As I learned in comments on the site I wrote for before I came over to Bleacher Report last week, a lot of fans who weren't into looking at wrestling news online started to do so at the end of June to find out what the deal was with CM Punk's now famous promo in Las Vegas. The show-ending contract signing on last night's episode of WWE Monday Night Raw was probably the most "insider" segment since then, so if you want a better understanding of what was said, then this article is for you.
So, let's get down to it...
Cena's speech about Punk being the voice of the voiceless was a clearly aimed at a certain segment of hardcore fans online. Breaking it down:
All of the stuff about being "too PG" is mostly self-explanatory, but could maybe use a little elaboration. WWE officially toned down its programming in October 2009, going from a TV-14 rating to TV-PG (TV content ratings are self-assigned).
This was done for a few reasons: The feeling they could gain better sponsors, Linda McMahon's campaign for Chris Dodd's former U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, a desire to cater more to their large audience of children and appeasing a key licensee in action figure manufacturer Mattel. Cena's persona started to get less edgy before then, but he is seen as emblematic of the problems with WWE going PG.
Cena's comment about being a modern day Hulk Hogan goes along with the above. As the Hogan era went on, he was seen as the symbol of "cartoon wrestling" by many hardcore fans. The sentiment wasn't just limited to the insider newsletters. Anti-WWE magazines (most notably those released by London Publishing, the biggest publisher, who struck back after being banned from ringside and the locker room when WWE started their own magazine) were also available on newstands everywhere.
While they had to walk the line carefully so as not to alienate WWE fans, they definitely had an agenda and were much more positive about the promotions that gave them access.
Then we get Cena doing the "Comic Book Guy" voice from "The Simpsons" as he goes into various complaints from what he deems CM Punk's fans while explaining that no matter what he does, they'd never come around on him:
"I could increase my workrate..."
In wrestling fandom, "workrate" was originally used to refer to the speed of a match (literally, the rate of work), similar to its use in other sports like soccer. Over the years, its usage has changed to represent in-ring work ethic or working/wrestling ability. As you have probably noticed with the "you can't wrestle" chants, a lot of fans don't feel that Cena is very good. Arguments aren't as vociferous as they once were, especially given the quality of his last two big matches vs. CM Punk and Rey Mysterio, but his critics are still very outspoken.
"I could add to the 'five moves of doom'..."
Originally coined by fan/writer Scott Keith, the term was used to refer to Bret Hart's signature series of moves: "the Five Moves of Doom are generally considered to be suplex, backbreaker, legsweep, second rope elbow and Sharpshooter. Sometimes an inverted atomic drop can be subbed in there as well." TVTropes.org even has an entry about the term and it does contain notes about Cena.
At this point, for Cena, the term would probably refer to the flying shoulderblock, Fisherman's Suplex (gets its name from the leg being "hooked), spinning side powerbomb (I'm pretty sure it used to be called the Throwback but the name hasn't been used in a long time), STF and Atttitude Adjustment. With Hart, the term was used more in jest. With Cena and some others, it's used in a derogatory manner to say that they're just about all he knows.
"...maybe let my heel persona shine though..."
You probably know that "heel" = "bad guy" or "villain" or whatever term you want to use, as it's not limited to use in wrestling. Oddly, some wrestlers like Ric Flair don't know that it is not exclusive to the business and gets angry at fans for using what he deems an "insider" term only to be used by those in the business.
Anyway, Cena was referring to possibly the most common complaint and most agreed on about him: His interviews have been progressively getting worse over the years since he turned babyface (good guy if you're Ric Flair). They arguably reached their nadir in the last year or so aside from the best of his promos during the CM Punk feud, like the one from last night that we're talking about.
He shouldn't be telling all of these stupid jokes, he should be Dusty Rhodes if Dusty Rhodes was a guy from Boston who looked like one of those weird shirtless greeters outside the door at Abercrombie & Fitch.
That was the end of Cena's "inside" references, so now let's move on to what CM Punk said after Triple H said he was gutless.
"Who fires people around here: You [Triple H] or 'Funk-man' [Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis] over here?"
