Date: February 25, 2004
Location: White Trash Café in Nashville, TN
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, WrestleInc.com, Wreslinginc.com, Armpit readers Tim and Raymond Wong
Before CM Punk became a UFC fighter, and before he was a WWE headliner, he was just another good wrestler on the indie scene. Teddy Hart was also an indie star, after having blown chances with WWE and TNA because of his alleged behavioral problems.
In November of 2003, Hart got in trouble with ROH when he performed a series of moonsaults in the ring after a match in which he should’ve been selling the moves he had just taken from the other wrestlers. It was considered unprofessional and he was fired, and his behavior after the match caused several in the industry to trash talk him in the press and on the internet.
One of those who said disparaging things about Hart was Punk, who had wrestled on that ROH show. Punk became to hate Hart intensely, and four months later, Punk was in TNA when he heard they were going to bring back Hart. Punk allegedly told friends that he was going to slap Hart as soon as he walked into the Asylum (the fairgrounds in Nashville where TNA taped their PPVs at the time).
Before the TNA tapings on February 25, CM Punk was eating across the street from the fairgrounds at the White Trash Café (which has since closed down). Seated with him were Sabu, Petey Williams, Johnny Devine, and Chris Sabin. At some point Hart walked in with Jack Evans, at which point Williams, Sabin, and Devine started leaving. Sabin and Devine then told Williams that Hart had just arrived, and said they should stay to see what might happen. Williams wondered why, since he wasn’t aware of the heat between the two, but everyone else seemingly was.
Hart asked Punk if he had a problem with him. Punk responded, but it’s not known what he said. Hart was wearing earphones, which some believe may not have even been on. If they were on, he didn’t hear what Punk said. If they were off, he pretended to not hear what Punk said. When Punk repeated himself, they ended up outside the café.
The two continued speaking outside, but weren’t shouting. Williams said it escalated to a case of “You got a problem?” and one of them shoved the other (he doesn’t remember which one shoved first).
Hart eventually took his earphones off, which is when Punk, true to his word, slapped him hard. He apparently didn’t know that Hart had boxing experience, and was probably surprised when Hart came back with an overhand right that knocked Punk down. He went on top of Punk and the two struggled, with Hart landing a couple more shots in that gave Punk a black eye.
Sabu quickly broke it up after about twenty seconds. The other wrestlers, who did nothing to break it up before then, joined in to break it up once Sabu did. One report said Hart and Punk stopped fighting immediately once they saw Sabu, whom they respected as a veteran of the business. But Williams claimed Hart still had Punk’s hair when Sabu was there, and was trying to kick Punk in the face.
Hart worked the tapings that night, and the only reason he wasn’t fired is that it was felt Punk threw the first blow and Hart was defending himself. While he could’ve just walked away, that isn’t acceptable in the world of wrestling because all the boys will think you’re a coward. However, Hart was fired about a week after the incident. Punk left not long after as well, but not because of this incident.
Hart wanted to work a match with Punk based on this real incident, and had wanted to for awhile because the two had heat. But Punk really did hate Hart and refused to work with him.
Hart said years later that he grew to respect Punk greatly during and after his WWE run. Hart also said that Punk would likely beat him if they fought again today, because Punk has been training over a year in MMA. He also respected that Punk, even though he badmouthed him, at least did so to his face.