REQUESTING FLYBY #55: The Rains of Punkamere
#55: The Rains of Punkamere
And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that's all the truth I know.
CM Punk has always been known for his pride, his stubborn streak and his strong views on what constitutes effective professional wrestling. It is also hard to deny that the man has an enormous ego. When he came into the company in 2005 and was dispatched to Ohio Valley Wrestling for “seasoning” amidst murmurs from the likes of Triple H and Shawn Michaels that he “didn’t know how to work”, the Straight Edge Superstar was described by Paul Heyman, head booker at OVW at the time, as “pissed off beyond belief” at this perceived slight. As the “king of the indies”, perhaps a throwback or unlikely resurrection of the old fashioned territorial wrestler of yore, Punk had expected to walk through the door of Titan Towers and be used in a meaningful fashion immediately. If the Best In The World DVD documentary feature is to be believed, Chicago Made was only saved from being cut from developmental because ECW was being resurrected under the WWE umbrella as a Heyman booked ‘C’ show and Punk, much to the indifference of Laurinaitis or McMahon, was his first draft pick.
The outspoken Chicagoan had to then endure a tumultuous rollercoaster up and down the card for the next three and a half years, encompassing Heyman’s departure from the company in an argument over Punk’s booking inside the December to Dismember elimination chamber match, an abortive first run with the World Heavyweight Championship which he was booked to “vacate” in an injury angle rather than drop in a match, and finally a punishment de-push for no selling Undertaker’s advice to represent WWE correctly by wearing a suit while in possession of the big gold belt. Given all of these setbacks, it is unsurprising that Punk developed a mighty chip on his shoulder. By early 2011, saddled with the New Nexus albatross, he was angry, sad, bitter and burnt out. Rumours surfaced that he would let his contract run down and leave the company. Ultimately, he felt he was the best heel in the business and that his talents were being wasted in the midcard.
What happened next is well known; the short version is that Punk was placed in a “heel challenge du jour” programme with WWE Champion John Cena which suddenly caught fire when the Voice of the Voiceless was told to deliver a worked shoot airing his grievances with millions of viewers. It was wrestling alchemy, put simply, and suddenly the Straight Edge Saviour was hot property that WWE could not afford to lose. Interestingly though, the infamous “pipebomb” promo denounced Triple H as Vince McMahon’s “doofus son-in-law” and this is where the story takes an interesting turn to coincide with current events. Triple H, ever since the year 2000, has played an establishment character of sorts, whether face or heel. The McMahon-Helmsley faction, The Two Man Power Trip, Evolution, and The Authority are all shades of the same idea. Even the resurrection of DX smacked of the establishment; underneath the neon green baseball caps stood two ageing main eventers dominating younger peers. Of course, it isn’t just in kayfabe that Triple H represents order; that’s the crucial thing here. After marrying into the McMahon clan for real, Paul Levesque gained ever increasing stroke backstage, actually moving into an active executive role by the close of the last decade.
On the face of it then, Punk and Trips were light years apart in their outlooks, which was why a mooted feud between them in the summer of 2011 seemed like such an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, WWE rather botched the angle, and although I personally have never been able to get on board with the cries of “buried”, I think an opportunity was missed in not turning the C.O.O heel and subsequently setting him against the crusading wielder of the pipe bomb. Even more fascinatingly, for all their superficial differences, CM Punk and Triple H share certain qualities, in both kayfabe and in real life. A mighty ego. A degree of backstage influence. A desire to force their own way no matter what.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
as long and sharp as yours.
Ever since the advent of The Authority storyline, the insertion of Punk has seemed a certainty, because his fiery anti-establishment character would surely not stay kayfabe silent about Trips throwing his weight around for long. Sure enough, the indy darling was placed in a programme with The Shield, who were working for The Game, then suffered a double cross at the hands of former DX Army members Road Dogg and Billy Gunn and finally got pulled out of the Rumble by Corporate Kane. All signs pointed towards a Wrestlemania match between Punk and Hunter, with the outspoken Chicagoan having to fight past rank upon rank of lackeys to finally lay his hands on the boss. It was, on paper, a perfect story, one fans wanted to see in 2011 and would be just as pleased with in 2014. Opportunity beckoned; all of the history from their interaction during the “Summer of Punk” could be used in the feud, as could the origins of the former ROH’s tenure with WWE.
