CM Punk – The True People’s Champion (An Op-Ed)

CM Punk
The True People’s Champion

Hi, I’m Walter Winchester, and I…am a wrestling fan. It began when I was young. There was just something about the fly ass moves of The Heartbreak Kid, not to mention that glorious head of hair. He pulled me in and I stayed in for a long time.

The hook for me was HBK coming down from the rafters to open his match at WrestleMania XII. That was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I still remember my mom’s fiancé at the time yelling at me over that.

“You gonna watch it,” he barked, “Or just keep rewinding the f**king thing over and over again?”

I wanted to tell him I was just going to rewind it over and over again, but he was a dick, and I preferred to speak to him as little as possible. He is also the same guy who took me to see a show at MSG, only to make me leave before it was over, causing me to miss the infamous Curtain Call. So that dude can suck a hot fart. In fact, the last thing I said to him was, “Hey, can I have these wrestling tapes you bought?”

My mom had broken up with him not long before, and the mood was tense as his friends and him packed up all his stuff and loaded it onto the moving truck. I sat in the living room the whole time, pretending to do something or other, but always keeping an eye on the top cabinet in our wall unit.

That’s where the tapes were.

There were three tapes: 3 FACES OF FOLEY, HELL YEAH: Stone Cold’s Saga Continues, and The Rock’s KNOW YOUR ROLE. Needless to say, this was a sweet score. I couldn’t let it slip through my fingers.

So they’re packing up boxes and bringing them out for an hour or so, and none of them even goes near the tapes. I’m hoping he forgot about them, but I can’t take that chance. Now I was a chubby little kid with big glasses and a gigantic head, the kind of kid you feel a little bad for.

So I used it. I waited until he was outside, then I grabbed the tapes and ran out after him. I made a big show of it, yelling his name as I ran after him, only to get there and try and score some wrestling tapes.

Wrestling tapes were my world when I was younger. I used to collect them obsessively. I ended up with so many that I had no space left for them. Which, in turn, led to me deciding I’d sell a few. I sold five of them, first, and ended up financing a family vacation.

When DVDs came around, old WrestleMania tapes really went up in value – for some reason.

Anyway, I got off topic. Shawn Michaels was my initial reason for tuning in. I was a member of the Kliq, through and through. As you can imagine, when he got hurt in 1997 and had to retire not long after, I was not thrilled.

Luckily I had the pleasure of being able to tune in every week and see Stone Cold Steve Austin tear it up on RAW. It made the bitter pill of losing my favorite wrestler go down a lot smoother.

I stayed on board for a while after that. How could I have left? So many guys were at the top of their game during that period: Austin, Rock, Foley, Undertaker, Triple H, Owen Hart (sad to mention, but it’s true. He was killing it when he took that fall). It’s a shame HBK wasn’t around, but that didn’t stop the Attitude Era from being compelling television week in and week out.

I’ve always come in and out of the wrestling scene. I even flirted with the idea of making a film about the Indy wrestling circuit starring my buddy, a fairly well known independent wrestler himself. I wrote up a script and everything.

It was called, “The Squared Circle,” about two buddies who wrestle under the names Jack and Jerk Off: The Off Brothers. It was a solid script, but I got impatient. My idea was for the film to be a slow build.

It’d be all character development, saving the actual wrestling until the climax, when we do one big match full of spectacle. I got impatient though, because I really just wanted to get to the wrestling.

So at like sixty-pages in, all the character development I had built up was dropped in favor of some good ol’ fashioned wrasslin’.

Damn it! I went off topic again.

I started to grow up and wrestling would go by the wayside a lot easier. I would still check in, but I wouldn’t make sure to tune in for Raw and SmackDown anymore. I’d come back to watch HBK wrestle, or I tuned in when D-X came back, but from about 2006 to 2011, I wasn’t much more than a part time fan.

To me the product wasn’t worth investing in full time. That is, until, CM Punk sat down on the ramp and got my full attention.

I just so happened to turn on Monday Night Raw that night, after watching whatever show I used to watch at ten, and I caught the last few minutes of the broadcast, just in time for Punk’s worked shoot. For those unfamiliar with wrestling terms, he was handed a microphone and given a specific amount of time to say whatever he wanted.

I remember watching it and texting my friends, telling them to turn on wrestling because Punk was blowing the doors off the place. HBK was gone by this time. I figured I was done completely with wrestling after seeing him and Undertaker put on two of the best matches I’ve ever seen at WrestleMania 25 and 26. What else was there for me to see in WWE? Then I got my answer: CM Punk.

