A whole bunch of stuff happened this week on WWE‘s Monday Night Raw — and then there was the stuff with CM Punk.
Most of the talk leading into WWE’s SummerSlam has been centered on John Cena and Daniel Bryan, and whether Bryan can win the championship. Vince and Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Wade Barrett have interjected themselves into the storyline to create a buzz around the Staples Center title match in Los Angeles on Aug. 18.
Yet, CM Punk stole the show. You could put Cena in the ring against LeBron James, but if Punk’s on the card, the people are going to remember him.
Punk battled Curtis Axel, the son of former pro wrestler Curt Hennig, known as “Mr. Perfect,” in a match that got the Green Bay, Wis. fans actually yelling, “This is Awesome.” You don’t hear that chant on TV. You rarely hear it in the WWE. It’s a chant that derived from the original ECW, then moved to Ring of Honor.
Axel may be great one day like his pop, but he’s far from great now, which is a testament to Punk’s extraordinary athleticism and ability to make any wrestler look good. The match ended in a disqualification when Punk got tangled up with his former manager Paul Heyman, which then led to a run-in by former UFC and WWE champion Brock Lesnar.
What ensued was five minutes of professional wrestling glory. Punk and Lesnar fought like men. There were no sloppy-fake right hands or pulled punches. Like every time Lesnar seems to get involved, the action was stiff and rigid and absolutely beautiful for a fan to watch.
Punk split his own jaw open during the melee, diving from the ringside announcer’s table and colliding with Lesnar’s head. There’s something so special about watching Punk wrestle. Even though Punk is a high-flyer, you never get the feeling when watching him that he’s out there just to do a series of stunts to woo the crowd, like what often happens with Rob Van Dam or Jeff Hardy.
CM Punk makes the action look real, athletic and special. It’s also clear that even though he’s not wrestling in the main event storyline that he still cares deeply about his craft and about putting on the best show he can.
We all know Punk’s story. A scrappy street kid who left his parents’ home to live with friends. He built a huge cult-like following by wrestling in friends’ backyards, and on the independent circuit before eventually getting signed to the WWE. He fought hard for recognition there, getting demoted, pushed to the WWE’s watered-down version of ECW, and then fought back hard again to the top of the WWE mountain.
In ways that are very similar to what has happened with Bryan, CM Punk forced the WWE corporate office to pay attention because of the massive, organic reaction he was receiving from the fans. He eventually became the top guy in the sport, holding the title for 434 days, before losing it to The Rock at this year’s Royal Rumble.
Punk went on to have the best match on the show against The Undertaker at WrestleMania. After taking a short break, CM Punk came back refreshed, and has just been getting better and better every week. He’s now feuding with his real-life good friend Heyman, and the two are doing some classic old school wrestling-manager-wreaks-havoc-on-good-guy-wrestler magic.
Bryan’s getting the title shot. And Cena is the center of the WWE universe. But no matter what is happening with the WWE championship, CM Punk continues to demonstrate that he is the best performer in the business. At Summerslam, he and Lesnar will deliver a match for both of their next DVDs.