Phillip Jack Brooks (born October 26, 1978), better known by the ring name CM Punk, is an American professional wrestler, actor, and former mixed martial artist. As of November 2023, he is signed to WWE, where he performs on the Raw brand. Brooks' 434-day reign as WWE Champion stands recognized as the seventh longest overall.[a]

CM Punk
Punk in March 2022
Born
Phillip Jack Brooks

(1978-10-26) October 26, 1978 (age 45)
Occupations
  • Professional wrestler
  • actor
  • commentator
  • mixed martial artist
Years active
  • 1997–2014; 2021–present (wrestling)
  • 2016–2018 (MMA)
  • 2015–present (acting)
Spouse
(m. 2014)
Ring name(s)CM Punk
Billed height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)[1]
Billed weight218 lb (99 kg)[1]
Billed fromChicago, Illinois[1]
Trained by
DebutOctober 25, 1997
Martial arts career
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg)
DivisionWelterweight[4]
Reach73 in (185 cm)[4]
TeamRoufusport
Teacher(s)Head coach: Duke Roufus
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Daniel Wanderley[5]
RankBlue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Daniel Wanderley[6]
Mixed martial arts record
Total2
Wins0
Losses1
By submission1
No contests1
Other information
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog
Signature

Brooks began his professional wrestling career in 1997 on the independent circuit, mainly with Ring of Honor (ROH), where he won the ROH World Championship once. He signed with WWE in 2005 and won the WWE Championship twice, the World Heavyweight Championship three times, and the WWE Intercontinental Championship, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, and the World Tag Team Championship once each. He is the only back-to-back Money in the Bank ladder match winner, won Superstar of the Year at the 2011 Slammy Awards, and was voted PWI Wrestler of the Year in 2011 and 2012. After becoming disillusioned with WWE, Brooks acrimoniously departed the promotion in 2014, largely retiring from wrestling. From 2019 to 2020, he appeared as a pundit on WWE Backstage. He returned to the ring in 2021 by signing with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), where he won the AEW World Championship twice, but was terminated in September 2023 after backstage controversies. He returned to WWE two months later at Survivor Series.

Brooks has used the CM Punk moniker for his entire career. His character has been consistently portrayed as outspoken, confrontational, sharp-tongued, anti-establishment, straight edge, and iconoclastic, most of which are inspired by his real-life self.[7] Depending on his alignment as a hero or villain, he has emphasized different aspects to garner heat and discourse.[7]

After leaving WWE in 2014, Brooks pursued a career in mixed martial arts and signed with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). A welterweight, he lost via submission to Mickey Gall in his professional debut at UFC 203 in 2016. He lost his second fight to Mike Jackson via unanimous decision at UFC 225 in 2018 (later overturned to a no-contest) and was released. Brooks currently appears as a part-time color commentator for Cage Fury Fighting Championships.

Brooks has starred in the horror films Girl on the Third Floor, Rabid (both 2019), and Jakob's Wife (2021). He also had a recurring role in the wrestling drama series Heels (2021–2023).

Early life

Phillip Jack Brooks[8] was born in Chicago on October 26, 1978, the son of a housewife and an engineer.[9] He grew up in nearby Lockport, Illinois,[10] where he attended Lockport Township High School.[9][11] He has five siblings. His father struggled with alcoholism, which inspired Brooks to follow a straight edge lifestyle from an early age; his mother had bipolar disorder, causing him to become estranged from her.[12] He cites "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as an early influence and the reason he became a wrestler.[13][14][15]

Professional wrestling career

Early career; IWA Mid-South (1997–2005)

Brooks' first venture into wrestling was a stint in a backyard wrestling federation called the Lunatic Wrestling Federation with his brother Mike and their friends in the mid-late 1990s. He had his debut match by October 25, 1997, on the eve of his 19th birthday.[16] He first started using the ring name CM Punk when he was put into a tag team named the "Chick Magnets" with CM Venom after another performer skipped out on the card; the CM stood for "Chick Magnet".[7][17][18] Unlike his friends, Punk genuinely wanted to be a wrestler and saw it as more than simple fun.[7] When the promotion started taking off while doing shows out of a warehouse in Mokena, Illinois, Punk found out that his brother had embezzled thousands of dollars from the small company, causing them to become estranged. They have not spoken since.[19]

 
Punk (front) in a match against Danny Dominion at an NWA Midwest event in November 2002

Punk soon left the Lunatic Wrestling Federation and enrolled as a student at the Steel Dominion wrestling school in Chicago, where he was trained by Ace Steel,[2] Danny Dominion and Kevin Quinn to become a professional wrestler. As part of the training, he began wrestling at Steel Domain Wrestling in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1999.[3][7][20] It was in the Steel Domain that he met Scott Colton,[21][22] who soon adopted the ring name Colt Cabana. Punk and Cabana became best friends and spent most of their early career together working in the same independent promotions, as both opponents and tag team partners.[21] In the independents, along with fellow Steel Domain graduates Colt Cabana, Chucke E. Smooth, Adam Pearce, and manager Dave Prazak, Punk formed an alliance named the Gold Bond Mafia.[7]

In 2002, Punk became the International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) Heavyweight Champion, in Monroeville, PA.[23][24][25] Punk would compete in the company's Super Indy tournament,[26] but never won the championship. Punk's home promotion for his early career was considered to be the Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South (IWA Mid-South).[7] During Punk's time in IWA Mid-South, he had high-profile feuds with Colt Cabana and Chris Hero while also rising to the top of the roster, winning the IWA Mid-South Light Heavyweight Championship twice and the IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship on five separate occasions, beating wrestlers like AJ Styles, Cabana, and Eddie Guerrero in matches for the heavyweight championship. Punk's feud with Hero included a 55-minute Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (TLC) match,[7] a 93-minute two out of three falls match[3] and several 60-minute time limit draws.[22] From July 2003 until May 2004, Punk refused to wrestle for IWA Mid-South, explaining this as a protest to Ian Rotten's mistreatment of Chris Hero in the company.[7] However, Hero has stated he believes there were other reasons and Rotten's treatment of him was just an excuse by Punk to stop working for the company.[27] Punk eventually returned to IWA Mid-South and continued to perform as a wrestler and commentator for them until July 2005.[28]

NWA: Total Nonstop Action (2002–2004)

Punk made his debut for NWA: Total Nonstop Action alongside his trainer Ace Steel on September 18, 2002, where Punk and Steel defeated Derek Wylde and Jimmy Rave and The Hot Shots (Cassidy O'Reilly and Chase Stevens) in a three-way match to qualify for the tag team Gauntlet for the Gold later in the night, with the winning team facing America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris and James Storm) in a match for the vacant NWA World Tag Team Championship. Punk then returned to TNA in mid-2003, while simultaneously wrestling for Ring of Honor. Upon his full-time signing with TNA, Punk was paired with Julio Dinero as members of Raven's stable The Gathering.[7]

Shortly before a NWA: TNA show on February 25, 2004, Punk had a physical scuffle with Teddy Hart outside of a restaurant that was broken up by Sabu. The altercation reportedly stemmed from an ROH show in which Hart performed three unplanned spots, putting several other wrestlers in danger of injury.[29][30] Around the time of the scuffle, Punk and Dinero stopped appearing on TNA shows, leading to speculation that he was fired for the incident.[31] However, Punk said the scuffle had no bearing on his TNA career.[31] Brooks said the reason he and Dinero stopped appearing on TNA's pay-per-view events was that TNA officials believed he and Dinero had not connected with the fans as villains, having turned against the popular Raven and instead formed a villainous tag team managed by James Mitchell.[31] The officials decided that since the team was not working as villains, the storyline would be put on hold indefinitely, and thus had no work for Punk or Dinero.[31] Punk officially quit TNA in March 2004 during the Rob Feinstein controversy after having a dispute with the TNA offices over his ability to compete in ROH following a TNA order that their contracted wrestlers were to no longer wrestle in ROH.[20]

Ring of Honor (2002–2006)

Second City Saints (2002–2004)

 
Punk (left) during a cage match against Raven at Ring of Honor's "The Conclusion" event in November 2003