I was back in. That also happened to be the same summer that I had to fly out to California for a meeting about a script I wrote, so I took full advantage of it. I attended Summerslam that year, just to see CM Punk vs. John Cena II.

The script obviously did not go as far as I wanted, but I did get to see CM Punk get another win over John Cena, and then get power-bombed by Super Shredder. So that was cool. I’m only not mentioning Del Rio cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase because I was also at Survivor Series that year, and I got to witness CM Punk win his belt back.

The pop for Punk winning his belt back from Alberto Del Rio was huge. I think we all assumed they would keep the belt on Del Rio and jam him down our throats. Thank God they didn’t. Mexican Ted Dibiase is nobody’s champion, least of all the people’s.

That title doesn’t belong to The Rock anymore, either. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing personal against The Rock. In fact, I think the dude is awesome. I’ve seen just about every film he’s made and I enjoyed all of them.

The Fast and Furious franchise was a pile of hot, steamy s**t before The Rock stepped in. I’ve been there since the beginning with Rocky. I saw him debut as the milquetoast, Cheshire grin sporting Rocky Maivia, and I was right there with him when he essentially told the fans he hated them, thought they should die, and became The Rock.

 

I may have been the only kid in the world, who owned a Rocky Maivia wrestler and not one for The Rock, but money was tight, and I really dug the intense, rapey look in the eyes of the figure. It made him more of a threat to the other guys in the locker room, or as it was more appropriately known: the giant plastic bag I put all my wrestlers in.

It doesn’t matter how big a fan of him I am, however. What matters is the day by day. The simple, unavoidable truth we should all now know. CM Punk is the people’s champion. Let me explain, to those of you who are like, “What? But CM Punk hates everyone! How could you consider him the people’s champion?”

Well, I’ll tell you, hypothetical person. CM Punk deserves that title because all he ever wanted to do was present to us fans with a much better product.. Now I’m not saying he was only concerned with us, fretting over every decision, worried about the people. No, he was mostly concerned with himself, as you need to be in the wrestling business.

However, CM Punk started wrestling in the mid to late 90’s for a backyard promotion he built into a success with his friends and brother, only to discover his brother had embezzled thousands of dollars. After that he started to bounce around the Indy circuits.

By the time 2014 rolled around, CM Punk had almost twenty years of wrestling knowledge that honestly, due to the specific nature of Punk’s story, could not be matched by anybody in the WWE. He was invaluable resource in the WWE, a company some have begun to call for the end of.

It’s outdated and boring. On his episode of The Art Of Wrestling, CM Punk says something that is entirely telling of the mess that WWE is right now. Vince McMahon thought Randy Orton vs. Batista was going to be the biggest main event in WrestleMania history. I have nothing against those two guys.

I loved Batista in Guardians and Orton’s cool too, I guess. We’ve just seen the two of them in WrestleMania main event after WrestleMania main event. Hell, I’m surprised HHH didn’t want to throw himself and Cena in there, too. Make it a match full of guys we’d prefer to never have to see wrestle each other again.

CM Punk wanted change. That was the biggest thing. He wanted to see those who deserved it, rewarded for their hard work. He felt he was one of the ones who deserved it, and I don’t think there is a single person out there who can argue against that.

I was also in attendance to see him wrestle Undertaker at WrestleMania 29 in Metlife Stadium. That match also tore the house down. It was far and away the best match of the night. John Cena vs. The Rock II does not even come close.

 

Go through his matches, and you’ll never see Punk give anything but his all. He just wanted the product he was so heavily attached to, to be better. That’s what the people need. We, the people, want wrestling to be better. Punk always asked questions. He was constantly on top of the creative direction his character was going in. He would take hits out of loyalty. He ran with some angles he didn’t want to, but he would never phone it in.

There’s only so much a guy can take, though. He was getting sicker by the day, sleeping less, and just deteriorating in general. When your body starts to fall apart like his was, your mind goes with it.

He was cranky, all the time, apparently. What’s crazy to think about, though, is if he had been a little bit happier with what creative was doing for his character, he probably would’ve wrestled until that staph infection killed him.

The man was a wrestler, by passion and by trade, and that passion was snuffed out slowly but surely by the WWE, leaving only the trade. Nobody in their right mind would become a wrestler without having some sort of passion for it.

Without the passion, CM Punk saw no more reason to stay, and was completely within his rights to walk away.

If you haven’t listened to the episode of Colt Cabana’s podcast, “The Art Of Wrestling,” that features CM Punk telling his fascinating story, I suggest you do that right now. This article will make much more sense to you.

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Courtesy of WWE.com.