Triple H once told CM Punk that it was the fans, not backstage politics or championship opportunity, that made a WWE superstar.
Now—more than ever—it is clear that Triple H's words were nothing more than lip service.
CM Punk began this Monday's edition of Raw by berating General Manager AJ Lee, hurling an endless array of personal and emotional shots at Raw's GM. In any other world, Punk would be maligned for his words and actions. Instead, solidarity rang through Albany's Times Union Center.
"C-M Punk! C-M Punk!"
During the Attitude Era, Punk would be able to push the envelope and become the top heel WWE is so desperately trying to make him. But this is the Reality Era, and in this era, CM Punk cannot completely make his heel turn.
WWE creative paired Punk with Paul Heyman, who is a walking, talking wrestling heel. Pairing Punk with the heinous Heyman would surely aid his heel turn, right?
Think again. The move just makes Punk cooler—he's a "Heyman guy," as he so famously stated during his infamous worked-shoot promo last June. Heyman became cool by proxy, and when he joined Punk, the smarks rejoiced. The boos were barely audible over the cheers.
There will always be smarks cheering Punk's antics, no matter how hard he tries to be the "classic" heel. Punk will come out, week after week, doing his best to earn cheap heat in an attempt to be the antithesis of John Cena's super-babyface persona.
It's not for lack of trying by Punk, either. He's brilliant on the mic, as always. His actions as a heel are just as believable as his actions were when he was a babyface. There's really nothing Punk can do to turn the whole of the WWE Universe against him.
Simply put, a certain percentage of the Internet Wrestling Community will always cheer him. Period.
John Cena is the yin to CM Punk's yang.
We've known it for years, but Cena's heel turn isn't coming any time soon. Or maybe ever.
Cena gets heckled and jeered just as often as he receives the night's biggest pop. He was booed in his hometown at Night of Champions, while Punk's entrance was cheered. Cena hasn't received a true babyface reaction in years.
While fans chant the names of Randy Orton and Sheamus, Cena is showered with chants like, "You can't wrestle!" and "Same old sh--!"
The WWE Universe is certainly a bizarre place. The most popular guy in the company is a heel, and the company's top babyface is booed out of the building more often than not. And there is no change in sight.
It is absolutely ludicrous—and insulting to CM Punk—for WWE to suggest Punk must validate himself by beating Cena time and time again. They have it all wrong. Cena should have to top Punk to prove his worth as the company's top performer.
The match outcomes are predetermined. We all know that. Right now, that's all Cena has going for him. Michael Cole constantly comments on how no superstar evokes the reaction Cena does.
The only people cheering Cena are the ones that do so because they know they're supposed to cheer the "good guy." The only people booing Punk are the ones that do so because they know they're supposed to boo the "bad guy."
Fifteen years ago, that would work. But it doesn't work in the "Reality Era." The Internet has made pro wrestling fans too smart.
We know too much, and right now, we know CM Punk is the guy who should be carrying WWE. As long as John Cena is physically able to step between the ropes, though—we know that won't be the case.