CM Punk and The Rock are two of the best talkers the sport has ever seen. By the time they meet at the Royal Rumble, they’ll have done more vocal sparing than anything else.
Both men have elevated themselves above the pack with their words. But after they have finished verbally lashing each other, which of them will have done the better promos?
Today’s wrestling is just as much about how good you are in the ring as you are on the mic. Because of the overwhelming emphasis on entertainment, sometimes even the best grapplers can be lost because they can’t entertain with their words.
The Rock debuted in 1996 at Survivor Series and made a name for himself. There’s a reason WWE.com calls him “the most charismatic Superstar of all time.”
The Rock was able to capture fans' attention with his slew of catchphrases and ease on the microphone. “Know your role and shut your mouth” and “Just bring it!” were routinely heard from the mouth of The Great One.
In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, this was golden. He touched upon that natural wish of wrestling fans to take part in the show.
They can’t get in the ring and wrestle, but they can use their words to be part of the action. This is what makes it so much fun to go to a show, the interaction.
In regards to Punk, he has made a name for himself in WWE with both his actions and his gruff opinions. He is more realistic and unpredictable on the mic than Rock. His pipe-bomb promos are successful because they engage fans in a different way.
Punk has grasped the new version of what wrestling is: a reality-based sport. Fans raised on reality television want more realism and transparency to the sport.
It goes back to wanting to be part of the show. Insider knowledge, a peek behind the curtain, allows fans to feel as if they are part of the spectacle.
Consider Punk’s promo from two weeks back. In it he said:
“The more popular you are, the more money you make. The more you people cheer for any given Superstar, the more opportunities [they’re] afforded. Why do you think a guy like John Cena, who has admittedly had the worst year of his career, gets title shot after title shot after title shot? Or why a lethal grappler, why a serious submission specialist like Daniel Bryan, puts a smile on his face and saddles himself, belittles himself, with catchphrases? Or why a 400-pound monster like Brodus Clay soils his hands by touching your filthy, ugly little children to get in the ring so he can shuck and jive for ya? Or why an invisible child, ‘Little Jimmy’ is better positioned on the flagship show, Monday Night Raw, than a workhorse like Tyson Kidd?”
It was a punch-in-the-arm dose of reality that contrasted with The Rock’s calls for a “Cookie Puss” chant.
The Rock is great on the mic, but his routines are always comedy bits. This past Monday on RAW, he took to the ring in song to bash Punk and Paul Heyman. WWE.com described the song as leaving “the WWE Universe rolling in the aisles to the tune of his dulcet strumming.”
That’s the biggest difference. The Rock leaves the fans laughing, and Punk leaves them with their jaws on the floor. Funny isn't bad, but funny that never grows up is.
Even when Rock does get serious, he has to inject not just humor, but childish humor. He can say lines like this:
“You said that facing you would be like boxing with God. Well you ain’t God. But God as my witness, in 13 days I will beat you for the WWE title at the Royal Rumble.”
But not before insulting Heyman’s physical appearance with a crass remark.
Both men are effective in their respective styles. With The Rock, fans always know what they are going to get. With Punk, he’s this wild card that if you stop listening for one second you’ll miss the thing that will leave viewers gasping.
When the Rumble rolls around, The Rock will most likely win the title. But leading up to the event, Punk will dominate him on the mic.