If you only heard a Chicago crowd react to CM Punk, you'd think he was the biggest star in WWE history.
Punk is one of the company's biggest stars, but he is adored in his hometown more than anywhere else and more than any other WWE star is in theirs.
When he faced off against Chris Jericho at Payback in June, the fans started loud and then slowly escalated that noise as Punk walked to the ring. Punk signs dotted the arena. Every move he made stirred the fans up even more.
Most stars get a boost in crowd response when they wrestle in their hometown or home country, but Punk's relationship with Chicago is in a class by itself.
Chicago fans, though, have seemed to attach themselves to Punk. Being a great wrestling town with passionate fans is certainly part of it, but Punk's love for the city and his workmanlike approach to the industry have endeared him to that fanbase on a special level.
After joining WWE, Punk continued to embrace his hometown. He is a vocal Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks fan. He has talked about beating his foes up "Chicago style."
The Cubs have invited him to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
The Stanley Cup champ Blackhawks shared their victory with Punk, letting him hold the Cup.
Punk is a gritty, tough performer and that must appeal to a fanbase like Chicago's that loves hockey. He may not seem like it now after having held the WWE title for 434 days, but Punk is an underdog. In a world of behemoths and acrobats, Punk wormed his way in despite being neither.
While some fans may resent Ryback or John Cena for perceived special treatment, the hard work of Punk—who has risen to the top in an unlikely story—has seemingly made him a folk hero of sorts in Chicago.
The reaction he received at his 2011 Money in the Bank match against Cena was electric.
As big a pop as he would have received in New York or Los Angeles for that match, it couldn't have compared with how Chicago fans poured themselves out in appreciation of their champ.
When he returned from a two-month absence at Payback, it didn't matter what dastardly deeds he'd done on WWE TV. It didn't matter that he had no hand in playing up his match against Jericho. Chicago welcomed him back.
When Punk returns to the Windy City on Sept. 23 for WWE Raw, expect the reaction to his entrance and performance to be louder and more passionate than most everything we hear.
For Punk, Chicago is like CenturyLink Field is for the Seattle Seahawks or Chesapeake Energy Arena is for the Oklahoma City Thunder. His hometown crowd energizes his matches and elevates the work that Punk does inside the ring like nowhere else.