Thursday, July 18, 2024
EditorialBridges Between CM Punk And WWE Continue To Burn.

Bridges Between CM Punk And WWE Continue To Burn.

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Watching Raw tonight gave me a sense of sadness for all the CM Punk fans in Chicago and across the world. It is evident that CM Punk was a major player in the WWE before he “quit”, and the fans continue to show their love and appreciation for him. It is something the WWE cannot stop. You can’t silence your audience. You can try your best to censor their signs and kick out troublemakers, but when the majority of a live audience wants to chant for their hometown hero, they will chant for him no matter what’s going on.

What saddens me even more is the portrayal of CM Punk nowadays, not just from the WWE, but from some fans as well. They constantly refer to him being a “quitter”, that he took his ball and went home, that he walked out on all of his fans. It reminds me of the day when I found out Stone Cold Steve Austin had taken his ball and went home. I was devastated. Austin was an absolute favourite, and even though he was in the twilight of his career at that moment, the shock wave was still apparent. The WWE made a mockery out of Austin then, and they continue to mock CM Punk now in a similar fashion. With Austin, he had a legitimate gripe with booking decisions, and he felt so strongly about it, that the only way he could make a point was to hit Vince McMahon where it hurts … in the pocket. Austin has touched on the subject on his podcast, and he admitted to feeling regret for the decision he made, as it didn’t just hurt Vince’s pocket, it hurt his own as well.

CM Punk has done the exact same thing. His merchandise continued to sell like hotcakes. Everyone wanted a CM Punk shirt, especially the Chicago fans. Wrestling is about money. It’s always been about money. Since the days of Bruno Sammartino, wrestling has been about money. The top wrestler in any wrestling company is the one who draws the most money. They get the most championships, they get the most airtime, they become the most famous. CM Punk had and still has a legitimate connection with his fans across the world, and no one can expect his die-hard loyal fans to sit in their chairs and not have their voices heard. CM Punk fans have a gripe with the WWE, they know that the circumstances surrounding CM Punk leaving the WWE were not as clear cut as some like to portray it. He did not simply walk out and quit for no apparent reason. He had a legitimate gripe with certain decisions that were being made, and it were these gripes that got him noticed in the first place.

The “Voice of the Voiceless”. Remember that? Do you remember his (worked) shoot promo? Do you remember how CM Punk would comment on how the WWE used guys like Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler? CM Punk continued to stick up for wrestlers who we all knew were legitimate workhorses, with the talent to get over, but were consistently held back in favour of old established names such as John Cena, Randy Orton, The Rock and Batista. CM Punk was the longest reigning champion in 25 years, but yet, how many PPV did CM Punk main event during his time? Let’s take a good look at all of those PPV.

