Court proceedings to settle the defamation suit brought by WWE’s Dr. Chris Amann against CM Punk and Colt Cabana for the Nov. 2014 The Art of Wrestling podcast episode continued on Friday (June 1), the fourth day of the trial. This was the day many observers were looking to as crucial in the case (or at least the most interesting aspect for wrestling fans), as Punk took the stand for the bulk of both the morning and afternoon sessions.
Again, this summary is based on WrestleZone’s coverage, where Ross Berman was in the courtroom in Cook County, Illinois on Friday. His detailed notes on both the morning and afternoon sessions can be found here and here.
Cabana’s testimony from day three continued Friday. Lawyers continued to establish The Art of Wrestling and his intent in having Punk on to tell his story. Colt summed it up by saying, “The wrestling community wanted to hear what he had to say,” and “I thought it was a wild story”. He wanted the show to be listened to by as many people as possible. It’s also established that he saw the lump on Punk’s back at the center of the case “at least more than once” and that it was raised and discolored - “disgusting”.
An important detail begins to emerge during Cabana’s time on the stand, that being that saying the lump was on Punk’s back may not have been the best way to describe its position. Punk later indicates he should have said “butt”, and the growth was at or below his waistline. His wrestling trunks, underwear (aka “speedo”) and the camouflage cargo shorts he usually wore backstage over the gear were all introduced into evidence to help explain why other wrestlers and WWE personnel backstage wouldn’t have seen the lump.
Cabana also followed up on the idea that Amann’s name is never said on the podcast by testifying he didn’t know the doctor Punk mentioned was Amann. He also says he belived references to “they” in statements like “They Z-Packed me to death” were to general WWE Medical Staff.
He acknowledged knowing Amann was upset about the episode and is asked about receiving Cease and Desist letters. The latter likely were directing him to pull the show off the web, but Berman’s notes aren’t clear here due to numerous objections from lawyers.
After that, Punk took the stand. After more questions and answers establishing his career as a pro wrestler, he’s asked about why he wanted to be talk with Cabana for the podcast, ”I just wanted to set the record straight for my fans.” He explained the concept of “shooting” and says his goal was to “paint a picture... It’s my story. I’m just telling my story.” That Punk stands by the “gist” of what he said on AoW but can’t swear to having every detail correct is a recurring theme of his testimony.
Which becomes more understandable, at least to this third party consumer of his statements, when he described his physical, mental and emotional state toward the end of his WWE run. The litany of injuries and concussion symptoms brought up during Amann’s testimony in day two of the trial are recovered in detail. “I had a bad everything,” he says at one point while talking about being able to treat himself with hot packs in the trainer’s room and being given antibiotics from the medical staff (namely Amann and Dr. Michael Samson) “whenever I wanted them”, usually without documentation. He talked about feeling worse when he wrestled and better when he wrestled, and getting his own bus to “cut down on wear and tear” (also where he would change away from the rest of the roster, further explaining why many wouldn’t have seen the lump). His feeling “sick overall” included having crying spells, “I’d be in catering, one sec fine, next welling up.”
Those emotions returned when questioning again returned to the 2014 Royal Rumble match. Punk describes the creative process for WWE in general as “Writers write storylines. Wrestlers put their matches together.” He said there’s a pre-Rumble meeting for performers where they’re given their entry numbers and eliminations and the wrestlers take it from there. The clothesline from Kofi Kingston which concussed Punk in the match is shown and discussed. Punk is clear he doesn’t blame Kofi, praising his athleticism and saying “We probably crowded each other.”
He says he felt “helpless” when he told Amann of the concussion and the doctor responded “What do you want me to do?” Recalling this brings him to tears, and after he tells the courtroom his judgement in 2014 was “poor”, a short break is called to allow him time to compose himself.
More time is spent clarifying that Amann is not named on the podcast, and Punk says that while he did watch the Rumble again after it happened, he didn’t recall that the doctor was visible on screen during the pay-per-view (PPV).
Returning to the lump, it’s location is again detailed and who it was shown to or would have been seen by is again covered. Punk says he never undressed around people like Mark Carrano, John Cone, Tim Gaeng or Larry Heck, and even jokes Cabana would have been more likely to see it than April “AJ Lee” Mendez, “If anyone’s gonna see my butt, that isn’t my wife, it’s Scott [Colton, Cabana’s legal name].”
Several text message exchanges between Punk and AJ are introduced into evidence. These show them discussing the lump, Punk showing it Amann on two occassions and AJ urging Punk to go see her doctor (who, it turns out neither of them knew, was a Physician’s Assistant not a MD). It was that man, Patrick Duffy, who told Punk the lump was a Staph infection. After antibiotics from Duffy and the procedure to drain the mass described on Art of Wrestling, Punk “felt better immediately”.
There’s also some questioning which seemed design to establish Punk had ill will toward Amann. Text messages to AJ after Duffy told him the lump was infected include him saying “I’m going to f***ing email Vince [McMahon] and bury Dr. Amman.” They also refer back to a text with Cabana where Punk wrote “but f*** him” which he confirms was in reference to Amann. He explained that sentiment as being in response to the plaintiff “threatening my friend with lawyers,” and again confirmed he stands by the “essential truth” of what he said on the podcast.
The trial will continue next week, and it’s believed AJ will take the stand for the defense. The judge indicated she expects closing arguments to occur on Tuesday.
Again, this is just one read of the notes Berman posted. We encourage those of you interested in seeing more detail and or forming your own opinion to head over to that site for his originals (again, here and here).