Well before CM Punk returned at Survivor Series last month, Seth Rollins established himself as the public voice of anyone in the WWE locker room wary about the company’s decision to bring back the lightning rod star.
And shortly after “Cult of Personality” hit the speakers at Allstate Arena on Nov. 25, WWE made sure we saw Rollins’ reaction. It went viral as intended, and though the story’s been paused while Punk re-introduces himself to the WWE audience and establishes the latest version of his on-screen character, it’s pretty clear a feud with Rollins will one of the first things that character engages in.
Reports are Rollins did know prior to taking part in the main event that Punk would be re-debuting at Survivor Series, but that doesn’t serve the story Triple H & team want to tell. So denying that is one of the more clearly “work” elements in Rollins’ interview with Jimmy Traina on the SI Media podcast. But it can be hard to find where the line between fact and fiction is in many of Seth’s other answers to Traina’s questions about Punk.
While Rollins insists he found out about Punk’s return when we all did — “When I heard his music at Survivor Series,” he told Traina — the rest of his answer about his reaction still feels true:
“It was an extremely emotional moment for me. Everyone knows how I feel about CM Punk. I’ve not made it any more transparent over the past few years. Nothing has changed in that regard. In that moment, I was extremely emotional and you got a lot of real and raw emotion from me. I don’t usually get that worked up about much, but you caught me off guard and there was a lot of real emotion there. That’s probably as much as I can say on that without going too far.”
The reigning WWE World Heavyweight champ apologized to young fans for his language in the reaction clips shared online. He said he didn’t see Punk backstage, but Becky Lynch & others had to calm him down when he came back through the curtain (there’s talk WWE filmed this too, so we may yet see some of it on Raw or SmackDown):
“My wife was there and I had a few people kind of corral me, I suppose. My wife is pretty good at understanding my temperament and making sure I’m level when I need to be. Kudos to her, she made sure I didn’t get into any more trouble. There were enough people there who knew that I would be upset in the moment and to take care of me and it didn’t get too chaotic.”
Seth dug into his beef with Punk, hinting that there’s more personal issues we don’t know about to go along with his desire to protect the promotion he represents against someone who’s badmouthed it and been in the middle of backstage drama during his first run there and throughout his two years with AEW. Of particular note is that Rollins mentions Punk’s falling out with Colt Cabana, something that happened as a result of Punk’s leaving WWE in 2014, and that was central to his first big blow-up at Tony Khan’s company:
“A lot of it is personal. A lot of it’s stuff that I don’t really want to get into. But for the most part, I just think he’s been really selfish when it comes to his perspective on the industry. I think he’s been extremely self-serving, has played the martyr role to a tee, and has — for someone who, when I met the guy, and look, I got a lot of good things to say about parts of my relationship with him. You know? He helped me in places when he didn’t have to —whether that was for his own good or not, I’m not entirely sure.
“But regardless, it helped me get where I needed to go and do the things I needed to do. And for a guy who, when I met him, kind of made it seem like he was all about giving back to the business, he really turned into a pretty, pretty selfish guy and really wanted to take more from the industry. And look, he said some really bad things about me. He talked down about me for years, and the company for years.
“And that’s — I’m talking some really bad stuff. Called me like a bootlicker and crap like that. And like, you don’t know me. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I stand for. I’m a loyal person, and I felt pretty, pretty insulted by a lot of the ways he treated me, treated the place that I worked for, treated friends that I worked with, you know? I don’t need to get into any of the stuff with Colt Cabana if you want to go and look at that kind of stuff — that’s out there.
“But... just the way he treated people. The way I felt like he was only looking out for himself and then the way he talked down about me and my friends and the people who are here putting the hard work in in WWE trying to make this thing as good as we possibly could because we love the industry, truly love it, not just what it can do for us. We actually love it, want to give back to it, and want to make it the best it can possibly be. And I always just felt he was a fraud in that sense, or at least, he turned into one at some point in the last decade.
“That’s the long of it. It’s a deep, deep-rooted, I wouldn’t call it a hatred, but a certain animosity. There’s animosity there, no doubt about it.”
As for where this is all headed, Rollins doesn’t deny that it will lead to a match. And he’s confident that match will be excellent:
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, luckily we haven’t had to do that yet. I assume it’s only a matter of time, whatever venue it’s at, I don’t know, that’s not my decision to make, I just show up and do the work. It is what it is. You don’t like everybody you work with, I certainly haven’t liked everybody I’ve been in the ring with over the years, but I’ve always found a way to make magic out of it. If it is Seth Rollins vs. CM Punk, somewhere down the road — one way or another, it’s going to be magic.”
He also indicated that he might be in a position to say no to a match with Punk, but wouldn’t. He even admitted here that he’s open to re-establishing a relationship outside the ring with Punk:
“It’s a negotiation. It’s a conversation. No one is forcing something on you. But I’m a businessman, for sure — I’m hoping to do business, if it’s there to be done. I’m open to mending fences, if that’s even possible. I know that might sound crazy, but I’m open to it.
“I’m almost 38, and I ain’t got time to hold all these grudges. I think it’s a lot of energy to hold that negativity in, and I’d like to put that energy somewhere else and make it positive. I’m open to all different facets of what this could be... I think there will be a way to make it work for everybody. He says he’s the Best in the World. That ain’t the case — I’m the Best in the World. I’ll make anything work, no matter who it is.”
Let us know what you make of Rollins’ remarks in the comments below. And check out his entire conversation with Traina — which covers more than just CM Punk — here.