I recently interviewed WWE superstars C.M. Punk and Dolph Ziggler as they prepare for SummerSlam this Sunday. We'll start with the Q&A with Punk while the chat with Ziggler follows.
SI.com: Before we get into SummerSlam, I have to compliment you on the grammar videos you're doing for Nerdist. How did those come about?
Punk: I did Chris Hardwick's podcast and he thought it was hilarious that this quote unquote bad-ass, mean, tough wrestler was such a stickler for proper grammar and spelling. He just pitched the idea for the Nerdist YouTube channel and it's been great. They let me do whatever I wanted. It was a lot of fun and I'm proud of those things.
SI.com: What is the worst grammar mistake you see on a regular basis?
Punk: Hard to say. I think you're/your. I think smartphones need to send an electrical shock to a user when they get their your/you're mixed up.
SI.com: You're fighting, I mean, wrestling Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.
Punk. I think you had it right the first time. We're fighting.
SI.com: OK, fighting. Are you happy with the build up for the match?
Punk: I think we're doing what we're supposed to be doing. We're selling tickets and we're selling pay-per views. I think behind the scenes a lot of people want to see this match and I'm excited for it. It's not every day you get to wrestle somebody that can push you and make you better. I think there's a lot of eyes on us that normally wouldn't be because people want to see what I can do. It's an interesting dynamic.
SI.com: What are the challenges in facing a guy like Lesnar?
Punk: There are always going to be detractors who will say I don't look like I'll be able to hang with Brock Lesnar. But Brock's a freak of nature and I don't know anybody who looks like they can "hang" with Brock Lesnar. But anyone can be choked out in seven seconds.
SI.com: You wrestled the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Were you happy with the match?
Punk: I think everybody is always selling me short and then I always prove them wrong. It keeps me pissed off and that's where I need to be, I guess. I'm sick and tired of pulling main event matches and not being in the main event at WrestleMania. Eventually it's just gonna get to the point of, "OK, I deserve to play with this toy, you're not gonna let me play with it, then I'm gonna find some other toys to play with." It gets me down when I really think about it and analyze it, but in the end it keeps me sharp and like I said, pissed off. But I don't think I'm the guy you want pissed off forever.
SI.com: Do you voice these concerns to Vince McMahon?
Punk: Absolutely. All the time. We have conversations about it. Hell, if you're in this business and don't want to be in the main event at WrestleMania you shouldn't be in this business. This past WrestleMania, I proved it to the one person that I needed to prove it to, that I should've been in the main event. I've shattered every negative stereotype people had about me. I proved to the one person that mattered that last year's main event should've been mine and that person is me and I don't give a sh-t about anyone else.
SI.com: Who would you like to wrestle down the road?
Punk: I'm in a very unique position. I can have a viable WrestleMania main event with anyone. I can do it with John Cena. I can do it with Daniel Bryan. I can do it with The Undertaker. I can do it with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
SI.com: Do you think Austin will ever wrestle again?
Punk: Yeah, my gut tells me that he will. Whether he makes the right decision or not to wrestle me is up to him.
SI.com: That seems like a money match for the WWE. You'd think they'd get that going.
Punk: You would hope. They tend to miss the mark on a lot of common sense stuff sometimes.
SI.com: There's a new reality show about the WWE Divas on TV. Would you ever do a reality show?
Punk: Reality show? What the hell is reality TV any way? It's as scripted as anything. I wouldn't want my life acted out on television in some weird drama. If somebody wants to follow me around with a camera, I do think my life is pretty entertaining on its own without trying to spice it up. But it doesn't sound like anything I'd sign up for. I do like the small sliver of privacy I'm afforded.
SI.com: You're a big Cubs fan. Are you dejected about another bad season?
Punk: I'm never dejected as a Cubs fan. The human race likes to belittle other people. I'm always told "Cubs suck," but I like what I like and you like what I like. It doesn't bother that people say that. This is my team. This is the team I grew up watching. I defy anyone to walk into Wrigley Field and watch a game there and tell me there's a better place to watch a baseball game. There's not.
