Every once in a while, a wrestler comes along that stands out. Someone who is different from the pack. He isn’t your prototypical every day wrestler. His look his different. His persona is different. He doesn’t blend in with the group, he sticks out from it. He’s a wrestler that whether you love him or you hate him, you respect him for what he has done in the wrestling business. In the 1990s that man was Shawn Michaels, who in my opinion is the greatest wrestler to ever step foot in the squared circle. But in this era of wrestling, the man that sticks out from the crowd is CM Punk.
CM Punk is different from any wrestler currently in the WWE today. He isn’t the star jock, or the big bad bully. He’s the loner. The guy who sticks to his guns and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. When CM Punk picks up a microphone, you feel like you aren’t watching a wrestling character speak, but rather the man portraying a character speaking. CM Punk may have more passion for wrestling than any other wrestler on the planet today. He cares about his performance in the ring. Night in and night out, he’s the one guy you can trust to give it his all and know that when he leaves the ring, he left it all in there. There’s a cult like following that CM Punk has. Whether he is being portrayed as a good guy or a bad guy on TV, his fans are loyal to him. You don’t see that often with wrestlers. While wrestlers turn heel or turn face and fans boo or cheer accordingly, CM Punk’s fans stick with him through it all. Sure, a lot of those fans are the 18-34 male demographic that are reading this article right now. But the fact that stick by his side is a testament to the amount of respect that they have for the wrestler CM Punk. They believe in CM Punk and hang on his every word and move. Despite the constant mocking of the WWE Universe, you know that CM Punk has a tremendous amount of respect for the people that stand by him. Whether they have been a fan since his Ring of Honor days ot just started becoming a fan during his run in the WWE, most fans have stuck with him and haven’t turned away. I even know of a lot of kids that cheered Punk when he was a face and stuck with him after his recent heel turn. So it just isn’t that male fan base sticking by Punk’s side.
We all know the struggles that CM Punk went through early on in his WWE career. The powers that be didn’t really know what to do with him. Then he won the Money in the Bank contract two years in a row. He became a World Champion and then leader of one of the best stables in recent memory, the Straight Edge Society. A lot of people might call that the best work of CM Punk’s WWE career, and it would be hard to argue that point. But once the stable disbanded, Punk struggled to get back to the top. Rumors started circulating in early 2011 that CM Punk wasn’t happy and was considering leaving the WWE. Then came in the infamous “Pipe Bomb Promo” that took the WWE by storm, and launched CM Punk into the star that he became today.
And this is the focus of this piece. CM Punk has done a lot throughout his career in pro wrestling. But some of the work he has done since that promo has been tremendous. In fact, a lot of the work that CM Punk has done has been the only watchable stuff that the WWE has put on TV during that time. It all started with the Money in the Bank PPV in 2011, one of the best “B” show PPVs that the WWE has ever put on. CM Punk and John Cena put on a five star classic in the ring in a match made even better by the Chicago crowd. One of the best matches that I’ve seen in the last ten years. It’s a debate that I got into with fellow podcast host Matt Harrak a while back, but I still maintain that CM Punk is John Cena’s greatest rival during his WWE career. They are just polar opposites of each other. Punk is the outcast, Cena is the all star. Their styles are different but they mesh so well together. Punk has gotten some of the best promos out of Cena. They’ve never had a dull storyline or match, and they always have me watching when they are on TV together. Their matches at Money in the Bank and SummerSlam were great. Punk went on to have a strong program with HHH and despite losing a bit of steam, won the WWE Title again at Survivor Series, where the NYC Crowd made the moment even more special.
When a wrestler wins the WWE Championship, they are usually considered the top guy in the company. They main event shows and are often considered the top star. But that wasn’t the case with CM Punk. Despite being WWE Champion, Punk often played second fiddle to John Cena. A problem that he was all to used to throughout his career. Punk didn’t main event Wrestlemania, John Cena and The Rock did. John Freakin Laurinaitis main evented a PPV over Punk. Punk was the WWE Champion, but he wasn’t treated like it. But Punk was still putting on the best match night in and night out. He had the match of the night at Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules with Chris Jericho, as well as at Over the Limit and Money in the Bank with Daniel Bryan. He made a love triangle storyline with him, Bryan and A.J. work. Punk may not have given the top billing and storylines, but he busted his ass to make them work. It shows Punk’s committment and dedication to make the best out of what is given to him. He did the same thing when he turned heel and had to feud with Ryback. Despite Ryback’s limitations, Punk made everything about that feud watchable. It was great to see Punk hold the WWE Title for a full year. A rarity nowadays. But he deserved it and deserved to enjoy every minute of it.
After all of this, CM Punk was ready for his greatest challenge as WWE Champion. At the Royal Rumble, CM Punk was going one on one with The Rock. It was the biggest match in Punk’s career. It was time to see if Punk was ready to go toe to toe with one of the best promo men this business has ever seen. And he did a damn fine job. When you listened to Punk in his first promo exchange with The Rock, you felt a little something extra behind it. More confidence. Punk truly believed he was a bigger star than The Rock. I would have loved to see Punk go over at the Rumble. For what he did for the WWE in 2012, the guy deserved a win. Even if it was through interference. But instead, The Rock went over twice and it kind of hurt CM Punk. He lost a little bit of his luster by not beating The Rock, and then he lost even more after losing to John Cena on RAW.
