April 28, 2009
Mat Matters: Punk deserves better
By BRIAN ELLIOTT -- SLAM! Wrestling
If you didnít know the manís history, you might be tempted to believe that CM Punk got his wrestling surname only as some form of WWE in-joke. Because in the aftermath of his mind-boggling clean-pinfall loss to Kane at Sunday nightís Backlash, you canít help but think that the moniker is no more than a company appraisal of the former Ring of Honor World Champion.
One wonders what specific reasons there could be for putting Kane, a 42-year-old wrestler whose day has come and gone (and, in fact, has spoken of retiring several times in the last five years), over the 30-year-old Punk, who is one of the most dynamic, popular, and under-utilized wrestlers in the company. With all due respect to the veteran, the only way for him is down the card, while for Punk, the only way should be up.
At this point I should probably point out that I am no great fan of the Illinois native. Whereas Iíve enjoyed a number of his matches, several of which were with Samoa Joe back in the fledgling ROH days, if you asked me to name a favourite active wrestler from Chicago, Iíd reply to you with Colt Cabana. However, credit where credit is due, I suppose, because in the WWE, CM Punk has lasted light years longer than "Scotty Goldman" ever did.
Reading the first three paragraphs of this article, WWE defenders will no doubt be screaming that Punk has had his chances with the company, as a former World Heavyweight Champion, former Intercontinental champion, former ECW champion, former WWE Tag Team champion, and two-time Money In The Bank Winner. But in "former" lies the problem; even though Punk was a successful TV ratings draw as World Heavyweight Champion after cashing in his first Money In The Bank opportunity, the World title was removed from him after a little over two months. Not only had the title switch intrigued the viewership, but it meant a new face in the performing hierarchy, an unusual state of affairs these days. The same chop-change attitude to championships has meant that Punk has held those four WWE (including ECW) titles for a combined total of only eight months, helping to negate any strong following that he was building.
If anything, the booking decision reads like it was made just to swerve the many people who would have been sure that Punk was going to triumph at Backlash. But what is the purpose of a swerve if it makes no sense to utilize it? As the "shoot" Ultimate Fighting Championship has often found to its huge detriment, one of the beauties of professional wrestling is the ability to tell your stories without having to worry about the outcomes of the matches. In the bigger picture, the heel Kane defeating Punk without having to resort to nefarious means told little or no story at all, except to say that he isnít in the league of "The Big Red Machine."
At a time when World Wrestling Entertainment is badly struggling to create new stars, and that that bigger picture is perhaps more important than ever, educating the fans that the exciting up-and-comers canít match the old-timers is a further story that the company cannot possibly want to tell. It stands to reason that WWE must not continue to use their younger talent so thoughtlessly and aimlessly, and yet still expect the fans to care when the likes of Kane finally retire.
CM Punk, and others, do have the ability to be the stars of the future WWE. They certainly donít have to win every match, but they must be given the chance to shine whenever it makes sense to do so.
Brian Elliott is a British journalist covering soccer, mixed martial arts, and professional wrestling, who has recently written for the likes of the Daily Mirror newspaper, the Associated Press, and Sports Illustrated. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.