The Punk Promo, The Sad Truth And The Need For Attitude

In Wrestling on June 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Monday Night Raw was a good one, bringing a rare upward spike on what has been a steady downward trajectory for some time now. Sure, it still had the nonsensical “secret” General Manager firing in their e-mails, making the scripted nature of the business as transparent as it ever has been. There was still an insistence on gimmicks having to do the talking rather than the work itself, the Vegas themed pre-shot “Raw Roulette” segments throwing up a series of matches that would have made TNA blush. And there was still the insistence on bringing back old faces to jabber inanely into a microphone and detract from the attention that the new roster of talent should receive… In most cases. Oh and it had another one dimensional match from John Cena.

Yet in terms of quality it was a good show, the first where it actually looked as if the transitional period was over and a new wave of talent was starting to emerge fully. Evan Bourne, Sin Cara, Kofi Kingston, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler… All talented wrestlers that certainly show up the more experienced veterans such as the monster turned mid-carder Kane, or the one dimensional joke that is The Big Show, someone who can no longer be considered a phenom when you have true beasts like Mason Ryan on the scene now.

Collectively the matches were filled with a much higher standard of wrestling than many who fondly remember the vintage days of Raw would be used to. There’s no doubt that in terms of technical ability this new breed of wrestling is a far superior product than what has gone before. The sad truth, of course, is that it is nowhere near as entertaining… A lack of decent storylines, a lack of larger-than-life personalities and carefully cultivated personas, a lack of those who can move a crowd with their pugilistic soliloquies barked through a microphone. If this is sports entertainment then the focus has definitely moved to the former as opposed to the latter in a PG-13 era.

Yet what truly singled out this show as being above others was a truly fantastic performance from CM Punk, a wrestler with enough genuine charisma and in-ring skills to be the face of the new-look WWE. Expertly playing the role of heel he has been given a more influential role in the storylines surrounding the WWE title, as opposed to those truly awful “straight edge society” crowd interaction segments that were used to make him a villain… Because only in America could someone who speaks out against the use of alcohol and tobacco could be portrayed as “the bad guy”.

From the start of the show his barbs delivered to Shawn Michaels had a believable venom contained within. Seeking out similarities Shawn said that both didn’t “drink, smoke or use drugs” to which Punk interrupted with “any more”. Even Shawn seemed taken aback. If it was scripted, as it likely was, the delivery was so stone cold it was worthy of that man himself. The match that followed was an unspectacular one with Kane… Punk walked out after a few minutes, losing to a count out. I wish all of Kane’s opponents would do this.

Then it happened… Returning at the end of the show to interfere with the match between John Cena and R-Truth, he then proceeded to deliver a monologue that was everything that WWE has been missing, one that has been universally applauded by everyone in the industry. It was the single greatest piece of theatre in WWE since the Attitude Era fizzled out in the absence of its brightest stars.

In just over six minutes he attacked everybody and sacrificed many sacred cows. Cena, The Rock, the fans, the producers of the show and then finally the McMahon family itself. Starting with Vince, accurately describing him as a “millionaire who should be a billionaire”, the Stephanie, then Triple H… It was a worked shoot but it strayed what should have been over the line so many times it left everyone questioning just how real it was. All the while Punk didn’t break character, sat cross legged in a Stone Cold T-shirt, a fitting tribute.

Eventually the microphone was turned off and the broadcast ended early, another bold move from WWE. It added an air of believability to the proceedings, especially as the segment ended just as Punk was about to lay into McMahon’s hypocrisy when it comes to the WWE anti-bullying campaign. A statement was released after the show aired to say CM Punk had been suspended, meaning his title match was off and his contract would not be renewed on the 17th July.

Of course, it’s all part of storyline but for the first time in what feels like years there was that element of doubt in the minds of the watching world. Had he really gone off the rails? Had they really pulled the plug? Is he really leaving? If you asked but one of these questions it is a testament to just how good Punk’s performance was.

However, when you sit down and contemplate just how brilliant it was, isn’t it a rotten shame that it’s taken so long for someone to figure out a way finally to bring some balls back to a show that made its name on doing what the other promotions wouldn’t? How has it taken so long for someone to figure out a way to work within the parameters of the PG-13 enclosure? Why haven’t the other wrestlers been given this sort of material to work with?

This one moment of brilliance has summed up everything that WWE has been lacking for so long and as such there is now a pressure to sustain it. It’s unthinkable that they could push the promotion to those lofty heights of the Attitude days, so how long can they sustain this new vibrancy for and what happens when they can’t? What could be achieved will be fresh in the memory and people’s tolerance for a sub-standard product will have diminished.

For all the positive praise that this segment has rightfully received the reality is there’s no way back from it now and once this storyline peters out there’s going to be a lot of people left wanting more of the same quality. If WWE don’t deliver, that brief rise in ratings, all that internet hype, won’t stop the inevitable plummet as people walk away en masse.

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