  • Survivor Series 2011 – Punk defeated Del Rio for the WWE Championship. Sixth match of the card behind the main event of Cena/Rock vs Miz/Truth.
  • TLC 2011 – On a PPV which saw no John Cena (having a match or cutting a promo on PPV) for the first time since Cyber Sunday 2008, CM Punk was in the main event, he defended against The Miz and Del Rio in a TLC match.
  • Royal Rumble 2012 – The Royal Rumble is usually the main event, and it was on this occasion. CM Punk defeated Ziggler to defend the title prior to the Rumble match.
  • Elimination Chamber 2012 – In a rather oddly booked PPV, the WWE Championship Chamber match started the show. CM Punk defeated The Miz, Y2J, Kingston, Ziggler and R-Truth to retain. The main event was a terrible Ambulance match between John Cena and Kane.
  • Wrestlemania XXVIII – The WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Y2J was the eighth match of the night, scheduled just before the “Once in a lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena.
  • Extreme Rules 2012 – CM Punk defeated Y2J again, this time in a Chicago Street Fight. The match was booked before a three minute Divas Championship match, and the Extreme Rules match between Cena and Lesnar.
  • Over the Limit 2012 – In an excellent match between Punk and Bryan, Punk retained once again. For the second time in a row, Punk was booked before two other matches. The matches included Ryback squashing Camacho in two minutes, and the absolutely horrendous John Laurinaitis vs John Cena.
  • No Way Out 2012 – Punk defeated Bryan and Kane to retain the title in the eighth match of the night. For the third time in a row, Punk was booked before two other matches, including another Ryback squash match, and John Cena (w/ Mr. McMahon) vs Big Show (w/ Laurinaitis) in a steel cage.
  • Money in the Bank 2012 – CM Punk defended his title against Daniel Bryan, with AJ Lee serving as guest referee. This match was booked before three other matches, including another Ryback squash match, a six-Diva tag team match, and John Cena winning the WWE Championship Money in the Bank in the main event.
  • Summerslam 2012 – CM Punk appeared to gain a promotion at this PPV. Punk defeated Cena and Big Show to retain. However, his match was still booked prior to the Brock Lesnar vs Triple H main event.
  • Night of Champions 2012 – It took 11 PPV, but finally, CM Punk had a main event WWE Championship with John Cena. It ended in a draw, but it was still a highlight of his championship reign.
  • Hell in a Cell 2012 – As Cena had picked up an injury, Mr. McMahon decided Punk would face Ryback in the Hell in a Cell. In a really lacklustre 11 minute match, Punk retained after the corrupt referee (Brad Maddox) gave the assist, putting a rather unfitting end to one of the worst PPV of the year.
  • Survivor Series 2012 – In a somewhat short triple threat match (13 minutes), Punk retained against Cena and Ryback. The Shield debut put an end to the match.
  • TLC 2012 – Punk was not on the card after picking up a legitimate knee injury. Ziggler and Cena was the main event, with Ziggler defending his MITB briefcase.
  • Royal Rumble 2013 – The WWE Championship match between The Rock and CM Punk was the main event, the Royal Rumble happened just before it. CM Punk lost the title to The Rock after a spinebuster and a people’s elbow.

15 PPV as WWE Champion, and CM Punk headlined five of them. Two of them were during John Cena injury time. Two of them were relatively short matches that ended with interference, and one of them was CM Punk losing the title to The Rock. He was consistently booked earlier in the night before John Cena, The Rock, Ryback, Brock Lesnar, Divas matches, and John Laurinaitis.

He often highlighted in his promos, how he was not scheduled to be in the main event despite being the WWE Champion. His last PPV appearance, Royal Rumble 2014, saw him enter at #1, lasting longer than anyone else (49 minutes, 11 seconds), before being eliminated by Kane (27th). He was noticeably slow in the match. He was not the CM Punk we had seen back in ROH or ECW several years before. He was clearly burnt out and anybody with a working set of eyeballs could see that.

CM Punk saw how the Royal Rumble panned out. He was in the middle of it. Rey Mysterio entered at #30 and received a ton of jeers from the crowd as he was not Daniel Bryan. It was absolute common sense to have Daniel Bryan in the Royal Rumble match, and even more so to have him win that match. What did we get instead? We saw a 45 year old Batista return from several years away from the business, after making many comments during his hiatus on how much wrestling sucks now compared to the 1990’s, to return and have one match against Del Rio, and become a two-time Royal Rumble winner.

Now think about this, if you were in CM Punks position, wouldn’t you be pissed off too? You have guys like Daniel Bryan, getting over with the crowd like crazy, and your good friend Daniel Bryan is left out of the Royal Rumble so Batista could win? I would be pretty pissed off too. Even more so after seeing the crowd reaction, their reaction just confirmed how wrong the booking was. How could they get it so wrong? They got it so wrong because they refused to listen to guys like CM Punk who had a passion for the business like nobody else. The problem is, Vince McMahon destroyed Punk’s passion for the business. He swallowed him up completely. Vince McMahon took all the passion CM Punk had for the business and slowly shredded it all away, gradually, and with no regard for his physical and mental well-being. He burned him out so badly that CM Punk pleaded for time off. Punk wanted to recover from his injuries, he needed to get his head around some of the booking decisions he couldn’t understand. He really needed to get away, and as we have seen, getting away from the WWE is not always so easy. Vince is a master manipulator, he knows how to get people to do what he wants them to do. He’s done it so well for so many years, that’s why the WWE is so successful.

