It’s been a long time since my last article here on Bleacher Report (nearly 7 months!), but I have visited the site almost every day and read countless articles in the wrestling section since then.
Yes, I have stuck to the shadows and watched new writers come and go, commenting and writing only when I felt necessary. I resisted the urge to fire up my computer and type away when CM Punk delivered his epic shoot, and further resisted when I watched his 5-star match against Cena at Money in the Bank. I decided simply to wait and to read.
However, some things have been said around here, some simply foolish and others flat out ludicrous, that have made me feel it may be time to throw my opinion into the bowl once again.
For a long time, wrestling hasn’t drawn media attention. In fact, the last time I remember wrestling drawing mainstream media attention, it was nothing that one would consider good. That changed with first The Rock making the debut no one thought would occur and inciting some of the old-time fans to come back and tune in for the first time in anywhere from a month to 7 years.
I would call this move by Vince McMahon brilliant due to many people wishing for a return by The Rock, or Dwayne as another person featured in this piece sarcastically refers to him as, and very few people have the type of drawing power he has.
Now be it chance, seeing something or someone they liked or more likely the match between John Cena and The Rock at next year's Wrestlemania inevitably leading to more Rock appearances, some of these fans stayed and the ratings enjoyed in some cases a modest increase and in others consistency.
The hype died down really quickly though and WWE experienced lower pay-per-view buy rates than it expected—although there were increases from last year in every pay-per-view.
Enter CM Punk, one of the best and worst booked heels in recent wrestling history, a man who had all kinds of promise only to lead to disappointments, storylines that led nowhere and losing clean every pay-per-view he participated in from Over the Limit 2010 to Over the Limit 2011; Punk was all of these things but above all he was, and arguably still is, a disgruntled employee.
Punk, as far as we know, was on his way out the door after Capitol Punishment and it looked like the WWE was going to send him off in an epic fashion by giving him a title match the day his contract expired.
However, the week after earning his WWE title match, Punk did one thing that set the wrestling world on fire and drew attention from just about every major media source in the United States: He cut a shoot promo live on RAW voicing just about every opinion the majority of the writers and bloggers in the IWC have had for the last three years.
And it seemed that overnight, wrestling was cool again. To keep the viewers who tuned in to the following RAW interested, many alterations were added to the storyline as well as every kind of promo in Vince McMahon's wrestling handbook, with the exception of John Cena and CM Punk appearing on Piper's Pit, being done to hype the match at Money in the Bank.
It all paid off as some reports are saying the event may have drawn as much as 405,000 buys total—granted, I haven’t found much to confirm that figure. We do know for sure that Vince confirmed it was at least a 20 percent increase domestically.
The build continued and the feud just kept getting hotter. In the midst of it all, Vince, or at least the demonic Mr. McMahon, was removed from power and succeeded by Triple H.
Triple H, despite his many detractors, brought a bit of freshness to the feud between the two as he seemed more to play the unbiased authority figure who was just doing what could be done for more money to be made. Furthermore, he used his own mic skills to stir the pot just a little bit more between the two.
The feud between John Cena and CM Punk, at least for the moment, seems to have concluded with this past Summerslam. Many questions are yet to be answered such as why Kevin Nash attacked Punk post-match and if Triple H purposely didn’t notice Cena's foot on the rope but it seems the pages on that chapter are closed and the page-turner that is the book of Punk continues.
That is how we got to where we are.
It seems for every one of Punk's rabid supporters, there is at least one detractor. The detractors are so blind in some of their opinions, they discount the opinions of not only people who are more familiar with wrestling but some of the wrestlers themselves who would be the first people to recognize whether someone has the "it" factor.
Oh, the "it" factor here in the IWC. We like to fervently discuss who has it, who doesn’t, why they have it, or even why they will give a push despite having it.
It isn’t really clear what exactly the "it" factor is and isn’t but you just can tell who does and does not have it. We just know when someone has it because we are drawn to watch their every move.
And now we come to the bulk of the discussion here on just what made the Punk/Cena rivalry so great. Despite what both sides of the argument may say or feel, the reason the feud was great and the reason that John Cena and CM Punk have such excellent chemistry is that both of them have the "it" factor. Not just Punk, Not just Cena. Both.
Punk has shown he has had "it" for quite a while, which is sad given the crap he is given to work with, by being the standout in almost every feud he is given recently.
Anyone remember the series of matches he had with Rey Mysterio last year? Yeah, if memory serves, they were all pretty solid. Remember when Punk first turned heel and wrestled Jeff Hardy in one of the most personal feuds we'd seen in a long time? Yep, sure do because it was the last time I found Jeff Hardy watchable. What about the matches he had on ECW with John Morrison for the ECW title? He made Morrison look like a star.
