No matter what happens at MITB, Punk rant was brilliant
How WWE is playing a hometown, the internet and more
By Bill Jones
No matter what happens at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in Chicago this Sunday, there’s no denying that the already infamous June 27 Monday Night Raw rant was an absolutely brilliant move. And its impact is already readily apparent. More people are buzzing about the world of professional wrestling than they have in years; WWE is likely to get great buyrates for a PPV that otherwise might have been considered second-rate and gone largely under the radar; people were chanting CM Punk’s name on Raw tonight; and there is the setup for some great shock value in Punk’s hometown.
For those coming to this story unfamiliar with the situation, CM Punk came out at the end of Monday Night Raw June 27, cost John Cena a tables match against R Truth, and proceeded to sit at the top of the ramp and cut a promo that had many wondering whether it was scripted or whether CM Punk had really just gone off the hinges.
Rants from the straightedge superstar aren’t uncommon, but the tone changed drastically that night, as did the subject matter. Punk – who has always been vocal about the business through online means and has been rumored to be on his way out the door this year with alleged frustrations over the WWE schedule and personal promotion – decided to lay waste to the company and its boss, Vince McMahon, going so far as to cite insider info and names often leaked online, talk about how the company might be better off after the CEO dies, and shout out to other promotions and wrestlers.
To help sell the fact that Punk had just gone off the hinges, the microphone was cut near the end of the promo, as the wrestler threatened to tell a personal story about McMahon, and then Raw went off the air early. The rest of a show was aired on USA Network. The WWE website quickly announced that there were no technically difficulties, but McMahon had ordered the show off the air and Punk suspended indefinitely for his “unprofessional” actions, leaving many to wonder whether it was real or not. And in today’s day and age, how often does anyone question the scripted nature of wrestling?
On the one hand, the timing was brilliant, leading into Money in the Bank, but it also could have been better in many ways. All indicators are that Punk is really on the way out, so it appears as thought he and WWE just created the potential for mega-star power with a man whose career, for the time being, may be all but finished.
The bigger misstep was that with the Fourth of July holiday, WWE had to tape a second Raw the same night that the June 27 episode aired live. So it was only a matter of hours before online-savvy wrestling fans saw where the storyline was going, and while it made it convenient for John Cena to give an impassioned cry for the First Amendment on the Fourth of July episode and bring Punk back into the fray for Money in the Bank, it also destroyed what could have been a very long week of doubt planted in the minds of wrestling fans.
Worse yet, on Tuesday, June 28, the WWE website issued a statement that said officials and Punk had reached an agreement that would allow the wrestler to finish his non-televised obligations, therefore explaining his appearances at house shows before the next Raw, when he would be reinstated for Money in the Bank. It was a bad move by WWE. Punk should have just been pulled from shows for a week to help sell the good thing they had going on TV.
But was it real to any degree, or totally scripted? Chances are, it was a bit of both, with Punk airing some real world frustrations in an otherwise scripted moment that would play off the tame nature of WWE’s PG programming as of late, raising the bar with something unexpected. So there’s no point in over-analyzing how many words were actually written. No matter who came up with it, it was absolutely brilliant, and a large part of that is owed to Punk’s ability to sell it.
Disappointingly, between some of the aforementioned missteps and the following Monday Night Raw, WWE proved it wasn’t quite ready to sell something as real as what Punk pulled off. After creating doubt, Raw simply started the following week with Cena’s calling out McMahon for answers, and giving another rousingly ho-hum pride in America and being a wrestler willing to defend against anyone speech. McMahon made things even worse, with the exchange between the two coming across as completely scripted, and poorly at that, in comparison to Punk’s performance the week before.
McMahon’s revelation that he suspended Punk because he is afraid Cena can’t win at Money in the Bank (therefore embarrassing him) was another fantastic move (nice to see the boss questioning the abilities of the consummate company man), but it was unfortunately followed up with the horrible decision to add the stipulation that Cena is fired if he loses to Punk. Knowing Cena just got the belt, it is looking less likely than before that Cena could actually lose it to Punk, whereas before fans were actually starting to question whether it could happen. It wasn’t necessary, unless there’s something else in store that fans aren’t seeing yet.
But the stage is set for things to get interesting at Money in the Bank, with the wrestling world now watching to see what happens with this angle and CM Punk. One of the big rumors is that Chicago may see a screwjob (scripted this time) on the level of Montreal. And there are very interesting ways this can go.
If Cena is involved in screwing Punk (much like HBK reportedly was with Bret Hart in Montreal), it could be the big heel turn fans have pushed for Cena to have for years now, and in front of a Chicago crowed that already loves to hate Cena, it would create major heat. On the other hand, what if Cena is not involved in a screwjob that happens courtesy of McMahon? Fans will still be irate in Chicago, but Cena continues on with a belt he maybe knows he couldn’t keep on his own and a boss that doesn’t have faith in him.
Other fans are wondering if this may be the start of another “Summer of Punk,” a story from the wrestler’s Ring of Honor days, in which he infamously told everyone he was leaving for WWE and taking the title with him. He won it, then went on to carry it for the summer. So what if Punk wins, and does take the title with him? He’d obviously still be under contract with the company, but there are a number of interesting ways they could have him carrying but refusing to defend. Or they could even just show him in video footage toting it around a place like Ring of Honor. Then again, who’s to say that Punk’s “blatant insubordination” isn’t just him seemingly going out on a sour note but really playing a brilliant company man behind the scenes, putting over Cena in a more realistic fashion than anyone else has been able to on his way out the company?
But it’s all speculation, and fans have to remember that while this seems like something that just came about, WWE is clearly playing off the very same insider information that fans have been feeding off online. And who is to say that CM Punk’s tweets, Colt Cabana’s comments on Punk’s “true feelings” and other “leaks” haven’t all been orchestrated at this point to bring things to this? It wouldn’t be the first time WWE has played off real world situations and twisted them to the benefit of the program. So again, it’s hard to say exactly what’s “real,” even the “real” information we think we’re reading online, and again, that’s why all of this has played out so brilliantly. And I know I’ll be in a ringside seat Sunday, July 17, in Chicago, waiting to see what happens next. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this entertained by wrestling.