If it wasn't already apparent, Monday seemed to mark CM Punk's official heel turn, as he kicked Jerry "The King" Lawler in the head on RAW. Punk has only been acting heel-esque since the 1,000th episode of RAW, but it's already fair to say that he is the premier heel in WWE in terms of mic work.
Punk has always been fantastic at cutting promos, dating back to his time with Ring of Honor, but he has only really started to get credit for it over the past couple years. He thrived as the leader of the Straight Edge Society as well as Nexus; however, it wasn't until his "pipe bomb" promo last summer that the majority of fans took notice.
Punk turned face soon after and was still solid on the mic, but he just wasn't the same. As much as Punk might say that his character didn't change, face Punk was very different because he lost much of the edge that he had built up and he catered to the fans a lot more than he ever had. That is no longer the case, though.
What happened on Monday was a perfect example of why Punk is so much better on the mic when he's heel. He resorted to comedy a lot during his face phase, and while he can still do that to some degree as a heel, he is so much more intense now and it is far more enjoyable when he has a "me against the world" type of mentality.
His back-and-forth with John Cena on RAW was highly entertaining, as it featured the WWE's best promo guys on the heel side and face side, respectively. I particularly have enjoyed Punk's crusade for respect. He has been the WWE Champion since Survivor Series, but he hasn't been in a main event for 10 straight pay-per-views, so he has a legitimate beef and has done a great job using that to cement his heel turn.
As much as I and other fans love to see wrestling, there is no doubt that talking is almost equally important these days. The WWE could have great match after great match, but without storyline development fueled by superstars cutting compelling promos, those same fans would likely become bored by the product.
Punk is one of the rare wrestlers who is the total package in terms of in-ring work and speaking ability, and that is what makes him truly special. As far as heel promo-cutters, though, there isn't really anyone in the WWE currently who comes close.
I would say that The Miz, who is very good in his own right, is Punk's primary competition, but he is more comedic than anything and while he can cut serious promos and has in the past, Punk is still better in that regard.
Aside from Miz, Daniel Bryan has gotten much better on the mic, although he isn't anywhere near Punk's level. Also, Wade Barrett will be in the conversation when he returns, but he doesn't have a track record that rivals Punk's.
You could argue that Paul Heyman might be able to give Punk a run for his money, although he isn't a full-time WWE employee and it's his job to be a mouthpiece, but I still give Punk the nod since he has the other elements in addition to his mic work.
It may not seem like a revelation to say that Punk is the best speaker in the WWE today, but I can't help but be impressed by his seamless transition from face to heel. Cutting promos as a face and heel are two entirely different things, and while Punk has excelled at both, his recent promos have been the best he has delivered in quite some time.