Since this past summer, we've seen a much-needed resurgence in support for CM Punk.
Even though he's garnered huge support from the Internet Wrestling Community across much of his career, this summer's angle with his contract legitimately expiring (on or around the date claimed) and his threat to take the WWE Championship away from the company swayed many fans to his side, to the point where reports state that he's recently overtaken John Cena in merchandise sales.
Since Cena's ability to promote every manner of merchandise that he can fit on his top half has been so leaned upon, this has proven a huge enough hurdle to cross that WWE has renewed faith in Punk and decided he's up for a strong push coming soon.
In spite of this knowledge, his lack of distinct progress in any real direction seems to be taking many people by surprise, which I happen to find comical.
Among my peers here at Bleacher Report, there is a consensus that CM Punk's talent ranks him easily in the top three stars in the company, if not solidifies him as simply the best thing WWE has going today. However, he's not confidently striding toward a WWE Championship title match, he's not tossing pipebombs like confetti, the conspiracy is taking a while to unravel and he hasn't claimed in a while that WWE would be better off if Vince was dead.
Simply put...if he's up for a push, when is it coming and why isn't it here yet?
I've done some thinking and I feel like the answer is real simple...
Like WWE wants us to do...let's look at John Cena a moment.
Cena's dominated WWE airwaves for the last three to four years at least, and most of the time, he's busy dealing with one person at any given moment. Sure, sometimes a few people wiggle their way into a main event and he has to fend off more than one opponent for a title. In the case of Nexus, he dealt with a ton of newbies all at once, though, he primarily dealt with Barrett or Punk as they were the main mouthpieces.
But for the most part, Cena's rivalries were one-on-one affairs. Let's count backward. He's now on his second PPV squaring off with Del Rio in a one-on-one match. Earlier this year, he was dealing with Truth. Then, mostly with Miz. Before that, Punk. Before that, Barrett. Before that, Sheamus, and before that, Batista. Orton was his arch-nemesis at one point.
The list of his singles rivals goes on, and it's hard to believe it's gone this long that Cena's "monogamy," when it comes to feuds, is so strict.
Does this mean that CM Punk is more "polygamous" when it comes to his rivals? Not entirely. Look at some of his better promos in recent months. He wasn't just dealing with Cena or just dealing with Triple H. Some of his best promos featured numerous people in the ring at once. Combos of Cena, Triple H, Laurinaitis, Vince, Nash, Miz, Truth, etc.
He could feud with one person, but let's be real...his verbal ability would bury one single person before any bells rang to start any conceived matches. Just look here at what happened with Nash and Punk. People complain that CM Punk's match with Nash didn't happen. #AreYouSeriousBro
First off, CM Punk is in way better shape than Nash to compete, so if they did make that match happen like the fanboys wanted, Punk would've won, no contest. Secondly, look for yourself.
Nash's mic skills in the past have been pretty decent and he got his ass handed to him in a verbal exchange. If that's the kind of condition Nash gets left in after trading words with CM Punk, what would their physical contest have been like?
As I said, this summer, the big angle was CM Punk taking the title off Cena and leaving the company with it. If he technically wasn't actually under contract for a short while, he obviously is back under contract with them now. And like any title journey, Punk's trip back to wearing the gold will surely be a struggle.
However, the conspiracy storyline has left us with many small and extremely subtle things to take into account.
At least until it gets taken down, take a look at this video, and please fast forward to around 4:05. In case you choose not to watch, let me point out the highlights.
The Awesome Truth hit the ring on the 10/17/2011 episode of Raw to Truth's remix "You Suck" and cut a promo on Punk, where they comically state that they hate people who run their mouth. Vintage Punk, he pretended to "zip his lip" and listen. One thing that Miz casually points out during his tirade is that Punk will never get another shot at the WWE Title.
Whether The Awesome Truth is stating that because some secret ally of theirs made them issue such a warning to Punk, or whether it's their own desire to keep Punk out of the title race for something as petty as jealousy, they clearly don't want CM Punk meddling in the affairs of the belt. What's even better...
Punk hasn't said a word about the title in weeks. It's not like he brought it up and Miz contradicted him. Miz brought it up first.
I've been saying this for at least a few weeks now, but lately, WWE has been focusing a lot more on the subtlety of storytelling and the tiniest hints and clues to give us answers they want us to have. Sure, this could just be a lame reference to Truth having one title shot this year and Miz previously holding the belt before Cena and Punk got to it.
But is it at all possible that The Awesome Truth is being used to block or divert Punk for the time being so that Cena can regain the belt?
