The Truth About The Bitter Feud Between CM Punk And The WWE

As the Voice of the Voiceless, Phillip Brooks, aka CM Punk, has never been short on words or opinions. Professional wrestling's maverick is a highly controversial and polarizing figure who doesn't care how others perceive him or his actions (via Complex). While he has battled many individuals — both on- and off-screen — his biggest feud was against his former employer WWE. On January 27, 2014, Punk walked out of the WWE and never returned (via Esquire). It became one of the most talked-about incidents in wrestling and caused Punk to step away from the squared circle for seven years before returning to WWE's newest rival, AEW, on August 20, 2021 (via YouTube).

The time away hasn't exactly healed the seismic rift between Punk and WWE, though. The animosity and bad vibes persist, as the storied history between both parties can't be buried or forgotten. From how the company served him his notice on his wedding day to Punk turning down a return to WWE because of the corporate games, don't go to sleep just yet, because we're about to examine the truth about CM Punk and WWE's bitter feud.

CM Punk's Pipe Bomb promo was not approved by WWE

On June 27, 2011, CM Punk changed the culture of the wrestling landscape (via TJR Wrestling). After beating down John Cena in the ring, the Straight Edge Superstar asked for a microphone and sat down, cross-legged, on the stage. The fans expected a promo from Punk where he'd discuss the scripted reasons for his actions, but no one was prepared for what came out of his mouth that Monday night. In the now-infamous Pipe Bomb promo, the Chicago native laid into the WWE and its various figures, airing frustrations with everything from the backstage politics to how the company was run. Like all good promos, however, it was difficult to tell what was real and what wasn't. In the years since then, it became clear that it was rooted in Punk's truth and experience of the company.

Appearing on SPORT1 Wrestling (via Fightful), Punk disclosed that he pulled a fast one on WWE owner Vince McMahon with regards to the promo. "I had to make an outline for Vince, and I didn't say anything I wrote in the outline," he said. "I just know that I needed him to agree, and then I went out there and said whatever I wanted." Punk knew that if he detailed everything he wanted to say, there would have been a lot of pushback and creative interference. So he told them what they wanted to hear and then did his own thing.

CM Punk criticized WWE when he was an employee

From the Pipe Bomb promo alone, there was no hiding the fact that CM Punk had become frustrated with the WWE. Of course, it's natural that once an employee has been at a company for a lengthy period of time, they may become more jaded than usual. In the case of Punk, though, his gripes weren't about the terrible quality of coffee or co-workers not clocking in on time — his concerns were related to how the entire operation was run from top to bottom.

Chatting to GQ, he revealed how the WWE actively promoted the performers who wore suits out in public and said the company has a systemic problem related to an outdated way of thinking. Punk believed that the office needed fresh blood and new ideas instead of promoting a culture where people had to keep quiet and endure the questionable decisions because the bosses said so. "They have a wealth of experience, yes, but there's no youth that's involved in anything," Punk added. "The youngest people there are all performers."

CM Punk didn't want to wrestle Triple H at WrestleMania

For pro wrestlers, WrestleMania is the biggest stage of them all. It's where the Ultimate Warrior pinned Hulk Hogan to win the title at WrestleMania VI, and where Brock Lesnar broke the Undertaker's magical streak at WrestleMania XXX. For CM Punk, his desire was to headline his own WrestleMania main event — a request that he felt the WWE wasn't taking seriously enough.

On Colt Cabana's "The Art of Wrestling" podcast, Punk revealed the heated discussion he had with both Vince McMahon and Triple H on the night he walked out of WWE. He explained how frustrated he felt that he wasn't receiving the main event push at WrestleMania. McMahon reportedly countered his argument, saying he was scheduled to be part of a main event by wrestling Triple H. An annoyed Punk turned to Triple H and said, "All due respect, I do not need to wrestle you, you need to wrestle me." Punk aired his resentment at Triple H for beating him several years earlier, questioning if it was really good for business, and stated that he didn't want to wrestle him again. He certainly didn't need to lock in the Anaconda Vise to drive that message home.

