William Moody is dead. Paul Bearer, however, is very alive.
He'll be immortal, in fact, as long as the WWE owns the rights to his name. And as long as the WWE is in existence, it may exploit his name in any manner it sees fit.
This includes but is not limited to DVDs, "In Memoriam" t-shirts, collectible urns and sand ashes prone to an impromptu CM Punk shower.
This was the case Monday on Raw, when CM Punk caressed his tatted up body with Paul Bearer's pretend ashes—but not before Paul Heyman joined in on the blaspheming, fully equipped with a Paul Bearer costume.
Contrary to popular belief, the WWE has some compassion and got the green light from Bill Moody's family before doing any of this. Even though it didn't have to.
This stunt, like anything else, drew heat with e-moralists apparently in search of another virtual Boy Scout badge.
Professional fanatic Ben Tucker of PWTorch would not stand for this brand of theater. After going so far as comparing CM Punk's actions to the Katie Vick angle and Eddie Guerrero exploitation, Tucker sobbed the following: "I am putting my foot down in saying that they crossed the line tonight just as much as they have in the past, if not more."
Mr. Tucker writes an "Instant Reaction" column for the PWTorch, which is probably a bad idea to begin with. Knee-jerk reactions tend to be pretty unreliable. But, hey, it's the internet. There are only so many milliseconds in most attention spans, and the Torch realizes that. No word yet whether that column is sponsored by Quaker.
Right on cue, Tucker looked the fool once the facts became available. These facts were cooked up at more of a Cream of Wheat pace—another instant reaction, this time to a Facebook post—but facts nonetheless. Bearer's son, Michael Moody, sent this text to the WWE:
Hey. I woke up in time to watch the tail end of the show. What you explained would happen happened. Which is fine. Just it was a little difficult to watch it play out. I put a message on Facebook last night saying that we approved it but it wasn't what I envisioned. That I didn't have anything to say. Well woke up this morning and that quote is being used all over "media outlets." For the record. I was fine w(ith) it. Was hard to watch but y'all are professionals and I trust [you].
The Moody boys were previously tiffed at how the angle played out. Michael posted the following on his Facebook page before coming to his senses: "If anyone is wondering, yes, WWE did come to us wanting approval for tonight's storyline...The way it was presented to us was ok. Seeing it on screen was a different story. I don't even know what to say."
Some still echo these sentiments to some degree. They feel the angle was cheap. Tacky. Out of line.
A heel is tasked with being cheap. Bad guys break rules. Theater or no theater, they push envelopes, step on toes, bully people, rob banks.
Play around in cremations.
And if the 10-percenters—who will purchase WrestleMania regardless—think CM Punk is going too far, rest assured that there are legions of more valuable casual fans with whom he struck the right nerve. That lucrative "pay to see him get beat" nerve.
CM Punk is often embraced by jaded wrestling fans for vigilante tendencies that have come to define him. He says what he wants. He does what he wants. He shot on the WWE and held it up for money, eventually earning significant creative influence on his character and storylines.
Avant-garde wrestling fans loved him for it.
But when CM Punk took center stage to desecrate Paul Bearer's ashes in a show-closing lead-in to WrestleMania, fans were outraged. Not with the vigilante CM Punk but with the WWE.
CM Punk is critically acclaimed when he's a rebel on certain terms. The WWE suddenly becomes his chaperone and scapegoat when he goes too far.
Funny how that works.
CM Punk has had to seek desperate measures to remind the viewing public that he is a heel. Those avant-garde fans? They still cheer for him. They're above buying into a storyline of Punk as a villain. They are to blame when
CM Punk the WWE goes the tacky route.
The growing legion of fans who refuse to buy into the act of good guy vs. bad guy make it necessary, at least in CM Punk's mind, to go that extra mile in pushing buttons.
Said Punk to the Asbury Park Press earlier this week:
My job is to get people to be mad at me and I think I do that very well; I think I blur the lines.
Everything is designed to push people’s buttons – so it’s unfortunate that Percy had to die for him to be a part of this story – but trust me, he would have loved it, he really would have loved it.
Bill Moody is the only person CM Punk cares to impress during this angle. Unfortunately, he has passed on, and now just about everybody is angry with him and his employer.
Just how he likes it.