When Stone Cold Steve Austin shook Vince McMahon's hand at WrestleMania XVII, there was a weird feeling to it. It just didn't seem right. The ultimate face of the Attitude Era joining the ultimate villain. Effectively, Austin had turned heel, and yet it was a run through 2001 that was completely ineffective and felt like an awkward fit.
CM Punk's attack on The Rock and hesitance to stop Big Show's assault on John Cena seemed to be the beginning of his own heel turn after about a year as one of the top faces of the WWE.
And yet, unlike Austin's turn, it couldn't feel more right.
A year ago was the "Summer of Punk" with explosive promos that gave a jolt to WWE programming that had not been felt in some time; and yet when he became WWE Champion, Punk slowly descended to the level of becoming the very institution he despised and pipe-bombed: John Cena.
There was nothing worse to see than Punk's promos and mic work watered down to the level of par as his reign became longer and longer as a face. What made it so painful was the fact that Punk had become the first viable anti-hero WWE had in years that could get people outside of the WWE Universe talking about the product.
The events of Raw 1000 are hopefully the equivalent of a reset switch for the Punk character because at least as a heel, Punk can do what he is best at, and that's be a monster on the microphone with not as many boundaries to work within. Of course, that's what the benefit of being a heel has been to everyone over the years in the history of wrestling.
The very audible applause from a portion of the St. Louis crowd indicates there is a sizable amount of the WWE Universe behind seeing a new direction for Punk.
Looking ahead to the extended future, a heel Punk can have some fantastic programs with Cena if they continue to build toward SummerSlam and, hopefully, The Rock when the Royal Rumble comes around. Obviously a lot will depend on whether they keep the belt on Punk, though.
Regardless, champion or not, a rejuvenated CM Punk as a heel stands only to benefit us all.
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