Punk's first venture into wrestling was a stint in a backyard wrestling federation called the Lunatic Wrestling Federation with his friends and brother Mike Brooks in the mid-late 1990s. He first started using the ring name CM Punk when he was put into a tag team named the Chick Magnets with CM Venom after another performer skipped out on the card. Unlike his friends, Punk genuinely wanted to be a wrestler and saw it as more than simple fun. When the promotion started taking off, doing spot shows out of a warehouse in Mokena, Illinois, Punk found out that his brother Mike had embezzled thousands of dollars from the small company, causing them to become estranged. Mike has not wrestled since.
He soon left the federation and enrolled as a student at the "Steel Dominion" wrestling school in Chicago, where he was trained by Ace Steel, Danny Dominion and Kevin Quinn to become a professional wrestler. As part of the training, he wrestled at Steel Domain Wrestling in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was in the Steel Domain that he met Scott Colton, who soon adopted the stage name Colt Cabana. Punk and Cabana became best friends and spent most of their early career together working in the same independent circuit promotions, as opponents or allies. In the independents, Punk, along with fellow Steel Domain graduates Colt Cabana, Chuckee Smooth, Adam Pearce and manager Dave Prazak, formed an alliance named the Gold Bond Mafia.