Thoughts on CM Punk's Straight Edge Gimmick From the Worlds Biggest Mark

Eric Steiner AKA The Worlds Biggest MarkContributor IIJanuary 13, 2010

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 15:  CM Punk celebrates with fans before facing Shelton Benjamin during WWE Smackdown at Acer Arena on June 15, 2008 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Gaye Gerard/Getty Images)
Gaye Gerard/Getty Images

Reading online I found interesting fan reactions to WWE Superstar CM Punk's usage of vague religious terms to describe his "Straight Edge" society.  So I decided to bring my own thoughts in on this topic and discuss this with other fans who may be confused or interested in what CM Punk's philosophies may be.

Pro wrestling has performed so many religious gimmicks it's ridiculous.  The reason they do this is because it's easy to get a rise out of religious people.  If they make one vague reference to religion, people (whether they are religious or not) will begin talking about it all over the place, and the talk is usually related to anger, fear and/or intrigue. 

The bottom line is it gets people talking, because after all, any kind of talk about your product in the entertainment business, is better than no talk at all.

When CM Punk called himself a savior last week on Friday Night Smackdown I knew what he meant—he was going to try to depict a fanatical person who "saves" people from a life of drugs and alcohol abuse through extreme methods (head shavings and possible physical violence). 

But I also knew the moment the word savior came out of his mouth the religious folk would be out in full force with opinions and emotions about what he said.

It's interesting to me that religious people can digest gimmicks such as Vince McMahon saying that he "is" god and Undertaker crusifying Stephanie McMahon in front of millions of people, yet religious people still can't take in stride the vague usage of religious terms in CM Punk's promo from last Friday Night's Smackdown. 

If CM Punk's usage of the term "savior" was offensive to religious people than this early promo CM Punk cut in ring of honor should get them really angry at him.

This quote is from 03/15/03 when CM Punk was doing this same gimmick in the Ring of Honor pro wrestling organization. You can find it at the 4:15 mark of the first track on the ROH: Better than you, the best of CM Punk DVD:

"When you people wake up in the morning and you go to a job where you hate your boss, and you come home to a girl you dont love, and in some cases you go to a church and you worship a god that I know doesn't exist, I want you to think of me! Because each and every single one of you aspire to be just like me, DRUG FREE, ALCOHOL FREE, better than Raven!"

His Smackdown Straight Edge gimmick is way more tame in comparison to his Ring of Honor character.  So if you are confused as to what religious perspective his character may be coming from, that quote should give you your answer.

On the PG version of Smackdown, he is basically using the straight edge philosophy in a fanatical way. 

When I was a teenager, I grew up in the "punk rock" culture in my area. I considered myself a punk rocker and within this culture we had some people who considered themselves straight edge and others who considered themselves members of various other types of extreme philosophies.  

We were basically a group of adolescent people trying to find our identity in society. 

Apparently CM Punk's character is stuck in this confusing period of his life. 

Here is a quote that describes the stage of life development CM Punk's character is stuck in (according to Erik Erikson's Developmental Stages):

"Adolescence: 12 to 18 Years

Ego Development Outcome: Identity vs. Role Confusion

Basic Strengths: Devotion and Fidelity

Up to this stage, according to Erikson, development mostly depends upon what is done to us. From here on out, development depends primarily upon what we do. And while adolescence is a stage at which we are neither a child nor an adult, life is definitely getting more complex as we attempt to find our own identity, struggle with social interactions, and grapple with moral issues.

Our task is to discover who we are as individuals separate from our family of origin and as members of a wider society. Unfortunately for those around us, in this process many of us go into a period of withdrawing from responsibilities, which Erikson called a "moratorium." And if we are unsuccessful in navigating this stage, we will experience role confusion and upheaval.

A significant task for us is to establish a philosophy of life and in this process we tend to think in terms of ideals, which are conflict free, rather than reality, which is not. The problem is that we don't have much experience and find it easy to substitute ideals for experience. However, we can also develop strong devotion to friends and causes.

It is no surprise that our most significant relationships are with peer groups."

This quote was taken directly from this web page .

In reality, within the group of people who believe in the straight edge philosophy (just like in any philosophy) you have your share of good people and you have your share of jerks. 

You have different religions within their community and not all Straight Edge members are necessarily Atheist or Christian or whatever. 

Here is a quote from Wikipedia that describes the history of the "Straight Edge" philosophy:

"William Tsitsos writes that Straight Edge has gone through three different eras since its creation in 1980.  Associated with punk rock , the early years of the Straight Edge subculture are now called the old school era.

Old School (1970s and early 1980s)

Straight Edge sentiments can be found in songs by the early-1980s band Minor Threat, directly within their song "Straight Edge".  An additional example of what may be considered a proto-straight-edge song is "Keep It Clean" by first wave English punk band The Vibrators. Singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman 's early band The Modern Lovers also made a proto-straight-edge stand in the song "I'm Straight," which rejected drug use and first appeared in the compilation Troublemakers (1980). However, Straight Edge was most closely associated with punk rock , particularly the faster subgenre of hardcore punk which developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and partly characterized by shouting rather than sung vocals.  Straight Edge people of this early "old school " era often associated with the original punk ideals such as individualism, disdain for work and school, and live-for-the-moment attitudes. 

