WWE Through Kaleidoscope: Punk, Austin and the Dissection of Two Eras
CVC 2.0 Final: RiZE vs. Chinmay
Topic: Why CM Punk and the TV-PG (Reality) Era Are Better than Stone Cold and the TV-14 Era
As we sank deeper into the “family friendly” and predictable antics of the PG Era, we found salvation in the likes of an unlikely hero known as CM Punk. It has been two months since Punk cut his infamous “shoot” on RAW and the WWE has undergone a drastic change since.
WWE programming has revolved around CM Punk and John Cena since, while introducing the forgotten art of media influence. Simply put, the WWE has done everything in its power to legitimize their recent efforts by inserting real-life events into the forthcoming era.
And who better to be the proverbial flag-bearer than the Second City Saint, CM Punk.
Punk’s influence and spectacular personality has added more edge, unpredictability and real life controversy into WWE programming. At the same time, Punk has drawn comparisons to a similar (but different) anti-hero in Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Austin was the face of the WWE during the Attitude Era.
The similarities between the flag-bearers and their respective eras have sparked a considerable amount of speculation as of late.
In turn, Jacob Waring presented the task of comparing the two eras and to prove why Punk and TV-PG are better than Austin and TV-14.
How do you best perfection?
Remember, I’ll be focusing on can the Reality Era be better than the Attitude Era. At this point, it’s too early to proclaim the Reality Era as the better.
While it’s almost impossible to do so, I've dissected both eras/superstars and have orchestrated the following piece.
Chapter 1: The Boss
While Austin ushered in the Attitude Era, his feud with Vince McMahon was undoubtedly the center piece of WWE programming.
In case you’re a newer WWE fan, I am referring to the beginning of the WWF’s Attitude Era. Before the era came to be, Vince McMahon was a mild-mannered commentator (like Michael Cole before 2010). Fans everywhere knew McMahon was the chairman of the WWF, but McMahon refrained from displaying this on WWF programming.
The hatred spiraling from Vince’s part in the Montreal Screwjob, fueled creative to place Vince on regular programming as “Mr. McMahon.”
At the same time, Stone Cold Steve Austin was the top WWF superstar (besides Shawn Michaels).
Austin’s rebellious attitude often caused the two to clash, sparking one of the greatest rivalries in pro wrestling history.
Currently, a very similar angle is falling into place.
Triple H has taken on the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) while Vince has been “fired.” The COO has occasionally clashed with Punk, sparking disparaging comments about Hunter’s wife and political power backstage.
The introductions of Kevin Nash and Stephanie McMahon have sparked questions concerning Hunter's involvement in Punk being screwed out of the title at SummerSlam. It seems as if Nash and Stephanie are foreshadowing an inevitable feud between Triple H and CM Punk in the not so distant future.
Chapter 2: Austin/Rock, Cena/Punk
Initially, the popularity of Stone Cold Steve Austin was seemingly unmatched. While Austin was feuding with Mr. McMahon, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was establishing himself as a future megastar. Despite portraying a heel persona, Rock’s hilarious promos/interviews propelled him to the top card and a face role.
By the time a feud was established between the two, Johnson’s popularity matched that of Austin.
Simply put, Austin was still the head honcho but Rock wasn’t too far behind.
If you observe the current WWE roster, John Cena and CM Punk have taken on the roles of Austin and Rock. Punk's “shoot” promo has propelled him to new heights, becoming the WWE’s second biggest star behind John Cena.
Rock and Austin were magic together, and the fact that Cena/Punk has already wrestled a five-star match instantaneously proves the two can carry the WWE into a new era.
Coincidentally, Cena and Punk are likely to face Rock and Austin at WrestleMania 28.
Chapter 3: Attitude/Reality
The Attitude Era can be defined by numerous things. It was a radical shift in programming as the “family friend” antics were as common back then as they were before Punk's shoot. Heroic characters were replaced by anti-heroes while the WWF rid itself of the family friendly storylines and replaced them with stories that would bring about shock value.
The WWF inserted real-life issues with Vince’s involvement in the Montreal Screwjob, effectively passing programming off as real. The WWF transformed into an edgier form of entertainment that fit the “trash TV” genre that was immensely popular in the late '90s.
In turn, the WWF attracted the young adult demographic that the previous PG era failed to attract.
The WWE rejuvenated the marketing strategy by having Punk cut his “shoot” promo. In the months that preceded the shoot, rumors of Punk leaving the WWE had significantly risen. The week before the shoot, Punk announced that he was in fact “leaving” and taking the WWE Championship with him.
The company needed the “reality” factor and they got it with Punk.
The young adult demographic is steadily returning to the WWE but I don’t expect a drastic change until a few months down the line.
