CM Punk is what can only be described as the pure definition of a heel. By combining different elements of wrestling's greatest bad guys, he has created a masterpiece of a persona.
Along the way he became one of the longest reigning WWE champions of all time and earned the respect of a true legend.
So, what is a heel in today's WWE? The typical heel seen on weekly WWE television doesn't care about the fans and is only interested in advancing himself.
Punk has taken it a step farther. He is a master at stirring up fans and getting them to react. He knows what buttons to push, what bad things to say and what dastardly actions to take.
He's taken the heel persona, combined elements of some of the greatest bad guys in WWE history and turned it into an art.
WWE.com recently ranked the 50 greatest villains in wrestling history. At No.1 was Roddy Piper, whom they described as taking the top spot because his shock value had not diminished with age. They also noted that he "was at his worst against defenseless victims."
Punk has taken shock value and defenseless victims, and run with it.
He's famous for his pipebomb interviews, where he breaks the fourth wall and spills insider secrets and frustration in a hateful way. It's done in a manner to hide whether or not what he is saying has been vetted by the WWE or if he is breaking the rules.
The Internet is full of videos from live events where he's chastised or threatened a local fan. He's hit a fan in the audience on national television. He's also mocked Bruno Sammartino and desecrated the memory of Paul Bearer.
At No. 2 on the WWE.com list was The Four Horsemen. They considered themselves the gold standard of professional wrestling and sought out to destroy anyone who questioned that view or tried to change it.
Punk is the same way. He is the self-proclaimed "Best in the World." Whether he admits to knowing about it or not, The Shield acted as hired thugs to protect his position at the top of the WWE.
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were his Ole and Arn Anderson, his Tully Blanchard.
When Punk was champion he did everything he could to keep his title, like Hollywood Hulk Hogan, who was No. 5 on the list. From Paul Heyman to rogue referee Brad Maddox to The Shield, others ran interference to keep Punk's shoulders off the mat.
And just like Hogan hid behind the NWO, Punk also hid from Ryback, Cena and to an extent, The Rock.
All of these heel traits have combined to make Punk a compelling character on the screen. Wrestling skills aside, his ability to stoke the flames of hatred among the fans is one of the reasons he held the WWE title for 434 days.
Punk has been so good in creating a perfect heel even one of the men he trashed has praised him. Sammartino, the longest-reigning WWE champion of all time, spoke to Inside the Ropes (h/t Wrestlinginc.com) and said of Punk:
I think his interviews for a villain...I think he's very, very good...I think he does a very good job when he gets on the microphone, how he talks, how he says it. I took no offence at CM Punk, I know he was doing it to be a villain, that's what he does. But I think he does a very good job when he gets on that microphone as a villain, what he says, how he talks, how he says it. As a villain I think he does a tremendous job and as a wrestler, I've seen him a few times and I think he's pretty darn good. He's not too bad at all.
It's all a show, of course. The entire WWE product is a television program full of characters that do things regular people never would, or could, do. But given what the WWE is today, Punk has created the pure definition of a heel.
He has combined different elements from the heels of wrestling’s rich past, peppered in today's realism and come up with a new reality: the perfect bad guy.