My name is Andy Wheeler and I’m the “new guyÃ¢â‚¬Â at Pulse Wrestling. Since most readers have an aversion to writers discussing their personal lives, I will keep this short and sweet. I am a wrestling fan. I was indoctrinated into the sport in the early 1980’s, and thanks to the magic of torrents and the unbelievable invention of WWE 24/7, I am pretty well versed in almost every area of wrestling history.
It is with that unique perspective that I will approach this column. Each week, I will take a different topic floating around the internet and attempt to put together a coherent and logical argument either for or against it.
I have been a fan of this site (in all of its previous incarnations) for many years, following several of the writers here from back in the dark ages of AOL, and it is truly an honor to get to write for Inside Pulse. Weepy bullshit done, let’s get down to business:
A common report churning down the rumor mill is that the once white-hot C.M. Punk seems to have soured in the eyes of several high-profile agents and that this might lead to McMahon and Co. to make a rash decision and turn the ECW Superstar heel. The response to this news has hardly been apathetic, with the majority of the IWC seeing this as yet another in a lengthy series of colossal blunders by the WWE. Well, dear reader, perhaps this is one instance where the writers’ knee-jerk reaction might lead them to fall ass-backwards into a good idea.
For Your Consideration C.M. Punk is better off as a heel.
There are two separate rationales from which I am going to tackle this seemingly polarizing issue. First, I’m going to look at how this helps Punk personally, and second I’m going to look at how this helps the seemingly helpless ECW.
For those of you loyal Punk fans who have been following his exploits for years, you know that C.M. Punk is an effective heel. In fact, some of Punk’s best work was when he was in front of a hot crowd with a live microphone and an itch to rile up the ticket holders. In ROH, the brash and cocky straight-edge phenom would revel in the chance to elicit a “C.M. PussyÃ¢â‚¬Â chant, and they were more than willing to do so. If anyone doubts this, a simple Google search would pull up a great confrontation with Punk and WWE legend Mick Foley. I defy anyone to watch his jousting with Mick and say that he cannot effectively evoke bile and hatred from a crowd.
The naysayers out there would argue that Punk will never be accepted as a heel. People tend to point to Rob Van Dam’s heel turn during the beginning of the spectacularly botched InVasion as proof that as long as the wrestler in the ring uses “flippy movesÃ¢â‚¬Â (TM Dusty Rhodes), he will always be over. This argument, while supported by precedent, is flawed. Yes, Van Dam was getting cheered as a heel, but this was mainly due to the fact that he was widely known from his years in ECW and fans were just excited to see him on a main stage again. He was an established brand name and one of the few shining moments in a dark time. One of the main reasons Van Dam failed to get the crowd to hate him was his lack of time with the stick. Fans weren’t given a reason to hate Rob Van Dam, and history has shown that they won’t boo a guy just because they’re told to (see: Austin, Steve). With C.M. Punk, there is a chance to create a unique hybrid of vintage Ric Flair and a non-squandered Edge.
There was a story floating around that Vince believed that Punk was a perfect heel because of his straightedge lifestyle, and I tend to agree. The unwashed masses who frequent many WWE events tend to like things oversimplified, and a straightedge character could certainly be dumbed down. Rob Van Dam got over with smart fans thanks to his innovative in-ring style, but he got over with the general public by mixing his amazing aerial feats with thinly-veiled drug references. Stone Cold got over with the audience with his love of “drinking beer and kicking ass.Ã¢â‚¬Â Joe Six-pack could relate to this mentality. Here were guys who liked drinking and liked drugs, and in today’s society that makes you cool. Now Punk on the other hand believes that drugs are bad and that drinking is evil. If they stick him in a ring and allow him to say that drugs are bad and drinking is evil, then like Pavlovian dogs, the crowd will boo and hiss and do whatever throwback MidSouth crowds do these days. ECW isn’t being booked exclusively in Philly and New York where fans can see through this flimsy character flaw. However, when you have ECW PPV’s emanating from rural Georgia and live Tuesday shows broadcasting from Kansas, that flimsiness is about all you need to get this type of character over.