We still do not know anything concrete about Monday night. It seems that the episode was re-written, perhaps due to the crowd reaction to the Rumble controversy involving Bryan, and an angle involving Punk having a spot in the chamber denied him due to Kane interference was nixed. Allegedly, this led to the Best in the World “going home” and it may be that he won’t be back. Now, the first thing to say is that this may be the best work of all time, better even than the contract storyline from 2011 or the Outsiders invasion of Nitro. If that is the case, all of the discussion to follow is perhaps moot; I’ve just come out of a recording session for The Right Side of the Pond where we discussed the idea of kayfabe being rebuilt through relentless trolling of smart fans in order to win back some unpredictability in the product.
But what if that isn’t the case? Punk is volatile, proud and not afraid to cut his nose off to spite his face, but even so, the scenario remains confusing. One report suggests that he was angry that the Triple H match that has been hinted at for months has now been transferred to Daniel Bryan in an attempt to appease the fanbase who desire a huge ‘Mania moment for the American Dragon. Another directly contradicts it, suggesting that Punk was incandescent with rage at not being given the closing title match. This last one makes little sense given that the Hunter bout has been on the cards since at least November, and if he had a problem with it, I imagine the wheels would never have been set in motion. The most compelling theory to this situation being legitimate is actually the one which states that the Straight Edge Superstar has but one ambition left in wrestling; to close Wrestlemania. Punk has headlined the Showcase of the Immortals but he’s never been in the true main event. When you consider that The Miz, of all people, has been, then you start to see his point. An interesting side angle is Cookie Monster’s nagging injuries and general sense of dissatisfaction with wrestling, something increasingly evident in his Twitter interactions with fans. He may be burnt out. He may need a break, although it must be said that one does not take a break at this time in the WWE calendar, another aspect of the story which is puzzling to say the least.
If we have a genuine shoot on our hands, we can see it this way; Punk takes Triple H and Vince on, gambling on his importance to the company, popular as he is with a key WWE demographic. He throws the dice, walks off in a huff, and trusts that any plans he is dissatisfied with will be redrawn. Such a strategy is fraught with risk and surely unsustainable in the long term. Just ask Stone Cold Steve Austin, who found that he was not as irreplaceable as he perhaps thought he was. On the other hand, maybe the Voice of the Voiceless has genuinely walked out intending on never coming back. This is even more dangerous. Bret Hart was like a son to Vince McMahon, but within weeks of Montreal, a midget version of himself was being mocked by DX on Raw and his family members were being jobbed out mercilessly. Worst of all, the video tape of Bret’s treasured life’s work was under McMahon lock and key, all of it, from Stampede all the way to WCW. As Chris Jericho once remarked to Randy Orton in a kayfabe promo “the McMahons are vengeful people”.
And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o'er his hall,
with no one there to hear.
One thing nobody could possibly deny about CM Punk is his passion for professional wrestling. He didn’t leave WWE in 2011 because he was promised the opportunity that he would get to consistently display his talents in a more high profile card position and that was all he ever wanted, or so his DVD leads us to believe. Assuming that this news story is 100% legitimate, a man who lives and breathes the business in the way that Punk does will almost certainly listen to any overtures or concessions WWE make to him; walking out would be a bargaining chip rather than a permanent state of affairs. The bright lights of the main event call to Punk like a siren song, and if he may well look at himself and say “if I’m not a professional wrestler, what am I?” When it comes down to it, the egotist, the attention seeker, is only ever happy if they have the spotlight. Watching some baseball and attending a few Rancid gigs may seem like paradise compared to WWE’s murderous road schedule, but without the wrestling public, he may soon find that he is a man without a country.
Similarly, the Straight Edge Saviour has stated on numerous occasions that his legacy matters to him. You’d have to assume that he would not want his last actions on WWE television to be an incomplete storyline exit from the Royal Rumble. You would also have to think that Punk would not wish to be “buried” in promos and commentary or have his matches hidden away in a vault. If this walk out is not work- and I still feel that it may well be a very well-disguised twist in the Road to Wrestlemania- then Punk may soon find out that today’s Best In The World is tomorrow’s fallen angel.
