CM Punk is WWE Champion. Wait, what? How?!
Opening my eyes, what do I see? The WWE has gone indy. In presentation and philosophy. What does it all mean, though? Probably not much, but I thought of that intro at 1:30 a.m. this morning and thought it sounded pretty radical, so I jotted it down in my memo pad on my phone and decided to write an entire article about it. So, read on to find out what I’m talking-slash-rambling about.
This image may be the very moment WWE changed forever — and for the better.
I’ve read a lot of criticisms about WWE’s supposed “New Era,” none of which were very substantial. Many disagreed that the current state of things would last past summer, some bringing up the argument that WWE always has a hot angle during summer leading up to SummerSlam. Last year it was The Nexus attacking John Cena during his match against, guess who, CM Punk. The year before it was Donald Trump “buying” Raw. The year before that it was Vince McMahon (nee: “Mister”) running his “McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania” weekly sweepstakes. But, having been around for those occurrences, and having watched for much of my life, I can say that what we’re being given now feels different than all the aforementioned “summer stories,” if only because it feels real for the first time in ages. The Nexus attack was the closest thing WWE had that felt real last year, but that was quickly sidetracked and killed by WWE having to release Daniel Bryan. It was really all downhill from there for that particular angle, though, admittedly, there were flashes of brilliance woven in there week after week.
I can’t describe it. I remember watching Raw in November 1997 and feeling this way, like something massive was about to occur. Maybe it was the social relevance of it all that made it work. People were talking about WWE for the first time since the Hogan era due to the ongoing ratings war with WCW, and WWE itself was desperate for new stars to fill the roles of the old ones. Same deal here and now. Punk, like him or not — like it or not — is getting WWE more positive press than they’ve received in quite a while, being featured in articles on NFL.com, in GQ Magazine, on ESPN. He’s done more for WWE with a microphone in his hand than any wrestler has done in the ring, and that alone is impressive. But it also helps that there was a changing of the proverbial guard.
I know I don’t update nearly as often as I should, but I have had something on my mind for the longest time, and that is how tactless the wrestling community is, by and large.
Now, before we discuss what is and is not considered tactful behavior, allow me to share my definition of the word. It just so happens my definition is identical to that of Mirriam-Webster:
Let us focus on the second definition.
Over the weekend I attended my first Ring of Honor show in Chicago Ridge, and I had a whale of a time. I know people don’t use that expression much anymore, but I’m bringing it back to the world of wrestling journalism. But as good a time I had, I couldn’t help but feel out of place at times.
I had a sixth row seat. Ignoring the five balding or mullet-covered heads in front of me, I had quite the view. Seated to my left was a fan with the personality of a marble, to my right a sweet, wrestling-loving couple, except the lass was a John Cena fan. She even had the gall to wear Cena gear to the event. But I took issue with none of those people. I was more amused by the girl, actually, because she chimed in with the line of the night: “Let me know if I need to stand up,” she said as she sat, head-down, while she browsed Facebook on her smart phone.
Nope, the people were fine. It was me who was the problem.
I grew up on WWE. I remember the red, white and blue ropes, the Screw Job, the Attitude Era, Evolution, Eddie and Benoit’s deaths and Shawn Michaels retiring at WrestleMania. There have been good moments and bad, but never in my years of watching have I ventured too far away from what Vince McMahon told me qualified as “good wrestling.”
When I was a child, “good wrestling” to me was when the Road Dogg retained his Hardcore Championship with a barrage of cookie sheet hits. Kurt Angle was the best wrestler in the world — why, he knew suplexes! And only real wrestlers, or at least the good ones, use those.
Fast-forward past the early-2000s, through the middle of the decade and John Cena’s reign of terror and into the throes of TV-PG WWE. I’m really high on wrestling now, more than I have ever been. Not sure why, but when Bryan Danielson was announced for the first season of NXT, something clicked in me. I’ve read stories about the guy and his epic encounters in the independent leagues and Ring of Honor, overseas and in cities like my own. But instead of downloading, or at least searching for, his old matches, I just watched NXT.