Pro wrestling, and the WWE especially, have long been masters of crowd manipulation. Heel and face turns have been tuned into a very fine art.
Although not every heel or face turn comes off precisely to the desired effect on the audience, CM Punk’s this past Monday night was pulled off expertly.
An effective heel turn requires a solid build-up, a dramatic turn and a consistent follow-up. All of the elements came together to make Punk’s heel turn a fine example of how it’s done.
It was simple but effective.
The background build up to Punk’s heel turn was rather subtle, as shock factor played a part; however, watching Raw last week revealed a Punk who was not quite himself.
From his indignant glare towards the Rock, to him intentionally allowing the Big Show to attack John Cena, there was a sense of foreboding in Punk’s behavior.
Beyond what was seen on Raw 1,000, there is also much yet unexplained background to Punk’s turn, and that pertains to the involvement of the Rock.
By turning on the Rock, Punk was effectively expressing his frustration that after all of his hard work to make it to the top, the Rock can merely walk in and get handed a title match.
As Punk worked through the independent scene and up the ranks of the WWE, the Rock left the industry for Hollywood.
By turning on the Rock, there is already an extensively large backstory to be added to the rivalry. It’s clear that the lead-up to the heel turn, although not necessarily planned per se, is solid.
Involving the Rock also greatly increased the impact of Punk’s actual turn. Had CM Punk turned on Cena himself, or any other face on the roster, for that matter, the effect would not have been so resounding.
Blindsiding Cena wouldn’t have gotten Punk much heat; indeed, he likely would have been cheered for it. Instead, by targeting the Rock, he’s frustrating a much larger portion of the audience.
The Rock is the best target for an impactful heel turn, and Punk capitalized upon that.
Looking further into Punk’s turn, there are some more elements that contributed to its effectiveness. Granted, a lot of this is pro wrestling 101; however, it truly was a clinic in turning heel.
By clotheslining the Rock during a people’s elbow, Punk deprived the fans of their payoff. He denied the fans their satisfaction and rubbed it in by mocking the Rock with his signature stance before hitting him with a GTS.
In the aftermath, Punk truly proved that he is the “best in the world.” Not just when it comes to wrestling ability, but also to all facets of being a wrestler.
Following the GTS, Punk did not raise his championship. He in no way acknowledged the crowd. The straight-edge superstar merely glared, added in a slight snort for effect and walked away.
As Punk walked away the crowed echoed in a chorus of boos. Of course there were also some cheers from Punk’s loyal fans, but the masses had made up their mind.
Lawler reinforced what we’d just seen with the line that Punk has “turned his back on the WWE Universe”, no doubt scripted for further emphasis.
Even outside of the ring, Punk continues to sell his heel turn with the little things. For example, Punk is a prolific Tweeter; however, six days later, he has still not made a post on his Twitter account since prior to Raw 1,000.
Let us also not forget Punk hinting at a heel turn on Twitter for weeks before Raw 1,000. He is almost as capable as Chris Jericho when it comes to using social media to work over the fans.
Just Prior to Raw last week, Punk was also involved in an incident at the St. Louis airport where he threw a fan’s autograph book into a rubbish bin. Now, while it is no secret that the fan had stepped out of line, was Punk also selling his impending turn to the onlookers?
In and out of the ring, Punk has sold his heel turn expertly. Credit must also be given to WWE Creative for their timing and scripting here.
Not only was it an impactful end to the milestone 1,000th episode of Raw, but also immediately freshened up Punk’s generic babyface act.
What will truly be telling is how this angle continues into Raw tomorrow night and onwards. Punk’s explanation, or lack of one, will reveal if WWE is able to follow through.
To date, this is the first we’ve seen of what could potentially be the big summer angle.
So far, so good.