It has been a full year since CM Punk loaded up his first “pipe bomb”, took a seat, and delivered one of the most memorable promos in RAW history. One year later Punk is the WWE champion but did he truly reach the potential most predicted and hoped for the Straight-Edged Superstar?
If there is one thing that can be agreed upon it is that Punk has certainly been elevated over the last year following the promo. Punk is higher on the WWE cards than ever before and is generally regarded as the #2 full-time superstar behind John Cena. An impressive feat considering nobody had been able to reach those heights in several years in the WWE. But is perception reality?
Punk is reportedly a solid merchandise seller, only second to Cena in sales. That is an obvious consequence of the new legions of fans that he earned by dropping that pipe bomb in June. Needless to say, that promo has probably made Punk a very wealthy man in merchandise sales alone.
He has also crossed over into popular culture more than he ever would have without the promo. Quite frankly this may be his biggest achievement coming off the promo. Punk is now regularly doing media interviews in outlets of all genres. He has become something of a media darling. This all goes back to the promo and the recognition he received from it as a great talker and engaging personality. Punk has set himself up for a life outside of pro wrestling more than he ever did before thanks to the RAW Roulette promo.
But what about the reality of Punk as a genuine top WWE star? In my opinion this is measured on money. It is one thing to promote Punk as a top guy but it is another thing for people to pay to watch CM Punk wrestle right? This is where the wheels fall off the car for me. Punk has been a huge disappointment as a draw over the last year. To me, this is shows the disconnect between casual WWE fans and hardcore wrestling fans.
The hardcore wrestling fans generally love Punk. Unfortunately they are in the minority. Even after Punk’s big promo and all of the buzz throughout social media and the Internet, he failed to move the needle. RAW ratings didn’t improve and while he certainly bumped up the Money in the Bank numbers last year, it was nowhere near what was expected considering all of the Punk chatter. Punk has also been a consistent ratings loser on RAW. A look at quarter-hour breakdowns will tell you an interesting story about Punk. He loses viewers. For whatever reason viewers either don’t like him or find him entertaining and tune out of RAW. It is just a fact.
Punk is also still positioned as a far distant number two behind Cena. Even with the WWE championship, he rarely if ever headlines or closes out WWE shows. It is clear to anyone watching RAW that he is not the main attraction. The belt is nice and he is certainly pushed harder than ever before, but there are plenty of Punk fans that were hoping for a little more respect.
I think a big part of his inability to connect to the masses as he does with hardcore fans is the way the Money in the Bank angle played out. Punk came off as this anti-establishment “shooter” who wanted to win the gold and leave the WWE forever. While nobody expected him to leave forever, he was back in two weeks with a new contract. In other words, the guy turned out to be a liar. Furthermore, he has said things on promos since then that are anything but things a company guy would say. Those are not his fault, but to the masses he is a phony.
I am more interested in seeing how Punk is positioned a year from now. I will give Vince McMahon credit in that he has stuck with Punk longer than anyone else he has elevated in a long time. Even with lousy ratings, Punk still has a massive push on television. At some point Punk is going to lose the title and will have to take a seat behind Cena and the new champion. How he reacts to that and how well he holds his position going into June of 2013 is a fascinating story to me.
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