CM Punk noted last week on WWE's flagship show "Monday Night Raw" that there are only two times the mainstream media mentions WWE - when he talks or when wrestlers die. It was a shocking line and made me - a hard-nosed member of a group I hate to admit I'm part of, the "IWC" - do a double take.
That's not something you mention on WWE television. That instantly brings to mind the one wrestler that WWE doesn't want anybody to mention, Chris Benoit. Random Benoit appearances have started to pop up on classic footage, as long as he's not mentioned by name or is the focal point, and the closest WWE has come to mentioning Benoit is when Vince McMahon once made a snide comment on air about Nancy Grace (one of the harshest judges of WWE during the Benoit murder/suicide).
But, CM Punk said it and he said several other noteworthy things over the last several weeks of television. With four promos (his initial "work-shoot," his incident in Australia, and his two promos on last week's Monday Night Raw), CM Punk has become the "it" wrestler. He is, without a doubt, the hottest wrestler in WWE, TNA, ROH, etc... right now.
The sad thing is, Punk is leaving WWE this Sunday, July 17. His last match is as big as it can get, against WWE Champion John Cena, the modern-day version of Hulk Hogan.
Going back to Punk's comment about the mainstream media only looking at WWE when wrestlers die or when he talks, the irony of that is that lately it's been true. When was the last time any other WWE superstar was interviewed in GQ Magazine?
The interview was interesting for several reasons. First of all, it seemingly confirmed the long-standing rumor that Punk and WWE female wrestler Beth Phoenix are dating. Much more interesting than that, he basically tore into several facets of WWE, saying that he wasn't pleased with how things were run in certain areas and did not feel like he was appreciated enough for his efforts. As he put it, "I've been given some awesome opportunities, and I feel that I've always knocked them out of the park. But I've always been scaled back after that."
Punk has long been a favorite of wrestling purists. While Triple H and John Bradshaw Layfield were dominating the WWE, and Jeff Jarrett was holding onto the TNA World Championship, wrestlers like CM Punk and a small crew were plugging along on the undercard of those shows and the main event of Ring of Honor shows, putting on technical wrestling clinics. While JBL and the Big Show were lumbering through a 15-minute cage match in a pay per view main event, CM Punk was having a 75-minute draw against Austin Aries. Punk was helping set new standards for what real wrestling was. It wasn't "sports entertainment," where it doesn't matter how well you can wrestle, as long as you can entertain the fans. This was professional wrestling, which emphasized athleticism and hard-hitting action.
Then Punk signed with WWE in 2005 and shocked the world over the next six years by showing that not only was he an amazing professional wrestler, he could also be one of the top sports entertainers in the world. Punk is really one of the best all-around professional wrestlers going today. There is a small crowd that can go in and successfully work a key matchup at WrestleMania - and make that crowd happy - and also work a main event for the Ring of Honor championship - and make that crowd happy. John Cena couldn't do it. I don't think Randy Orton could. Rey Mysterio can't. Big Show can't. Mark Henry can't. Kane can't. CM Punk can. He has enough credibility as a wrestler to perform for the most wrestling-heavy promotion in the world, and he is entertaining enough to be a top performer for WWE.
Despite his talents, Punk has been overlooked and not allowed to be the star that his fanbase believes he should be. As he put it, "Instead of giving me the ball and letting me run with it, they would give me the ball to keep it warm for somebody else. I always just want to be the guy." While John Cena is being pushed down the fans' throats, CM Punk and others are fed to him in an effort to create credibility for the wrestler nicknamed "Super Cena" for his ability to always make a comeback, no matter what obstacle is put in his way.
Wrestling is one of the art forms where it really does not matter as much who is the best. Both wrestlers must work together in order to look good. One of the problems of being really good is that you are often used to make others wresters - Cena, for example - look better than he really is. A talented wrestler who has made a career out of making others look good was Chavo Guerrero, a member of the famous Guerrero wrestling family that included former WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero.
Chavo seemingly had a job for life in WWE. He made good money and was featured regularly. He just never won matches and was used to make others look good, including a 4-foot little person, whom he memorably feuded with in 2009. Wanting to wrestle to the best of his abilities and get the chance for himself to look good, Chavo recently asked for his release from WWE after 10 years. He weighed in on the Cena/Punk matchup on his twitter account, @mexwarrior:
Ppl will remember this PPV. U know Punk will bring "it". I've been in the ring with both of u & Punk has "it". Cena u have mic skills yes, but if u think ppl believe your BS lazy comeback that u do exactly the same every match then u are mistaken. Eddie & I taught u different..We never said "get lazy" & do the dame thing every night. We always said" think out of the box" & give the fans what they deserve & not rely on the "machine"to " get u over". I hope this lights a fire under your ass & U deliver this Sunday. Dont just rest on U being over cuz u are & that is easy. Challenge yourself & give the fans what they deserve. That's why they boo u. Because they aren't stupid. They know what they pay for & the "great" promo guy but the shitty "match" guy that u have become is not what they want. I understand "longevity" but at the sacrifice of the fans trust is not worth it. Deliver on your fans & deliver on why U got into this business.Eventually the fans that U have gained with from the purple t-shirts will turn on U. Take a lesson from the Hulkster. Give the fans there $ worth and dont become Just Another "promo" guy. I know u love this biz & dont get distracted from the McMahon $. Deliver plz!! Have enough respect for your fans.. Cuz without them, you're working at a fast food chain. Love u man & I support u & hope u see this cuz I know Punk will & I know he's going To bring it cuz he's got nothing to lose!
Guerrero basically said that Punk is going to deliver one of the best pay per view matches of his life because he has nothing to lose. And, in a message directly to Cena, said that the WWE Champion has gotten lazy because it's the easy thing to do. He's "over," which means people cheer for him. But, the reason he's over is because kids ("the fans you have gained with the purple t-shirts") don't realize that he's a bad wrestler and once they get older they'll turn on him. He's telling him to ditch the "Superman comeback" (which has come to be known among some as the "5 Moves of Doom") he's become so famous/infamous for and go out and have an amazing match on Sunday with CM Punk.
This match has been one of the most buzzed-about matches in recent memory. The numbers, which will be known in a few months, will speak volumes about this. How many people put down their hard-earned money and actually bought this pay per view to see the culmination of the CM Punk/John Cena feud? And, something else to look into, that I don't condone - how many people will illegally stream this pay per view to see the culmination of the John Cena/CM Punk feud?
Will CM Punk walk out of WWE with their World Champhionshp, as he has vowed to do? I highly doubt that, but with the "Money in the Bank" contract matches looming on the undercard of their match, there are several different scenarios that could see Punk winning the championship from Cena and then losing it immediately after.
I am very interested in how this plays out this Sunday, on pay per view. Based on the buzz from wrestling fans and the mainstream media, a lot of people will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of this match.