Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CM Punk: The Best In The World

Please allow me to flashback to Sunday July 17th: I sat in my living room watching Big Brother, the reality TV show that in 2-6 years I will be the winner of. I knew as I watched a cast of horrible strategic players that I was making a big mistake watching Big Brother. I found live coverage of 2nd annual WWE Money in the Bank pay per view on the internet. Throughout the day I had been going through a mental tug of war whether to spend the 45 dollars to buy the pay per view or not. Due to the fact that I am currently unemployed (19 years and counting) and don’t plan on getting a job anytime soon, I decided that I would probably need that 45 dollars for my Christmas spendings. When I clicked refresh on the page at approximately 11 p.m. and saw that CM Punk, who according to WWE and multiple other sources was leaving the company due to contract disputes, had just defeated WWE Poster boy/WWE Champion John Cena in what critics have said was one of the best matches in wrestling history, I had come to three conclusions for the night:

A.) If the gameplay is as bad when I’m on Big Brother as it is this season, I’m a mortal lock to win. That’s a guarantee.

B.) I should’ve paid the 45 bucks to get the pay per view. I could’ve tried to win it back on a lottery ticket or something like that.

C.) Something big just happened in the WWE. I wasn’t exactly sure what though.

The next night I ate a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream and enjoyed a quality WWE Monday Night Raw where a WWE Title tournament was held (all the way until the finals) and Vince McMahon was relieved of his duties as head of the company by his son-in-law, Triple H. I had every intention of writing a column about how the current state of the WWE is numbing the pain of the potential absences of NFL (not anymore) and NBA (seems like a certainty that they won’t play). Late Tuesday night when I was doing some research for the aforementioned column, I was abruptly halted when I lost internet service. No internet until Friday. Um, great.

When I finally got internet back on Friday afternoon I went through the usual lineup of sites I check every day when I wake up. Facebook, then, then Wrestlescoop (a wrestling rumors site) which was flooded with articles about the Money in the Bank pay per view and the CM Punk storyline. Then I checked Bill Simmons’, where I read two articles that were centered around CM Punk. Along with reading the articles, I watched this YouTube video that Bill Simmons posted. Check it out.


Okay, welcome back. In 16 years of being a wrestling fan plus seeing countless old pay per views, that is the biggest crowd reaction I can remember hearing. I came to another conclusion:

D.) Every wrestling fan should feel sick if they didn’t buy Money in the Bank. I really, really effed up not getting that pay per view.

For the next hour or so I was glued to my computer screen, not only because it had no use for the previous 3 days so it was like an extra special experience, but also because I was trying to find a site where I could watch the CM Punk v. John Cena match in its entirety so I didn’t need to buy the pay per view for full price on demand almost a week after it happened. I didn’t even get the pay per view, or even watch the main event in its entirety, but just from watching CM Punk’s entrance, and the finish to the match I realized I missed out on one of the biggest wrestling moments in history. That Friday night after I watched WWE Smackdown (I tried to come up with an interesting analogy for Smackdown in comparison to Raw. All I came up with was the NBA’s relationship to the WNBA is like Monday Night Raw’s relationship to Smackdown) I sat down to try to revise/finish the column I started earlier in the week before my internet went down. Then, just as abruptly as it did on Tuesday night, my internet went down again. I’ve come to a 5th conclusion:

E.) Having a computer without internet is like saying “Sure you can have legs and feet, but you aren’t allowed to walk.” Thanks for nothing.

I went the weekend without internet. Monday morning we got it back and hopefully for good because I don’t think I can handle another 3 day stretch without internet. My reaction to no internet had to be similar to what a crack head goes through when he doesn’t get his fix. 9 o’clock rolled around, and just like the week before I sat down with a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream to watch Raw. The show kicked off with the WWE Title tournament finale which Rey Mysterio won. The rest of the show was decent, nothing noteworthy until the final segment of the show where in an unexpected turn of events, Rey Mysterio defended his recently captured title against John Cena. Cena won the title back in a solid match. Two title matches on Raw and a delicious bowl of ice cream would’ve been good enough for me to call it a successful night. Then music started playing. Most casual WWE fans probably didn’t know what the hell the music was. Shit, it confused me. I honestly thought they made a mistake backstage and were playing the wrong music. I was waiting for the switch to Alberto Del Rio’s theme so he could cash in the Money in the Bank contract he won 8 days earlier. The song kept playing. I knew the song; Cult of Personality by Living Colour. Still, I was confused. Then, CM Punk emerged onto the ramp way to a Billy Fuccillo level Hugeeeeee crowd reaction. Once Punk got to the ring, he and Cena took turns holding up their respective titles. Punk, the supposed-to-be-heel got the much bigger ovation than face-of-the-WWE John Cena. Just like Money in the Bank, this was a wrestling moment.
I just used 1,000 words as an intro to what this column is ultimately all about. My final conclusion:

F.) If the WWE plays their cards right, CM Punk is going to become the biggest, most controversial and most talked about superstar since Stone Cold Steve Austin.

CM Punk is ready
for the spotlight
I put that previous statement in bold because that my friends is what I call a bold statement. What CM Punk has done in the past month or so in his time in the WWE spotlight has been nothing short of groundbreaking. Not since the heyday of Stone Cold Steve Austin has a “heel” been so popular so fast that WWE’s creative team had to immediately make him the “face” of the WWE. That is where we are (or should be) going with CM Punk. In one month, he has become the single most talked about and popular wrestler in the WWE. It is very similar to the meteoric rise that Steve Austin had 15 years ago. Austin was a fast rising heel in the WWE in 1996 when he won the WWE’s King of the Ring tournament (I don’t have the slightest idea why the WWE dropped this pay per view. Seeing Mabel barely fit on the throne and get crowned King of the Ring while wearing oversized purple pajamas was a wrestling moment). Austin defeated Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and gave one of the most important post-match interviews to date. The next night, Austin 3:16 signs flooded Monday Night Raw. WWE’s creative team had an issue on their hands: the fastest rising heel in the company was suddenly the most popular guy on the show week after week. Adjustments were made, and look what ensued. The WWE cites this as the start of the Attitude Era, arguably the most successful run in WWE history. What the hell are we going to name the next era that CM Punk just started?

