on Nov. 12, 2012, all rights reserved.
HEADLINE: Best in the world? Hard to argue
In wrestling circles, he’s as marketable as they come right now.
He’s the WWE champion, and has been for a year now.
He has penned the foreword for Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men hardcover, which is due out next month.
He is the subject of the WWE’s latest — and arguably its best — DVD documentary.
He is the cover boy for the company’s next video game release, WWE 13, due out next week.
He’s the headliner for the company’s next pay-per-view, Hell in a Cell, which happens Sunday.
He’s been popping up on talk shows, radio shows, at Major League Baseball games, and everywhere in between.
He is CM Punk. Inside wrestling, he bills himself as the best in the world. Given his marketability right now, that’s hard to argue.
But perhaps more importantly, however, is his marketability as someone everyone can relate to.
In his DVD, CM Punk: Best in the World, he addresses being bullied as a kid, his complicated relationship with his family, struggling to find his niche and his love of comic books, video games and wrestling … a lot of which many people can relate to.
The DVD is a very real and uncensored look at an upbringing that was far from fairy tale material.
But Punk himself had no trepidation about sharing his life with the world.
“I figure that’s what made me who I am and I wanted people to know about it,” he said in a telephone interview this week. “There was one rule about my DVD, it was everybody had to be 100% honest.”
The feature covers everything from the aforementioned young life to his backyard wrestling days to his long independent wrestling career to his run in WWE, and much more.
Punk admits the experience of putting his story out there — and yes, he was fully involved with the DVD — was liberating.
“It (was) fun, too. My motto in life is I just surround myself with people I like, and that’s what my DVD is.”
While the highlights are too many to mention, Punk did dish on a few other topics addressed on his DVD:
• On the difficulty of giving up meat and completely changing his diet: “It wasn’t,” he said. “It was just something I wanted to try. Something to see if I could do. I’m funny like that. I like to do things like that. It wasn’t difficult. I just ate a lot of eggs.”
• On wrestling in front of his hometown fans in Chicago: “I always get love when I’m in Chicago. There’s not a better place to wrestle.”
• On the promo heard around the world (he was given carte blanche to air his frustrations on Raw one night, and delivered one of the most memorable promos in history): “I thought I broke the Internet, is what I thought I did,” he said, when asked if he recognized the importance of his promo at the time. “The feedback instantaneously was so huge (that) I knew I did something, but I don’t know if I knew how big it was.”
• On whether he has any regrets about his DVD: “The only thing I wish I could have, I don’t know if done differently is the word … the only thing missing from my DVD is a sit-down interview with Samoa Joe,” he said. “That obviously couldn’t happen because he works for a different company.”
While the DVD is a great retrospective, there are still things to be accomplished in the life of CM Punk.
Most immediate is this weekend, when he faces the mammoth Ryback at Hell in a Cell, with his WWE Championship on the line. It was suggested to Punk that Ryback is the anti-Punk — his rise has been meteoric, he’s built like a stereotypical wrestler and he hasn’t shown much in the way of mic skills to date.
“Huh, well when you put it like that, yeah, maybe … maybe he is,” Punk agreed. “Different strokes, you know.”
While Ryback gets the distinct edge in power and size, and is unbeaten in his WWE career, Punk has a plan.
“We don’t know what kind of a motor he’s got either, you know,” he said. “Most of his matches he’s had have been like, what, a couple of minutes. I’m a marathon runner. We’re going to get him on his bike to see if he can survive.”
Following that is the release of his WWE 13. The cover boy couldn’t be prouder. In fact, it’s among his career highlights.
“Oh god, that’s up there, you know,” he said. “I’m a nerd, a geek. We’ve been talking about comic books and pro wrestling so, of course, being on the cover of a video game is awesome.”
On Nov. 21, he makes his Marvel Comics writing debut, another milestone Punk is proud of.
“It was cool,” he said. “Comic books and pro wrestling — and music, I guess — have always been the things I’ve been into. So obviously to do the pro wrestling thing, it’s been my career, and now to write for Marvel Comics, though it was just an intro …” he trailed off. “But we’re working on other stuff, future projects. It’s pretty cool. A dream come true.”
And not far off is the one thing that has eluded the man who calls himself goal-oriented. In fact, it’s the last thing left for CM Punk to accomplish.
“The WrestleMania main event. That’s all that I’ve got left,” he answered.
Title reigns the likes of the one Punk is currently enjoying have been extremely rare in the modern WWE. Those who have enjoyed similar runs — the likes of Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Bret (The Hitman) Hart, to name a few, now enjoy legendary status.
For his part, Punk hasn’t given much thought to his place in history.
“I can only hope that history will be kind to me when I look back on my career,” he said. “I certainly don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, I’m a legend,’ ‘Oh, I’m this, which means I’m going to be that.’ I just kind of do my job, I’m confident, obviously, that I know what I’m doing. My fingers are on the pulse of what the people want. When it’s all said and done and I can look back on my career, hopefully people will remember me fondly.”
While his WWE legacy continues to unfold, there is no disputing his place as a trailblazer for independent wrestlers — and any kid who ever wanted to follow his dreams.
“I don’t think I can take sole credit for that,” he said, “(but) if certain guys get looked at, based on what I’ve done in my career, then that’s awesome. I’m proud of that.”
As he should be.
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