Punk was born Phillip Jack Brooks on October 26, 1978 out of Chicago, Illinois.
He started off his career as a backyard wrestler alongside his brother Mike for a small promotion known as the Lunatic Wrestling Federation under the name CM Punk, where the CM stood for “chick magnet”.
He received formal wrestling training at the “Steel Dominion” training academy in his native Chicago where he befriended a fellow student named Scott Colton, now better known as Colt Cabana.
In 2000, Punk and Cabana debuted in the independent promotion IWA Mid-South. Here, Punk had tremendous success, becoming the IWA Mid South Light Heavyweight Champion on 2 occasions and the IWA Mid South Heavyweight Champion no less than 5 times.
Punk would depart from Mid-South in 2002 to do a brief stint in Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE in Japan in 2003 and would also appear in Ring of Honor (ROH). It was here that Punk developed his “straight edge” lifestyle character who lived a life of complete abstinence and discipline against society’s evils.
He would turn heel and do battle with Raven (Scott Levy) who was in opposition to his clean-cut style of living. Their feud lasted the bulk of 2003, with
Punk emerging victorious in a steel cage match to end things.
Punk would win the ROH Tag Team Championship twice with old running mate Cabana. He also became a head trainer for the Ring of Honor Wrestling School acknowledging credibility to his in-ring expertise.
Whilst competing in ROH, Punk also appeared in Total Nonstop Action (TNA) with partner Julio Dinero as a heel tag team known as “The Gathering”. Punk’s career in TNA did not last long as he butted heads with TNA brass when they informed him he could not wrestle for the rival ROH promotion while also appearing in TNA. Punk would leave TNA in 2004 to be exclusive to ROH.
In 2004, Punk would have an epic series of matches against the popular ROH Champion Samoa Joe, often to 60-minute time limit draws.
Punk would later get signed to the WWE in 2005 and would also capture the ROH Heavyweight title from Austin Aires. In ROH storylines, Punk was open about his defection to the WWE, threatening to take the ROH title with him. Veteran WWE hardcore wrestler Mick “Cactus Jack” Foley appeared on ROH encouraging Punk to keep the title in ROH and defend it with honor. Punk did, and dropped the strap to James Gibson (Jamie Noble) as part of a Fatal 4-Way also including Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels.
In 2005, Punk debuted in the WWE developmental territory of Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). Punk would win the OVW Television Title which he would lose in a feud against Brent Albright. Punk and Albright would continue their battles with Punk mostly on the winning end of things.
Albright would send the Spirit Squad to attack Punk, turning Punk face in the process. Punk would eventually wrest the OVW Heavyweight Championship from Albright in a strap match to end their feud.
Punk would also capture the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship alongside Seth Skyfire, making Punk a dual titleholder. Punk and Skyfire would lose the titles after 5 days and would turn on one another after the loss. Punk put his OVW Heavyweight title on the line against Skyfire, but Skyfire was attacked prior to the bout by Charles “The Hammer” Evans, preventing him from actively competing. Punk would drop the belt to Skyfire’s replacement, Chet Jablonski.
In 2006, Punk would debut on Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) as his same “straight edge” character and would embark on a winning streak, including wins over Mike Knox and capturing the heart of Knox’s on-screen girlfriend, Kelly Kelly.
Punk with go on to feud with Bob “Hardcore” Holly, who broke Punk’s winning streak after 6 months as well as Matt Striker.
Punk would join a faction called the “New Breed”, current generation ECW stars that would feud with the “ECW Originals”, veterans like Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam and The Sandman. Punk would eventually turn on the Breed during a match against the Originals after he attacked teammate Elijah Burke (D’Angelo Dinero) and became a face.
Punk would then compete with Johnny Nitro (John Morrison) in a tournament to determine the winner of the vacated ECW Heavyweight Championship. Punk would lose to Nitro and would also lose at subsequent attempts to gain the gold. Punk finally got his due by defeating Morrison during an ECW taping, making his first main roster WWE title run.