Yes now the rains weep o'er his hall,
and not a soul to hear.
Last edited by Maverick; 01-30-2014 at 05:35 AM.
I'm not entirely convinced CM Punk has a passion for wrestling as much as he does a passion for CM Punk wrestling. But I think that's up in the air. He knows his history and he seems to admire a lot of people who aren't around and sit in contempt of many who are, which I guess is unfortunate for him. Maybe fate just displaced him in the history of the world?
Shoot or work, shoot or work.... If the latter, as you say, best of all time. If the former, fuck CM Punk. You know, after our recording, my feelings on this but they've grown more intense the more I've been able to be free to ponder it in the last couple of hours. Increasingly I find myself absolutely despising it - as much a walk out on us as on the company. Whatever his motivations, to me that's unforgivable. I'm glad I didn't fork out a HUGE amount of money for a ticket to New Orleans in April for the express purpose of seeing him wrestle because boy does he have a funny way of living up to his hype. It's funny that for all the differences he sees in himself against guys like Cena, they've as much in common as he does with Trips - they're their own biggest marks for sure. Punk said he re-signed with WWE in 2011 because it was rightfully pointed out to him he couldn't change the world from his couch. Then what the fuck is his excuse this time, when the world actually IS showing some signs of changing? When his apparent selfless crusade would be at its most effective? Doesn't that single fact render his entire last two years with the company nothing more than an ego-trip disguised as something more?
The sad part is he genuinely has a cult of personality that seems to have the very fans he's screwing over with his crass behaviour actually defending, supporting and encouraging it. Not that he gives a shit about them. In fact, he gives as much a shit about them as he does his critics, which is a wonderful way of living life completely oblivious to the world. He is his own world and for all I care he can go rot in it. He'd probably block me on Twitter if I said that to him and he saw it, or tell me to fuck off in real life, if he'd care at all. That, I'm sure will fill him with a smug sense of self-satisfaction. It won't change the simple fact though: CM Punk doesn't give one iota of a shit about what anyone thinks about CM Punk other than CM Punk. In an industry like pro wrestling - that should be about the entertainment of the fans first and foremost - there is no room for that kind of attitude.
His legacy, if this is legit, will be, deservedly so, one of a man that walked out during the biggest time of the year despite being a centerpiece to the coming Wrestlemania, meaning any rhetoric employed in the past was a convincing lie designed to leverage himself against the company and against other members of the locker room by garnering easy and lazy sympathy with the audience. If this isn't the greatest work of all time, it'll only prove CM Punk's career to be just that instead.
Great column on such short notice Mav. Evenly tempered and sensible, which is far from how I'm feeling right now! Though I'm not sure the GoT reference really fit for me, I mark out so hard for the story I can't deny it made me smile. In this case, unfortunately I think Punk plays the role of both Lannister and Reyne.
As you rightfully pointed out though, this could be a massive work and the more feverish we all get about it - myself included - the stronger the voice in my head telling me it's just that gets. If it turns out it is? Well fucking done WWE.
Last edited by 'Plan; 01-29-2014 at 07:07 PM.
I don't know if I'd go so far as to define that as his legacy. To me, that's not terribly far from defining Ric Flair's legacy as the guy who had one of the most elaborate retirements in WWE history and then wrestled in TNA. Not exactly a footnote - certainly a chapter in his career book - but not the bulk of the book, either. Nor is it the main theme of the book, at least not to me.
Originally Posted by 'Plan
Mav, I'm picking out a tiny thing here with which to disagree, and that's that the '06 reincarnation of DX in some way resembled the establishment. I see polar opposites in the sophomoric Triple H of late '06 and the businessman of today, and it's not just the dichotomy of the backwards cap and suit and tie. Forget that, though - I just have to find a way to clash with you. One way or another.
Fact is, this column shone both in terms of timeliness and depth, two qualities which can seem to elude one another if one is not careful. Additionally, it's a pretty fresh take on the scenario, and a well-explained one at that.
