bill bodkin, michael dworkis and jason stives talk about pro wrestler CM Punk and his impact on the current state of wrestling …
The WWE will present its annual SummerSlam pay-per-view tonight. In the main event, John Cena will batte CM Punk to determine who the real world champion is.
Many of you probably know the name John Cena. His face is plastered over everything WWE-related and he’s been the star of major motion pictures like The Marine and 12 Rounds. In essence, he’s the posterboy of the WWE. When you think of the ‘E,’ you probably think Cena.
However, for longtime wrestling fans, people passionate about the “sport” of wrestling, their current posterboy is the tattooed straight-edge wrestler known as CM Punk. In recent weeks, the Chicago-born wrestler has caused a stir in the industry with his brutally honest interviews.
This week, three angry nerds, Bill Bodkin, Michael Dworkis and Jason Stives, three longtime wrestling fans, look at the impact CM Punk has on the wrestling industry and their own personal predictions, thoughts and feelings about his tenure and future in the WWE.
I hate to detract in such a fun column where we all have gripes on a certain subject, but I’m not convinced on this sudden savior of professional wrestling. In part, this may have to do with my interest waning in both the product and my age as I get older. Pro wrestling was a lot of fun to watch when I was a pre-teen. I started watching in early 1999, right after the then WWF took supremacy of the Monday Night Wars. That’s all in the past, and more and more the product has come down to how “smart marks” view it and how the rest of the audience does. Vince McMahon, John Laurinaitis and the rest of the WWE higher-ups think like the rest of the audience, bringing it down to child like mannerisms. Personally, I don’t need the dick and fart fest of 10 years ago, but I don’t want the wrestling equivalent of the Batman TV show full of comedy shtick and a mouthful of “darns” and “shucks.”
That being said, CM Punk has no doubt lit a decent spark back into my interest of pro wrestling, but merely in its current storyline. I think it’s foolish to believe that this will last — McMahon has a history of quashing something great if he sees fit. Everyone knows VKM is not keen on marketing a product he didn’t create (remember in 2003 when Triple H faced pretty much every big WCW wrestler circa 2000 for a whole year?), or if he does, he remolds it to his fitting (WWECW).
There is a possibility that Vince has finally realized that he is way past his prime in what’s relevant in the sport, but in fairness, it’s not like his competition will ever over take him. With Triple H now looking to be the head of the roost soon, as a top wrestler for a decade, Hunter has an awareness of what people want. He has already been rumored to want to revitalize the tag team division, something I have been clamoring for for a long time now. But regardless of storylines and title lineage, what matters is constantly building stars. It happens in five to 10 year spurts, and it’s happening again this time. And that’s where we lie with CM Punk and what we hope Vince is doing here.
Punk is greatly pleasing to both people looking for the next big thing and those who want what they deem a real wrestler. Everyone knows the story at this point. It has played out for over a month now, and the best stories in wrestling are always brought over from behind the scenes turmoil. He is a smart mark wrestler and that’s not a bad thing, but it’s obviously a stigma that Vince and the creative team are aware of. Remember when Daniel Bryan debuted a year ago and he was built as the internet sensation? That’s a nice way of saying we’ve got your number as far as the internet fan base. This storyline has definitely brought in creative stock for the company but I don’t see it lasting. They have already potentially flat lined it by having Punk return so soon with the belt, and now we will see an Undisputed Championship match at Summerslam that no doubt Cena will surely win.
Do I feel that there will always be steam to keep pro wrestling and the WWE going? Sure. But has my interest been rekindled to the height it once was? Not really. It’s nice when these little spurts of interest happen and I will always follow the business in some manner of speaking, but for me CM Punk has not really answered a call to fans but given a nice window of time for people to enjoy what they once loved.
If you have not been watching WWE Monday Night Raw for a while, I can understand. The storylines have not been all that enticing. However, in the past two months, a twist of fate would become a rejuvenation of WWE programming.
