…One nation, under Punk, with integrity and sobriety for all…
CM Punk’s first heel turn started in the summer of 2009 when he cashed-in his second Money in the Bank contract against newly-crowned world heavyweight champion Jeff Hardy. Punk solidified himself as a heel when he declared that his straight-edge lifestyle made him better than Hardy and his fans.
Jeff Hardy was ousted from the WWE by CM Punk. He lost the World Heavyweight Championship in a TLC match in the main event of SummerSlam 2009. Punk then defeated him in a “Loser Leaves the WWE” steel cage match on the Aug. 28, 2009 edition of SmackDown.
Punk then set his sights on cleansing the WWE Universe. On Nov. 27, 2009, Punk converted Luke Gallows and initiated him into the newly formed Straight Edge Society.
Over the course of the next few months, Punk initiated Serena and Joseph Mercury into the faction. On occasion, Punk would also welcome fans into the ring to publicly announce their embracement of the straight edge lifestyle. He would subsequently shave their heads, which was meant to represent a new beginning.
The Straight Edge Society was the height of Punk’s last heel turn. The group did battle with Rey Mysterio in what was one of the best feuds of 2010.
Punk also led the New Nexus in 2011. Along with the New Nexus, Punk set his sights on Randy Orton. Their feud culminated in matches at WrestleMania 28 and Extreme Rules 2011.
As far as the fans are concerned, Punk’s first run as a heel ended on June 27, 2011. Despite his best efforts to garner heat, Punk was cheered by most crowds following his pipebomb promo.
That was until Punk attacked The Rock on Raw 1,000.
The question is which of Punk’s heel runs is better—his straight edge driven one or his current one?
In his last run as a heel, Punk did an incredible job at antagonizing the crowd. His once admirable straight edge lifestyle quickly became a hated trait.
In his feud with Jeff Hardy, Punk criticized him for his past drug problems and condemned Hardy’s fans as weak. Punk claimed that Hardy’s fans were taking the easy way out because they weren’t strong enough to live a drug-free life.
This time around, Punk’s not out to be our “Straight Edge Savior.” As a matter of fact, Punk isn’t concerned about the WWE fans at all. All Punk wants is the respect he feels he’s entitled to because of his lengthy reign as WWE Champion.
Punk demands respect because he’s the best in the world.
In recent weeks, Punk has talked down to the likes of Mick Foley and Jim Ross. These people Punk decides to confront are weaker than him, making them very sympathetic figures.
Punk doesn’t see the need to respect those that came before him. The way he sees it, predecessors like The Rock have never shown him the respect that he deserves so he doesn’t feel the need to reciprocate. Punk has even sunk so low as to attack Mick Foley.
Right behind Punk in his quest for respect is none other than Paul Heyman. Their dynamic is unlike the usual. Even though Heyman is always in Punk’s corner, he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything the WWE Champion does.
For example, he was very upfront about his concerns with challenging Mr. McMahon on the Oct. 8 edition of Raw.
The only conclusion we can come to is that neither of Punk’s heel runs is better than the other.
The “Straight Edge Savior” and the “Best in the World” are both extensions of Punk. By combining his amplified personality and his uncanny ability to antagonize fans, Punk can generate an incredible amount of heat from the crowd.
His ring work has been consistent, too. CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy was the best feud of 2009 and CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio was among the best in 2010. As the “Best in the World,” Punk has had phenomenal programs with the likes of Daniel Bryan and John Cena.
Punk will go down in history as one of professional wrestling’s greatest heels. That much is true.
At this time, though, neither heel run is definitively better than the other. There is plenty of time for Punk to transcend expectations once again.
Michael Prunka is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Sportswriting Intern. To stay up to date with his WWE and NHL commentary, you can like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and follow him on Tout.