Many people speculate that it's about time for CM Punk to be the face of the company, that he should hold the belt and lead the locker room and take charge. But like anything else in life, patience is required.
This very second, right now, is not the right time for that. Let's say by some act of God, Punk gets put into the title match with Del Rio at Vengeance and he wins the belt. Unlike many who ask this rhetorically, who would he feud with for the belt?
Any one single person he feuded with would be squashed by Punk's inevitable promos before any matches started. Cena can poke fun at people with corny jokes, but his style really just gets his enemies mad. CM Punk can take a rival and make them look entirely foolish and ridiculous.
Once Punk has the belt, he'll have to defend it. The hunt is always more compelling than the achievement, and if that's the case, they need to work on establishing a powerful enough set of enemies strong enough to hang at CM Punk's incredible performance level, not the other way around.
Remember Money in the Bank and SummerSlam. Yes, SummerSlam was a slightly tainted victory for Punk, but he still scored a second straight pinfall against John Cena. Hard to recall the last one to do that. CM Punk has been established as able to take Cena down. One of the few in the company who can.
Punk can go without the belt for now, because now is the time for the dark side to gain power...
Think back to the New World Order...
Just when everyone thought that the conspiracy against WCW would be squashed by Hogan, Hulk ended up being part of it to double and triple the momentum Hall and Nash had built on their own. It's easy to say that The Awesome Truth are no longer this generation's "Outsiders" simply because they've been rehired, but they still come off as rebellious in their own right.
At the heart, their allegiance is somewhat blurred. They started their conspiracy theories with their issues with Cena. Now, they've moved to Punk and Triple H after Laurinaitis hired them back. For them to work with Laurinaitis, Hunter or even Cena seems to go against their MO, but if they stick with their MO and Hunter, Cena and Laurinaitis are all in on the conspiracy, would there be room for two more guys who are really just looking for notoriety?
For a few brief moments, even Khali found a new energy in servitude, standing by Jinder Mahal, a man he despised. He was winning matches again. He looked more focused and much stronger. Granted, he got squashed by Henry and quit, but still, a surge of brilliance.
The Awesome Truth want respect and title opportunities, thus it benefits them to secretly join the conspiracy. If they happen to be pawns, and the conspiracy reveals that it doesn't need The Awesome Truth to do its dirty work anymore, and they turn face against the conspiracy, that's fine, too. But if they do join the ranks of the evil-doers, even for the short term, you know who else it benefits?
You guessed it. Our special little loudmouth.
The NWO had Sting to fight it. The WWE corporate machine and society's good values had Degeneration-X to fight them. The conspiracy will have CM Punk at the forefront of the war when the opening salvos are officially shot.
Provided WWE's grand scheme doesn't go the way of TNA's flop "stable" Immortal, and every time we see them on TV they have different members, and have gained members, and have lost members, etc., WWE's conspiracy can be strong, nearly invincible, and practically untouchable.
The perfect level of adversary to challenge is a guy like CM Punk. He's clever, mouthy, sardonic and smart. Not to mention, he's one of the best wrestlers in the world. The conspiracy has their eyes on him and everything he does.
Just the way he wants it. He wouldn't have it any other way. Fact is, while just as many can speculate that the conspiracy is failing, it's just as easy for me to speculate that this conspiracy is all built around giving CM Punk adequate enemies to fight.
Ask yourself...how many Superstars on the roster can effectively meet CM Punk face to face in the ring, whether in a wrestling match or on the microphone or both?
Answer: only a few. If one of them is John Cena, the conspiracy may want to have him in their ranks when the war against Punk finally starts.
A lot of people have said that Punk has looked stupid in the face of all this conspiracy business.
In my opinion, he hasn't looked dumb so much as whoever is in charge of moving the conspiracy along is thinking a half-step ahead of Punk. He's busy thinking things through, but by being as vocal as he can be, he's showing his hand to the enemy.
He's brave, and yet, flawed. Already a more compelling character to watch and root for than Cena, a guy whose unflappable and unwavering idealism always wins at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, the chaotic situation changes to the point where Punk's best move is to make no move at all. If he keeps gut checking key figures right now, he only stands to get beat down unexpectedly. Look at the conclusion to Hell in a Cell.
Conspirators were obviously in charge of raising and lowering the cage to allow The Awesome Truth in for the kill. Whether The Awesome Truth were hired assassins gunning to stick it to the championship contenders by order, or whether their own destructive aims were taken advantage of by the conspirators to further their own goals, CM Punk doesn't benefit by making a lot of noise right now.
