Wednesday Morning Backlash: How WWE Ruined CM Punk

The WWE has comprehensively and thoroughly ruined CM Punk’s heat. He isn’t suddenly a different guy. Punk remains the best wrestler and talker on the roster, but he also isn’t any longer special in the way that he was pre-Money in the Bank. As a matter of fact, every single thing they’ve done with Punk since then has taken away a bit more and more of what made him different.

Let’s begin with what got him over. Punk cut some absolutely incredible, dangerous feeling promos. He was a heel who voiced what the fans thought, but more, he was the anti-establishment, the anti-sports entertainment. Punk isn’t a guy who was engaging in a wrestling angle, even when he was, rather Punk was the one character in wrestler who understood and acknowledged the tropes of the form and was able to laugh at them and ignore them, from political scheming, to being a great wrestler being frowned upon, and even how bad guys were meant to jump faces and fall for ridiculous tricks. This was a new character, one who admittedly loved and mocked the same things the audience did. And better, he was still a bad guy, in essence. There was a sense of danger both in that he might really leave and, just as much, that he might really turn on the fans at any moment. He knew the game and the rules, so he could do anything.

Then, pretty much immediately after he left, CM Punk returned. Mike Gojira said ruined the angle and he took heat for it, but in hindsight, he was right. CM Punk being allowed to be bold and dangerous made this work. The treat of him leaving made him feel even more special. So what did WWE do? They took the safe route. Punk returning after he left made sure the crowd didn’t forget him, but far more made sure the crowd didn’t get to miss him. There was no more fun or adventure to his sightings or when he could return – he was just back, and back to the same angle he left with. The angle was still hot, but the first slice had been taken out of what made Punk special.

The next chunks would be taken out by John Cena (through, I am certain, no fault of Cena’s own). Cena was and remains Punk’s natural protagonist. He’s the kiddie WWE that Punk is railing against – the most predictable member of the roster and the one who most is for the culture of political favors Punk claimed to hate. Cena is the one who dominated the title, storylines and advertising. Punk had to beat him to retain his heat… and he beat Cena, twice in fact. Unfortunately, though, neither of those times was clean. Punk won, lost the title, and moved on. This was a crucial misunderstanding of the character.

WWE attributed Punk’s success to the insider comments, not seeing what made them relevant was the character that delivered them and who they were delivered to. He was given someone with whom he could continue to make insider comments, Kevin Nash, and another authority figure to battle, having defeated Vince McMahon- Triple H. He, however, isn’t Steve Austin, railing against authority. He is a different wrestler, a different character, railing against the status quo and predictability. Insider comments with Nash and H are entertaining, but they aren’t ultimately empty chatter and 20-minute Raw opening promos, i.e. what Punk supposedly hates.

And, of course, Punk was no longer a heel, no longer dangerous. Crowds pop for him, so he’s suddenly a moron. He’s now susceptible to predictable jumpings, never has anyone watch his back and is no longer a step ahead of the game, winking at the audience. He’s just another bland babyface, albeit one with great promos.

For all Punk’s talk of change, Cena is now the one facing off for the title, just as he always was before. Punk didn’t change anything, or really get to be on top. Just as before, Cena is the guy doing the same angle he always does with a new heel. Punk, to remain what he was, had to beat Cena, had to keep the title or remain in the chase, and had to keep being smarter than the system. Now, after Raw, he’s instead shaking Cena’s hand. I guess the status quo wasn’t so bad and we’ll have to settle for Punk just being a great, but no longer special, buzz worthy performer. There goes that revolution.

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