Really, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Punk is quickly reaching a level that hasn’t been encountered by anyone in a decade or so. There is a reason why Punk is mainly responsible for making the WWE more watchable than it has been in a close to a decade. It’s because if you are creating a check-list of what you want in a WWE superstar, Punk gets a check in every category.

-His in-ring skills are better than anyone’s in the WWE. The top 5 guys in my book right now are Punk, Orton, Mysterio, Del Rio, and The Miz. Those are the names I came up with off the top of my head. Likely I’m missing someone and will remember them as soon as I post this. A testament of Punk being the best in the business is the praise his match vs. Cena is receiving. Cena is the master of the get dominated the whole match then make a miraculous comeback win. You could call it Hulk Hogan-esque. The fact that Punk and Cena had a 5 star match according to wrestling expert Dave Meltzer (the first he’s given since 1997) is proof that Punk can do wonders in the ring.

-He is better on the microphone than anyone in the WWE. The top 5 guys: Punk, Cena, The Miz, Randy Orton, and Alberto Del Rio’s ring announcer. Coming in last is Jack Swagger and his lisp.

-He can excel as a “Face” or “Heel”- Not everyone can pull this off, and those who have are all considered top guys in the business: Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Edge, and Randy Orton. And in my opinion, it’s time for Cena to make a heel turn. Once upon a time CM Punk was one of the most popular guys on the WWE’s ECW brand and became the ECW Champion right away. He came into the WWE as a face and excelled. Then he went through a period where he made his heel turn and he was underused and underappreciated. Guys like Wade Barrett, Sheamus, Jack Swagger and a past his prime Kane were in the title picture while Punk worked the middle of every pay per view card. Now with a little push he is easily the biggest heel in the WWE.

-He has had two unique gimmicks that haven’t been touched before he brought them to the table. The straight edge superstar/cult-like leader of the New Nexus. He's perfected each gimmick and he’s blowing the WWE up like fireworks on the 4th of July and the people are loving it. It’s the perfect combination of a storyline and a superstar that are so unique and unpredictable (I had no idea until Monday whether Punk was actually leaving the company or not) that WWE rumors sites, fan boards and the mass media in general are going legitimately crazy over Punk.

-Since the beginning of the attitude era, the WWE has changed drastically. No matter how good or bad the product was in general, as long as there was one guy or one storyline that was worth watching, I would be in front of my television on Monday or Friday nights. This is the complete list of storylines/superstars/rivalries that have kept me completely drawn to the WWE in the last 15 years. In other words, rather than growing out of what many stupidly consider to be a childhood phase, these transcendent storylines/superstars/rivalries are the reason why I’m 19 years old and gladly writing about the WWE: the start of the Austin Era, the original DX (Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna).. Vince McMahon becoming "Mr. McMahon" and starting the Corporation.. the new DX (Triple H, X-Pac, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg and Chyna).. The Rock v. Mankind rivalry.. Vince McMahon v. Stone Cold Steve Austin rivalry.. Chris Jericho's Y2J debut.. The McMahon/Helmsley Era.. The Rock v. Austin at WM 17 angle.. the WCW/ECW Invasion.. The Rock v. Hulk Hogan at WM 18.. Brock Lesnar's debut and title reign.. Eric Bischoff as Raw General Manager.. Shawn Michaels return and feud with Triple H.. Evolution.. John Cena becoming the face of the WWE.. Edge becoming the Rated R Superstar and cashing in the first Money in the Bank.. The Return of DX.. Chris Jericho's Save Us 222 return.. Randy Orton v. Triple H at WM 25.. Nexus Storyline.. Randy Orton's face turn.. The Rock returns to host WM 27.. The Undertaker v. Triple H at WM 27.. CM Punk over the last month.

In translation, CM Punk has become one of the most captivating WWE performers in recent memory. Evidence of this is the fact that for a solid 2 hours I looked at every WWE pay per view card in the last 15 years on Wikipedia just to refresh my memory and came up with a list of the best 25 storylines (what a way to spend a Monday night). CM Punk’s recent antics have been without question one of the top five, if not higher.

CM Punk: WWE Champion
So this leaves the WWE brain-trust at a crossroads. The WWE is on the brink of something monumental. The term once-in-a-generation is thrown around a lot, but CM Punk truly feels like a once-in-a-generation superstar. My biggest fear is the storyline the WWE used to get Punk to this point will become a reality. In the storyline Punk was tired of being overlooked by guys with less talent, so he was going to take his talents elsewhere, and rightfully so. I even claimed that if CM Punk ended up in TNA, I was going to be jumping on the TNA bandwagon. For far too long (over half a decade now) the company has belonged to Cena. It’s time for a new superstar to rise to the top. Someone who isn’t the prototypical fan-favorite that sells all the merchandise and is the favorite of every pre-teen WWE fan. That man has emerged over the last month as the hero of the true WWE fans. He is the dictator of the new era of wrestling. He is the ayatollah of rock and rolla’. He is the champ. He’s the game and he is the most electrifying superstar in the WWE. He is CM Punk.