While the summer of Punk may have been sunny for CM Punk fans and Internet message boards, it was more of a disappointing season at the box office. The WWE SummerSlam 2011 buyrate is in and let’s just say that the numbers aren’t too kind to CM Punk as a top guy.
Perception isn’t always reality in professional wrestling and it has never been more evident than this past summer. There was more buzz following CM Punk’s RAW Roulette promo than just about anything sans The Rock returning this year. Yet those seven days of buzz was not significant of overall WWE fan interest. Now that the dust has settled, it is fairly apparent that you need a lot more than one week of shock value to sell an angle to the mass WWE audience.
Last year’s SummerSlam headlined by the great Nexus vs. WWE angle did 350,000 buys. The year before, SummerSlam 2009 headlined John Cena vs. Randy Orton, the return of Degeneration X, and Punk vs. Jeff Hardy did 369,000 buys.
To look at the angle as a whole, you have to include the Money in the Bank 2011 buyrate which was 185,000 buys, 132,000 domestic as well as declining ratings over the course of the CM Punk angle. If you combine everything and look at the big picture, you would have to conclude that as much as you may have liked the angle, it was a failure in terms of business.
Here are just five takeaways right off the top that come to mind after looking at all of the numbers from the Summer of Punk.
Inside references don’t work with the mass WWE audience. Hey, while it may have been nice to pop for Colt Cabana and Ring of Honor mentioned on RAW, the kids in the audience had no clue on what was being discussed. Even as the angle progressed, there was no real explanation by the announcers of even the WWE website as to exactly what CM Punk was talking about or who was being name dropped. To the fans, it was just Punk ranting and raving like…well a punk. I think that there will be a very short life to CM Punk’s pipe bomb.
The WWE booking is at an all time low. The booking of this angle was so easy yet the WWE blew it right at its peak. Punk returned after less than two weeks with a bogus excuse that took all of the steam out of the angle. On top of that, you book a WWE title tournament, give John Cena the belt back without even including him in the tournament, and try and pass the SummerSlam match as champion vs. champion? It was downright ridiculous.
I thought it was stupid and obviously the fans thought it was stupid. On top of that, the WWE really dropped the ball on the booking of CM Punk and his return. Was CM Punk a heel or a babyface? He was a babyface to his niche public, but to the mass audience he is just an obnoxious jerk. He insulted a man’s family, insulted their hero, and stole the title from the WWE yet he is supposed to be a babyface here? The writing here was just so all over the place that I think for the casual WWE audience watching at home, they had a hard time sinking their teeth into it.
Take a look at last year’s Nexus vs. WWE angle. The story was clear, the heels were clearly defined, and the objective on both sides was something that both hardcore and casual fans could understand. It worked and it would work again with the right talent. Compare that booking to this mess and you would think we were talking about two different companies.
Parody is killing elevation – The parody of the WWE undercard or anyone but John Cena, Randy Orton, and Triple H is killing guys before they even get their push. There is no long term grooming of talent like the WWE used to do to get guys over. This was a problem with Jack Swagger, The Miz, Christian, Alberto Del Rio, and CM Punk.
You can’t just take a guy that you have beaten down for three years off and on and all of the sudden expect people to buy into him as a threat or even a top star. To the casual WWE audience they see Punk vs. Cena as a glorified RAW main-event. This is not the match that fans have been dying to see. That is why Nexus worked so well! They were new and didn’t have the tarnish of bad booking over the course of a year or more before they hit the main-event. The WWE needs to start identifying guys a year or even two ahead of time and protect them before they get the big push. Nobody can succeed with this kind of support.
Short term planning doesn’t fly anymore – There was once a time where you could say that SummerSlam was on and people would order without even knowing who was wrestling. Those days are also over. The WWE didn’t even have half the card announced before the day of the show. People not only need to know who is wrestling, they need to have an investment in the show.
They can turn on SmackDown to watch Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan but give it a few weeks build and a big match at SummerSlam and that could change. Not having Punk around for the full duration of the SummerSlam promotion hurt the show in a big way. The WWE would have been better off building the original Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena main event for a month and then going to Cena vs. Punk with Night of Champions. Instead, they just assumed that their robot fans would buy anything and guess what, they won’t.