Fans see a different side to WWE Champ CM Punk at improv show

There was no script for the “Art of Wrestling” show starring WWE Champion CM Punk and host and fellow wrestler Colt Cabana Wednesday at the ComedySportz Theatre. As Punk pointed out, there never usually is with anything he’s involved in because “I hate that (crap).”

Cabana asked his long time friend and former tag team partner to share his entertaining memories from his years in the wrestling business and then members of the ComedySportz improv group would act out scenes involving small details from those stories. Proceeds from the soldout show went toward the Sam Thompson Memorial Fund.

Punk talked about the time a young wrestler asked wrestling legend Arn Anderson what he thought of his match. According to Punk’s hilarious impersonation, Anderson leaned back in his chair, scratched his head and then gave the wrestler advice like only “Double-A” could: Kill yourself.

“In what other industry can you get away with that?” Punk asked the audience, laughing.

It was this sort of self-awareness about professional wrestling, which Cabana called “the bastard child of entertainment,” that made you feel like you were around people who can laugh at themselves rather than those who take it a little too seriously. Comedian Marty DeRosa, who opened the show with his standup routine, said it best when he thanked the crowd for leaving their parents’ basement.

Cabana was excellent as the night’s host, a role he’s used to as the host of the “Art of Wrestling” podcast. The ComedySportz alum’s one-liners and timing made me wonder why I’m fast-forwarding watching painful skits involving Sheamus on “Raw” and “Smackdown” when WWE could easily hire Cabana back to fill the comedy void.

Punk went on to share a story about the night an intoxicated Harley Race (like Anderson, a legend in the business) vomited in his car and thanked him for the ride by hugging him in his puke-covered shirt. Even stories as simple as Punk receiving an “LOL” text from The Undertaker -- a 6-foot-10 Satanic figure in WWE programming – had the crowd laughing and cheering, in part because of the way Punk reenacted his confused reaction.

The two-hour show shed a light on the wrestling business that we rarely see and humanized its colorful characters, Punk included.

The Punk that 1.3 million fans follow on Twitter can come off as surly, unlikable and ungrateful. And that was even before he recently became a “bad guy,” by WWE terms. He complains about his fans more than any other celebrity I can think of even though many supported him when few in WWE would. And for a guy who prides himself on his honesty and always saying what’s on his mind, he seems thin-skinned and defensive when fans do the same. Punk in person? As I mentioned during my feature on him in March, he’s an “unapologetic, walking ‘do not disturb sign.’”

But the Punk at ComedySportz? He was happier than I’ve ever seen him, down-to-earth and surprisingly funny (Yeah, wrestling fans laugh at all his zingers on “Raw,” but these are the same fans who will crack up during a brutal Shawn Michaels-Triple H skit while I’m sitting in front of the TV reevaluating my life). Punk, believe it or not, also seemed humble. He poked fun at his clothes (he opted for a Rancid t-shirt and hooded sweatshirt he said had stains on it), predicted there would be empty seats at an event he is hosting Thursday and recalled the times when he has been a fanboy, including the time he met actor Val Kilmer.

Punk said he watches every Kilmer movie even if he knows they’re terrible and recently spoke with him at a comic convention. Punk told the “Top Gun” star he was a big fan, but Kilmer didn’t seem very interested in what the WWE Champ had to say. “(Kilmer is) looking around the room for someone more interesting to talk to,” said Punk. “I know that look, because I do it myself.” (As someone who has tried to make small talk with Punk multiple times, I can back him up on this.)

But here’s what most hit me about Punk and his involvement in Wednesday’s show: Like everyone else who gave their time to help out the cause, Punk didn’t have to be there.

He wasn’t there because WWE forced him to appear or because the Sam Thompson Memorial Fund is part of a new WWE campaign (this wasn’t a WWE-booked appearance). And he wasn’t there just so the media could take staged photos of him and some cute kid (no cameras were allowed). Punk was there on his own accord to help a family in mourning and in need of help with medical bills. The Thompson family lost Sam, a huge wrestling fan and brother of ComedySportz ensemble member Zach Thompson, in June after he battled cystic fibrosis, a lung transplant and stomach cancer.

It was nice to see Punk come through for a fan when it mattered most.

Twitter @aboutluisgomez

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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