We all know the date, and for those of you who listened to it live, we all probably remember what we were doing at the time.
It is June 27th, 2011 and an episode of Monday Night RAW is airing. Nothing too out of the ordinary happens. Our main event for the evening is John Cena vs. R-Truth in a tables match. Punk comes out in the main event, costs Cena the match and then retreats to the top of the stage, where he sits down cross-legged.
We probably knew that he was going to speak some anti-Cena sentiment to build to their match at Money In The Bank the next month. However, what we weren’t expecting was the complete avalanche that turned the sports entertainment world upside down.
He started out by building himself up as a threat, claiming himself to be the best in the world and how he’s been overlooked his entire WWE career. This was all well and good, and even referenced Paul Heyman, who hadn’t been affiliated with WWE in five years since the failure of WWE’s ECW and his client Brock Lesnar, who quit the company seven years prior.
However, this was merely the tip of the iceberg. What turned into generalized discontent and ire aimed at his opponent’s way turned into an all-out tirade which appeared to go outside the boundaries of what would be allowed to be said on WWE television.
CM Punk mentioned how The Rock was already slated to be in the main event of WrestleMania the following year while a guy like Punk, who competes every week, gets overlooked. He talked about how Cena gets opportunities because he is in the good will of Vince McMahon, such as icons who came before him such as Hogan and Rock.
He even took shots as the imaginary “brass rings” that Vince would refer to, but Punk came to a realization that people like him would never achieve the pinnacle of success in WWE because that’s how the system was designed at the time. With each impactful statement, I started to wonder if what I was watching was a mistake and that they forgot to turn off his mic.
How was Punk allowed to say WWE would be better off when Vince croaks and threaten to go to rival promotions such as Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling? It’s simple. What we were seeing in front of us was the mastery of the worked shoot.
In my opinion, WWE is always at its best when the lines between kayfabe and reality are blurred, and if you put the right oracle to deliver certain messages that have you thinking, you have yourself an entertaining product.
What Punk would say on that night wasn’t real, but to the eyes of all of us, it was about as real as the grass is green. What was also real was the fact that Punk’s contract with WWE was expiring in real life and Punk was ready to go. Then came that fateful June evening.
CM Punk was reportedly given the license to say whatever he wanted to and those in the gorilla position would cut him off the moment they felt like he’s going too far. That moment came when Punk referenced WWE’s anti-bullying campaign and how Vince McMahon launching it was hypocritical and purely for positive PR since there are countless stories of Vince bullying others.
There was an underrated moment during Punk’s promo that I don’t think people pay attention to much. There’s a moment where he finishes a statement and then he sort of looks down and gets a brief chuckle. I’d like to believe in that moment he felt free to unload and that he can reveal what he felt on a national platform.
Needless to say, this tirade left people talking for weeks on end, and Punk had finally started to get some of the attention that he craved. All of a sudden he was invited on talk shows and given more interviews, and unsurprisingly so.
I think my favorite part of this promo was the portion when he attacked us, the fans. It’s my favorite part because it has turned out to be one of the most relevant parts of why the product stinks today. Punk didn’t want the cheers of the fans because they were hollow.
They liked what he’s saying, but they were still going to contribute to the problem by buying merchandise and profiting off of it while watching a product Punk’s not the focus on.
The current product for WWE today is lackadaisical, but they have no reason to change because they haven’t seen an alarming drop in viewership or support (although Stomping Grounds did historically low PPV buys which may facilitate some change such as the Bischoff/Heyman moves today).
If fans continue to fill out arenas (this past week’s Smackdown isn’t exactly a good example), WWE will put out whatever Vince is feeling like. So, in essence, Punk told us to save the cheers because he knew we weren’t going to send a message that the current product is wrong and the booking is bad.
As you can see, there is so much to digest from just a five minute promo, but Punk occupied the time he was allowed exponentially. We’ve seen attempts at a worked shoot since then, such as the Roman/Cena promo about yep years ago. However, no one laid it on as thickly as Punk.
This promo facilitated one of the greatest matches in WWE history, when Punk defeated Cena in his hometown of Chicago at Money In The Bank 2011, hopped the barricade, and kissed Vince McMahon goodbye. Unfortunately for Punk, the story continued afterwards and it led to one of the biggest booking failures in WWE history.
The “Summer of Punk” was an abject failure in every sense of the word. What was supposed to be a summer cementing Punk as the top dog and usher in a new era of sports entertainment turned into a game of WWE Title hot potato between Cena, Punk and Alberto Del Rio.
Somehow, Kevin Nash and Triple H got involved with Punk’s story, and Triple H (or as Punk called him, Vince’s doofus son-in-law) ended up inexplicably defeating CM Punk, thereby rendering a lot of what Punk said empty.
We got countless, humorous one-liners, and smart comments that were so genius it’s hard not to admire Punk’s Oracle brilliance. But where did he end up after the initial shock of his promo wore off?
Well, he won the title from Alberto Del Rio at Survivor Series that year and would go on to have a reign that was the longest in the modern era, 434 days.