I seriously have my doubts that this is a work. But I'm reminded of two and a half years ago. I remarked to a friend that the storyline leading up to Money in the Bank 2011 "would be absolutely amazing if it wasn't so predictable". As it turns out, I was stunned and elated at the fact that Punk did beat Cena and remained with WWE. Paint the 2011 me foolish, maybe, but the naivete certainly added to the moment when Punk won. Do I doubt we have lightning in a bottle twice, though? Sadly, yeah.
Very analytical take on what is for many, myself included, of course, an emotional issue. The problem with that, of course, is I'm not sure you actually have an opinion on Punk's actions if it is a shoot. That's fine, of course, but rather safe, if you don't mind me saying so.
Much like anyone else in the world, if he does not like his job, he has every right to quit. However, instead of walking out at half-hour's notice, he should have fulfilled his contractual obligations, waited out his contract, and then simply chosen to not resign. I do not think anyone would have begrudged him that. Indeed, on his way out, he could have put over someone in a big way. He is a huge star, and any talented mid-carded who got the rub would have benefited greatly. Hell, had he just gone to Vince and asked him to put him in a program with Bryan so that he could put him over on his way out, I hardly think Vince would have refused. Ultimately, walking out is a bitch move. Because I am sure a lot of his fans had forked big money to see him on the road to Wrestlemania. Had this just affected himself, I would not have cared. But it is not. It does affect others.
I am sure he will be back in a few years, though. They all come back. I wonder how he will come back: as a full-time worker; or as a part-time main-eventer getting an extraordinarily strong push.
Timely, informed and, crucially for what you were striving to achieve, detached analysis. Well played, sir.
“Similarly, the Straight Edge Saviour has stated on numerous occasions that his legacy matters to him. You’d have to assume that he would not want his last actions on WWE television to be an incomplete storyline exit from the Royal Rumble.”
While I don’t think he’s made his last WWE appearance ever, I’m inclined to believe that he’d be in love with the romance of an unceremonious exit. It’s a punk rock way to go, after all. Then again, he’s not above selling out…
“The bright lights of the main event call to Punk like a siren song, and if he may well look at himself and say “if I’m not a professional wrestler, what am I?” When it comes down to it, the egotist, the attention seeker, is only ever happy if they have the spotlight. Watching some baseball and attending a few Rancid gigs may seem like paradise compared to WWE’s murderous road schedule, but without the wrestling public, he may soon find that he is a man without a country.”
Loved that insight. Very true and nicely worded.
If I have a gripe, it’s that the title was brutal and a little unnecessary because readers were either going to “get” the conceit or not – ‘Punkamere’ was too clunky and on the nose for those who did, and baffling to those who didn’t. Minor gripe – I liked the conceit in itself.
The Underage Pessimist
I am entirely on Punk's side on all accounts, be it, he quit because he wanted to main event 'Mania and wasn't getting it; be it, he wanted Bryan to main event 'Mania and was sick of the part timers hogging the spotlight, or be it, he quit because of physical and psychological injuries. I don't certainly think that it's a work and I'm tending to think that WWE would never even mention it on TV, but Punk has done the right thing. He doesn't owe anything to anyone except himself, when it comes to him as a person. As for his contractual obligations, he will definitely have considered the fallout. WWE owns part of his copyright, so its not like they're losing out on much, neither is Punk, if the reports of him saving up enough money are true.
Certain fans must definitely be pissed at his decision, but ultimately they have to understand the effect the road has on one's body. They'd have to let go if Punk was indeed injured and not willing to give away his health.
Wonderful, as always, Mav. The timeliness was great, but the depth and insight even more so.
For the people
Fine column Mav and a neat format including the poem quotes. I disagree that people would forget him so quickly though if this is his goodbye to the company (though I'm content to let this play out until we get some more definite news). CM Punk is a big deal at this point and WWE will go pretty far to ensure he stays. Whether that includes a Wrestlemania main event... tough to say.
Also, to 'Plan, like Sub said, Punk doesn't owe us anything. Who knows what's happening backstage? WWE could've promised him things and lined up things and now screwed him out of it. Workplace issues like that happen all the time. They're currently happening where I work too. It's brutal. Good employers are hard to find.