Hell, enough noise is going on as it is. Walkouts, solidarity rallies, lawsuits, power structure shifts. CM Punk wants a war to happen, this much we know, and by hanging back with the rest of the faces, he's acting like a sniper. He's keeping hidden in his surroundings so he can watch and wait and take notes.
He's acting as if everything is hunky-dory, recording the goings on, and when the real masterminds are exposed, he can go for the throat.
Triple H standing by his side is OK for the time being; however, to be honest, as WWE's COO, Triple H's allegiance to Punk and overprotecting him last night on Monday Night Raw during his match with Miz doesn't quite gel with me.
They're probably building toward some kind of stormy Survivor Series alliance, but as much as I worship Triple H as an on-screen personality, I'm not buying it. Not that I'm doubting the quality of the kayfabe, that's all fine and good, I'm just not buying Triple H's support of Punk 100 percent.
Call me crazy, but it almost feels to me as if after their battle at Night of Champions seemed to raise their mutual respect. Triple H thinks his more active support of Punk will inspire Punk to stand out from the shadows once again and in the process, he'll make himself more vulnerable.
Rebellious characters only work when they have something to rebel against, correct?
Punk said it himself after Money in the Bank. By winning the title and getting Vince removed from direct power, he caused change to happen. Real, tangible change. Maybe it's not as tangible for us at home watching as spectators, but it's real to those who work there, even in kayfabe.
Like I said earlier, though, many are doubting Punk's quality simply because it seems like he's slipping back into a typical spot on the roster, a spot usually inhabited by a strong face without a belt who won't make it. But that's not true.
The real issue is that the conspiracy isn't strong or clear enough just yet to challenge Punk's ethics. Thus, as I said, he's hanging back and waiting.
Once the conspiracy reveals more of its members and intentions, and Punk has someone specific to hurl pipebombs at, the good guy/bad guy relationship will be something more to analyze.
And given that CM Punk is one of the most animated characters on the roster, who better to pair him up against than the most straight-laced employee WWE has ever had?
CM Punk can go off on numerous tirades, make fun of Laurinaitis, his clothes, his family, his business decisions, and in the end, Laurinaitis can always chuckle, shrug and wield nearly unlimited power to put CM Punk into unfair problem after unfair problem.
After all, when it comes to Corporate vs. Rebel relationships in WWE's past, the best twists haven't been the ones where firings were the payoff. They were the ones where the entity in power wanted the rebel to suffer unending pain and frustration, pushing the good guy to either A) give up and join the bad guys or B) focus enough to pull out the win.
In both instances, it pushed the rebel to unbelievable limits and that surge gave both the rebel and the bad guys character.
Maybe Punk/Laurinaitis doesn't compare to how good Austin/McMahon turned out to be, but the dynamic can still work the same. Vince didn't need to be charismatic to be a good foil for Austin, he just had to be straight-laced enough to be pissed when Austin would raise Hell.
Think about it. How much fun would it have been if Vince came out and said, "Hell yeah, everybody's favorite, Steve Austin, how about him? All right, tonight's gonna be a good night!" Would've sucked. Austin was a fun character, and he was made more fun because of how ruffled Vince's feathers got.
Thus, with Laurinaitis being extremely straight-laced and likely to have fairly massive backup once the conspiracy is unveiled, and Punk being the ideal opposite with absolutely no desire to quit fighting, yelling, talking and winning, this is one potential war that should not be underestimated merely because the storyline isn't moving fast enough for some people to handle.
If anything, since Money in the Bank, they've been using their abundance of PPVs this year pretty appropriately. They've allowed rivalries to expand, they've put great spotlight on title matches, even featuring the tag team titles on numerous occasions.
Punk vs. Laurinaitis may not reach classic status on its own, and although I personally think Laurinaitis is a valuable character to have involved in this, he does work better as a support than as a central figure, which links back to my previous slides.
He doesn't just need one strong arch-nemesis, he needs a force. Punk's that good and that dangerous to what "management" thinks WWE should be that they need to work in stealth in order to force him out of the title race.
How many of you thought CM Punk would finally get his comeuppance at WrestleMania 27 over Randy Orton?
How many of you thought he would succeed in taking down John Cena as leader of Nexus?
How many of you thought he would defeat Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 26 and once Rey was part of the Straight Edge Society, he'd bring countless mid-card stars into the fold and turn the SES into a New World Order with a practical real-to-life motto?
How many of you thought he would put Big Show down in their feud?