Punk would defend the title for more than 4 months, ultimately dropping the strap to Chavo Guerrero in a No Disqualification match.
At WrestleMania XXIV, Punk got his push by winning the Money-In-The-Bank ladder match which he would cash in to gain the WWE Heavyweight Championship from Edge after the Rated R Superstar was brutally beaten down by Batista.
Punk would later forfeit the title after he was attacked by The Legacy (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr.), preventing him from defending his title in a Fatal 4 –way including Rey Mysterio Jr., Batista, John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) and Kane at the “Unforgiven” Pay-Per-View event.
Shortly after his singles title loss, Punk teamed with Kofi Kingston to capture the WWE Tag team Championship over Rhodes and DiBiase Jr. The two would defend for just under three months, eventually dropping the straps to John Morrison and The Miz.
After Punk won a tournament for a shot at the WWE Heavyweight Championship held by William Regal, Punk would lose his first two shots, but ultimately capture the strap for a second time in a No Disqualification match on Raw. Less than 2 months later, Punk would lose the tile to JBL.
Punk would win the Money-In-Bank ladder match for a second time which he cashed in to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for a third run over Jeff Hardy. His feud with Hardy would intensify when Punk would admonish Hardy for not living clean as he always had. After a few rematches together, Hardy would win the title from Punk at the “Night of Champions” Pay-Per-View event.
Punk’s feud with Hardy continued to the SummerSlam Pay-Per-View event where Punk won a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match to capture the title for a fourth time.
Hardy’s attempts to regain the crown finally came to an end when Punk defeated him in a steel cage match with “Loser leaves WWE” stipulations.
Punk would then be involved in a lengthy feud with the Undertaker and would drop the title to the Dead Man in a “Hell in a Cell” match, ending his 4th reign at less than 5 weeks.
In 2009, Punk as a heel, developed a gimmick called the “Straight Edge Society” whereby Punk assumed the role of a David Koreshian type of cult leader that could turn people’s lives around. He created his own pledge of allegiance and had his devotees shave their heads in recognition, despite Punk retaining his long locks. He recruited both Luke Gallows and WWE Diva Serena who would accompany Punk to his matches.
Punk started a lengthy feud with the highflying Rey Mysterio Jr. which culminated in a match whereby if Punk lost, his head would have to be shaven like his disciples. Punk lost and would get his head shaven, however Mysterio was attacked by the members of the Society including a new masked member.
The Big Show had a match against all members of the Society including the masked member revealed to be Joey Nitro. Punk abandoned the members during the bout, allowing Show to defeat all of them and signifying the beginning of the end for the faction.
In 2010, Punk got traded to Raw and due to a nagging hip injury, he was granted duties as a commentator. Favoring the heels, Punk would aloudly proclaim his distaste for John Cena and attacked Cena from ringside during one bout. At this point it was revealed that Punk was the leader of a new faction of NXT participants called the Nexus.
Punk and the Nexus would feud against Randy Orton which would lead to a singles bout against he and Punk at WrestleMania XXVI and a Last Man Standing match at the “Extreme Rules” Pay-Per-View event with Punk losing both encounters.
In 2011, Punk proclaimed he would capture the WWE Championship again before his contract expired. After a famous worked shoot whereby he openly defamed Vince McMahon, The Rock, Cena and Triple H, Punk would win the WWE Championship for the 5th time from Cena on the day of his contract expiry from the WWE.
This led to a convoluted angle eventually leading the WWE title to become vacated as there was fear Punk would leave the organization with the belt. The title was put up for grabs at the “SummerSlam” Pay-Per-View event pitting Punk against Cena. Punk won the title (6th time), however his reign was short lived when he lost minutes later to Alberto Del Rio who had cashed in his Money-In-The-Bank contract.
After Punk’s anti-establishment rants got him into some hot water with Triple H and the McMahon’s, Punk eventually was granted a shot against Del Rio whom he defeated to win the title for now the 7th time at the “Survivor Series” Pay-Per-View event.