Punk's matches with Colt Cabana led him to being hired by ROH.[3] CM Punk made his in-ring debut on ROH at All Star Extravaganza on November 9, 2002, in a gauntlet match involving five participants, that was won by Bryan Danielson.[32] Initially, Punk joined ROH as a face, trading wins with Cabana at Night of the Butcher and Final Battle.[7] but quickly turned heel in a feud with Raven that featured multiple variants of a no disqualification match.[33] Their rivalry was rooted in Punk's straight-edge lifestyle, with him likening Raven to his alcoholic father;[34][35] At Night of Champions, Punk and his trainer Ace Steel faced Raven and Cabana in a tag team match, during which Cabana turned on Raven, allowing Punk and Steel to win the match. Consequently, Punk, Steel and Cabana formed a trio called the Second City Saints. Punk and Raven's rivalry lasted most of 2003 and was considered one of ROH's top feuds of the year. It was settled at The Conclusion in November 2003, where Punk defeated Raven in a steel cage match.[33] In late-2003, Punk was hired as the first head trainer of the Ring of Honor wrestling school,[7][36] having previously been a trainer for the Steel Domain[7] and Primetime Wrestling.[37]

After concluding the rivalry with Raven, the Second City Saints turned face by feuding with The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels, B.J. Whitmer and Dan Maff), suspecting them of attacking Punk's on-screen girlfriend Lucy Fer. Whitmer was revealed to be the assailant, which led to Saints facing Prophecy in a six-man tag team match at The Battle Lines Are Drawn, which ended in a no contest. The match concluded when Punk drove Daniels with a Pepsi Plunge off the top rope through a table, thus explaining Daniels' departure from ROH. Around this time, Punk began climbing the ranks of ROH, including coming in second at the Second Anniversary Show during the tournament to crown the first ROH Pure Champion, losing to AJ Styles in the finals.[33] At Reborn: Stage Two, Punk and Cabana defeated the Briscoe Brothers to win their first ROH Tag Team Championship. At Round Robin Challenge III, the Second City Saints lost the Tag Team Championship to B.J. Whitmer and Dan Maff in a round robin challenge, but defeated the Briscoe Brothers later that night to win their second Tag Team Championship.[38] The Second City Saints avenged their loss to the Prophecy by defeating them to retain the titles at Generation Next. They held the titles throughout the summer before eventually losing them to The Havana Pitbulls at Testing The Limit.

 
Punk in Ring of Honor in 2003

In mid-2004, Punk faced off against ROH World Champion Samoa Joe for the championship in a three-match series. On June 12 at World Title Classic, the first match resulted in a 60-minute time limit draw, when neither Punk nor Joe could pin or cause the other to submit within the allotted 60 minutes. On October 16 at Joe vs. Punk II, they wrestled to a second 60-minute draw.[33] In addition to Joe vs. Punk II becoming Ring of Honor's bestselling DVD at the time, the match received a five-star rating by famed wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. It was the first match in North America to receive a five-star rating in seven years, the last one being the first-ever Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker at Badd Blood: In Your House in 1997.[22] Joe ended the series by defeating Punk in the third and final match on December 4 at All-Star Extravaganza 2, in which there was a no-time-limit stipulation.[33]

ROH World Champion (2005)

After a try-out match on May 9, 2005, which aired May 15,[39] where he lost to Val Venis on the Sunday Night Heat show, Punk accepted a deal offered by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in June. Though he had accepted the deal, Punk defeated Austin Aries to win the ROH World Championship on June 18 at Death Before Dishonor III.[38] Despite entering the match as a face, immediately after winning the match and the title, Punk proceeded to turn heel and started a storyline where he threatened to take the ROH World Championship to WWE with him. For weeks, Punk teased the ROH locker room and the ROH fans, mocking the championship he possessed, going so far as to sign his WWE contract on top of it. During the storyline, referred to by ROH as the "Summer of Punk",[40] Mick Foley made several ROH appearances during this time, attempting to convince Punk to do the right thing and defend the title on his way out. On August 12, Punk lost the ROH World Championship to James Gibson in a four corner elimination match, which also involved Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels.[38] Punk's final scheduled match in ROH took place at Punk: The Final Chapter on August 13, 2005, against long-time friend Colt Cabana in a two out of three falls match, which he lost.[33]

Special appearance (2006)

Punk made a special appearance at the ROH show Unscripted II on February 11, 2006, when the original card had to be scrapped due to Low Ki leaving ROH the week prior.[33] In addition, most of the ROH roster contracted to TNA were pulled from the show because of a snowstorm that TNA officials thought might prevent performers from reaching the TNA's Against All Odds event scheduled the next day.[41][42] In the main event, Punk teamed with Bryan Danielson to defeat Adam Pearce and Jimmy Rave in a tag team match.[42]

Punk was inducted into the ROH Hall of Fame as part of the 2022 inaugural class.[43]

World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE (2005–2014)

Ohio Valley Wrestling (2005–2006)

Upon being signed by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), CM Punk was assigned to its developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), where he was mentored by Paul Heyman.[44] He debuted in September 2005 in a dark match.[45] In his first appearance on OVW TV later that month, Punk suffered a broken nose and ruptured eardrum in a match with Danny Inferno.[46][47] In November 2005, Punk defeated Ken Doane to win the OVW Television Championship.[46] Immediately thereafter, Punk began to feud with Brent Albright, culminating in a three way dance between Punk, Doane, and Albright in January 2006; after Doane was injured during the match, he was replaced by Aaron "The Idol" Stevens, who won the match and became the new OVW Television Champion.[48] In February 2006, Punk entered into a tournament to crown a new OVW Heavyweight Champion, losing to Albright in the finals.[20] In May 2006, Punk defeated Albright in a strap match to win the OVW Heavyweight Championship.[49] In July 2006, Punk and Seth Skyfire defeated Shad Gaspard and the Neighborhoodie to win the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship, making Punk a double champion.[50] They lost the titles to Deuce Shade and "Domino" Cliff Compton in August 2006.[48] Later that same month, Punk lost the OVW Heavyweight Championship to Chet the Jett.[48] Following his defeat, Punk ceased appearing regularly with OVW, but continued to make sporadic appearances until WWE and OVW ended their developmental partnership on February 7, 2008.[51][52]

ECW Champion (2006–2008)

 
Punk with a portrait of himself as the ECW Champion in 2008

On June 24, 2006, Punk made his ECW debut during a house show at the former ECW Arena as a fan favorite, defeating Stevie Richards.[53] He officially made his television debut on the July 4 episode of ECW, cutting a brief pre-taped promo about his straight edge lifestyle, emphasizing the disciplinary aspects of being drug and alcohol free.[54] Although he had retained the straight edge gimmick, he now had a Muay Thai training background. Punk made his television wrestling debut on August 1 at the Hammerstein Ballroom, defeating Justin Credible.[55] Punk quickly established himself in ECW by going undefeated, defeating opponents such as C. W. Anderson, Stevie Richards and Shannon Moore.[56][57][58]

Soon after, Punk began feuding with Mike Knox after Knox's on-screen girlfriend Kelly Kelly was seen to have romantic feelings for Punk.[58] Punk defeated Knox in their first singles match on the November 7 episode of ECW as well as a rematch the following week, after which Kelly Kelly celebrated Punk's victory over Knox.[59][60] At Survivor Series, Punk had his first pay-per-view match when he teamed with D-Generation X (Shawn Michaels and Triple H) (DX) and the Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt) in their Survivor Series match against Rated-RKO (Edge and Randy Orton), Knox, Johnny Nitro and Gregory Helms, a match in which all the participants on DX's side survived elimination.[61] On December 3 at December to Dismember, Punk participated in the Extreme Elimination Chamber match for the ECW World Championship, but he was the first person eliminated by Rob Van Dam.[62]