CM Punk had been sick for weeks before he left WWE

The life of a wrestler isn't a walk in the park. Despite the results and storylines being predetermined, the injuries experienced are real. The athletes put their bodies on the line to entertain, and it often comes at a significant cost to their health and well-being. Weeks before CM Punk's departure from the WWE, he had not been himself, per Esquire.

Not only was Punk expelling yellow bile and dry heaving, but he also had a welt on his buttocks that had turned into a nasty infection. Due to the heavy antibiotics he was taking, he ended up defecating himself in the middle of the ring during a live show. Undoubtedly, it was a sign that he needed serious time off to heal both his body and mind. To make matters worse, he suffered a concussion at the 2014 Royal Rumble — the night before he left the WWE for good. All of the pain and sickness eventually culminated in the explosive night he walked out on WWE, as Punk believed his health wasn't being taken seriously by the powers that be.

WWE fired CM Punk on his wedding day

While there were many incidents that irked CM Punk about the WWE, there was one in particular that infuriated him and pushed him to hire a lawyer in the aftermath. Chatting on Colt Cabana's "The Art of Wrestling," Punk explained how he'd been texted by Triple H to have a chat. He replied that he would speak to him after his upcoming wedding and honeymoon. "He did not respond to the text," Punk said. "The day of my wedding, I got a FedEx in the mail. It was my termination papers. I was fired." Punk eventually reached a settlement with the WWE.

During an interview with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (via Cageside Seats), Vince McMahon publicly apologized for how the matter was handled. "Sometimes in a big corporation, the legal people don't necessarily know what talent relations are doing and conversely," he said. "Punk got his severance papers moreover on the day he got married. That was [a] coincidence. So I want to personally apologize for that."

WWE's doctor sued CM Punk for his comments

CM Punk's appearance on Colt Cabana's podcast was two hours of him airing various gripes about the WWE and his version of how the events transpired over the years. One of the more startling accusations was when Punk laid into WWE's head doctor, Christopher Amann, who supposedly cleared him to wrestle when he wasn't ready. According to Punk, he had come back from laser eye surgery and had still not received clearance from a specialist for his elbow, but he was told that Dr. Amann had given the thumbs-up for him to appear in the ring that evening.

Punk also raised the issue of the welt on his buttocks and the subsequent infection. He believes it should have been cut out by WWE's doctors and claims they were careless in their treatment of it. He revealed how another doctor told him the infection was much more serious than he initially thought and could have ended his life. After Punk's accusations, Dr. Amann filed a defamation case in 2015, per Esquire. Punk won the lawsuit in 2018.

CM Punk criticized the backstage politics of WWE

CM Punk's Pipe Bomb peeled back the curtain, exposing the frustrations that current and retired wrestlers had with the WWE but were often afraid to discuss in a public forum. For fans, it was confirmation of what many had long suspected and proof that the industry was rife with more politicians than performers. Even wrestling legend Hulk Hogan admitted to the Orlando Sentinel that he used his own influence to keep himself at the top of the mountain for so many years.

Once Punk left the WWE, he stood by his earlier comments and highlighted how politically toxic the company had become. Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Punk explained that there was a competitive attitude in the WWE, but the way that people got ahead could often be through dubious circumstances. "Backstage is so shark-infested and political," he said. "It's almost comical. A lot of people are more interested in the backstage goings-on than what they see on television. A lot of ways it's more fascinating."

Triple H blamed CM Punk for not communicating

After CM Punk's departure from the WWE, the company didn't say much about the issue, choosing to keep its lips sealed. That all changed after Punk's used his appearance on Colt Cabana's podcast to put several people on blast, so it was only a matter of time until they responded to his comments. Triple H told his side of the story when he joined "Stone Cold" Steve Austin on the "Stone Cold Podcast" (via Sportskeeda).

