Ever since Austin began the "Austin 3:16" revolution at King of the Ring in 1996, the world of professional wrestling was forever changed. With that moment in time, the Attitude Era began in the industry and never really let up.
Granted, others like Degeneration-X were also a huge part of what was being done, but it was Austin that set it in motion.
Standing on the platform after winning the tournament, Austin seemed oblivious to what he had just done, going through several other competitors, and making it to the finals where he defeated Jake "the Snake" Roberts. It was symbolic that a new age was ushered in by Austin after besting Roberts, a symbol of the old guard in the company.
From there, Austin's attitude of doing whatever he pleased, seemingly without consequence led to the building of a brand. Austin soon ceased being a mere performer, and made himself a brand. Everywhere you looked, there were countless "Austin 3:16" shirts. People spoke of "opening a can of whoop-ass" as a means of joking around.
Gone is the time when a guy walked to the ring, wrestled and walked back out. Austin changed the game from a man walking into the ring, wrestling and walking back out. Entertainment became a huge part of the storyline. And that shift led to today's crop of performers, of which Punk is a shining example.
Punk has seemingly turned the world on its ear with his introduction of "Pipe Bombs." The world never seems to know what the next word to come out of his mouth will be and we all sit on the edge of our seats waiting to find out. His practice of sitting down in the ring or on the entrance ramp and just seemingly vent to the crowd has become something to look forward to.
But more than that, he is not a one-dimensional performer. Once the talking is over and it's time to go, Punk lays it all on the line night in and night out and gives the fans their money's worth. Love him or hate him, the man always leaves you satisfied by what you have seen in terms of his effort. His dedication and love for the business is evident. As a singular entity, he has legitimized the independent wrestling community.
Once Punk established a foothold in the company, it cleared the way for other popular independent wrestlers, including Daniel Bryan and Evan Bourne to make their way to the big time.
Gone are the days of talented performers from tiny promotions not getting mainstream opportunities. Thanks to Punk's trailblazing, anything can happen.