The People’s Column: The CM Punk Dilemma

Before I begin my column, I have a few thoughts in response to the feedback I was given on my Main Event MAfia column from a week ago.  I did not simply forget to mention Eric Young, I just do not like Eric Young.  He is not a quality talker or wrestler.  Being shoved down fan’s throats does not make you a quality wrestler or an over heel.  His “I wish I were Chris Jericho” act is pretty much suck-tacular (which is a word).  Enough about last week and TNA in general (I won’t be writing a Hogan column, so don’t expect one) and onto the task at hand.

The summer of 2009 will be remembered as a mixed bag as far as quality wrestling goes.  It saw the re-re-re-return of D-Generation X, the rise of Legacy, the semi-retirement (and subsequent arrest) of Jeff Hardy and the return to prominence of the Tag Team Championships on the back of Chris Jericho.  However this summer will be remembered overall as the summer of CM Punk.

CM Punk was a former World Heavyweight Champion walking into this summer by chance and chance alone.  His title reign in 2008 was characterized by weak rivalries, fluke victories and constantly being overshadowed by bigger programs.  He actually never even lost the title.  He was beat down by Randy Orton and the Legacy (in it’s infant stage) backstage and was never allowed vengeance.

For Punk, 2009 would prove to be completely different.

It started in a very similar way.  CM Punk became the first man to ever with Money in the Bank for a second time.  After winning MITB he was drafted to Smackdown and started a very interesting angle with Edge.  It seemed that he was constantly trying to cash in on Edge, but would always be stopped by the soon to be released Umaga.  This was a new and unique way to feature the MITB angle and also made for some suspenseful and interesting Friday night viewing.

Soon, CM Punk would actually get the opportunity to cash in his lucky briefcase.  It would not be on Edge though, it would be on Jeff Hardy.  This moment would turn into a turning point of Punk’s career.  Hardy had just won a hard fought ladder match against  Edge and was celebrating his first World Heavyweight Championship victory in rockstar fashion when suddenly the music in the arena changed.  CM Punk was on his way down to the ring with a briefcase and a referee.  Two Go-To-Sleep’s later and Punk was champion.

Of course this rivalry practically wrote itself as Punk was the straight-edge champion and Hardy was the free thinking and hard living challenger.  Fans rallied behind their flawed hero in Hardy against a man that stood for right-living (and forced it on others), CM Punk.  This was the first problem with this feud.  The WWE is increasingly trying to characterize themselves as family friendly, and this storyline just did not fit in with that image.  They tried their best to ignore this fact, but it still showed.  The WWE, for the sake of their public opinion, would rather the fans take the side of Punk over Hardy.

This of course did not happen and Hardy completed his time in WWE, putting Punk over decisively on his way out.  This was a turning point for Smackdown and Punk himself.  Punk’s heel run, up to this point, was really based on Jeff Hardy.  He needed the strong and popular force of Hardy to get his point across.  He did not get this opportunity with his next opponent, The Undertaker.

Undertaker did not do anything to put Punk over.  No unique promo from Undertaker discussing the character of CM Punk.  In fact, it just seemed like Undertaker’s plan was simply to show up at the Pay Per View and win without really acknowledging his opponent.

Then came the screwjob, which could have been well done, but really wasn’t.

The ultimate dilemma is this: If the WWE allows CM Punk to succeed, they are not sending a positive message to their young fanbase.  They are teaching them to glorify drug use and alcohol abuse, because CM Punk is against it.  If they allow Punk to fail, they ignore one of the only stars that they have managed to make in recent years and hurt the career of a truly talented and unique superstar.

Personally, I have enjoyed Punk’s run immensely and look forward to what the future has for him.  His involvement with Vince McMahon has me intrigued and I hope that they go all out with it.  Punk has a lot to gain in the next few months and even more to lose.  He is a star, but will the WWE take the risk of keeping him in that position?

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