Furthermore, if we hadn't heard these insider reports, no one would have anything to say except how Punk seemed to have been hurt at the Rumble and it sucks that he got screwed by Kane. Until there's some more definite news, there's no reason to get too excited. BUT, that being said, I can appreciate the passion you have for this issue and always enjoy your writing, when it is fuelled from that kind of energy!
Good job provoking discussion, Mav!
Feedback time! Glad to spark some debate with a more measured take...
'Plan- However big Punk's ego is- and it is huge- he respects and loves professional wrestling, whether he is in it or not. There are numerous instances of him looking like a kid in a candy store at having made his dream reality, and equally numerous touches and moments that illustrate his passion for the industry' storied history. The Macho Man tribute trunks and tribute elbow, the promo where he mentioned marking out because Shawn Michaels had kicked him in the face, the ICE CREAM BARS, his stance on championships being important, on tag wrestling being important. He loves wrestling, I think it's sententious and reactionary to suggest otherwise. I do indeed know your feelings on this, and of course you're entitled to them! However, I can't get on board with the idea of him "letting fans down" because ultimately professional wrestlers owe us nothing beyond good performances when they feel well enough and mentally in the right place to wrestle. If he feels neither of those things, or undervalued, it is right to decide not to wrestle. Most of all, I think it's very difficult to roundly condemn the man when we just don't know what's happened yet. Like, we know literally NOTHING. So I will happily reserve judgment until I do know. If this legit, that may be YEARS. I also think you may be overstating the "change" idea and bolting it on to a separate issue. For one thing, CM Punk has been at the forefront of a more interesting product, there's no real denying that is there? He also helped D Bry to get over with the 'A' brand in the 2012 WWE title feud, so holding him up against Bryan is also unfair, for me.
Anyway, I am still hopeful that this is a genius work, and if it isn't, that the whole thing gets worked out. Because I love watching CM Punk more than anyone else on the roster. Thanks for the use of the word "great" as I know that such high praise is not something you dish out for any old column! Personally, I think the Punk as House Reyne/Trips as House Lannister analogy works nicely; two egos rub against each other, but one house has just that bit more power and wipes the other out...but only if Punk doesn't come back of course! I think the main thing is the idea of the empty castle of the Reynes standing for Punk's wrestling ability being no longer seen. No doubt everything will get clearer over the next few weeks and the debates will continue! Thanks for the feed mate.
Skul- I'm with you bud, Punk's legacy is a whole host of great matches and great storylines, from ROH to last Sunday. The "walk out", if that is what it is, is merely a postscript to that. I don't think it'll get to Bret Hart levels of consuming him from within. As for DX circa 06, I tell you one thing, I absolutely HATED it. In fact, it actively made me turn off the TV. Because they were about as anti-authority as Microsoft. There's no way they could convincingly replicate the feverish feeling of late 90s culture as 40 year old dudes. For me, there was no way of suspending disbelief and believing that these guys were all for fucking up the system, because they were the system! Sure there were some amusing moments in there, but for the most part, it was vile. That's why I think, in a non-kayfabe sense, they represented the establishment. I mean, they were booked so ridiculously strongly. They buried bloody everyone. Thanks for the kind words on the column. I wasn't going to write on the subject at first as I knew everyone would be, but after talking on radio with 'Plan, Maz and Shinobi, I was full of the possibilities and had to write something! I guess we'll see whether this is legit or not over the next few weeks...
Xan- Punk is my favourite wrestler, so don't think that I have no emotional connection to the issue. I just don't know enough yet to know what to think. You have gone down the "fuck WWE" route and 'Plan has gone down the "fuck Punk" route and to be honest I can't say I'm in either camp. Because I just don't know the circumstances. If this is legit, I'll only have one emotion and that is profound sadness, because I can't imagine not watching him every week.
Sunny- That's a cynical take, if you don't mind me saying so. Again, I don't think we can jumpt to conclusions of that magnitude quite yet. Besides which, we still don't actually know if he's walked out legitimately or not. Punk has put plenty of people over in his time, so I think he doesn't owe anything on that score either.
