The buzz from Sunday's World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) "Money In The Bank" pay per view is still reverberating throughout the entire pro-wrestling industry and — for the first time in awhile — the sports world. CM Punk's current storyline has clearly fascinated the nation and undoubtedly, the rest of the world (WWE RAW airs in 82 other countries). Not only has the wrestling world obsessed over Punk, but mainstream media outlets such as ESPN have also covered Punk's recent actions. Punk recently said that the only time the WWE is socially relevant is when he is speaking or when someone dies. This is undeniable; the last time the WWE was mentioned on ESPN was in May, after the death of pro-wrestler Randy Savage. "Monday Night Raw" airs every Monday but has finally been mentioned in the legitimate sports world since Savage's death. The reason? Punk. The fact is, Punk really has made the WWE socially relevant.
Professional wrestling can be extremely dull, with moronic, egotistical speeches and prosaic feuds. For the last few years, WWE has spent the majority of its time in a dreary rut with too much attention on central figure John Cena and his G-rated antics; he's the typical eight-year old boy's hero. When Cena makes his entrance, with music blasting, fireworks and all, half the crowd cheers him (under age 14) while the other half boos him (over age 14). The only thing interesting about watching Cena is the reaction he gets from the audience, as they chant "CENA-SUCKS" and "GO-CENA."
Over the past month though, things have changed. Punk is Cena's newest — and most threatening — adversary. Punk is audacious, covered in tattoos, and surprisingly cultured and savvy despite his bad guy facade. The "straight-edge superstar" does actually follow a straight-edge lifestyle and lately seems more like the good guy. Punk is no amateur; he's a wrestling veteran who spent serious time in the small-time independent scene for years before finally joining the WWE. Within the WEE, Punk has won three world championships, but despite his innate ability to rock the mic and his incredible talent, he was never the main event. That is, till about a month ago, when he announced on live television that his contract was about to expire and that he would wrestle Cena for the WWE title the night before leaving the company. The match would be the main event at the "Money in the Bank" pay-per-view event.
Two weeks ago, Punk shocked the world with his promo at the end of RAW in which he blasted everyone in the WWE and dropped names that are typically only known by diehard wrestling fans and those within the industry. Punk's tirade exposed everything that was wrong and unfair in the WWE. He mentioned names of fired wrestlers and he knocked the loss of emphasis on wrestling itself. He didn't forget to include Vince McMahon and his family either: he referred to McMahon's son-in-law and heir to the WWE throne Triple H as a "doofus." In the first genuine and thrilling moment in a very long time in the WWE, Punk spoke his mind with such finesse, honesty and passion, until his mic was suddenly shut off and the show ended. Punk is brutally honest and says what everyone wishes they could say. He is a polarizing character and many feel they can identify with him. Fed up for months, he felt like he had nothing left to lose in the company, and that was finally exposed on the TV screen. He has always been brilliant as a wrestler and storyteller but has finally made his way to the top. All eyes are now on Punk.
His feelings of frustration and injustice are something that everyone can relate to. Sitting indian-style in the middle of the ring, speaking his mind, revealing the transgressions within the company, verbally slamming his bosses — don't we all wish we had the balls to do that? Two weeks later, McMahon was in the ring with Punk, attempting to renegotiate a new contract. Punk didn't take it too seriously as he joked and demanded seeing his own face on WWE ice cream bars. Punk eventually ripped up the contract.
While the immediate response following the pay per view has fans asking more questions, one thing is for sure, Punk has the "x-factor." Fans and wrestlers are still applauding the PPV but they are praising Punk, the former villainous, straight-edge superstar turned revolutionary hero. Names like former WWE superstar Mick Foley, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin have weighed in on Punk, and they have nothing but reverence for him. The words of Mick Foley are especially revealing of the autonomous self-proclaimed "voice of the voiceless." Immediately following the PPV Sunday, the "Hardcore Legend" Foley turned to Twitter to divulge his jealousy and admiration for Punk: "I don't think I've ever been jealous of a wrestler's character before. Money, yes; character, no. @cmpunk has changed that. Damn. Damn!"
The fans in Chicago were hotter for Punk than any other crowd for any other wrestler. As I watched the pay per view, I was in awe as I witnessed the intense reaction from the crowd; I have never seen any crowd so riled up, excited and fervidly rallying around one man. A huge part of being a successful pro-wrestler is getting a huge reaction from the crowd, whether it be good or bad. I think wrestlers will envy the reaction punk got in Chicago for eternity. Punk's astonishing WWE Championship victory over Cena at WWE Money in the Bank made for even more suspense and more people are tuning into the WWE. With all of the publicity and recognition CM Punk has gained from the sports world, CM Punk is one of the best things to happen to the WWE.
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