wrestling / Columns

CM Punk Talks w/ 411 About Joining Ultimate Beastmaster, His Future Plans for MMA, Why He Loves MMA Training and Living in the Moment, and Working on the Remake of Rabid

September 7, 2018 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
CM Punk Ultimate Beastmaster Ultimate Beastmaster

411Mania recently had the chance to sit down and speak with former WWE Superstar and UFC fighter CM Punk. Punk currently serves as the host for the American broadcast team for the competition reality Netflix series, Ultimate Beastmaster. Ultimate Beastmaster is an international, point-based athletic competition where competitors have to brave a wicked obstacle course called “The Beast.” CM Punk joins the show’s third season as part of the American broadcast team, alongside former NFL player Tiki Barber. Other broadcast hosts for Season 3 include Punk’s fellow former WWE luminary, Stuart Bennett (aka Wade Barrett), for the UK broadcast team and former UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, for the Brazilian broadcast booth.

Punk last stepped into the Octagon at UFC 225 last June, losing a unanimous decision to Mike Jackson. He’s still keeping busy, with his new stint on Ultimate Beastmaster and starting production with a starring role in the upcoming planned remake of the classic horror film, Rabid, which is being directed by the Soska Sisters. Here’s what Punk had to say about joining Ultimate Beastmaster, his current projects and his pending future in MMA.

Jeffrey Harris: Did the Beastmaster producers contact you and ask you to become the host this season, or did you have to audition for the gig?

CM Punk: I think I was contacted, but I think I had to do a little bit of auditioning as well. It was mainly just over the phone. I just had to talk to people. I had to get on the phone with Tiki Barber and see if we had any kind of chemistry I suppose you could say. Nobody wants to work with anybody they can’t get along with. But I didn’t have to do anything like a straight audition and pretend like I was calling somebody that was running on a course or anything like that.

Jeffrey Harris: How do you like working with the great Tiki Barber as your American broadcast partner?

CM Punk: Tiki couldn’t be any cooler. One thing we have in common is running marathons. I say [marathons] plural because he’s done plural, [and] I’ve done one. But I’m an avid runner, so we have that in common. And he’s absolutely fantastic. Nobody you ever think you’re going to ever work with or connect with, and I got to work with him, so it was very enjoyable.

Jeffrey Harris: I just started watching the new season of the show, and what struck me about the show is its slick production values, the international team format and the international announcing teams are all present on the show and present for the broadcast. What did you think of the format?

CM Punk: I thought it was great. I showed up and didn’t know what to expect. But of course, once I got the gig, I went back and watched the first two seasons. And it’s almost overwhelming. We had to shoot the show at night because of lighting obviously, so they’re long, long nights, but when you show up and you get to know everybody, it’s super cool. I got to meet a whole bunch of people that I never would’ve met otherwise and work with them. Everybody was great. I really like the format of all the announcers for every single country being there live because you get to mess with people. I know Stu Bennett (formerly WWE Superstar Wade Barrett), obviously, from our time in WWE, so it’s fun to get to haze him. When there’s two competitors going head-to-head or if a certain competitor reaches a certain amount of points and bumps down another competitor from contention, you get to mess with that country’s commentators. I had fun with it.

Jeffrey Harris: The broadcast teams on this show are a rowdy bunch. Like UFC legend Anderson Silva is hilarious on this show.

CM Punk: Yeah, absolutely. The people you think are going to play it straight absolutely don’t. I don’t even think there’s a straight man on any one of the commentary teams. Everybody is a little out there and goofy. Anderson’s wearing blonde wigs. There’s so much, in my opinion, on this show that’s entertaining aside from the course itself and the athletes. There’s just a ton going on.

Jeffrey Harris: When the cameras are off, do you or any of the other announcers try the obstacle course?

CM Punk: Ooh. I’m going to throw them under the bus on this one. Number one, they wouldn’t let us. It’s a liability thing. The last thing they need was for me to try to run the course and fall on my head for the first obstacle and not be able to tape the show. They did tell us that it was cool to run it when we were done. But like I said, we tape at night. So, we got to wait until the sun goes down. And you’re pretty much going until the sun comes up. So, the last thing that I wanted to do was to sit in the desert for 12 cold hours and run an obstacle course. So, maybe next season.

Jeffrey Harris: Maybe they can do a season where it’s the announcers running the course?