On the January 9, 2007, episode of ECW, Punk suffered his first loss in ECW against Hardcore Holly, ending his six-month unbeaten streak in singles competition.[63] He participated in the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 23, where he lost.[64] On the April 10 episode of ECW, Punk was involved in the feud between the New Breed, a group of young wrestlers and the ECW Originals, a group of veteran wrestlers from the original ECW. Punk joined the New Breed after several weeks in which both the New Breed and the ECW Originals had attempted to recruit him, seemingly turning heel.[65][66][67] However, two weeks later, Punk betrayed the New Breed during a four-on-four tag team match between the New Breed and ECW Originals by kicking New Breed leader Elijah Burke in the back of the head and costing them the match, after which Punk proceeded to deliver his finisher, the "Go to Sleep", maintaining his status as a face in the process.[68] On May 20 at Judgment Day, Punk defeated Burke in his first singles match on a WWE pay-per-view event.[69] Punk then went on to One Night Stand on June 3, teaming up with Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman in a tables match to defeat the New Breed and end the storyline.[70]

When ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley was drafted to Raw and stripped of the championship, a tournament to declare a new champion was held.[71] On June 24, Punk was scheduled to face Chris Benoit in the finals at Vengeance: Night of Champions, but Benoit was replaced by Johnny Nitro due to Benoit no showing because of the double murder and suicide he committed that same weekend.[72] Nitro subsequently defeated Punk for the vacant ECW World Championship.[73] During the following months, Punk faced Nitro (who later changed his ringname to John Morrison) for the title at The Great American Bash, and SummerSlam, where he lost to Morrison both times.[74][75]

On the September 4 episode of ECW, Punk defeated Morrison in a last chance title match to win the ECW Championship.[76] In the following months, Punk went on to have successful title defenses against the likes of Elijah Burke at Unforgiven, Big Daddy V via disqualification at No Mercy, and The Miz at Cyber Sunday.[77][78][79] On the November 6 episode of ECW, Punk retained the ECW Championship in a match against Morrison following Miz's interference.[80] On November 18 at Survivor Series, Punk retained the title in a triple threat match against Miz and Morrison.[81] On the January 22, 2008, episode of ECW, Punk lost the ECW Championship to Chavo Guerrero Jr. in a no disqualification match after Edge speared him, ending his reign at 143 days.[82]

World Heavyweight Champion (2008–2009)

On March 30 at WrestleMania XXIV, Punk won the Money in the Bank ladder match after defeating Carlito, Chris Jericho, John Morrison, Montel Vontavious Porter, Mr. Kennedy and Shelton Benjamin, earning him a shot at either the WWE, World Heavyweight, or ECW titles at any time.[83] At Judgment Day on May 18, Punk teamed with Kane to unsuccessfully challenge John Morrison and The Miz for the WWE Tag Team Championship.[84]

 
Punk as World Heavyweight Champion in August 2008

On June 23, Punk was drafted to the Raw brand during the 2008 WWE draft.[85] In his first night on Raw the following week, Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank contract after Batista beat down World Heavyweight Champion Edge and won the title, making his first defense later that same night against John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL), who had challenged him shortly after his win.[86] Punk continued to hold and defend the title (against the likes of Batista at The Great American Bash and the July 21 episode of Raw, and JBL at SummerSlam) until Unforgiven, when he was attacked by The Legacy and Randy Orton, who punted Punk in the head before the Championship scramble match on September 7, ending his reign at 69 days.[87][88][89][90] Punk could not participate in the match due to the attack and so was forced to forfeit the title, being replaced by Chris Jericho, who won the match and the title.[91] On the September 15 episode of Raw, Punk received his title rematch, but failed to regain the title in a steel cage match against Jericho.[92]

On the October 27 episode of Raw, Punk and Kofi Kingston defeated Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase to win the World Tag Team Championship.[93] The duo were members of Team Batista on November 23 at Survivor Series, where their team lost to Team Orton after Rhodes eliminated Punk.[94] Punk then entered a number one contender Intercontinental Championship tournament, defeating Snitsky and John Morrison in the first two rounds.[95] Punk and Kingston lost the World Tag Team Championship to John Morrison and The Miz on December 13 at a live event.[96] The next day at Armageddon, Punk defeated Rey Mysterio in the tournament finals.[95] On the January 5, 2009, episode of Raw, Punk received his title match against William Regal, which ended in a disqualification when Regal grabbed the referee's jersey.[97] Due to this, Stephanie McMahon awarded Punk a rematch the following week on Raw, but this time Punk got disqualified.[98] McMahon awarded him another rematch, a no disqualification match on the January 19 episode of Raw, where Punk defeated Regal to win the Intercontinental Championship.[99] With this win, Punk became the 19th WWE Triple Crown Champion and the fastest ever to accomplish the feat, surpassing Kevin Nash's old record of 203 days.[100][101] Punk lost the Intercontinental Championship on the March 9 episode of Raw to John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL).[102] On April 5 at WrestleMania 25, Punk won the Money in the Bank ladder match and became the first person to win the match twice.[103] On April 13 during the 2009 WWE draft, Punk was drafted to the SmackDown brand.[104] In the period after the draft, Punk feuded with Umaga over Umaga's repeated surprise attacks while Punk was attempting to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, ultimately resulting in a Samoan strap match at Extreme Rules, which was won by Punk.[105]

Later that night, Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to defeat Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship immediately after Hardy won the title from Edge in a ladder match.[106] Punk made his first successful title defense in a triple threat match against both Edge and Hardy on the June 15 episode of Raw.[107] On June 28 at The Bash, Punk retained the title even though he lost to Hardy by disqualification (because titles do not change hands on a disqualification) after kicking the referee.[108] As part of the storyline, Punk injured his eye and said that he could not see the referee, but Hardy called his eye injury into question, believing it to be feigned, with Punk turning heel and claiming to be the moral superior of those who support Hardy, due to his drug-free lifestyle.[109] On July 26 at Night of Champions, Punk lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Hardy.[110] Their feud continued through SummerSlam on August 23, when Punk regained the title in a TLC match only to be attacked by The Undertaker.[111]

On the August 28 episode of SmackDown, Punk concluded his feud with Hardy and achieved his booked goal of excising him from WWE, defeating Hardy in a steel cage match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship wherein the loser agreed to leave the company.[112] On September 13 at Breaking Point, Punk defeated The Undertaker in a submission match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.[113] Undertaker originally won the match with his "Hell's Gate" submission hold, but SmackDown general manager Theodore Long restarted the match after stating that the ban that former SmackDown general manager Vickie Guerrero had placed on the move a year earlier was still in effect and Punk won the match with the anaconda vise when referee Scott Armstrong called for the bell despite Undertaker never submitting (eerily reminiscent to the Montreal Screwjob, which took place in the same venue in 1997).[114] The feud between the two continued and on October 4 at Hell in a Cell, Punk lost the World Heavyweight Championship to The Undertaker in convincing fashion in a Hell in a Cell match.[115] Punk went on to lose two subsequent rematches for the World Heavyweight Championship against The Undertaker on the October 23 SmackDown and on October 25 at Bragging Rights in a fatal four-way match also involving Batista and Rey Mysterio.[116][117]

Straight Edge Society (2009–2010)

 
The Straight Edge SocietySerena, Punk (center), and Luke Gallows – in April 2010

In late-2009, CM Punk's character began taking on a more sinister direction. On the November 27 episode of SmackDown, Punk revealed that he had converted Luke Gallows, who had previously been portrayed as the mentally incompetent wrestler Festus, to the straight-edge lifestyle which had subsequently rid him of his mental troubles.[118] Throughout January 2010, Punk began to convert planted members of the audience to a straight-edge lifestyle, making them take a pledge of allegiance to him and shaving their head as a sign of renewal and devotion.[119][120][121] After converting many people who were not seen again, convert Serena began accompanying Punk and Gallows to form The Straight Edge Society.[121][122] As well as leading this alliance, Punk was also the mentor of NXT rookie Darren Young, who flirted with the idea of becoming straight edge, before refusing just before his head was to be shaved.[123][124][125][126][127] Punk would also give sermons, including during the annual Royal Rumble match in January 2010, as well as during an Elimination Chamber match in February 2010 at both of the eponymous pay-per-view events.[128]