Sidg- Interesting thought that Punk would rather burn bright than fade away. That is certainly a possibility and one I hadn't considered. Thanks for the kind words, and yeah, maybe my love of puns got the better of me slightly with that title. I considered re-writing the lyrics to reflect the Punk/HHH story even further, but decided against it on the grounds that it would be sacrilege to thus deface GRRM's words!
Sub- I agree that Punk owes nothing to the fans or the company. It is his body, after all. Don't discount the possibility it's a work though, because there are still things about this- the lack of tweets, the way his name was removed from adverts but nothing has been announced about him departing on the website- that get my spidey sense tingling. Just as I think some people have come too much down on the "fuck Punk" aspect of things, you may have fallen too far the other way. The middle is the safest ground til we know more. Thanks for the read mate.
JCooool- Hey my man. I don't think I was suggesting he'd be totally forgotten, I was suggesting that without the adulation of the crowds, he may wither as a person, because he seems to thrive off his fans more than anybody else. I also implied that WWE could really mess up his legacy as they did with Warrior and Bret...And yeah, employers suck, and WWE are not a very empathetic employer, as we've seen on numerous occasions. Thanks for the read mate.
It's more like Punk's gone down the "fuck WWE" path I was already on more or less the last several years, and I'm glad a prominent WWE wrestler has finally done that.
Liked how balanced this is, Mav - too many kneejerk reactions going around, so this felt like a little oasis of calm in the middle of a tornado, if you like. I don't disagree with Punk walking out, but I equally don't agree with it all that much. There's that one line on his DVD that rings true with me - he won't change anything sat on his couch at home. I still don't think this is necessarily all to do with Punk, though, and my heart of hearts says this is more him going to bat for Bryan and others against Batista and daring them not to change anything with an ultimatum. I don't doubt the man has ego and it could all be about him, but he seems like a smart enough man to realise what WWE need to do right now is give Bryan his Mania moment. Curious how it seems like he might get it now that Punk has gone by (hopefully) triumphing over HHH.
Firstly great tie in. I also really enjoyed the Triple H parallels and honestly would have enjoyed a further exploration of that notion, however, I know that would kind of go a bit too far off your point so I get why you didn't. I think Triple H and CM Punk are extremely alike, in that they are both complete control freaks, and as you said, have massive ego's that demand stroking. I used to look past all the wrestler/staff accounts and rumblings throughout the years of Punk being difficult until he walked out. I hope it is kayfabe, but I'm nearly certain it isn't. My gripe will always be in how he conducted himself in exit. He had young fans to tend to. Although the more you look at Punk you realize that he only seemed to care about a revolution, when it involved him getting something out of it. He will always be one of the best wrestler's who set foot in a WWE ring, but he honestly seems to have a horseshit attitude. I think you to an extent discounted his extreme stubborness when mentioning to2ards the end how he needs the spotlight. This whole situation reminds me of 90's R&B artist Tracy Chapman. She wrote songs about revolution, and how the people needed to eat, and were repressed. She sung about the working class deserving more, while she lived in a mansion, drove a very pricey sports car, and invested nothing (time, effort, or money) into that notion. I am starting to see Punk as a total hypocrit personally.
Excellent column. Very thought provoking, and well thought out.
Right, best give this the last orders at the bar feed to feed.
Xan- I guess we'll find out if it really is a noble gesture or not in coming weeks. Still seems a little doomed and pyrrhic to me. Here's hoping he's back soon.
Oli- yeah, I'm not much one for knee jerking in wrestling. More than anything else, we just don't know enough yet but it's also Punk's life so if he has walked out for real, that's a choice I respect, but worry about. I think people are overstating the "can't change anything from a couch" line. That was pretty much a kayfabe remark on an episode of Raw and I think it's unfair to hold it against him as some have. Even so, he has changed things- how much better is the product now than in 2011? He's had a pretty strong influence on that. Probably the strongest influence of anyone.
Kleck- hmm, can't really get on board with those thoughts mate. Punk's demographic is the older fan, mostly. I doubt there are any little kids crying about it as they would be with, say, Cena. As for change, see what I said to Oli. He's changed plenty. Punk is egotistical and self-absorbed for sure, but he's never hidden from that IMO.