On Monday, June 27, 2011, CM Punk turned World Wrestling Entertainment upside down with just one eight-minute promo. The promo, arguably one of the best ever, was the unleashing of aggression for employee that felt wronged.
CM Punk's promo was also a voice for an older fan base disconnected and disappointed by a product they once loved. With just one eight-minute promo, the Summer of Punk began.
Now, just five months later, the once groundbreaking promo is a distant past. The star, CM Punk, is now a secondary piece of a company-wide conspiracy angle he began. While five months may seem like a long time, WWE was once a company that perfected the art of the yearlong feud (Randy Savage/Hulk Hogan, Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior, Vince McMahon/Steve Austin).
CM Punk gave a voice to every pro wrestling fan that was sick of John Cena and Randy Orton and yearned for a new star. Those fans that craved change now must live with a main-event angle where all paths lead to the inevitable Vince McMahon vs. Triple H feud.
If nothing, how this Summer of Punk has ended is nothing short of disappointing. Like Stone Cold Steve Austin 15 years prior, CM Punk’s grievances and problems with management related to nearly every fan in the audience. Stone Cold hated his boss and wanted to kick his ass. Likewise, CM Punk hated the company he worked for and was sick of being under-appreciated. All of us in the working world have been there before.
Where Punk’s angle found traction was the advantage he owned over the WWE. Where Stone Cold years before was forced to work for Vince McMahon, CM Punk’s contact was expiring in three weeks. Better yet, the day after his title match against John Cena, at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, in his hometown Chicago. The drama writes itself, it was simple storytelling.
The angle was so simple that fans from yesteryear, one’s even in the public eye who had been ashamed to admit they were wrestling fans went all out with their support of CM Punk and their intrigue in the angle. The WWE was the talk of the Internet. Bill Simmons’ of ESPN featured CM Punk on his podcasts, GQ ran an article on Punk, and social media was a buzz everyday with CM Punk news and rumors.
CM Punk faced John Cena at Money in the Bank in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. The match was one of a lifetime. Wrestling Observer founder Dave Meltzer gave it five stars, a distinction held by only 15 American matches in over 20 years. CM Punk beat John Cena that night and left through the crowd, into 20,000 fans yearning for voices. It was perfect.
Pictures and videos surfaced of CM Punk around the country with the World Title; Punk even went as far as crashing the WWE’s press conference at the San Diego Comic Con. The angle was built so perfectly yet so simple. It became the ultimate outsider angle in wrestling history. Those fans whose voice rang loudly for a new star were finally being heard.
Monday’s Raw following Money in the Bank saw Vince McMahon taken out of power in place of Triple H. What started as an intriguing ripple to the angle became the realization that this is the same old WWE. HHH’s first act was to reconcile with CM Punk who arrived back on the scene the week later. The curiosity of how long CM Punk was going to run around Chicago, independent wrestling organizations and the Internet with the World Title was gone.
CM Punk was back to being just another member of the roster. Punk, the anti-authority figure was seemingly content with WWE with a fresh new contract. After all, they needed to have him back by SummerSlam. How dare they risk a slight decrease in pay-per-view buys for a major four event for the long-term benefit of building a successful angle? Ludicrous.
It was here that the Summer of Punk never got back on track; CM Punk defeated John Cena in a rematch but was attacked post match by a returning Kevin Nash and then pinned by Alberto Del Rio who cashed in his Money in the Bank. From here, the angle shifted focus from CM Punk to Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Nash and unsurprisingly Triple H. We were back to the same old, same old. Triple H who ruled the WWE from the better part of six years became the star and CM Punk, who like Stone Cold Steve Austin many years before broke the mold, became the mold again.
By becoming another performer under the umbrella of Triple H and the WWE, CM Punk became just another one of the wrestlers, just another member of the roster. It was counterproductive to everything the Summer of Punk was. It was akin to Stone Cold Steve Austin in mid-1998 deciding Vince McMahon really was not that bad of a boss. What would have been the point?
Relegated to a secondary part in the current walkout, vote of no confidence angle CM Punk’s Summer of Punk has died a sad disappointing death. Worse yet, it did not have to. Having CM Punk not coming back a week later would have done wonders for the long-term viability of the angle. Having CM Punk rehired but clearly show his distaste for Triple H and still be anti-establishment would have worked. Instead, we had CM Punk joyfully accepting orders from Triple H in the first hour of tonight’s Raw and being one of the few wrestlers to give a vote of confidence to then-COO Triple H.
Do not get me wrong CM Punk is still a fantastic performer and I have no doubt he will excel in whatever angle he’s given in the future. The angle and promo that turned the wrestling world upside down in late June is a relic of the past. The WWE use to excel in situations like these, not it seems they cannot wait to get back to familiarity.
Our voices are still not heard.