The Game explained to Austin that he'd never had a problem with Punk since he was unaware of who he was when he joined the company. He relayed an incident where Punk wasn't pleased about a failed storyline involving Kevin Nash and how he believed the Straight Edge Superstar harbored resentment over it. Additionally, he felt as if Punk wasn't a good communicator and failed to address issues when he had them. The criticism of Punk's communication skills aside, Triple H admitted that he was disappointed over how they weren't able to sort out the Punk issues but left the door open if he ever chose to return to WWE.

CM Punk joined WWE Backstage, but not the WWE

In 2019, CM Punk shocked the world when he showed up on "WWE Backstage" and declared he was there to change the culture once again (via Fox Sports). It wasn't exactly him grappling in the middle of the squared circle, but it was the first time that he had appeared on a show that had WWE branding since he'd left the company in 2014. Many fans presumed that the two parties had buried the hatchet, and it would be the start of Punk's journey back into the ring.

"The Fox thing was too good to be true, it was great," Punk revealed on "Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette." "People legitimately are like, 'Oh, you went back to WWE.' No, I went to Fox." Punk explained that he told Fox from the beginning that he didn't want to work for the WWE, and the network allayed his fears by telling him he'd only be an analyst for its show and not an employee of the WWE. Despite "Backstage" not lasting too long on television, Punk had only good things to say about his experience with Fox.

WWE banned CM Punk images from the ThunderDome

When the pandemic hit and crowds were a no-go for live events, the WWE felt it immediately. It didn't feel like a sports entertainment show without the fans in attendance. As a result, the company implemented a sophisticated video conferencing system that would let the fans be a part of the action from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Combining this virtual experience with pyro and all the other production qualities that the WWE is famous for, the ThunderDome was born (via Sports Illustrated).

Unfortunately, due to the fact that it was video conferencing, the WWE experienced a few incidents where the fans posted explicit or controversial imagery on camera. This accelerated the need for the operators to put in more stringent measures to avoid further embarrassment for the company. In a video highlighting the behind-the-scenes work required to put on the ThunderDome production (via Heel By Nature), a list of banned images was spotted by eagle-eyed viewers. One of the people featured in the photos was none other than CM Punk. Ironically, despite the WWE being able to block his image during the ThunderDome era, it has never been able to stop the live crowds from chanting his name when they feel like it.

CM Punk turned down WWE's overtures before going to AEW

CM Punk's debut on "AEW Rampage" was one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry, and even he laughed about how most people knew about it. That didn't stop the audience from erupting into rapturous applause, though, as the prodigal son finally came back to the sport that had made him a household name in the first place. However, the truth about AEW and Punk's relationship goes all the way back to 2018, when he first held talks with Tony Khan about signing with the brand-new wrestling promotion (via ESPN).

News travels fast in the wrestling industry, and Khan's meetings with Punk piqued the ears of WWE executives. As Punk revealed to ESPN, the company reached out to him about a possible in-ring return. "I remember one of the first things I ever said to them was, 'Above all, don't play games,'" he said. "And they played games. Some things never change ... When you enter a conversation with people you have a past with and you know who they are, how seriously can you take it? I know exactly who they are, and they just continue to prove it." Punk's decision was thus made easier, and he became All Elite.

CM Punk said he would be dead if he stayed in WWE

Without a shadow of a doubt, CM Punk wasn't a happy camper by the end of his WWE run. He was hurt, beat down, and in a bad mental state. One of Punk's biggest concerns was that he'd end up like fellow pros Chris Candido and Eddie Guerrero, who passed away before the age of 40, per Esquire.

Years later, Punk reaffirmed this fear to SiriusXM, revealing that he simply had to leave the company and business in 2014. "I was gonna die," he said. "You know what I mean? Because in my head, I'm always like, 'what would Harley Race do? He would keep going.' There's only so many times you can get hurt and keep going. I was never given time off after elbow surgery, knee surgery, narrowly avoided a hip surgery — no, it was always 'we need you.' It's nice to be needed, but they will run you dry." Punk added that he made the decision for his own health and walked away at the right time.