SI.com: But they're adding a JumboTron.
Punk: I know. But we're not serving sushi at the Friendly Confines yet.
Ziggler: When I was 5 years old I wanted to be a WWE superstar. When I was 8 years old I watched Saturday Night Live and I always wanted to be on there and be an entertainer. I've be a student of comedy for 20 years now, I just study and watch and go to comedy clubs and open mics and write my own material and try out my material. I've actually done stand up a couple of times and I love it. Not only the challenge of it, but the entertainment aspect. I wanna study great guys and wonder why they got the reaction that they did when they did, why are they so successful. Why are guys who are kind of funny getting great reactions, but guys who are really funny not always getting them.
SI.com: Which is harder to do: Comedy or wrestle in the WWE?
Ziggler: I would say they're both pretty cut throa,t and sometimes you're not gonna hear any reaction and that's the worst thing that can ever happen. But at least in the WWE, you have another guy out there with you who you can blame. Last year, 80,000 people at WrestleMania, I was having the time of my life, living it up, not nervous at all, just having a great time. A couple of months ago I did my first standup set in front of about 50 people and I was literally shaking when I went on the stage.
SI.com: How did the stand up go? What go big laughs?
Ziggler: Believe it or not, it went really well. Basically I just told a story that was half made up and half real life about going to Chipotle and ordering a burrito and it got a great reaction.
SI.com: Who is your all-time favorite Saturday Night Live cast member?
Ziggler: I'm a huge Jon Lovitz fan. I had the chance to meet him and we ended up talking for an hour and a half and it was the coolest thing. I had all these questions for him about Saturday Night Live. He stood up and did a routine that he said didn't make it to air. He had all these questions for me. It was cool.
SI.com: Who are your favorite stand-up comedians?
Ziggler: I like the guys who don't get all the glory or movie roles, but are still known as being great. Louis CK before he got his show. Patton Oswalt, who is respected by everyone.
SI.com: How important is doing comedy in your wrestling life?
Ziggler: It's the WWE, it's Vince McMahon's show. He lays out what he wants from you. It's not always going to be what I want. I want to be out there being myself. You want to entrain first and foremost. The more I get a chance to be on the microphone, the more I get to put in comedy into it. If everybody's doing the same thing it's boring. I appreciate that some people are told what to do. Some people like me, though, go out there and I'm writing and thinking and worrying about if i'm in this situation, how can i put my spin on it.
SI.com: Who is the funniest wrestler of all time?
Ziggler: Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was better than anyone else at making me laugh. He was sooo good. So damn good at this. He was "The Brain" because he was so smart as a manager, as a commentator as a performer. He could do it all. He knew what to do, not just tell a couple of jokes. He was smart, and that is such a turn on to me as someone you look up to. His job was almost always to make other people look better than they were and he did it better than anyone else.
SI.com: Who are your favorite in-ring performers of all time?
Ziggler: At first, as a kid, Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior. When it came down to me studying it, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect. You could tell those guys controlled everything that happened int he match, on the outside. They controlled the pace and when they're involved it was better than anyone else's stuff.
SI.com: What are your thoughts on SummerSlam this Sunday?
Ziggler: My thoughts going in are that I love this week that we have in L.A. I'm gonna try to do some standup. There's a buzz about being in L.A. I love it. Staples Center is gonna be sold out. Crowd is gonna be hot. We look forward to it. I'm looking forward to seeing C.M. Punk vs. Brock Lesnar. I would like to see Daniel Bryan beat John Cena, because no one seems to beat him.
SI.com: What do you think about the new Total Divas show? Would you want to do a reality show?
Ziggler: Even knowing all those people, I think it's a very intriguing show. When I first watched it, I was like "Wow, I can get into this show." I would think about doing a reality show. However, as much as I want to be in TV, movies and crossover, I saw those cameras around for a couple of months and it's huge invasion of your privacy. I'd have to think about it. I wouldn't mind being a guest star or a bit player, but I'd need 24 hours at home in silence sometimes.
SI.com: I need to compliment you on this brilliant you tweet you recently sent to your 800,000-plus followers: