Ahead of what will likely be a big weekend for a couple of their “verticals”, ESPN’s Brian Campbell has a new article up at the network’s website where he speaks to people from CM Punk’s old job, pro wrestling, about his prospects at his new job, mixed martial arts.
Punk is diving in at the highest level of MMA with UFC, and has his first professional fight scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 10 in Cleveland at UFC 203.
That would be noteworthy even if the 37 year old didn’t used to main event scripted fights. Since he is a former WWE champ... well, that’s why we’ve been talking about his bout with Mickey Gall so much here at Cageside.
It’s also why wrestling folk in and out of WWE spoke to Campbell for his post. Some said pretty much what you’d expect. Punk’s pro wrestling “manager” Paul Heyman told of how the Chicagoan always talked about getting into MMA. Scott Hall likes that UFC has marketed him as a “heel”, believing fans will pay to see Punk get his butt kicked.
A couple quotes really stand out.
One is from a current top WWE guy. Seth Rollins acknowledges Punk’s adversarial relationship with Vince McMahon and his bosses, but still tips his hat to a guy who blazed the trail he followed into the company:
He’s a guy who led the charge for a long time. He’s one of the first indie guys in a long, long time to really shake [up] the main roster in WWE and he paved the way for Daniel Bryan, for myself, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, and those guys…Say what you will about his attitude and his relationship with the company right now, but I wish him the best and I hope that he is successful — win, lose or draw.
Another is from someone who has no real reason to be gracious on the topic of CM Punk. Ryan Reeves, aka The Big Guy, fka Ryback, was taken to task by the welterweight during his tell-all interview on The Art of Wrestling podcast. Reeves has fired back with plenty of jabs-disguised-as-jokes of his own.
But when asked, the guy who preaches “Feed Me More” temporarily puts bygones aside to respectfully acknowledge Punk’s pursuit of his goals:
From a basic human being standpoint, he is showing courage doing something the majority of people on this planet will never do and that is step in a cage and fight in front of millions of people. I respect he wants to test himself and has the courage to do so. For that reason alone, while I don’t condone him saying the things he said about me, I want to him do well. Any man can beat another man on any given night, so I just hope he achieves what he is looking for in this and I will leave it at that.
Check out the whole article here.
It’ll be interesting to see what folks from the wrestling world have to say late Saturday night/early Sunday morning when a literal and figurative decision has been rendered on Punk’s MMA debut.