During the first half of 2010, Punk feuded with Rey Mysterio, being eliminated by him during the Elimination Chamber match.[129] After Mysterio prevented him from winning a Money in the Bank qualifying match, Punk interrupted Mysterio's celebration of his daughter Aaliyah's ninth birthday.[130] Mysterio and Punk faced each other in a match at WrestleMania XXVI, where if Mysterio lost, he would join the Straight Edge Society, but Punk lost to Mysterio at WrestleMania.[131] They had a rematch at Extreme Rules the following month where Punk would have to shave his head like his disciples if he lost, but he won this match after interference from Joey Mercury, a fourth member of the Straight Edge Society.[132] On May 23 at Over The Limit, a third and final match between Punk and Mysterio was booked with both stipulations reactivated, but Punk lost and was subsequently shaved bald.[133] After the match, Punk began wearing a black mask, since he considered himself always pure unlike his followers and was embarrassed by his baldness.[134]

On June 20, 2010, at WWE Fatal 4-Way, Punk challenged for the World Heavyweight Championship against Mysterio, Big Show and the champion Jack Swagger, but he was unsuccessful when he was attacked by Kane, who was accusing various people of attacking The Undertaker.[135] Punk and his stable started a feud with Big Show when on the July 16 episode of SmackDown, Big Show unmasked Punk.[136] Big Show faced the Straight Edge Society in a three-on-one handicap match on August 15 at SummerSlam, winning the match after Punk abandoned his teammates.[137] The next month, at Night of Champions, Punk lost to Big Show in a singles match.[138] The Straight Edge Society angle ended after Serena was released from WWE and Mercury became injured, and Punk defeated Gallows in a singles match on the September 24 SmackDown.[139][140][141]

The New Nexus (2010–2011)

 
Punk in 2011 as leader of The New Nexus

In October 2010, Punk was traded back to the Raw brand after being swapped with Edge and took part in the interbrand tag team match on October 24 at Bragging Rights, but Team Raw lost as Punk was eliminated by Rey Mysterio.[142][143] During the event, Punk suffered a hip injury that prevented him from wrestling for several months.[144] To keep a presence on television, he began commentating on Raw on November 22.[145]

At the end of December 2010, Punk left the commentary team after assaulting John Cena on Raw and SmackDown with a chair.[146][147] Punk later revealed that his motives for the attacks were that he had joined and assumed control of The Nexus.[148] Punk then made each member of the group prove themselves worthy of a spot, with some instead choosing to join The Corre, which had been started by former Nexus leader Wade Barrett on SmackDown.[149]

In January 2011, Punk and The Nexus cost Randy Orton his match with The Miz for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble as a revenge for Orton prematurely ending Punk's first World Heavyweight Championship reign in 2008.[150] In turn, Orton responded by taking out all of the New Nexus members by punting them in the head, leaving Punk alone as the sole surviving member of the group.[151][152][153][154] This led to a match at WrestleMania XXVII on April 3 and a Last Man Standing match on May 1 at Extreme Rules, both of which Punk lost.[155][156]

WWE Champion (2011–2013)

In June 2011, after pinning WWE Champion John Cena on the June 13 episode of Raw, Rey Mysterio at Capitol Punishment, and finally Alberto Del Rio in a number one contender's triple threat match (which also included Mysterio) all within one week, Punk revealed that his WWE contract was set to expire on July 17 at Money in the Bank and vowed to leave the company with the WWE Championship.[157][158][159] On the June 27, 2011 edition of Raw, CM Punk made a scathing, yet highly acclaimed on-air speech, often referred to as the "Pipe Bomb", concerning the way in which WWE is run and its owner Vince McMahon, as well as referencing other promotions, such as Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Due to this, Punk was given a (in-storyline) suspension from televised WWE events.[160] Punk was later reinstated upon Cena's insistence.[161] Upon his return, Punk ceased to appear with the remaining members of The Nexus and the group quietly dissolved, turning Punk face.[162] At Money in the Bank, Punk defeated Cena to become the WWE Champion on his final night under contract with WWE.[161][163] The match received a five-star rating from Dave Meltzer, marking Punk's second performance to attain a five-star rating, and the first WWE match to receive such a rating since 1997.[164]

On July 21, Punk made a surprise appearance at a joint WWE–Mattel panel at San Diego Comic-Con, where he mocked new chief operating officer Triple H, and offered WWE Championship tournament finalist Rey Mysterio a match for the WWE Championship as long as it was in Punk's hometown of Chicago.[165][166] Punk appeared at July 23's All American Wrestling show, showing respect to Gregory Iron, a wrestler with cerebral palsy.[167] Mysterio won the WWE Championship tournament on the July 25 episode of Raw only to lose it to Cena later that night. After Cena's victory, Punk returned and upstaged the new WWE Champion's celebration while also entering a title dispute.[168] Triple H later upheld both Punk and Cena's claims to the WWE Championship as legitimate and scheduled the two to a match at SummerSlam to decide the undisputed WWE Champion, with Triple H to serve as the special guest referee.[169] At SummerSlam on August 14, Punk defeated Cena, but he lost the title minutes later to Alberto Del Rio, who had cashed in his Money in the Bank contract after Kevin Nash attacked Punk.[170]

The following months, Punk lost at Night of Champions against Triple H, at Hell in a Cell in a WWE Championship triple threat Hell in a Cell match, and at Vengeance against The Miz and R-truth in a tag team match with Triple H as his partner.[171][172] This helped transition Punk's anti-establishment voice from Triple H to John Laurinaitis, who, around this time, became the interim Raw general manager.[173] Punk balked at Laurinaitis' promotion and verbally attacked him as a dull yes man.[174][175]

 
As WWE Champion, Punk (front) feuded with John Laurinaitis (background) for several months in 2011–2012.

At Survivor Series, Punk defeated Del Rio, regaining the WWE Championship.[176] Punk went on to defend the title through the end of the year, retaining in a rematch with Del Rio on the November 28 episode of Raw and against both Del Rio and The Miz in a triple threat TLC match on December 18 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs.[177][178] At the Royal Rumble on January 29, 2012, Punk successfully defended his title against Ziggler despite Laurinaitis acting as the outside enforcer.[179]

On the January 30 episode of Raw, the returning Chris Jericho attacked Punk and Daniel Bryan during their Champion vs. Champion match, giving Bryan the win.[180] The following week on Raw, Jericho explained his actions by dismissing the WWE roster as cheap imitations of himself and singling out Punk for calling himself "the best in the world", a moniker Jericho used the last time he was in WWE.[181][182] Their rivalry continued through Elimination Chamber on February 19, when Punk retained the WWE Championship in the namesake structure, but while four competitors were eliminated, Jericho was unable to continue the match after being kicked out of the chamber by Punk, causing temporary injury.[183] The next night on Raw, Jericho earned a match against Punk on April 1 at WrestleMania XXVIII and in a bid to psychologically unsettle him, revealed that Punk's father was an alcoholic and alleged that his sister was a drug addict, asserting that Punk's straight edge philosophy was paranoia to avoid the same vices and vowing to make Punk turn to alcohol by winning the title from him.[184][185] John Laurinaitis added the stipulation that the WWE Championship could change hands via disqualification, which led to Jericho inciting Punk into using a weapon, but Punk resisted and retained the title.[186] On the April 2 and 9 episodes of Raw, Punk retained the WWE Championship against Mark Henry after losing to him via countout and disqualification, being attacked by Jericho following both matches and doused with alcohol.[187][188] On the April 16 episode of Raw, Punk pinned Henry in a no disqualification, no countout match to retain the title.[189] After repeated altercations, the feud between Jericho and Punk culminated in a Chicago street fight on April 29 at Extreme Rules, where Punk defeated Jericho to retain the WWE Championship.[190]

On May 20 at Over the Limit, Punk retained the title against Daniel Bryan after reversing Bryan's submission hold the ""Yes!" Lock" into a pinning combination, as the pinfall saved Punk from his own submission only moments later.[191] Shortly before Over the Limit, Bryan interfered in a non-title match between Punk and Kane to frame Punk for attacking Kane with a steel chair, starting a three-way rivalry.[192][193][194][195] On the June 1 episode of SmackDown, a WWE Championship match between Punk and Kane ended in a double disqualification after Bryan attacked both men.[196] Meanwhile, Bryan's jilted ex-girlfriend AJ Lee turned her affections to both Punk and Kane.[197] This feud culminated in a triple threat match on June 17 at No Way Out, where Punk managed to retain the title after AJ distracted Kane.[198] On July 15 at Money in the Bank, Punk defeated Bryan in a no disqualification match with AJ as special guest referee to retain the title and end the feud.[199]