He can deliver a match of the night at any given pay-per-view no problem and has rather consistently.
Many people have said Punk sold out when he accepted the new contract with all the little perks and to these people I have to ask one question: Were you really paying attention to his promos? He mocked Cena for taking the perks but he also admitted if he was in Cena's place, he would have done the exact same thing. Is it really selling out if you basically admitted that’s what you were working towards?
And yes, Punk has worked his a** off for every perk he has earned. I don’t care what anybody says, we are talking a man that wrestled in matches that lasted 40 minutes or more on a number of occasions just to get noticed on the indie circuit.
What exactly does selling out entail? He can’t make money off, or get a few people that deserve it a push, doing something he is good at? Don’t you guys remember the joker’s explanation in the Dark Knight on why he didn’t just kill Batman? Let me refresh your memory: “If you are good at something, never do it for free.”
A side note to those who say Punk doesn’t get a crowd reaction....please turn your TVs off mute and your hearing aids on.
Now we come to Cena. Honestly, I'm kind of sick of talking about Cena so this will probably be the last time I do it, at least for a long while. Cena has the "it" factor. He has it in bulk. Does he have enough "it" factor that it warrants 11 World Title reigns in the space of 6 years? In my honest to god opinion, no, because nobody in the world has that much “it” factor. But he does have it.
Cena came into the WWE greener than grass and he worked his butt off to learn as much as he could despite his limited wrestling ability, and once more being honest, he has evolved into a decent wrestler with an above average understanding of the basics.
Is he the god amongst wrestling that Vince McMahon, Johnny Ace, WWE creative, and just about every Cena Mark have made him out to be? Once again, no, but can he wrestle a really good match when the situation calls for it? Yes.
Now has Cena been lazy the last few years (Chavo Guerrero certainly thinks so) and wrestled the same match that has more of a formula than the Final Destination movies and Friday the 13th movies combined? Yes.
But at the same time, has he had great matches? Look no further than both his matches with Punk, his matches with Michaels, his matches with Umaga and hell if you want to watch Cena carry a match, feel free to watch him wrestle Batista. Even going a step further, you can go all the way back to 2007 and watch him carry Khali through not one but two matches.
In terms of mic ability, both CM Punk and Cena are phenomenal. They can draw whatever reaction they want based on what is called for. Rather annoyingly, Cena has stuck to a formula with not just his wrestling but his promos which has made a lot of people forget what he is capable of on the mic. He doesn’t need to rap to cut a good promo, just watch the contract signing on RAW a few weeks ago. I would go as far as to say it's Cena's best mic work in years.
For Punk, there isn’t much to be said. When he wants to be loved, he's loved. When he wants to be hated, he's hated. He transitioned to a heel after cashing in Money in the Bank on Jeff Hardy effortlessly and has since ran with it.
Before that, he was a solid face who won The World Championship, the Tag Team Championship and the Intercontinental Championship in the same year and became a Triple Crown winner faster than any wrestler in WWE history, shattering the previous record of the man he is now feuding with—a fact that has often been overlooked and may be brought up later on in this rivalry.
The WWE does have confidence in him at this point. To suggest anything else would be ridiculous. They trust him to deliver and he has done so consistently up until this point. If I knew I had a big guy like Kevin Nash, who is no spring chicken, that moves slow as dirt and is very limited in the ring these days and I had to get a good match out of him, I would go to Punk. Furthermore, right now everyone and their grandmother wants a match with Punk, and WWE knows that some of these "dream matches" mean big money—perhaps even more money than milking the Punk/Cena feud for all it's worth until it becomes stale.
Another side note for those who say that's the only reason anyone wants a match with Punk right now, I would like you to note that Stone Cold was saying he wanted a match with Punk before this whole thing started.
That’s why that feud ended after two months. WWE knows it'd be overkill and would ruin the hype behind it as well as any opportunity at drawing hundreds of thousands of pay-per-view buys in the future with a matchup between the two.
Too many times has WWE kept a Cena Feud, such as with Orton going, and ruined any special feeling there was to it. WWE needs Punk to become to Cena what Edge once was, that being an opponent who could believably beat him and guarantee numbers, and I believe not over-killing their rivalry now is the right way to do that.
Overall, this feud has become as popular as it has because of the severe amount of "it" factor both men have. There is no reason to resort to name-calling, to diss either one, or to proclaim either man god’s gift to wrestling.
No one man made this feud great, both of them did. It takes two to tango and two to have a great wrestling feud. Cena and Punk have done that. Let’s not ruin the magic this feud has created by attributing it to one man.
Thank you for reading and feel free to comment.