A heel Punk will protect him from the current agent backlash. Heels can lose and still keep their spot on the roster, and the casual viewer will not notice that Punk’s high-impact offense has been replaced by chicken-shit antics. In fact, once he gets on a mike and conveys his hatred for those Americans who enjoy a beer after work, the audience will salivate to see him get a beating. A beating delivered by a former soldier who’s right now about as over as Kamala, which brings me to my next point
A heel C.M. Punk will help ECW.
ECW was made by a heel. The Night the Line Was Crossed was the night that Extreme Championship Wrestling was born. When the NWA title belt was tossed to the ground, it was clear that what was going to happen next was going to be exciting, exhilarating and yes, extreme. The man that threw that belt down was of course the Franchise Shane Douglas. Shane Douglas was the broad shoulders that the company was built on. Shane Douglas was the man who “put asses in the seatsÃ¢â‚¬Â. Shane Douglas was a heel. Not just a heel. He was THE heel. People paid to see him take beatings from the Sandman and Hack Meyers on a weekly basis, hoping that someone would rip that title from around his waist.
ECW thrived on having strong heels. All of the major feuds and storylines revolved around the strong heels; whether it was the despised Douglas, the conflicted Cactus Jack or the psychotic Raven. When ECW needed to create a solid foundation, they built it on their heels.
Fans need someone to hate. They need someone to loathe. They need someone that they want to see get beaten to within an inch of his life. ECW is sorely lacking that right now, and this is why ECW has been floundering. When ECW was brought back, they tried to build the company around RVD. RVD is an amazing wrestler and one of the most beloved competitors of the past decade; however he had no one to compete with. There was no Raven for him to enter into a great blood-feud with. There was no Sabu for him to try and best. He was thrown to the Big Show, who because of his size and depleted skills hardly could create a 5-star match with anyone at that point. Now ECW is going with Lashley, and his big heel threat is Snitsky? Yes, Snitsky looks impressive in the ring, but this is still the same guy who was headlining Heat against Eugene for the past year. Can you imagine anyone paying nearly forty bucks for a show headlined by Snitksy/Lashley? Next is Hardcore Holly, who I know is tough and I know is grizzled, but he hardly elicits any excitement out of anyone. There is now a huge gap in the heel department, and Punk has the perfect opportunity to capitalize on this.
Bobby Lashley is Vince’s guy. He’s big, he’s jacked and he’s big. He’s everything McMahon looks for in a champion, minus the charisma and ability to not sound like a prepubescent virgin. Vince wants Bobby to succeed, and as we saw with Cena and JBL, when Vince wants something to work, he will not give up on it. Ever. Even when the fans are chanting for another organization, Vince will turn a deaf ear and soldier forward. Punk’s arrogant prick character could be the thing to get Lashley over with the masses. Lashley getting over means ECW will be successful, and having a sub-par ECW is better than no ECW at all.
Heel Punk also gives us some dream situations. The immediate one is also the most attractive, Punk versus RVD. With the current New Breed versus the Originals storyline careening towards their inevitable car crash at Wrestlemania, the only point of intrigue has been where Punk’s allegiance lies. Assuming the unthinkable happens and Punk wins the Money in the Bank, he still has to contend with the fact that the ECW Title is cemented to Lashley’s waist. He also has to contend with the fact that Vince will not let anyone run the risk of turning the fans’ favor away from Bobby. Letting Punk become the face of the New Breed sets up several months of compelling storylines; it allows CM to feud with all of the ECW Originals until the inevitable series with RVD and it lets Lashley feud with Snitsky until Punk is established as the top heel in the company. Plus, should RVD opt to leave the company, how better to exit ECW than to put over its next superstar?
In the end, Vince will make yet another bad move and turn Punk heel, but it might not be the disaster everyone is predicting. This move allows Punk to get more mike time, higher profile matches and a chance to show the agents that he is more than capable of taking the ball and running with it. It’ll make ECW a better show and a chance for the masses to find a new person to loathe. Will some fans still cheer? Maybe. But you turn him heel against RVD and even the most ardent Punk supporter will be drowned out by the masses screaming at the top of their lungs for the Whole F’n Show. I hope they pull the trigger and turn him heel, because it might just be the thing to save Punk’s career and the ECW brand.
This has been for your consideration.