The war of words between CM Punk and Chris Jericho took a somewhat unexpected turn on the March 12 edition of Monday Night Raw when Jericho, still reeling from embarrassment two weeks earlier, appeared on the Titantron after Punk had defeated The Miz in a singles match and promptly told the crowd one of Punk’s deepest, darkest secrets.
It turns out that the “Straight-Edge Superstar” is an Edger because his father was an alcoholic and Jericho suggested that Punk has as many tattoos as he as because it’s the only way he can cope with the pain of his dark past.
Jericho also stated that when he defeats Punk at WrestleMania, he will force Punk to drink for the first time and that Punk won’t be able to help himself but want more because alcoholism is in his blood.
It’s a particularly dark twist to the Punk/Jericho feud and many fans are suggesting that the WWE might have taken things too far by touching on a subject that might be very personal to a large portion of the audience.
Do I think the choice of this storyline (that a few of us have dubbed “CM Drunk”) was poor decision on the part of the WWE?
For starters, Punk has been open about the origins behind his personal straight-edge pledge in the past and has used it in wrestling promos as far back as 2003, as seen in the video included in this article.
There’s very little that Punk isn’t comfortable talking about, as witnessed by his Twitter account and various interviews.
I have a hard time believing that this would have made it to air without Punk's blessing, and even if that's the case, Punk is clearly an open book and that this is no real skeleton for Phil Brooks outside of kayfabe.
Secondly, the Punk/Jericho feud has given us a few solid promos, but let’s be honest, until last night’s development, Jericho looked especially weak against Punk, who appeared ready to steamroll over Jericho at WrestleMania.
Punk’s deflated reaction to Jericho’s outing him (in character) gives Punk the Achilles’ heel he has sorely been lacking over the last few months and will ultimately serve to make him a more sympathetic hero going into the biggest match of his career.
Even with a good creative justification for the alcoholism element in the storyline and Punk’s blessing to use his real history, many fans still feel that it’s a step too far and that alcohol abuse and family trauma is a place that the WWE shouldn’t go.
Perhaps it’s because it’s “too real” of a thread to include in a TV-PG show.
Perhaps it’s because of their own personal discomfort with the issue of alcoholism.
I hardly think the revelation about Punk’s history is shocking (if you think about why he’s a straight-edge, it’s a very logical conclusion), but if there’s any shock value to be had from it, this is the time for the WWE to capitalize on as much press and controversy as they can.
We’re leading up to WrestleMania and the card is looking a bit lackluster at the moment with no big surprises or shocks.
The Cena-Rock match is building up in a very obvious, somewhat disappointing fashion, so if you can stir the pot in any of the other matches, why not?
Alcoholism is also far from the worst subject that the WWE has exploited for their gain.
We’re talking about a company that had Triple H drug Stephanie McMahon and force her into marriage (and they’re now a real-life power couple).
And dare I mention the “Katie Vick” storyline?
Hardcore wrestling fans know I shouldn’t, but if you’re not familiar, it was a storyline from 2002 in which Triple H revealed that Kane had killed a woman when he was driving drunk years earlier and then went on to taunt Kane by reenacting the woman’s funeral and having sex with a dummy made to look like “Katie Vick” in a coffin.
You think alcoholism is tacky now?
It may be uncomfortable for certain members of the audience, but I ultimately think this exploration of Punk’s demons will work to Punk and the WWE’s advantage if handled properly.
Punk’s commitment to sobriety is one of the more positive aspects of Punk’s real-life identity that has rarely been played up in Punk’s face persona and could ultimately win over younger fans and families who find themselves put off by Punk’s look and bravado.
It could also start a debate about the subject amongst the audience and give the WWE a rare oppertunity to create a progressive and positive discussion about a subject that is largely swept under the rug.
It would be tacky if Jericho were to suggest that Punk’s father sexually abused him, but simply being a drunk is hardly anything to get offended by.
At this point, less than a day after Jericho’s “pipe bomb,” it’s hard to tell how far the WWE intends to carry all of this out, but I look forward to seeing how this will have a residual effect over the rest of the Punk/Jericho feud.
Both men are tremendous actors and I can see both using this material to steal the thunder away from Cena and Rock.
It’s certainly the most potent material the WWE has used in quite a while.