 
An injured Punk (center) accompanied by Paul Heyman on Raw in December 2012

On July 23 at Raw 1000, Punk defended the title against Money in the Bank winner John Cena and lost by disqualification after interference from Big Show.[200][201] When the night's special guest The Rock – who had interrupted Punk earlier to announce he would wrestle for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble in January 2013 – intervened to save Cena from Big Show's assault, Punk attacked Rock, turning heel in the process.[202] Punk justified his actions the following week on Raw, explaining he was tired of people like Cena and Rock overshadowing him when the WWE Champion should be the focus of the company, asserting himself further soon after by disrupting a number one contender's match between Cena and Big Show.[203][204] As a result, both men were entered into the title match against Punk on August 19 at SummerSlam, where he successfully retained the title by pinning Big Show after both Punk and Cena submitted Big Show at the same time and Raw general manager AJ Lee restarted the match.[205] In the following weeks on Raw, Punk demanded respect from people like AJ Lee, Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart and eventually aligned with Paul Heyman in his feud with Cena.[206] On September 16 at Night of Champions, Punk retained the WWE Championship after he fought Cena to a draw.[207] Punk continued to feud with Cena despite the latter's arm injury, rejecting the requests of Mick Foley and Jim Ross to pick him as his Hell in a Cell opponent and leading to a brawl with WWE chairman Vince McMahon.[208][209][210][211] Cena was eventually pulled from the title match and replaced by Ryback, whom Punk defeated at Hell in a Cell on October 28 in a Hell in a Cell match with help from referee Brad Maddox to retain the title and also ending Ryback's thirty-eight match undefeated streak.[212][213]

 
Punk at a WWE house show in February 2013

The next night on Raw, a furious Mick Foley confronted Punk for refusing to pick John Cena as his Hell in a Cell opponent, leading the two to agree to meet at Survivor Series in a Survivor Series match with Punk choosing Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow and The Miz for his team.[214] However, Punk was replaced as captain by Dolph Ziggler the following week on Raw and was instead booked in a triple threat WWE Championship match against John Cena and Ryback by Vince McMahon.[215] At Survivor Series on November 18, Punk won the match by pinning Cena following interference from the debuting faction called The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins), allowing him to retain the WWE Championship and officially hold the championship for one full year.[216] On December 4, Punk underwent surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus, removing him from his scheduled title match against Ryback on December 16 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs.[217] Despite his injury, Punk became the longest-reigning WWE Champion in the past 25 years on December 5, when he hit 381 days, surpassing John Cena's 380-day reign.[218] Punk returned to in-ring action on the January 7, 2013, episode of Raw, retaining the WWE Championship against Ryback in a TLC match following interference from The Shield.[219]

On January 27 at the Royal Rumble, Punk defended the WWE Championship against The Rock in a match that stipulated that Punk would be stripped of the title if The Shield interfered.[220] Punk originally pinned The Rock to retain after The Shield put Rock through a table while the arena lights were out, leading Vince McMahon to come out and announce that Punk would be stripped of the title, but he instead restarted the match at The Rock's request. Punk lost, ending his reign at 434 days.[221] WWE recognized this reign as the longest world championship reign in WWE of the "modern era" (after 1988) until Universal Champion Brock Lesnar broke that record in June 2018.[222] Punk received a title rematch with Rock on February 17 at Elimination Chamber, stipulated that The Rock would lose the title if he was disqualified or counted out, but Punk was pinned by Rock after miscommunication with Heyman.[223] On the February 25 episode of Raw, Punk faced Royal Rumble winner John Cena for his number one contendership to the WWE Championship, but he lost.[224]

Final storylines (2013–2014)

On March 4, 2013, Punk defeated Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus in a fatal four-way match on the March 4 episode of Raw to earn the right to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania.[225] After the real-life death of Paul Bearer, Undertaker's former manager the next day, a somewhat controversial storyline involving Punk regularly spiting The Undertaker through displays of flippancy and disrespect towards Bearer's death began, including Punk stealing Bearer's trademark urn.[226][227][228] On April 7 at WrestleMania 29, Punk was defeated by The Undertaker.[229] Punk then took a two-month hiatus away from WWE television to recover from injuries.

 
Punk (left) allied himself with Daniel Bryan heading into Survivor Series in 2013.

Punk returned at Payback in June 2013, defeating Chris Jericho.[230] Punk started a storyline where he told Heyman to no longer accompany him to his matches and was later attacked by Heyman's other client Brock Lesnar, thus turning Punk face once again.[231] Heyman also cost Punk a WWE Championship Money in the Bank ladder match at Money in the Bank when he attacked him.[232] This led to a match between Punk and Lesnar at SummerSlam on August 18, when Punk lost to Lesnar in a No Disqualification match after Heyman interfered.[233][234][235] His feud with Heyman continued during the following months, facing his other client, the Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel.[236] First, at Night of Champions, Punk faced Axel and Heyman in a no disqualification two-on-one handicap elimination match in which he made Axel submit, leaving only Heyman left, but Punk lost the match after Ryback interfered and put him through a table.[237] Then in October, Punk defeated Ryback at Battleground and the feud ended at Hell in a Cell, where Punk faced Heyman and Ryback in a two-on-one handicap Hell in a Cell match, winning the match by pinning Ryback and after the match performing a "Go to Sleep" to Heyman on top of the cell.[238][239]

Punk moved on to a feud with The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper), forming an alliance with Daniel Bryan, with the duo defeating Harper and Rowan in a tag team match on November 24 at Survivor Series.[240] The next night on Raw, Punk was attacked by The Shield while attempting to save Bryan from being "taken hostage" by The Wyatt Family.[241] Punk then insinuated that The Authority, a villainous group who controlled WWE led by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, ordered the attack, which resulted in the Director of Operations Kane booking Punk in a three-on-one handicap match against The Shield at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs.[242] At TLC on December 15, Punk won the match after Reigns accidentally performed a spear on Ambrose.[243] After further altercations between Punk and Kane, Kane made Punk the first entrant in the annual Royal Rumble match on January 26, 2014.[244] At the Royal Rumble, near the end of the match, Kane, who was already eliminated earlier in the match by Punk, eliminated Punk from the outside and proceeded to perform a chokeslam on him through the announce table.[245]

Initial retirement (2014)

"I was sick and hurt and burnt out, and I walked. And I can do that because I'm an independent contractor".

— In a December 2014 interview, Punk explains why he left WWE earlier that year[246]

Punk did not appear on the January 27, 2014 episode of Raw, nor did he appear at the SmackDown taping on Tuesday despite being advertised for both events. By Wednesday, WWE.com stopped advertising Punk for future events. The Wrestling Observer reported that on Monday and prior to Raw, Punk had legitimately walked out after telling Vince McMahon and Triple H that he was "going home".[247][248] On February 20 during a conference call to investors, McMahon said Punk was "taking a sabbatical".[249] On the March 3 episode of Raw, which took place in Punk's hometown of Chicago, WWE acknowledged his absence on television for the first time when the show started with Punk's entrance music playing, only for former manager Paul Heyman to walk out to a loud chorus of boos.[250] WWE then proceeded to remove Punk from footage of their promotional videos.[251] This lasted until the first half of July, where WWE used footage of Punk to promote the WWE Network.[252][253] In an interview published in late May, Punk was asked how it felt "to be retired at 35" and replied that "it feels good".[254] On July 15, WWE.com officially moved Punk from the active roster to the alumni section of their page without releasing a statement. On the same day, Punk thanked his fans without mentioning WWE.[255] In late July, Punk said that he was "never ever" going to return to wrestling.[256]

When Punk told [another] doctor that he wrestled with a staph infection for three months, Punk said [that] doctor told him: "You should be dead. You could have died".

— The Pro Wrestling Torch documents the Punk interview released in November 2014[257]

On an episode of Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcast released in November 2014, Punk finally broke his silence regarding his exit from WWE.[258] In a detailed interview, Punk said that he was suspended for two months after walking out on the company in January and that after the suspension ended, nobody from WWE contacted him. Punk also said company executives gave him a run-around when he reached out to them for unpaid royalties until he was ultimately handed his termination papers and was fired by WWE on his wedding day on June 13, 2014.[259] The manner of firing was the last straw for Punk, stating that he would never return to WWE and that there would be no further working relationship between him and WWE following a legal settlement. The settlement included Punk giving WWE permission to sell his remaining merchandise.[257]

Punk cited his health as the main reason he left WWE, describing that during his final months in the company, he had been working through an untreated and potentially fatal MRSA infection (Punk later acknowledged on the witness stand that he was not diagnosed with an MRSA staph infection, but that a physician's assistant said he exhibited certain symptoms consistent with an ordinary staph infection),[260] broken ribs, injured knees and multiple concussions, including one at the 2014 Royal Rumble, as well as having lost his appetite and ability to sleep well. Punk felt that WWE was pressuring and rushing him to wrestle before fully recovering. According to Punk, he found a lump on his back in November 2013, and it was diagnosed as a "fatty deposit" by Dr. Chris Amann, who refused to remove it despite Punk's repeated requests. The week after Punk left WWE, his wife April Mendez convinced him to get the lump checked by her doctor. The doctor told Punk that he could have died due to ignoring it for such a long time. Punk had the doctor evacuate the infection, describing it as the worst pain in his life, but said that once it was treated and he was on stronger medication, he was able to sleep better than he had in months.[259]

Other sources of unhappiness Punk had with WWE were his failure to main event a WrestleMania (deeming his entire career to be a failure as a result),[259] being paid less than the other wrestlers in the three most significant matches of WrestleMania 29, doing favors for Vince McMahon and not being owed back, being "creatively stifled", feeling that there were no long-term plans for wrestlers other than John Cena, as well as receiving less pay and not getting answers as to how the advent of the WWE Network would affect wrestlers' salaries.[259] Lastly, Punk described having left with "zero passion" for wrestling[257] and described himself at the time of the interview to be the happiest he's ever been in many years.[259]

Less than one week later, while being interviewed on The Steve Austin Show on the WWE Network, Vince McMahon apologized to Punk for the manner of his termination, which he regarded as an unfortunate coincidence due to a lack of communication within the company. McMahon also said that he was open to working with Punk again.[261] In a second Art of Wrestling podcast, Punk publicly rejected McMahon's apology, brushing it off as "insincere" and a "publicity stunt" as McMahon did not contact him directly to apologize and could have apologized much earlier.[246]

Post-retirement appearances (2015–2020)

Punk's first known appearance at a professional wrestling event following his exit from WWE was at a Freelance Wrestling show on December 4, 2015, titled "Raw Power." Draped in a cloak and referred to by announcers as Kikutaro's "nameless mentor", Punk managed Kikutaro in a match against Darin Corbin and Dick Justice. He tossed around salt before the match but did not get involved in the match itself.[262]

On April 19, 2019, Punk appeared in a masked disguise at an event held by independent promotion MKE Wrestling, where he helped Ace Steel win a match by attacking his opponent with the GTS. While it was implied to be Punk by promotion owner Silas Young, nothing was confirmed by Punk.[263]

On November 12, 2019, Punk made a surprise appearance on the Fox Sports 1 series WWE Backstage. He subsequently joined the program as a special contributor and analyst.[264] Punk accepted the job because he would be under contract with Fox instead of WWE directly, and hoped it would help him find his way back into the wrestling business. Regarding an in-ring return, he was not interested but not opposed to the idea, noting it was "a bridge that is gonna have to be built."[265] Production of WWE Backstage was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently suspended by Fox in June 2020, later being cancelled as a series entirely by 2021.[266]

All Elite Wrestling (2021–2023)

AEW World Champion (2021–2022)

 
Punk made his return to professional wrestling in August 2021 by signing with All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

On August 20, 2021, Punk made his debut for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) at The First Dance event on Rampage, challenging Darby Allin to a match at the All Out pay-per-view event. This marked Punk's official return to professional wrestling after a seven-year retirement.[267] Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer said, "Punk's appearance in his home city drew one of the most amazing audience reactions to a pro wrestler in U.S. history. The reaction was compared to Montreal's reaction to Hulk Hogan in 2002 shortly after his WWE return, or the reaction to Triple H in Madison Square Garden a few months before that upon his return from a torn quad."[268] Punk won the match against Allin in September.[269] Following a brief feud with Eddie Kingston, whom Punk defeated at Full Gear, Punk experienced his first defeat in AEW in February 2022, losing to MJF in a singles match on Dynamite after months of feuding between the two.[270][271][272][273] Punk defeated MJF at Revolution in a Dog Collar match.[274]

At Double or Nothing on May 29, 2022, Punk defeated Adam Page to win the AEW World Championship.[275] Five days after winning the title, Punk announced on the June 3 episode of Rampage that he was taking a hiatus from competing to recover from a foot injury, but that he would remain champion.[276] Jon Moxley was crowned as interim champion in Punk's place at AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door on June 26.[277] At the Quake by the Lake special episode of Dynamite on August 10, Punk made his return and confronted Moxley, igniting a title dispute.[278] A match to determine the undisputed AEW World Champion took place on the August 24 episode of Dynamite, which Moxley won quickly.[279] After accepting Moxley's open challenge for anyone to face him in September at All Out, Punk defeated Moxley at the event to win the AEW World Championship for the second time.[280][281]

Suspensions and departure (2022–2023)

During the post-event media scrum, Punk addressed rumors that he had attempted to get Colt Cabana fired from AEW, accused the company's executive vice presidents and wrestlers Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) of spreading those rumors and leaking them to wrestling media, and referenced a segment in which he says Page went "into business for himself" prior to their match in May.[282][283][284] Omega and The Young Bucks, along with head of AEW legal, Megha Parekh, approached Punk about his comments backstage, which led to a legitimate altercation. Punk, Omega, and The Young Bucks all received consequent suspensions pending investigation.[285] Later that week, the AEW World Championship was announced as having been vacated.[286][287] Around the same time, Punk underwent surgery to repair his left triceps after tearing it during his match at All Out.[288] On his conduct at the scrum, Punk later said he "didn't approach it in the right manner" and that he was "disappointed" and "hurt", as he had sensed that he had just suffered another injury.[284]

 
Punk lifting the middle finger as he faces Samoa Joe at All In in August 2023, in what would be his final AEW match.

After a nine-month absence, Punk made his return to AEW on the premiere episode of Collision on June 17, 2023, teaming with FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood) to defeat Samoa Joe, Jay White, and Juice Robinson in a six-man tag team match.[289] That same month, he entered the men's Owen Hart Cup tournament, defeating Satoshi Kojima in the first round at Forbidden Door.[290][291] Punk won over Joe in the semifinals and lost to Ricky Starks in the final round on July 15 after Starks grabbed the ropes for leverage to get the pin.[292][293] On the July 29 edition of Collision, Punk unveiled the AEW World Championship belt that he had won in September 2022, declaring himself the real world champion and stated that he still rightfully held the title since he was never defeated for it. He then spray-painted his signature "X" symbol over the belt.[294][295] At All In in August, he successfully defended the "Real World Championship" against Joe in what would be his final AEW match.[296][297][298]

After the event, it was widely reported that Punk had been involved in a backstage altercation with Jack Perry regarding comments Perry made during his match earlier in the show, itself a reference to Punk denying Perry's request to use real glass in his segments on Collision. After an investigation into the altercation was conducted by AEW, Punk was terminated from his AEW contract for just cause on September 2 under the unanimous recommendation of both the AEW discipline committee and outside legal counsel. Punk's termination was announced on X by AEW's official account, and was also announced during the opening of that night's episode of Collision, where AEW president and CEO Tony Khan stated that "the incident was regrettable and it endangered people backstage". He later stated, "Never in all [this] time have I ever felt until last Sunday that my security, my safety, my life was in danger at a wrestling show. I don't think anybody should feel that way at work, I don't think the people I work with should feel that way, and I had to make a very difficult choice today."[299][300] Footage of the altercation was shown on the April 10, 2024 episode of Dynamite.[301]

Return to WWE (2023–present)

 
Punk made his return to WWE at Survivor Series: WarGames on November 25, 2023.

At the conclusion of Survivor Series: WarGames in the Chicago metropolitan area on November 25, 2023, Punk made a surprise return to WWE in his first appearance in the company since 2014 (discounting his appearances on Fox's WWE Backstage in 2019).[302] According to reporters present at the event, his return was greeted by "one of the loudest pops of all time".[303] After making appearances on Raw, the "Tribute to the Troops" special episode of SmackDown, and at NXT Deadline, he signed with the Raw brand on the December 11 episode of Raw, where he was subsequently confronted by World Heavyweight Champion Seth "Freakin" Rollins, teasing a potential match, and officially announced his entry into the Royal Rumble match.[304] Punk's first matches back with WWE were against "Dirty" Dominik Mysterio, during the WWE Live Holiday Tour, first at Madison Square Garden in New York City on December 26, then at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California on December 30, which were both won by Punk.[305][306]

On January 27, 2024, at the Royal Rumble, Punk wrestled his first televised WWE match since 2014, entering at number 27 during the Royal Rumble match, in which he was the runner-up after being eliminated by Cody Rhodes.[307] During the match, Punk tore his right triceps, rendering him unable to compete at WrestleMania XL.[308] The injury was later turned into a storyline between Punk and Drew McIntyre, with McIntyre continuously mocking Punk for causing his injury.[309] At WrestleMania XL on April 7, Punk served as guest commentator for McIntyre's World Heavyweight Championship match against Seth Rollins, which McIntyre won. After McIntyre taunted Punk in celebration, Punk attacked McIntyre, which allowed Damian Priest to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and win the championship from McIntyre while Punk watched.[310]

Professional wrestling persona

Punk adopted his real-life following of the straight edge movement as a major attribute of his professional wrestling character. The character utilizes different elements of Punk's personality and beliefs of the straight edge movement dependent on his alignment. While portraying a crowd favorite, Punk's character tends to be that of Punk's normal personality,[7] largely indifferent to others who drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, partake in recreational drug use or have promiscuous sexual behavior, but emphasizing the social discipline involved with personally abstaining from these behaviors. Conversely, his villainous personality tends to be that of one who is hardline or militant straight edge, exemplifying the elitist attitudes and superiority complexes – defined by Punk's common mantra during villainous-themed promos that because he is straight edge, he is "better than you."[7] Punk performs the straight edge symbol of crossing his arms in an X formation while having the letter X written on the back of his hands, usually drawn on his wrist tape. During his WWE career, Punk also incorporated a belligerently anti-establishment and anti-corporate attitude into his persona.[311]

Originally, the initials CM in his ring name represented the phrase "Chick Magnet", the name of the tag team he was in as a backyard wrestler.[7][17][18] However, Punk later changed CM into a pseudo-acronym, declaring that it has no meaning,[3] though when asked since he has taken to making up meanings that fit the initials, going so far as to make up long stories to explain the origins that do not match the actual origin story at all.[3] Since beginning this practice, Punk has stated CM stands among others for "Cookie Monster",[312] "Crooked Moonsault",[18] "Chuck Mosley",[18] "Charles Montgomery",[18] "Charles Manson",[18] "Charlie Murphy",[313] and "Chicago Made".[314]

During his entrance, Punk yells "It's clobberin' time!",[315] a reference to New York City hardcore punk band Sick of It All who wrote a song with the same name and Marvel's fictional character The Thing.[316] As his entrance theme, Punk uses the song "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour, with which he is often associated.[267][317]

 
Punk in 2008; prominently visible are the Pepsi Globe tattoo on his left shoulder, the "luck is for losers" sleeve tattoo on his left arm, and the "straight edge" tattoo across his stomach

An integral part of Punk is the numerous tattoos that adorn his body, some of which have become symbols associated with Punk and mantras and declarations that have been integrated into his gimmick. The tattoos as a whole, due to their large quantity and variety, have also become an attribute identifiable to Punk.[318] The most important of the individual tattoos in Punk's character – whether through association, symbol, or mantra – are the following:

  • A Pepsi Globe logo on his left shoulder that inspired the names of two of his signature moves. It also became a symbol of Punk himself, who wore the logo on his ring gear in the independent circuit as well as a slightly modified Pepsi logo being used as part of his TitanTron entrance video.[319] Punk, a keen Pepsi drinker, chose to receive a Pepsi tattoo to emphasize his straight edge beliefs.[3] The tattoo is also a reference to former Minor Threat guitarist Brian Baker, who had a Coca-Cola tattoo and explained this by saying "I like Coca-Cola". When people inquire about Punk's Pepsi tattoo, he often replies "I like Pepsi" in a similar fashion.[7]
  • The words "Straight Edge" are spelled out on Punk's stomach.[320] This is one of his oldest tattoos[318] and he has referred to it as his identity.[321]
  • A sleeve tattoo on his left arm that reads "luck is for losers" and features numerous good luck symbols, including a rabbit's foot, four-leaf clover and a horseshoe.[322] The tattoo also features four ace playing cards as a tribute to trainer Ace Steel.[322]
  • The phrase "No gimmicks needed" on the back of his left hand, a tribute to deceased wrestler Chris Candido.[323]
  • The words "Drug Free" across his knuckles ("Drug" on his right knuckles and "Free" on his left).[320]
  • His younger sister's jersey number (31) behind his left ear, surrounded by stars, each of which represents his siblings as a way to bond away from home.[324][325]
  • The Cobra Command logo (G.I. Joe's enemy) on his right shoulder. Punk is known for his love of comic books, considering them along with jazz and professional wrestling as three of the original arts that America has given to the world.[324]

Legacy

Several wrestlers have publicly cited Punk as an inspiration or influence on their careers. Seth Rollins said in December 2018 that Punk's influence on the Chicago wrestling scene was responsible for him becoming a wrestler in the first place,[326] while Rhea Ripley said in September 2019 that Punk's verbal skills were something she aspired to because "when he spoke, everyone listened",[327] and Adam Cole told Sports Illustrated in November 2019 that Punk's work on the independent circuit was a "huge influence" on him.[328]

Reporters, wrestlers, and fans alike have praised Punk's speaking skills, especially his in-ring promos.[329][330][331][332] His June 2011 "Pipebomb" promo has been called "historic" and is regarded as one of the most important promos in professional wrestling history.[332][333] Punk is credited with being one of the first independent wrestlers to have success in WWE, which in turn opened the door for other independent wrestlers to both join and succeed in WWE.[334][335][336] Although much of his time as a top star in WWE was during its heavily watered-down PG Era, Erik Beaston of Bleacher Report wrote that "Punk turned the company on its head for a few short years and gave fans a taste of what an alternative to the advertiser-obsessed promotion could look like."[337]

After his 2014 departure from WWE until his return to AEW in 2021, the chanting of Punk's name was prominent during WWE events.[338] Initially starting because fans expected his return as part of a storyline, the chants continued well after it was clear that his retirement was legitimate. Through the 2010s, CM Punk chants became a way for WWE fans to voice displeasure at a particular match or storyline, particularly during events in the Chicago area. The continual chanting for Punk, in spite of the fact his return was unlikely, polarized fans and journalists with some saying it was disrespectful to the wrestlers in the ring while others including Punk himself have viewed the chants as a legitimate way for fans to convey their feelings and that paying fans should not have their behavior policed by others.[339][340] On numerous occasions, performers in the ring have addressed the chants directly.[341]

Mixed martial arts career

Ultimate Fighting Championship (2014–2021)

At UFC 181, on December 6, 2014, Punk announced that he had signed a multi-fight contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).[342][343] When asked if he would compete under his ring name or birth name, he told the Las Vegas Sun: "I've come this far with CM Punk. That's what people know. I'm trying to stick with that. I'm not shying away from it. I'm not ashamed of it."[344] His UFC profile listed him as CM Punk.[4]

