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The Trial of CM Punk & Colt Cabana, and the Importance of Truth

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As a professional wrestler, CM Punk prided himself on being the voice of the voiceless.  He was a guy who was of the people, from the people, and he prided himself on telling his truth, whether positively as a face or judgingly as a heel.  While it’s tremendously sad that his wrestling career has come to such a controversial and disappointing end, it is ironic that the very thing that endeared him to wrestling fans is what’s in question in a civil court in Cook County, Illinois.

 

If you haven’t heard, CM Punk – real name Phil Brooks – is being sued along with his former best friend Colt Cabana – real name Scott Colton – for libel and slander stemming from an episode of Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast in 2014.  Punk, who left the company unceremoniously earlier that year, asked to be on the podcast to “tell his truth” of why he left. In the episode, he attacked Ryback, Triple H, Vince McMahon, and most notably, WWE’s ringside doctor, Dr. Chris Amann.  He stated that the doctor was “one of the most worthless piece of s**t I’ve ever met” and that he had a repeated history of medical negligence.  The most notable instance is a lump on Punk’s back which he believed was a staph infection, possibly MRSA, which went untreated as told by Punk, and his elimination from the 2014 Royal Rumble match in which he suffered a concussion and asked for medical assistance from Dr. Amann.  Cabana is involved with the suit because it was his platform in which the story was told and magnified.

 

Dr. Amann, who many fans and Punk himself believe is being prompted and bankrolled by Vince McMahon and WWE, is suing on the grounds that Punk and Cabana “repeatedly and falsely impugned the integrity” of his ability to be a doctor, and their statements “are highly offensive in that they accuse [him] of a gross lack of integrity as a medical doctor, an inability to perform his professional duties as a medical doctor, and in placing the financial interest of his employer above life-threatening health conditions of his patients.”  He also noted in a filing that his medical malpractice carrier (Hallmark Specialty Insurance Company) “has increased his insurance premium approximately 63%, quadrupled his deductible, and his policy has less favorable terms including, without limitation, the elimination of his right to consent to settle any future claims” and that other carriers “have declined to offer coverage to Amann as result of the statements published by Brooks and Colton or have offered coverage only on terms even less favorable”.

 

After a few delays and an attempt to settle by Amann, the trial officially started this past Tuesday, May 29th.  And as expected, there have been a ton of interesting and possibly damning revelations so far. As it stands, Amann, Punk, and Cabana have taken the stand, as well as recorded video testimony from former WWE timekeeper Mark Yeaton, audio tech Timothy Gaeng, athletic trainer Larry Heck, referee John Cone, Kane (Glenn Jacobs), Vice President of Talent Relations Mark Carrano, and Punk’s personal Physician’s Assistant Patrick Duffy.

 

This trial is one in where neither party looks particularly good.  Dr. Amann all but admitted that he violated HIPAA laws by giving antibiotics and Z-packs to wrestlers without a prescription or having them officially sign for it.  He also admitted that he’s never felt that his job with WWE was in jeopardy, that he joked about the “Z-pack” line in text messages with friends, and that he’s not suing for emotional distress because he hasn’t seen a physician about it.  On the other hand, Cabana admitted that he received a cease and desist from Dr. Amann for the episode of the AoW podcast soon after the episode dropped, and that he ignored the C&D and kept it up for 2 and a half years after, even re-uploading the episode after the server that hosted his website crashed.  He also admitted that in a text message with CM Punk, Punk said “Poor guy, I almost feel bad. I was mean.” The episode in question also reached approximately 3 million views or more, which Colt ultimately agreed with.

 

CM Punk admitted that he was bitter at the end of his tenure at WWE, and that he wanted to bury the doctor, saying in a text message to his wife AJ Lee “I’m going to fucking email Vince and bury Dr. Amann.  He also mentioned that he never told anybody else about the lump at WWE other than the doctor and AJ, that nobody else would’ve seen it other than those two, and that he never took any pictures of it or noted any meetings with the doctor on paper.  Most notably, however, Punk broke into tears when asked to speak about the 2014 Royal Rumble, where he received a concussion. He said that he felt “helpless” when Dr. Amann supposedly told him “What do you want me to do?” when he asked for help.

 

In the other testimonies, some interesting tidbits were that due to the concussion Punk received in the 2014 Royal Rumble due to a clothesline from Kofi Kingston, Kane was sent out by the agents at Gorilla to eliminate him because he refused help and refused to eliminate himself.  This moment was a big point of contention in the trial, as Punk stated that Dr. Amann didn’t seem to care about his well being, but Dr. Amann and the other WWE employees remember him and everybody else involved being concerned for Punk. Another interesting revelation was that Physician’s Assistant Patrick Duffy, who is Punk and AJ’s dermatologist and the person who treated Punk’s lump, mentioned that it ultimately was a cyst.  He tried to culture the lump, which is how lumps are tested for staph infection or MRSA, and Punk declined due to not having medical insurance. Duffy also stated he gave Punk antibiotics, drained the lump, and that it was not MRSA or staph.

 

There was a lot of discord regarding the lump Punk speaks of.  Even though Punk stated that the lump was on his belt line in the AoW episode, he admitted  on the stand that it was on his left buttock, as did Cabana, AJ, and PA Duffy. There was also a lot of conversation about the size of the lump, with Punk stating that it was baseball or golf ball sized, AJ saying that it was zit sized at first to becoming the size of a small fruit, and Duffy saying that it was not golf ball or baseball sized.  There is also a dispute of when the lump first appeared, starting anywhere from September to November 2013.

 

This trial is important in a number of ways.  First off, the verdict could have ramifications on what is said on podcasts and radio shows.  If it’s proven that Punk and/or Cabana willingly lied or exaggerated the story on the podcast and tried to damage Dr. Amann’s reputation as a doctor, then that could affect how interviews are given.  Cabana’s podcast prided itself on it’s entertainment factor and as being a gateway for fans to see behind the curtain. If Punk loses, many podcasts and radio shows could change their questioning of wrestlers or entertainers in general.  This also will likely end the hope that CM Punk will ever return to WWE for good. In having to relive his old life on the stand, Punk mentioned many times that he has moved on from that part of his life and that he regrets a lot of his old actions.

 

Slander is the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation and libel is published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation.  We have to remember that this is what is being judged in this case, and that Dr. Amann is not on trial. Truth is paramount in the case, because the judgement is so directly tied to whether or not Dr. Amann provided adequate medical care for CM Punk, and if Punk and Cabana knowingly lied or exaggerated their story on the podcast, leading to Dr. Amann having his reputation affected.  

 

The link to the case information summary can be found here. While not the official case summary, this was directly found at the Cook County Records website.

 

A big thanks is owed to Nick Hausman (@WZrebel) and Ross Berman (@RossWBermanIV) from WrestleZone.com, Steven Muehlhausen (@SMuehlhausenMMA) from Fightful.com, and Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) from the Chicago Tribune for their detailed reports from the court.  Also, thanks to Christopher Harrington (@mookieghana) from Fightful.com and Bethany Krajelis from the Cook County Record for information used in this column.

 

FIN


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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