CM Punk is sitting front row at Newark’s Prudential Center for a Devils-Senators game. His beard is coming in, and he’s dressed comfortably in post-workout clothes, blending into the crowd. Most of his famous tattoos are covered, with the exception of the words “DRUG” and “FREE” across his knuckles, which are clasped under his chin. He stares at the ice, avoiding eye contact. He mutters, “Fuck,” under his breath.

This is the mental state of the man I was sent to interview. He’s giving off all sorts of signals that a person makes when he or she doesn’t want to engage in conversation. These are not overt, deliberate tells; they’re subliminal symptoms of discomfort, defensiveness, and unwillingness to engage.

Not surprisingly, our conversation ends quickly. Twenty-five minutes after I first shake his hand, I realize how seriously the former WWE Champion and current UFC fighter takes himself. And just how frustrated he is with people who question his resolve, or ask him to deconstruct it.