Although Straight Edge started on the east coast of the United States in Washington D.C. and New York , it quickly spread through the US and Canada .  By the 1980s, bands on the west coast of the United States , such as America's Hardcore (A.H.C.), Stalag 13, Justice League and Uniform Choice , were gaining popularity. In the early stages of this subculture’s history, concerts often consisted of non-straight-edge punk bands along with Straight Edge bands. However, circumstances soon changed and the old school era would eventually be viewed as the time "before the two scenes separated".  Old school Straight Edge bands included: the Washington D.C. bands Minor Threat , State of Alert (S.O.A.), Government Issue and Teen Idles ; Reno, Nevada's 7 Seconds ; Boston 's SSD , DYS and Negative FX ; California bands as mentioned above; and New York City bands such as Cause for Alarm and The Abused.

Youth Crew (Mid 1980s)

During the youth crew era, which started in the mid 1980s, the influence of music on the Straight Edge scene seemed to be at an all-time high. The new branches of Straight Edge that came about during this era seemed to originate from ideas presented in songs. Notable youth crew bands included: Gorilla Biscuits , 7 Seconds , Judge , Bold , Youth of Today , Chain of Strength , and Slapshot .

Starting in the mid-1980s, the band Youth of Today became associated with the Straight Edge movement, and their song "Youth Crew" expressed a desire to unite the scene into a movement.  The most identifiable theme that arose during the youth crew era was an association of Straight Edge with vegetarianism . In 1988, Youth of Today released the song "No More", which initiated this new theme within the subculture. Lead singer Ray Cappo displayed his vegetarian views in the lyrics: "Meat-eating, flesh-eating, think about it. So callous this crime we commit".  This began a trend of animal rights and veganism within Straight Edge that would reach its peak in the 1990s.


By the early 1990s, militant Straight Edge was a well-known presence in the scene - the term militant meaning someone who is dedicated and outspoken, but also believed to be narrow-minded, judgmental, and potentially violent.  The militant Straight Edger was characterized by less tolerance for non-straight-edge people, more outward pride in being Straight Edge, more outspokenness, and the willingness to resort to violence in order to promote clean living.

It was also around this time that veganism would become a major part of the lives of many Straight Edge individuals and was reflected by bands such as Earth Crisis and Path of Resistance that promoted militant Straight Edge and animal rights messages. From this view on militant straight edge came a more extreme variant called Hardline .

In the mid-1990s, a number of bands advocating social justice , animal liberation , veganism , and Straight Edge practices displayed a stronger metal influence. Bands from this era include Mouthpiece , Culture , Earth Crisis , Chorus of Disapproval, Undertow and Strife .


After the 1990s, some of the more controversial aspects that surrounded Straight Edge began to disappear, partly in response to media reports portraying the movement as a type of gang.  In the 2000s, Straight Edge and non-Straight Edge bands have played concerts together regularly. Both Straight Edge and non-Straight Edge people attend the concerts of such a nature. Many bands now range from a variety of styles, some having a more classic hardcore punk element, while others have a more metallic style. Some of these new era Straight Edge bands include xAFBx, Allegiance , Black My Heart, Carpathian , Casey Jones , Champion , Coke Bust, Down to Nothing , Embrace Today , The First Step, Go It Alone, Have Heart , Loud and Clear, Rhinoceros, Righteous Jams , Stick to Your Guns , Suffocate Faster, Waste Management, Throwdown , and xTyrantx.

The X symbol

The letter X is the most known symbol of Straight Edge, commonly worn as a marking on the back of both hands, though it can be displayed on other body parts as well. Some followers of Straight Edge have also incorporated the symbol into clothing and pins. According to a series of interviews by journalist Michael Azerrad, the Straight Edge "X" can be traced to the Teen Idles ' brief U.S. West Coast tour in 1980.  The Teen Idles were scheduled to play at San Francisco 's Mabuhay Gardens , but when the band arrived, club management discovered that the entire band was under the legal drinking age and therefore should be denied entry to the club. As a compromise, management marked each of the Idles' hands with a large black "X" as a warning to the club's staff not to serve alcohol to the band. Upon returning to Washington, D.C. , the band suggested this same system to local clubs as a means to allow teenagers in to see musical performances without being served alcohol. The mark soon became associated with the Straight Edge lifestyle. In recent years, more music venues (and even dance clubs) have begun adopting this system.

A variation involving a trio of X's (XXX) originated in artwork created by Minor Threat 's drummer, Jeff Nelson , in which he replaced the three stars in the band's hometown Washington, DC flag with X's.  The term is sometimes abbreviated by including an X with the abbreviation of the term "Straight Edge" to give "sXe". By analogy, hardcore punk is sometimes abbreviated to "hXc". The X symbol can be used as a way to signify a band or person is Straight Edge, by adding an 'x' to the front and back, for example, the band xDEATHSTARx ."

This quote was taken from directly from this web page .

All in all if you are reacting in any way to what CM Punk said on Friday Night Smackdown you are playing right into what they were trying to do. 

Personally I think the gimmick is entertaining and I can't wait to see what happens next.