Chapter 4: The Rattlesnake and the Straight Edge Superstar
These two men portray exceptionally different lifestyles/gimmicks, but are so similar. Austin was the face/draw the WWF needed. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were mediocre draws as the top faces of the company while Austin became one of the biggest. Austin was the proverbial “bad boy” who caused fans to anticipate every move he made.
Austin was the anti-hero the Attitude Era needed because he possessed the charisma and attitude the era would have lusted for without him.
Coincidentally, Austin began his rise to superstardom with his Austin 3:16 promo and upset victory over Jake Roberts. Austin utilized profanity and delivered an un-scripted promo that most cite as the first time the WWF delivered “attitude.”
It can be argued that CM Punk was already a star when he delivered his shoot promo, but there’s no denying that it propelled CM Punk to a new level of superstardom. Punk even wore an Austin T-shirt while cutting his promo!
Austin’s 3:16 promo began his rise to the top of the WWF while Punk is still climbing to the top.
I think we’ll have to await the future as Punk has yet to reach his potential.
Chapter 5: Who's Better? CM Punk or Stone Cold Steve Austin?
When attempting to establish the better of two talents like Punk and Austin, you must examine every aspect of pro wrestling. Basically, you have to question yourself and ask “what makes a great WWE Superstar?”
Mic skills, charisma and wrestling ability are the normal measuring sticks. Thing is, both men excel at each department.
Simply put, it’s like choosing between apples and oranges.
Ultimately, I’ll leave it up for you to decide.
They’re so different, but possess a number of similar qualities that they’re often placed in the same category. With that being said, I’ll handle this topic with no bias and as delicate as humanly possible.
5.1: Microphone Skills and Charisma
Stone Cold Steve Austin is one of the greatest mic workers in WWE history. Austin’s influence over an audience skyrocketed when he picked up a mic. Like The Rock, Austin utilized a number of legendary catch-phrases which were common in his 3:16 promo at King of the Ring 1996.
Being the beer drinking, attitude-filled, tough person he is, Austin ignored the witty comebacks and utilized serious promos during the Attitude Era. He was unrated, vulgar and serious whenever he was cutting a promo. Austin got right down to business on the mic but he could also cut a comedic promo.
On the other hand, CM Punk displays a large amount of intelligence when he’s on the mic. Punk can out-think his adversary by utilizing his superior vocabulary with ease. He has that ease which comes only to the exceptional mic workers. No matter what kind of promo he is given to cut, he does it well.
He can be serious, as he was with Hardy in 2009.
He can be evil, as he was with Mysterio in 2010.
He can be funny, as he was during his announcing stint and during his feud with Cena earlier on this year.
He is all you want in a mic worker, and that is being said, considering the restricted environment he’s working in. Say he had the freedom of content from the Attitude Era; he would have been regarded as the greatest mic worker of all time.
In the charisma department, I think Chinmay summed it up. Punk is a charismatic Superstar but Austin is on a level of his own.
5.2: In-Ring Ability
The Rattlesnake was also a great worker. Thing is, a SummerSlam match with Owen Hart led to Austin suffering a serious neck injury after a pile driver. The Rattlesnake suffered a broken neck and temporary paralysis that eventually led to his retirement in 2003. Believe it or not, the injury established Austin as the tough guy he was attempting to portray.
Austin was a brawler. It fit the persona he was attempting to portray while Austin was still a great ring worker. The Rattlesnake is probably the most aggressive wrestler to grace a WWE ring as he possessed one of the most unique in-ring psychologies I’ve witnessed.
Punk is also great in the ring.
The most striking feature about his style is that it is so remarkably different from everyone else’s in WWE. It reeks of the independent leagues. That is probably why the IWC seems to be so fascinated with it. I personally am a huge fan of the independents, so that must be why I can appreciate it more than others.
Word has it that Punk was starstruck by the style of NJPW Star Kenta. Punk adopted some forms of his striking from Kenta and his finisher, The Go 2 Sleep.
Simply put, Punk is a master at multiple aspects of wrestling. From submission, striking, technical, high-flying and flashy, Punk can do it all.
Chapter 6: Which Era Is Better? Marketing Ability
Yes, the Attitude Era was indeed the best era profit-wise. Besides this, the Reality Era has just begun and we have yet to realize its potential and the direction WWE will go with this.
Despite this, I firmly believe the Reality Era can surpass it if properly handled. The Attitude Era catered to the adult/young adult demographic which was the hugest factor in their success. On the other hand, the Reality Era can surpass it through their stars.
Of course, CM Punk would be the star for the male/young adult demographic. The fact that all CM Punk related merchandise sold out (excluding the BITW shirt) of WWEShop.com is proper justification to this. Besides, UFC makes millions off the target demographic each year.
