CM Punk lounges at North Beach Club in Chicago
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) contender CM Punk has amassed an international following smitten by his punk attitude and "straight-edge" lifestyle (no drugs, no promiscuous sex). The Wicker Park resident, 29, returns to his home turf for a WWE smackdown August 18th. Chicago talked with Punk (née Phil Brooks) about his surging stardom, steroids, and his signature wrestling move: Welcome to Chicago, Mother******.
Q: How did you go from Lockport Township High School to professional wrestling?
A: Thanks to the Internet, I wound up finding out about the Steel Domain Wrestling School [in Chicago]. After that, it's a lot like the Mob. When you talk to anyone who is in wrestling, they're very guarded about how you actually get into the business.
Q: So there are certain things you can't talk about. Like whether or not the sport is real?
A: Things are less secretive. Wrestling is sports entertainment now; it's not wrestling. And that can be confusing. It used to be passed off as a sport, and [WWE chairman] Vince McMahon himself has come out and said it's like a soap opera for guys. But it's violent. Our wrestlers are the best athletes in the world. We don't have an off season; we wrestle hurt, beat up. You always have naysayers who tell you it's fake, the big f-word, but I've never done anything more real in my entire life.
Q: So what's the upside? Travel? Money?
A: Definitely all of the above. But there's a lot of sacrifice involved. For my entire life, I've put wrestling above everything else. I'm a single guy, I don't have a family. Sure I get to see the world, but we're so busy, I don't usually see it.
Q: Why did you decide to go straight edge?
A: My dad had a bit of a drinking problem, and drinking was something that I just didn't want to do.
Q: So you don't take drugs of any kind? Not even caffeine?
A: I've been known to have a cup of coffee. To me, it's an interesting debate: Where do you draw the line? I don't drink, don't smoke, don't do mind-altering drugs, don't do steroids or take painkillers. I don't have promiscuous sex.
Q: How can you not take painkillers?
A: I take a lot of naps.
Q: Your signature move is called Welcome to Chicago, Mother******? What is it?
A: A Kill Hannah song. I saw them play at Metro a while ago. I thought, That's Chicago to me; that's the essence of the city. I chicken-wing some poor sucker's arm, lift him in the air, turn him, and drop him on my knee.
Photograph: Saverio Truglia