More on Laurinaitis and firings in a moment, but first, let's talk about Punk referring to him as "Funk-man."
Since Laurinaitis has become a character on WWE television, fans on various websites have compared his voice and speech patterns to that of Marty Funkhouser, Bob "Super Dave Osborne" Einstein's character on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." At the beginning of the current season, Marty started to refer to himself as "Funk-man" for no reason other than that it seemed like he was begging for his friends to start referring to him by what he thought was this incredible cool nickname.
"Lemme ask you a question Johnny! FUNK-MAAAAAAAN! Did you personally, face to face fire Vladimir Kozlov on Friday, huh? Did you, did you fly yourself to Florida to tell Harry Smith; yes his name is Harry, not 'David Hart Smith,' that he was no longer needed here? Huh? Did you tell Chris Masters, somebody who over the past year has worked his ass off to get better, did you fire him face to face, or did you call him up and say [Does Laurinaitis/Funk-man impression] 'Hey kid, it's a budget thing, best of luck in your future endeavors.' Don't call me gutless, you [Triple H] have him [Laurinaitis] do your dirty work!"
For starters, CM Punk was talking about the wrestlers who were fired on Friday. Not that inside since WWE always mentions them on WWE.com, but they're not usually mentioned on TV afterwards. The rest is about how much of Laurinaitis's job is to be the buffer between the executives actually making the decisions (the McMahon family, including Triple H) and the talent, especially on firings. It tends to work pretty well, as while there are still plenty of wrestlers who have issues with the McMahons, Laurinaitis is more universally loathed.
The "future endeavors" line, while I'm not sure if Laurinaitis uses it on the phone, has become a mainstay of the WWE.com posts about releases. "Future endeavored" has even become a verb to refer to a firing. When the line is missing, it refers to an especially acrimonious split.
After this, Punk tells his story how, the day after he won his first title in WWE, the ECW Championship, Cena, who had never spoken to him before, went up to him and said "Good match. Congratulations, champ. I almost gave up on you!" By itself, why this is a passive aggressive insult is pretty self-explanatory. Still, to get a better idea of all of the stupid political B.S. that CM Punk has gone through in WWE, you should check out what former WWE Writer David Lagana has written and said on his podcasts about him.
"I hold grudges. Ever since then I've had a sour taste in my mouth because who the hell do you think you are? You gave up on me?!?! Huh? You know who gave up, Mr. "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect," you know who gave up on their dream? You did, when you moved to California to become a bodybuilder and became a 'sports entertainer' because you couldn't hack it. Alright?
I started as a professional wrestler and I fought to get to where I'm at right now and yeah, I held up the WWE for some perks, Do I want an ice cream bar with my name on it? You're damn right! You see, you're the lion, I'm the hyena. I gotta fight for my share. So yeah, I held everybody up, to get the opportunities that you've just been handed. The opportunities that you've just been given! But yeah, who would turn them down? Certainly I wouldn't."
Obviously, a lot of this ties into what I just went over, but there's lots more. As I alluded to yesterday in my article about Chris Masters, Cena came out of the Ultimate Pro Wrestling school in Los Angeles, which over the years has become more and more notorious. UPW was full of bodybuilders, many of whom weren't properly trained to wrestle. Their promo/interview/speaking class was taught by non-wrestler Deron McBee, a racquetball player turned B-movie actor best known for being "Malibu" in the first season of the original American Gladiators.
Cena was one of these bodybuilders who became wrestlers at UPW, and he quickly got a WWE developmental deal based on being a bodybuilder who was a natural at cutting promos. Punk was always a great promo, but not a bodybuilder. He's always looked pretty athletic, but he didn't get signed by WWE until he devoted all of his free time to working out and developing a physique that, without chemical crutches relied on by others or top flight genetics, he couldn't maintain on a full-time WWE schedule.
I think that covers everything.
So, how hyped did last night's show-closing segment get you for Summerslam? I thought it was great, but I'm curious to see what others think, especially if they got to this article via Google or Google News.