CM Punk: I would love that, but I’m telling you right now, I know I would make it through maybe two obstacles. Even now re-watching it and looking at it, and having an appreciation for how difficult it is and how skilled a lot of those competitors are, it’s just … I think the main thing is body weight. I think rock climbers are the ones that probably fare the best on the Beast, and even they had a real tough time with this stuff. Their wrist strength has to be out of this world, and if you’re 160 pounds, you have a much better chance.

Jeffrey Harris: Some of the personal stories for the athletes and competitors on the show, and what they’ve overcome, sounds amazing. And when they’re doing the jumps for the course, it looks like they are making snap decisions in mid-air. It’s pretty amazing what they can do on this show.

CM Punk: Yeah. I think maybe it was encouraged to talk to the athletes and learn more about them. That’s something I did immediately. I always tried to go down and before we all set out to head to the site. Like I would commiserate with the athletes. That was a trick I’d learned years and years ago anytime I had to do commentary for pro wrestling. If you talk to the person in the ring, you’ll have a better understanding of who they are and where they come from. These are people from all over the world. Some of them didn’t speak English, but I still tried to connect with them on a level where I can really help them tell their story or convey something to the viewer they wouldn’t normally know.

The runs weren’t super-long, so as a commentator, I my job very seriously to explain who they are, where they come from, what their motivation is, and any backstory I feel would make them connect with the audience. I thought that was important to get across.

Jeffrey Harris: How did you enjoy your time working on Drax the Destroyer for Marvel Comics?

CM Punk: Oh, it was amazing. And I always preface this when I get asked the question, we didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do. The comic book model now is kind of, a creative team I don’t think gets the time that they want on any given book. We got the old heave-ho after about a year. I had proposals for a whole bunch of different story arcs, and I had a long-term thing, but I was given a lot of characters that I think they wanted to get busy doing other stuff with. But it was a tremendous experience, and I’m really proud of the work me and Cullen Bunn did on there. He’s one of my favorite writers. The guy — it’s amazing the amount of titles this guy writes a month, and they’re all good. It’s like you totally know he made a deal with the devil, crossroads style, to write a vast number of books from very varying genres, and they’re all good.

Jeffrey Harris: Do you have any other comic irons in the fire for things you might want to do in the future?

CM Punk: I think the next time you see me doing something comics, it might be something independent, like creator owned. Always willing to work with Marvel and DC. The last thing I did for Marvel was a Shang-Chi one-shot, which I had a lot of fun with. But I just like doing weird stuff. I mean Drax was — when I was a little kid, never a comic book I would’ve been like, “Oh. I would love to work on something like that.” I was like a Punisher, Ghost Rider, X-Men kid. But they offered these things to me, and who the hell am I to say no? I look at it from a different perspective, and I try to tackle it as best as I can. I look at everything like a challenge. I’m always open to writing for whoever. It’s just when given projects come down the pipeline, I’ll handle it.

Jeffrey Harris: Regarding MMA, are you still training at the moment or open to things?

CM Punk: Yeah, of course. From January until my fight, I was inundated with offers to do all kinds of other stuff, but focus had to be on the fight and the camp and all that stuff. So, what I’m doing now since my fight is I’m finishing all these other projects that I’ve been doing. Today’s my first day off from a four-week movie shoot. It’s week three, and this is like the first day that I’m off. Prior to that, I was up in Toronto working on a Soska Sisters remake of the legendary [David] Cronenberg film, Rabid. It’s a film I’m working on now. They’re kind of futzing with the title, but I think they’ve settled on Girl on the Third Floor. And there’s a whole bunch of other stuff in the queue. I’m kinda just working on and working my way through. As soon as I wrap here, I’ll be right back in the gym.

Jeffrey Harris: It looks like you’re keeping busy, and it’s a very exciting life for CM Punk right now.

CM Punk: I’m trying. I’m trying to keep busy. I think the main difference about how life used to be and how I am now is, instead of worrying about what’s next while the current project is going on, I’m more in the moment. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I think that’s why I love MMA training so much, just because you’re there, and you’re not worried about what’s behind. I’m worried about what’s in front of me right now. The experience I’m currently having on this movie project is amazing. It’s heavy lifting. It’s long hours, and it’s hard work. And that’s perfect for me.

Jeffrey Harris: But do you think you will fight in an MMA fight again?

CM Punk: I don’t know. I’m focused on this movie right now. You’ll have to ask me when we wrap, which is in a couple weeks.

Thank you to CM Punk for taking the time to speak with us. You can check out his stint of Ultimate Beastmaster for Season 3, which is streaming now, on Netflix.