Other wrestlers did this before. Upon looking up the Big Show’s career lately, he has turned around to Vince at times and told him he was going on hiatus. He went straight to him and told him straight that he needed time off to recover so he could work matches properly again. Vince could do nothing but accept that. You can’t work matches year after year, after year, with no break, and expect to keep up the same physicality and storytelling. It’s just as mentally draining as physically draining, if not more so. CM Punk requested time off on several occasions and was refused. After the Royal Rumble, it was the last straw for Punk. He was requesting time off, and instead of getting that time off, he was booked to work for 49 minutes in a Royal Rumble match he wouldn’t be victorious in. 

Whether CM Punk liked the booking or not, his absolute biggest gripe was the lack of time he had to recover from his injuries. CM Punk is a man, just like Steve Austin, who only wants to deliver their absolute best. When you can’t deliver your absolute best, it’s not a matter of ego, it’s a matter of giving the fans what they pay to see. When they pay to see you, the wrestlers should be in top condition, they should be able to go without holding back, they should be able to excite you and keep the pace up. This is why Steve Austin still continues to refuse a return match. He never wanted his fans to see him at anything other than his best, and CM Punk follows the same code.

WWE didn’t just chew CM Punk up and spit him out, they continue to take shots at him while he isn’t around. They use CM Punk as a cheap heat tool. They have done this so many times in the past, and there is a rather extensive collection of sordid acts that are questionable. Racism, mocking the dead, mocking medical conditions, blatant bullying, and outright judgmental promos have been commonplace in the WWE for a long time. They continue to do the same thing with CM Punk, and although I admire the fact that they don’t just ignore the CM Punk chants altogether, calling him a “quitter” to garner cheap heat, well .. it’s just burning bridges. CM Punk would clearly get a laugh out of it, because he knows that the WWE completely messed the situation up, they didn’t grant him the basic need to recover from injuries, so he screwed them over, in the pocket, and during live shows in Chicago especially. It was a huge mistake on their part. They had to know that CM Punk was not the kind of man that was going to just put up with it forever. No amount of fans chanting your name can force someone to work night in, night out, year after year, nursing through many injuries to the point you simply don’t care about the business anymore. Any fans who expect him to do that are not true CM Punk fans. They should be happy that CM Punk really turned out to be the “voice of the voiceless”, and things that he did say during his promos were absolutely true. He stuck it to Vince McMahon, he stuck it to Triple H, and he stuck it to anyone else in corporate who refused to let him recover.

This is why wrestling needs an off-season of sorts. Or at least have the wrestlers have guaranteed holiday time. Almost all jobs have guaranteed holidays, most sports have an off-season, but wrestling has neither of those things. You work until you either a) get injured, b) get fired c) get suspended d) demand a hiatus from Vince and get one, or d) you quit. There are no other options. How is that fair on CM Punk and all the other wrestlers who do nothing but sacrifice themselves for our entertainment and to line the WWE bank accounts with money? Yes, these wrestlers get paid handsomely for their work, but so do many other celebrities who don’t work almost every single night, 24/7, 365 days a year. Anybody participating in contact sports, whether they are scripted or not, deserves their time off to recover from injuries. When you are not granted that time off, all you can do is quit, and that is what CM Punk did.

