While discussing his days in the Straight Edge Society on his documentary Best in the World, WWE Champion CM Punk described the way he wanted to get under people's skin when working as a heel, drawing comparisons to the days of Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes. He yearned for the days of wrestlers getting chased out of arenas and having their vehicles vandalized by fans who hated the very existence of such a human being.
Last night, Punk made it clear that he is still dead set on getting that reaction. I think it's safe to say he got it.
Jerry Lawler made an emotional return to Raw after two months following what was one of the scariest things to ever happen on live television. He embraced both Michael Cole and Jim Ross, the latter making no hesitation in handing over the mic as well as his seat to The King. Lawler was honest in his thanking of everyone who sent him the best of wishes during his time away from the show. He looked like someone who had, for lack of a better term and at the risk of using a cliche, a new lease on life.
That's when things got interesting.
The two bursts of static shot through the Nationwide Arena, and CM Punk became the most hated man in not just the venue but the entire world of wrestling. Not only did he have the audacity to interrupt Jerry Lawler, he proceeded to mock and insult Lawler for daring to have a heart attack.
He turned the conversation in the direction of his WWE Championship reign when Paul Heyman began to clutch his chest, coughing and collapsing while Punk pleaded for anyone to help. Heyman rose from his spot on the ground while Punk smirked and said "You almost gave me a heart attack."
There was no mention of it, but I have no doubt that CM Punk was the No. 1 trend on Twitter seconds later. Search his name right now and you will see calls for his suspension, firing or even death. Ironic considering Punk, Lawler, Heyman and Mick Foley all took part in something that, despite being based in fact, was a storyline in a dramatic presentation. The ones responding with such rage in social media are exactly the kind of people Punk talked about when he said he wanted to be hated.
I imagine Punk and friends are even more satisfied with the storyline because the ones who bit into this angle so much are the "enlightened" people on the Internet. Indeed, the people who call themselves writers, bloggers, critics and reporters (some of whom even give B/R source material) were some of the first to fire off about the tastelessness, indecency and insensitivity of WWE to base a storyline on a hot-button, real-life topic.
In other words, something that would make for compelling television.
Think about this: why the hell would you not want to go for the jugular like Punk did? When is the last time someone was so unanimously and vigorously despised for something they did as a heel? If your job is to get under the skin of people and make them hate you, what better way to do it than go for the rawest nerve available? People watching at home now have the biggest reason they need to order Survivor Series and see two men beat the holy hell out of Punk.
For those that think Jerry Lawler might have been forced or coaxed into this, look at his career. Take a look at where he came from and the crowds he used to work, not just in Memphis but all the other territories. He willingly went into a hostile environment in ECW and risked maiming every time he stepped into the ECW Arena because he loved getting heat.
I have no doubt in my mind that he saw the same thing happening when CM Punk mocked the incident in the ring. Furthermore, when the ambulance pulled in for Brad Maddox's match with Ryback, Lawler immediately quipped "My ride's here."
If you were honestly bothered by what you saw on Raw, that is perfectly fine and you are entitled as a viewer to change the channel or turn off the TV. What you should not do is automatically put yourself on a pedestal and think you are above being "worked."
CM Punk, Jerry Lawler, Paul Heyman and Mick Foley all worked together to create a segment that will be discussed for a long time. The fact that it got such an overwhelming reaction is a testament to the ability of four of the greatest talkers in wrestling. Thinking you have insider knowledge and are smarter than the average fan does not make you smarter or even smart.