Punk defended the title for the rest of the year in a series of bouts against Dolph Ziggler and verbal battles with WWE honcho John Laurinaitis.
In 2012, Punk became involved in a bitter personal feud with Chris Jericho. Jericho accused Punk of having an alcoholic as a father and sister as a drug addict and that his straight edge style of living was purely out of self-paranoia.
Punk would face Jericho for the title numerous times, each with Jericho losing and dousing Punk with alcohol following the bout. Their feud reached it zenith in a Chicago Street Fight which Punk won to retain the belt.
Punk would then get into a championship defense feud with Daniel Bryan and Kane (team Hell No). Including in the fracas was Bryan’s girlfriend AJ Lee who started to gain affections for Punk (Punk would later marry Lee). Punk retained the title in a Triple Threat match as well as a singles match against Bryan thereafter.
On the 1000th episode of Raw, special guest host Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson revealed that he would face Punk at the “Royal Rumble” Pay-Per-View event. Prior to the that match, Punk had a series of successful title defenses against John Cena and had started to align himself with Paul Heyman.
Punk was slated to defend the title against Cena in a Hell In a Cell match, but Punk refused, causing Cena to get replaced by Ryback whom Punk defeated. Punk would then face Cena and Ryback in a triple threat match which Punk would again win with the help of Raw newcomers Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins (aka The Shield).
The Shield would interfere in Punk’s matches thereafter, assuring him victories against all comers. When the match against the Rock finally materialized, a stipulation was put in place that if the Shield interfered, the belt would go to The Great One. Sure enough, the Shield did interfere and Punk pinned the Rock. Vince McMahon intervened by stating that Punk should be stripped of the belt, however the match continued at the Rock’s insistence. Punk would lose the belt to the Rock after the continuance, ending his reign at a record setting 434 days.
2013 came around and Punk started a feud again with the Undertaker after Punk disrupted the recently deceased Paul Bearer (Percy Pringle). ‘Taker would defeat Punk at WrestleMania XXVIIII, maintain the Dead Man’s WM winning streak.
On an episode of Raw, Punk informed Paul Heyman he no longer wished Heyman to accompany him at ringside for his bouts. He was later attacked by Heyman protégé Brock Lesnar in retaliation. This set the wheels in motion for a feud between Punk and Lesnar, with Punk eventually losing to Lesnar in a “No Disqualification” match.
Once the feud with Lesnar was done, Punk would continue to feud with other Heyman allies, Ryback and Curtis Axel (Joe Hennig). Punk was victorious in the encounters, some of which involved Heyman himself in the ring.
Punk formed an alliance with Daniel Bryan in his war against the Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan). As Bryan was about to be taken hostage by the Wyatts, Punk when in for the save, but was attacked by old buddies The Shield. Punk would go on to defeat all 3 Shield members in a “Tables, Ladders and Chairs” match.
When January of 2014 came around, Punk abruptly left the wrestling scene, no-showing at several WWE events he was slated for. He later revealed on a podcast with good friend Colt Cabana that he had left WWE due to injuries. He was terminated by the company shortly after he walked out and Punk vowed he would never return. A settlement was made between Punk and the WWE with Punk relinquishing his remaining merchandise sales to McMahon.
Punk was later diagnosed with a near fatal MRSA (staph) infection from which he thankfully recovered. Despite his rejuvenated health, Punk nonetheless vowed never to return to wrestling or the WWE again.
Punk is currently a competitor in Ultimate Fighting, much like former WWE cohorts Lesnar, Del Rio and Bobby Lashley. He is a comic book enthusiast and has contributed to some Marvel publications. Punk has to be admired for his adherence to his principles, his success in the ring while his career lasted and his versatility and fortitude to engage in other disciplines.
Dr. Stephen Balsky is a chiropractor currently in practice in his native Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been a wrestling fan since age 13 and is very passionate about the product, especially the “old-school” 80’s – 90’s era. He completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2015 and currently is also working part-time as a professor in both business and healthcare.