CM Punk was the talk of the Internet one year ago, specifically Money in the Bank. Punk shocked the world on July 17, 2011 and left the WWE with the WWE championship. Has Punk lived up to expectations one year later?
This is a very subjective question to ponder. A yes or no all depends upon what your criteria is for success or what your expectations were? Some expected Punk to become the biggest superstar in pro wrestling? Some expected Punk to revolutionize the industry the way Steve Austin and The Rock did? Some expected Punk to make the WWE more mainstream? Some expected Punk to shatter business records? Some didn’t expect much at all.
Punk was set up to fail from the start. Fans bought into the idea that Punk actually could leave the WWE with the title. Some even created this fantasy where Punk would travel to ROH or another indy and actually defend the title. None of that ever happened and that may or may not be his fault. Punk set up completely unrealistic expectations with his promos leading up to Money in the Bank. Whether that was Punk’s doing or the WWE, I don’t know, but you just can’t make those kinds of innuendos and not deliver on any of them.
Bringing Punk back a couple of weeks after the championship win was murder. Punk returning so soon took the air out of the hysteria balloon that was created over the weeks leading up to his title win. Would it have killed the company to hold Punk out a few months? I think Punk would have been a goldmine if he was held out until 2012. Unfortunately the WWE either got greedy or paranoid and went to the well too early as the late, great Gorilla Monsoon would say.
Punk also had to overcome years of being portrayed as a mid-card WWE superstar. It wasn’t as if Punk had been rolling over the competition before MITB. Yes he went over Rey Mysterio, but imagine what a clean win at WrestleMania 27 over Randy Orton would have done? Orton was seen as a much bigger star a year ago and the win would have gotten fans prepped for his title run. Instead, it was just another mid-card guy who got lucky.
The storyline of John Cena winning the WWE championship and Punk wrestling a title vs. title match just soured the story. Punk had only been gone a few weeks and now the WWE was expecting fans to take John Cena seriously as a champion? It didn’t work and it took a lot of steam off of the angle in my opinion.
Punk also came off…like a punk. The feud with Triple H could not have been booked worse. Punk came off to me as an arrogant, spoiled, jerk instead of the cool “shooter” that he was going for. Triple H is still popular, maybe the most popular in the WWE, and the wrong guy for this storyline. I know a lot of older fans who were lukewarm on Punk during this time that grew to absolutely hate him. On top of that, he lost! He was a babyface who couldn’t back up any of the bragging or accusations, in other words he was booked as a heel.
Finally, there was the Cena factor. Punk may be the WWE champion but he has played second fiddle to Cena from day one. The more you keep telling fans that Punk is not in Cena’s league, the more the casual fan will believe that. Why do you think they tune out of Punk’s matches on RAW? That is because he is not seen as the “main-event” even though he really should be as champion. Yes he has the belt, but he has yet to get the full commitment of a championship push from management.
To be fair this story may be far from over. There are rumors that Punk may be turning heel soon on the basis of being promoted behind Cena. If the WWE can use this to their advantage, maybe Punk comes out of this as one of the greatest heels of the era? If that is the case, we may have to re-evaluate the situation one year from now.
Overall I’d call the last year more disappointment than anything else. There was so much potential in what could have been when Punk walked out of Chicago with the WWE championship a year ago. Sadly, very little of it has been realized.
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