I was on my way to work this morning when I received a text message from my brother. The text said, "Wait til you see RAW," and made mention of something having to do with CM Punk.
Instead of waiting another 12 hours or so to check out whatever he was referring to, I decided to do a quick search to see what I had missed. I logged onto Bleacher Report and saw several articles detailing a shoot promo that Punk had cut at the close of last night's episode of RAW.
Knowing the nature of the business and the PG-content of WWE programming, I hardly expected to be surprised by what Punk had said.
Then I watched the promo. Wow.
I'm sure everyone reading this has seen it by now, but here it is just in case:
The Internet is all abuzz this morning with speculation about whether the promo was a work, a shoot or a worked shoot. WWE's statement regarding the matter (http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/2011-06-27/mcmahon-suspends-punk) has further fueled the controversy. If true, McMahon's knee-jerk reaction to Punk's diatribe will be a huge mistake on several fronts.
First of all, what CM Punk said in that promo was 100 percent true. He is an elite talent and performer who has been underutilized and has not been properly promoted throughout much of his tenure in WWE. Hopefully this won't be the last we see of CM Punk in a WWE ring, but even if it is, there is something to be learned here.
What Vince McMahon and the WWE need to do is take a step back, put their egos aside and realize the big picture. CM Punk just gave both the WWE and McMahon a much needed wake-up call.
Punk gave us the most riveting promo seen on WWE programming in years. The reason it was so riveting, and the reason people are talking about it today, is because it was real. Or, at the very least, it was based in reality.
This is what the WWE needs and has been lacking for several years. It's no coincidence that the highest-rated wrestling shows in history took place in the latter half of the 1990s, when the line between reality and wrestling was constantly being questioned.
The reason why the NWO angle was the most popular angle ever was because people actually believed that Vince McMahon had sent his old employees down to Atlanta to destroy WCW. The viewers came out in record numbers because of the feeling that anything could happen.
It served as a wake-up call to McMahon: He needed to come up with more intriguing story lines, as opposed to the cookie-cutter hokey wrestling shows of the past.
What followed next was the Attitude Era, which launched WWE into the mainstream and produced countless stars, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H. If it weren't for this infusion of reality-themed story lines and characters, those three stars would never have been born.
If you don't believe me, check out footage of those three "stars" from their early WWE days:
These are the types of characters that McMahon had always put on TV—characters who were traditionally bland and oftentimes stereotypical. It wasn't until WCW was threatening to put WWE out of business that McMahon realized he needed to adapt with the times, which, much to his credit, he did. Once he gave his wrestlers the freedom to speak and act as they were more apt to do in real life, the WWE thrived.
But since purchasing WCW in 2001, there has been no real threat to the McMahon monopoly and he has gone back to the formula that worked in the 1980s and early 1990s, with a touch of modern-day thrown in.
It's fine for what it is, but there is very little opportunity for the company to expand to previous heights, or for mainstream stars to be made, when people are not given the freedom to express themselves. Nobody can stand out when everyone is fed all of their lines, or when every wardrobe choice has to be approved, or when every tweet or Facebook post has to be company-approved.
Simply put, the WWE needs to bring back a modern-day Attitude Era.
They do not need to go completely overboard with their story lines.
We can do without the necrophilia, senior citizens giving birth to hands, proctology exams, etc. But Vince McMahon needs to let his employees do what they do best—perform.
His employees need to be given the freedom to entertain the audience without constantly being stifled. They need to be given the chance to take the ball and run with it, without being molded into what the company wants them to be. They need to be given the opportunity to become superstars.
Only then can WWE truly achieve the level of success they once knew and took for granted.
And they'll have CM Punk to thank for it, whether he's with the company or not.