CM Punk was frustrated that he wasn’t in the main event of Wrestlemania. And he had every right to be. For someone to be WWE Champ for over a year and not get a chance to be in the last match at Wrestlemania just seems wrong. Did it have to be a Triple Threat Match? No. But they could have done John Cena/CM Punk for the WWE Title, and Rock/Brock as a double main event. But CM Punk still got a big match with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Some people consider that the most important match on the Wrestlemania card nowadays. There were reports that Punk was upset and just “going through the motions” in his feud with Taker. And if he was, you couldn’t tell. CM Punk made that feud the best program going into Wrestlemania. It was once again a case of Punk being given something and making it great, which might possibly be the best thing about him as a wrestler. They had the match of the night at Wrestlemania. They had the crowd in the palms of their hands through the whole match. As I said, CM Punk has some die hard fans, and even they felt it was something special to see him wrestle The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
So, what has been the point of this little trip down memory lane? Simple: Without CM Punk, the WWE would be barely watchable. Sure they have some younger mid card guys that are interesting and have potential. But CM Punk is the guy that gets everybody talking. Whenever CM Punk is on TV, he has your attention. Similar to Shawn Michaels, whether you love him or you hate him, you respect him for what he does for the business. The one thing you have to admire about CM Punk is that he isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes is right. If you watched his DVD, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If he doesn’t like something, he isn’t afraid to go to Vince McMahon and Creative and let him know. A lot of fans get behind CM Punk because of that. Despite his character’s constant bashing of the WWE Universe, the man CM Punk knows exactly what they want and gives it to them every week. Look back on every RAW from the last year. CM Punk consistently has the best segments. Whether it is a promo or a match, you can always count on CM Punk keeping thins entertaining.
I shutter to think of a WWE without CM Punk. When Punk said that he was just a spoke on the wheel of the WWE and the wheel would keep on turning, he may have been right. But if Punk leaves that bike gets downgraded drastically. People have their certain favorite wrestlers that they tend to follow more. But I believe CM Punk is the one guy that grabs the attention of everyone in the WWE Universe. Lots of people are sick of John Cena. Some fans don’t care for Ryback. Randy Orton and Sheamus are beginning to be thought of as after thoughts. But CM Punk is the guy that gets the attention of every fan: young kids, male adults, women. All fo them. Go to a WWE show nowadays and you seen fans of all ages wearing his merchandise. If Punk were to leave the WWE, his void would never be filled. Sure we have The Shield and Dolph Ziggler to fall back on. But despite the potential of all of them, they would never fill the shoes of CM Punk. He’s become a huge player in the WWE. He’s the #2 star in the WWE behind John Cena. You can’t fill that void just like that.
The WWE did a good job of setting up CM Punk for a huge return when he does come back. They tried to gain some sympathy for him. Punk feels like he let his fans down by not beating The Rock, John Cena or The Undertaker in the last few months. His return has the possibility of being a pretty big one. If you turn Punk face, you can build up his story throughout the summer and fall. Punk deserves to main event Wrestlemania next year. I would hold off on Punk winning the WWE Title. I still think they dropped the ball big time on the HHH/CM Punk program in 2011. I would have no problem re-visiting it, but with HHH as the corporate heel. Even give Triple H the WWE Title. Have Punk win the Rumble, and your WWE Championship match is set.
Shawn Michaels is my favorite wrestler of all time. When he retired, I was looking for someone new to take his spot on current TV. CM Punk was that guy. When he gives his promos they don’t seem forced. You feel like you are watching a guy speak his mind and not reading from a script. And CM Punk can tell a great story in the ring. He’s the WWE’s best all around performer they have. He plays a great heel, he plays a great face that isn’t like the typical WWE good guy you see nowadays. He can tweak or adjust his gimmick and doesn’t miss a beat.
CM Punk is getting some time off now and he deserves it. He’s carried the WWE for the better part of the last two years. While he may not have gotten a lot of appreciation for it from the higher ups in the WWE, he definitely got it from the fans of the WWE. We witnessed something special the last two years. We saw the rise of a wrestler that has deserved to be a consistent main event player for quite some time. CM Punk’s personality finally broke out from the pack and it got him over huge with the WWE Universe. Whether you love him or you hate him, you can’t deny that CM Punk had your attention throughout the last two years. He calls himself “The Best In The World,” and it is hard to argue it at this point.
Thank You CM Punk for giving us everything you had the last two years. We appreciate everything you done. You have our respect, and we can’t wait to see what you have planned for us when you come back.
Until Next Time,
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka
Tags: cm punk, john cena, Paul Heyman, The Rock, the undertaker, triple h, wrestlemania, WWE