It was no secret that the contract of CM Punk was running out. It was already decided that at the Money In The Bank pay-per-view, he would challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship. A few weeks before, Punk cut a hateful promo towards the reigning champion, calling him a fraud and a corporate lackey. Fine, nothing new. The following week, his promo got further attention by directing his comments towards Vince McMahon, Triple H, and the wrestling industry as a whole. His rage-filled rant opened eyes and most notably, got his microphone cut off and earned himself an indefinite suspension through the end of his WWE contract. However, per the storyline, Cena argued to keep the match to the disdain of Mr. McMahon, who feared that Punk would win the WWE Championship and take the title elsewhere. Punk would go on to defeat Cena for the title at Money in the Bank, and left. However, after Triple H revealed that he was now the new Chief Operating Officer of WWE, as the “Board of Directors” voted to oust Vince from the role, he “resigned” Punk to a new contract.
For more than a month now, he has brought to light nearly every item on the list of the unhappy wrestling fan. He is tired of Cena always being on the high pedestal, tired of watching the fans of the WWE Universe being spoon-fed who to cheer and who to boo. Punk says he is the “voice of the voiceless” and speaks for talent such as Colt Cabana who had a very short run in WWE under the name Scotty Goldman. During his most recent promo, he called out WWE VP of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis, asking if he went in-person to Harry Smith or Vladimir Koslov to tell them they were being released, something not done on television in years. In a matter of weeks, CM Punk went from a stable-leading mid-carder to a main event microphone god.
Storyline aside, this bold direction by WWE reminds me of elements from the Attitude Era, a popular time during the late-’90s. CM Punk cut promos that sounded too real for television. Is he really that angry? Or is this just another creative concept from the writing staff? Regardless of the ultimate truth, Punk is a person who lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps for wrestling. Like many fans, he may really have become disgruntled with Cena again becoming champion, cutting the same promos, and worst, tired of the same routine programming. I would like to believe that Punk was handed the microphone and told to “go have fun.”
I would like to see Punk form a new stable of like-minded entertainers. Say, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan in WWE) and Colt Cabana. If that wish came to pass, then it would a golden opportunity to steal the underused and abused Samoa Joe from Impact Wrestling, or whatever they call themselves this week. I hope this angle continues on for a long time, hopefully influencing future WWE storylines. I have noticed a significant change in Cena. His promos have improved, even acknowledging that people accuse him of always doing the “five moves of doom.”
Punk is breaking down the fourth wall and has become the entertainer that longtime fans have been waiting for. The time is now to bring some realism back to WWE, bring some edge (or bring back Edge), bring the attitude!
CM Punk is not a name that mainstream audiences may know. He’ll probably never be on par with The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin or even John Cena. But right now, CM Punk is the most entertaining. And right now, he is the most important man in professional wrestling.
Not because he’s bringing throngs of youngsters or fairweather fans to arenas who are reciting catchphrases or buying merch. No, it’s because he’s brought back the wrestling diehards. The guys, the “angry nerds” who have spent more than they’d like to admit on wrestling DVDs, on indie wrestling shows tickets, pay-per views and yes, senseless merch like a styrofoam head for $15 (in 1999 for God’s sake!). He’s brought back people like me, bored by the wrestling industry, who’ve lost a connection with an industry they referred to as “sports” not “sports entertainment.”
CM Punk being the man who’s brought me back brings a smile to my face. It was only a few years ago that I was frequenting Rec Centers in Rahway and Philly when a blond, basketball-shorts-wearing wrestler was the “cult of personality” of the independent wrestling world. His interviews were captivating, spouting his gospel of being straight edge — no drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. His style was a hyperactive hybrid of strong style Japanese and the extreme version of traditional, American pro wrestling. He engaged in some of the most entertaining feuds, in particular (in my opinion) his feud with Raven, the counter-culture predecessor of Punk.
While in the WWE he became the equivalent of a punk rock band signed to a major, mainstream label — still relevant, but watered down and under-promoted. However, unlike most mainstream punk bands, this Punk has been allowed to strike back. To stick it to man, to be the counter culture anti-hero … albeit within in the guidelines of the WWE. Thankfully, they’re letting him be him, to speak his mind “to shoot.”
His interviews have been so refreshing because he’s channeling and venting the anger, angst and issues not just he has with pro wrestling but the issues the fans are having too. And because of that we’re intrigued, we want to see more … we want to be fans again.
And because of CM Punk, an angry nerd like myself will has become a lot less angry with the wrestling industry.