I can go farther and farther and farther back, but the point is real simple. The New World Order in WCW was something of a microcosm/metaphor that can relate to any number of wrestling entities. It could be likened to WWE wanting to take over, it was like a new generation of attitude that threatened the wholesome old-school values of WCW—call it what you like.
If the conspiracy threatens to hold down superstars and get John Cena back into the title race as many times as they need for him to hold the belt, then like I've been saying all along, it mirrors reality.
CM Punk has genuine, real issues with how WWE has been run, and although he decided to stay after all and re-sign with the company, the issues that plague WWE are as real as they've ever been:
1) John Cena dominates the WWE Championship hunt with next to no one else even close in the running.
2) The talent pool (largely made up of youngsters and newer potential stars) are upset and think that Triple H is responsible (which is funny, because older stars have been delaying pushes for young talent for some time now). Even if there has been no real-life walkout or strike outside of kayfabe, look at the many stars that have left of their own volition in recent months and years because they were unhappy. Kaval, MVP, Gail Kim. Major talents, hard-working individuals...no major reward.
3) Many of those talented youngsters get thrust into ridiculous angles that go nowhere and look silly, while even established veterans have struggled. Mark Henry had to wait 15 years till he got the respect necessary to carry the World Heavyweight Belt with any prestige. Christian, even longer, and he didn't even hold it for very long.
What's worse, one of the only people worthy to compete with Cena, CM Punk, is busy mucking around with Triple H in a tag team match that ultimately won't amount to anything. Yes, The Awesome Truth winning the tag match would validate them. Yes, CM Punk and Triple H winning would push back the bad guys as they gain power, but even then, what would it really accomplish?
I can think of one thing. If Hunter/Punk vs. The Awesome Truth occurs just before the WWE Championship match, it might wear out most of the worthy parties who would interfere in the Last Man Standing match, thus leaving Cena to effectively take out Del Rio and claim his 11th WWE Championship.
In a match Laurinaitis made. Don't forget that.
Try not to look at CM Punk as an employee and more as a rising star.
I know, it's tough seeing him as "rising" when he's been to the top numerous times. Triple H even pointed that out on TV. However, just because Punk's push isn't coming immediately doesn't mean it's not in the cards.
WWE is seeing the potential this guy has to be a major player and a central figure to their entire product's media blitz and public approach. They're seeing how easy it is for this guy to sway fans with his humor, charm, attitude and personality.
As reliable as John Cena has been to their business plan, his last few major promos on the mic have not only been generic, but they've been bland, tasteless, reheated leftovers. I may never forget his "big" promo before Hell in a Cell as it couldn't have been more basic. Just a random string of nicknames for the cage, previously made references to how brutal it is, etc, etc, etc. He didn't even deliver his lines perfectly, he flubbed in the middle.
Cena has shown how good he is in the ring, even showing some versatility in his style, but lately, his limit is finally being seen. He can beat Del Rio. He can't beat CM Punk. The last two times Cena and Punk faced each other one-on-one, people had to interfere.
Vince, Laurinaitis and Del Rio interfered at Money in the Bank.
Del Rio and Nash interfered at SummerSlam after Triple H made a bad call.
Del Rio and Cena faced each other at Night of Champions, and aside from Ricardo Rodriguez getting involved (did he? I didn't see it), no one of note interfered. Interesting, no? All that interference at two straight PPVs...Night of Champions, Cena wins clean.
Hell in a Cell, Punk and Cena again. This time, Del Rio in the match, and Miz and Truth run in for a beatdown after Cena loses the belt. Curious. Who were The Awesome Truth's actual targets? Seems to me they wanted to just destroy everything in their path that night, not necessarily incapacitate anyone specific. They also didn't affect the outcome.
Now we find ourselves at Vengeance, Cena and Del Rio, one-on-one again. Punk is diverted from the title race by Laurinaitis, putting Punk into a match against The Awesome Truth, alongside the guy he's been warring with, Triple H.
Not to sound like every other fatalistic fan out there, but given the circumstances, Cena's record in Last Man Standing matches and his success against Del Rio, what do you think is going to happen?
CM Punk claims that someone or something is trying to get him and Hunter to fight. Who knows? Maybe that same entity is trying to get Punk, Hunter, Miz and Truth all fighting to keep the four of them out of the title hunt.
After all, it'd be a pretty nice twist to have two established heels that everyone thinks is in on the conspiracy turn out to be nothing more than pawns just in time for Survivor Series.
The cards are being dealt. Everything we know about WWE is on the verge of collapse and when the conspiracy shows itself, Punk will have some serious work ahead of him to weaken it.
Something tells me...he's hoping that's exactly what happens...