Whenever a current WWE Superstar is compared to a Superstar of the past, fans often tend to respond either one of two ways.
It’s either “yeah, I totally see that.” Or, “why can’t people just leave the past in the past and focus on the present? Why keep digging up these comparisons, what do they have to do with anything?!”
Some fans get upset, what can I say?
Well, if you fall into that category, then prepare to send the hate mail, because by now you have read the title of this piece.
The fact is, when I look at WWE Champion CM Punk, I see a lot of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels.
Not that Punk is going to be dancing around in chaps anytime soon, but hey, never say never in WWE, right?
For me, it’s all about the ring work. Both guys were totally committed to having the best match on the card, night in and night out. No matter who is standing across the ring from Punk on any given night, the fact is, he brings everything he has every time the bell rings.
The guy is a pro, he knows what it means to deliver on the main event stage of WWE, and we have seen his evolution from an independent, hard working talent, to being one of the company’s top guys.
That’s right, despite what anyone says to the contrary, when you are the WWE Champion, you’re selling merchandise, and you’re a Superstar that fans really want to see, then you are on the top tier in the company.
CM Punk is not John Cena, however. That much needs to be made clear. The house that McMahon built still considers John to be the No. 1 draw, and until the commitment they have to him changes, he will likely remain that way.
But, for me, Punk is a close No. 2. The guy just gets it. He understands the business, knows what it means to make it look good, and will settle for nothing less from himself.
And, this takes me right back to Shawn Michaels, who was not called “The Showstopper” for nothing; it’s a nickname that he more than earned throughout his career.
Shawn, on the other hand, was the top guy at one time, though his run at the top was arguably not as impressive as it could have been.
Shawn’s attitude behind the scenes, his reputation as a troublemaker, as a guy who had to call his own shots in the company, was infamous. He supposedly had Vince’s ear, and was in it all the time, doing everything in his power to get his way.
But, having said all of that, while some may have a problem with the way Shawn went about doing what he did, no one can argue with the results.
Week after week, and pay per view after pay per view, the Heartbreak Kid kept working like he had the whole world against him, like he was absolutely determined to show up everyone else on the card.
For me, his run as WWE Champion, especially when surrounded by Degeneration X, was one built around not just controversy, but what was obviously a true passion for the business. He set the bar for everyone else who held the title after him.
By comparison, Punk, though obviously not as flashy or outspoken as Shawn, has quickly become the workhorse WWE Champion that Michaels once was.
Every week on Monday Night Raw, despite what Cena is booked to do, or what asinine decisions John Laurinaitis makes, fans can count on CM Punk working a match, and giving them their monies’ worth.
All of the rest just becomes background noise.
Punk, like Shawn, is not the biggest guy in the WWE locker room, but who cares? Being seven foot and 300 pounds does not necessarily make you a better draw, or a more unique talent.
With all due respect to Kane, who is one of the best big men that WWE has ever seen, there just seems to be more realism, more excitement, when Punk is going to work in the ring. The truth is, he does not have to be a physical monster to be considered important.
He’s a monster in the ring, and that’s what matters.
And, that brings us to the inevitable argument, the one that centers around ratings. Man, I hate this one.
Not because fans who may dislike Punk, or even Shawn, get to fold their arms in the smug knowledge that both men share a lack of ratings as WWE Champion. That much doesn’t really get to me.
The haters will hate, as the kids say.
What bothers me is that we’re so focused on it. Fans scream and cry for more wrestling, and when WWE gives it to them, we automatically jerk back like a hand from a hot stovetop.
We criticize Punk, and Daniel Bryan, we say that their matches are not bringing the ratings, that WWE is wasting their time booking them in the main event.
The same was once said by some fans of Shawn Michaels, who is now considered to be one of the best, if not the best, of all time.
Will the same be said of CM Punk one day?
I am a pro wrestling fan. I enjoy WWE for the “wow” factor that only they can provide, and I appreciate everything they do to keep the business that I love alive and well in the hearts of fans, as well as modern pop culture.
But, I want the action. Give me CM Punk. Give me Shawn Michaels. The ratings factor may be a double-edged sword, but it’s one that WWE has to deal with, and find a way to make it work.
After all, we can’t have it both ways, folks. We either want WWE to keep the simple premise of pro wrestling alive, or we want them to cheapen it, and dumb it down to the point of no return, the way MTV has done to music.
I believe that WWE is not to that point yet, and the biggest reason is because of workers like CM Punk, who just want to get in the ring and tell a story.
Shawn Michaels was one of the best storytellers who ever worked in a WWE ring. And, for me, Punk is the best storyteller in a WWE ring right now.
And, that is a comparison that the WWE Champion should be very happy with.