Brock Lesnar is the UFC’s biggest draw and that’s because of name recognition. Lesnar rose to prominence in the WWE and it's safe to say he drew a ton of WWE fans to the UFC.
On the other hand, you have John Cena for the women and kids.
Cena has always appealed to those demographics more than the young adult audience. Now he has Punk to pick up the slack.
The fact that a plethora of fans were willing enough to pay 500 dollars for Punk’s latest shirt, shows the impact he has over that male demographic.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a guy like CM Punk leading an era. He’s the perfect model for kids.
He’s straight edge!
Chapter 7: Wrestling Matters Here
While the Attitude Era was golden storyline-wise, it did not focus on pro wrestling itself. Disregard nostalgia and realize the most memorable AE matches were filled with multiple spots. For example, Mankind vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring 1998, wasn’t a match.
It was Mankind taking spots for the better part of 20 minutes.
At SummerSlam, we witnessed a plethora of quality wrestling matches (except Sheamus/Henry). WWE Money in the Bank saw the WWE receive its first five-star match ratings in years because of John Cena vs. CM Punk.
Ever since MITB, the WWE has seemingly reinvested interest in professional wrestling matches. The simple fact that both World Title matches lasted over 20 minutes, is a kind notion to this. Before this “era,” it was rare for a typical WWE match to last over seven minutes.
In turn, the WWE is attempting to draw fans who watch pro wrestling for the in-ring action. For example, Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA flourish because of their classic wrestling matches. The WWE can take advantage of the strategy of those companies and showcase stars like Punk and Daniel Bryan who would appeal to fans who love a great wrestling match.
Besides Punk and Bryan, there are a ton of mid-carders who possess the wrestling ability to thrill a crowd but don’t have the proper stage to utilize it.
Chapter 8: Better Stage for Showcasing/Opportunity
During the Attitude Era, there was one World Championship. The WWF title was held by Austin and Rock throughout the majority of the AE, while stars like Triple H, Mankind, Big Show and Kane were subject to mediocre reigns as WWF Champion. Besides this, most didn’t have opportunities to display their ability and show that they could become as big as others.
Currently, there are two shows for WWE Superstars. While SmackDown is considered the B Show, without it, numerous Superstars are likely to have remained in the mid card for the majority of their careers. Eddie Guerrero, John Cena, Edge, Batista, Rey Mysterio and even The Undertaker have flourished on the blue brand.
It’s also aiding guys like Daniel Bryan in improving their work and preparing for the main-event level.
Imagine if the Attitude Era had another brand?
CM Punk is a product of another WWE brand. Without ECW, it’s highly likely that CM Punk would’ve never become World Champion while receiving his walking papers before he got an appropriate start. In turn, guys like The Miz, John Morrison and Kofi Kingston were products of the ECW brand.
If they didn’t have ECW to come into their own, it would take away from the current mid-card scene.
Chapter 9: "Real" Programming
Despite the Attitude Era possessing a number of “real” aspects, some things were downright ridiculous and gave fans the idea that programming was lackluster. For example, the gimmick of Gangrel, Christian and The Brood was a little overboard, if I must say—placing something that is subject to mythical and folk tales, subtracted away from the “realism” fans crave.
This wasn’t the only questionable tactic in an era that was supposed to revolve around realism.
On the other hand, WWE has attempted to sell this new era as “real.” For example, the WWE unverified Punk’s Twitter, deleted his Facebook, removed his theme song from ITunes and removed his Superstar page from the website. They allowed Punk to mention ROH, NJPW and other wrestling promotions in the company.
As the WWE Champion, he appeared at Indy shows, crashed WWE’s section of the Comic Con, and mentioned the releases of multiple WWE Superstars last week. Simply put, Punk is living up to the “Voice of the Voiceless” nickname he bestowed upon himself.
The WWE is pushing the envelope with this era as they need to regain the young adult demographic.
Besides, fans love when the Superstars break kayfabe and mention real-life events.
It was rare in this day and age.
End: Thank YOU
As the end of this extraordinary competition comes to an end, I’m proud to say I achieved my goal. From the start, it was Chinmay who convinced me in signing up for this competition. We love writing for this site and felt as if it would be fun to test our skills against the best writers this section has to offer.
I can safely say that I improved tremendously through this competition while expanding my horizons outside the WWE through the topics.
Thank you for voting me to the finals of this competition and allowing me the honor to compete against one of the best writers in Chinmay. I’m also ecstatic to know that you guys enjoyed my entries.
Voting starts tomorrow and I’d appreciate your honest vote (even if it’s not me!).
Can’t wait to read your thoughts!