He didn’t quit because he “hates the business”, or he “doesn’t care about his fans”. That is the biggest amount of horse manure anyone can spew out of their mouths. He clearly does not have the passion for the business like he once did, and you can clearly see why from what I stated above, but I can’t imagine that he absolutely hates it with a passion. He married AJ Lee, WWE Divas Champion. How can he hate the business when his wife continues to work as a professional wrestler? Do you think they both completely ignore the subject altogether because CM Punk “quit”? Hell no, I bet AJ Lee talks to him about what’s going on, keeps him informed with certain friends he has. CM Punk puts a front on for the media. He wants to “appear” (I highlighted the word and added this to emphasize) like he has no care for the business anymore whatsoever. He doesn’t need the business, the business doesn’t need him, and the fans don’t need him either. That is the only way to get people pissed off with the WWE, because the fans know what Punk requested, and they lost him because the WWE wouldn’t grant him that simple request. Fans know all of this, they know that CM Punk would not walk out for no apparent reason, he always has a reason for his actions. Granted, he is a very outspoken and passionate guy who believes strongly in his ideals, but he knows that business is business, and he was unable to fulfil his side of the business in the ring.

It’s like putting an old tired horse into the grand national, despite everyone warning the promoters not to do so, because the horse could easily die. The horse goes into the race and dies, and the people are left bewildered because it was so obvious to everyone it was going to happen. I was the same way with CM Punk, I could see the lack of passion, I could see the slow pace. All his eyes told me is that he wanted out of there. He probably felt trapped and isolated. He didn’t want to let his fans down, he didn’t want to lose money, but he also didn’t want to end up crippled for the rest of his life. Injuries need to be sorted out or they can easily lead to much severe consequences, not just for the wrestler with the injuries, but to other wrestlers too. He didn’t want to put his co-workers at risk either..

Have you ever been in a situation where you have got yourself into an inescapable mess? There is no easy way out, and no matter which way you go, someone is going to hate you, someone is going to get hurt, and nothing will ever be the same again? Have you ever gotten yourself out of those trapped isolated situations only to feel a sense of euphoria hit you like a brick to the face? I have been in a situation like that before, and sometimes, you can only do what is best for yourself. In the long run, you may be hated for the decision you made, but at least you didn’t keep poking the mess with a stick, making it even worse to the point that it ends up as a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

WWE continue to burn their bridges with CM Punk, while in the meantime, CM Punk laid down an invisible bridge for the WWE. You can guarantee that although CM Punk walked out, he would have thought about returning one day, however he wanted to see how the WWE would react months after his departure. I have to be honest, with some of the things they have done and said, especially over the new WWE video game, and constantly referring to him as a quitter, CM Punk, if he did lay that bridge down, would have decided to take that bridge away some time ago. I don’t blame him for anything really. He has the right as a human being to work wherever he wishes to work, and if he does not wish to work as a wrestler, all the power to him! You can’t force someone to work somewhere they don’t want to work, no matter how many fans cheer for you and want to buy your merchandise, if your heart is not in your work, there is no point in being there.

I have rambled on about this subject for some time now. I know very well that some will disagree with me, and some may fully agree with me. All I really care about is that my voice is heard, because I am a wrestling fan. I am not a “mark”, because I find that term to be used in a negative manner more than anything, and I would never refer to you as marks. We are wrestling fans, and sometimes as wrestling fans, we need to think clearly with logic, and realize that one man who used to be our hero, is just as human as any of us. We all have the right to do what we want to some degree, although I am a firm believer that sometimes freedom of speech is something that is stretched a bit too far by most, and I believe that CM Punk has done nothing wrong, and the WWE will continue to prove that they can never admit to being wrong. They will sugar coat it all they like by using Punk for cheap heat, but in the thick of it all, it’s the WWE’s fault that CM Punk is not around anymore, not CM Punk’s. Treat employees better, and they will stick around. Just like any business, treat your employees like the dog turd you stepped in on the way to work, and you can expect them to have the same respect when they leave you searching for a suitable replacement … Only to find that your employee was irreplaceable and should have been treated as such.

That’s all from me! Try not to be too cynical, it might never happen.

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