In January 2015, Punk began training under Duke Roufus at Roufusport MMA Academy.[345][346] In June 2015, Punk moved to Milwaukee to be closer to the Roufusport gym while still retaining his home in Chicago.[347] Later, it was announced that Punk would compete in the welterweight division.[348] In October 2015, Roufus announced that Punk had suffered a shoulder injury, delaying his UFC debut until the next calendar year.[349] On February 6, 2016, it was announced that Punk would face Mickey Gall in his first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) contest, but he was diagnosed with a herniated disc and underwent surgery days later.[350]

Punk's UFC and MMA debut against Mickey Gall took place on September 10, 2016, at UFC 203.[351] The event was held at the Quicken Loans Arena, the same venue where Punk left WWE and retired from professional wrestling.[352] Punk was taken down immediately and lost via rear naked choke submission early in the first round.[353][354] He was paid a disclosed $500,000 (equivalent to $634,775 in 2023).[355]

Punk's second professional bout took place at UFC 225 on June 9, 2018, against Mike Jackson, in his hometown of Chicago. Punk lost the one-sided fight via unanimous decision.[356] After the bout, UFC president Dana White said that both Punk and Jackson would probably not fight for the UFC again, and urged Punk to "call it a wrap".[357] Three years after the bout, it was made public that the result was overturned to a no contest after Jackson tested positive for marijuana.[358] In August 2021, Punk notified the UFC he would be retiring from MMA after he returned to professional wrestling earlier that month.[359] Punk's MMA career has been widely panned by MMA fans and personalities.[360][361][362][363]

Cage Fury Fighting Championships (2018–present)

On November 8, 2018, Punk signed with the Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) promotion (a UFC affiliate) as a commentator. His first event was CFFC 71 on December 14 and it was streamed live on UFC Fight Pass.[364]

Personal life

Brooks married wrestler April Mendez, also known as AJ Lee, on June 13, 2014.[365] He is an atheist,[366][367] and has been outspoken in his support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.[368][369] Like his wrestling persona, he follows a straight edge lifestyle.[370] Brooks once worked for a shop named All American Comics in Evergreen Park,[316] which closed in January 2022.

In February 2015, WWE doctor Christopher Amann filed a defamation lawsuit against Brooks and Scott Colton over Brooks's allegations of medical malpractice on an episode of Colton's podcast.[371][372] Amann sought roughly $4,000,000 (equivalent to $5,142,000 in 2023) in compensation and an undisclosed amount in punitive damages.[373] WWE issued a statement and video in support of Amann.[374][375] The case went to trial in 2018, where a jury ruled in favor of Brooks and Colton.[376] In August 2018, Colton filed a lawsuit against Brooks, alleging breach of contract and fraud due to Brooks's alleged agreement and later refusal to pay Colton's legal fees for the Amann suit. Colton sought $200,000 (equivalent to $242,672 in 2023) in damages and an additional $1,000,000 (equivalent to $1,213,000 in 2023) in punitive damages.[377] Brooks filed a counterclaim against Colton in June 2019, for $600,000 (equivalent to $715,033 in 2023) and additional fees.[378] Both lawsuits were settled and dismissed in September 2019. According to PWInsider, the settlement involved no financial compensation.[379]

Other media

Acting and appearances

 
Punk at an autograph signing in 2013

In 2008, Brooks appeared as the Sports Grand Marshal of the nationally televised McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Chicago.[380] He reprised this role in 2012.[381]

Brooks has appeared alongside his friend and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach Rener Gracie in several episodes of the YouTube series Gracie Breakdown.[382] He has also worked with Nerdist Industries,[383] including hosting an ongoing series titled Grammar Slam, explaining grammatical mistakes in messages from professional wrestling fans and berating them.[384]

Brooks was the cover athlete for the video game WWE '13.[385] In 2015, he was featured in Frank Turner's "The Next Storm" music video.[386]

As an actor, Brooks starred in the 2019 horror film Girl on the Third Floor.[387] Dennis Harvey of Variety and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune respectively described his performance as "a fun star turn that easily carries most of the film" and "solid if a little unvarying".[388][389] Brooks portrayed wrestler Ricky Rabies in the professional wrestling drama series Heels (2021–2023).[390]

Writing

Brooks wrote the introduction for the hardcover edition of Marvel Comics' 2012 crossover event Avengers vs. X-Men[391][315] and described the opportunity as a "geek dream come true".[392]

In 2013, Brooks wrote a foreword for his friend and ex-girlfriend Natalie Slater's cookbook Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans.[393]

In February 2015, Marvel Comics' Thor Annual No. 1, partly written by Brooks, was released.[394] He cowrote "The Most Cursed", which appeared in Vertigo Comics' Strange Sports Stories No. 3 in May 2015.[395] Brooks also cowrote Marvel Comics' Drax ongoing series.[396] Brooks wrote a one-shot of Marvel's Master of Kung Fu, which was published in November 2017.[397]

Filmography

Film appearances
Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2013 Queens of the Ring Himself [398]
2015 The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age SmackDown! CM Punkrock Direct-to-video film; voice only [399]
2019 Girl on the Third Floor Don Koch [387]
Rabid Billy [400]
2021 Jakob's Wife Deputy Colton [401]
Television appearances
Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2004 Monster Garage Himself Episode: "Box Truck Wrestling Car" [402]
2006 Ghost Hunters Himself Episode: "Live Halloween Special: Stanley Hotel" [403]
2011 Jimmy Kimmel Live! Himself 1 episode [404]
2012 Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Himself 1 episode [405]
2012–2014 Talking Dead Himself 3 episodes [406]
2014–2015 Maron Himself 2 episodes [407]
2016 The Evolution of Punk Himself Documentary mini-series; 4 episodes [408]
2017 The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros Himself Reality competition [409]
2018 Ultimate Beastmaster Himself United States co-host; season 3 [410]
2019–2020 WWE Backstage Himself 5 episodes [411]
2021–2023 Heels Ricky Rabies Recurring [390]
2022–2023 Mayans M.C. Paul Recurring (seasons 4–5); 4 episodes [412]

Video games

Video game appearances
Year Title Notes
2007 WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 Video game debut
2008 WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009
2009 WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010
2010 WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011
2011 WWE All Stars
WWE '12
2012 WWE WrestleFest Downloadable content
WWE '13 Cover athlete
2013 WWE 2K14
2014 WWE 2K15
2016 EA Sports UFC 2
2018 EA Sports UFC 3
2020 EA Sports UFC 4
2023 AEW Fight Forever
2024 WWE 2K24 Downloadable content

Luchas de Apuestas record

Winner (wager) Loser (wager) Location Event Date Notes
Rey Mysterio (stable pledge) CM Punk (hair) Detroit, Michigan Over the Limit May 23, 2010 [413]

Mixed martial arts record

Professional record breakdown
2 matches 0 wins 1 loss
By submission 0 1
No contests 1
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
NC 0–1 (1) Mike Jackson NC (overturned) UFC 225 June 9, 2018 3 5:00 Chicago, Illinois, United States Originally a unanimous decision win for Jackson; overturned after he tested positive for marijuana.
Loss 0–1 Mickey Gall Submission (rear-naked choke) UFC 203 September 10, 2016 1 2:14 Cleveland, Ohio, United States

Championships and accomplishments

In WWE, Punk's first title was the ECW Championship.
In WWE, Punk is a five-time world champion. With three reigns as World Heavyweight Champion.
Two reigns as WWE Champion.
In AEW, two reigns as AEW World Champion.

Notes

  1. ^ Bob Backlund lost the WWF Heavyweight Championship to Antonio Inoki after 648 days, but WWE does not officially acknowledge the title change and recognizes Backlund's reign as uninterrupted at 2,135 days.
  2. ^ Punk held the title concurrently with Rey Mysterio and John Cena during his first reign. After defeating Cena, Punk became the undisputed champion, but he was not recognized by WWE as having won the title a second time.[454]

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