Sunday 29 May 2011

Criminally Misused Punk

There is nobody on WWE’s roster more underutilised than CM Punk. Being a tremendous wrestler with great ring psychology and a unique (in WWE) set of moves, not to mention one of the best talkers currently in the business, should make him invaluable to the company. But that’s not the case. WWE has seemingly gone out of its way to do nothing with Punk.

For the last several months Punk has been lumbered with the leadership role of the Nexus. Revealed as their leader on the December 27th edition of RAW, it originally looked as though the faction was going to receive a renewed push and become a relevant part of WWE’s programming again. But it wasn’t to be. Punk embarked on a bunch of weird backstage segments in which the various jobbers of the group (everyone except Punk himself, really) beat each other up, sometimes with weapons, seemingly for Punk’s amusement.

This was probably intended to establish Punk in a cult leader role, but it never really took off. Part of the problem was that the Straight Edge Society was still fresh in the minds of fans. That faction saw Punk in an almost identical role, the main difference being that he was leading a band of wrestlers apparently battling various addictions, with his promos centring on his straight-edge lifestyle. As I say, basically what he’s doing with the Nexus now.

The recent downplaying of Punk’s real life beliefs could be a contributing factor in the cheers he receives every week on RAW. As he’s no longer cutting preachy promos in which he tells people he’s better than them there’s less reason for him to be disliked. Being talented, passionate and deserving of his spot means some fans are going to cheer him no matter what.

Since making his debut in WWECW CM Punk has shown himself to be someone capable of having a good match with anybody on the roster and being effective as either a face or a heel. Fans rallied behind him as the gutsy underdog and loathed him as the arrogant heel with the superiority complex. The trouble is that he’s been a bad guy too long, and with RAW light on babyfaces a heel needs to turn to even the numbers. It seems like the fans are trying to take the decision out of WWE’s hands and force a turn for Punk.

This is a good thing. It’s time Punk turned face again anyway. He has not had a sustained main event push since his series with Jeff Hardy in summer 2009. When that ended he was been relegated to leading factions in the mid-card. The smartest thing WWE could do right now is embrace the fans reaction and arrange for Punk to swiftly split from Nexus to feud with Alberto Del Rio or The Miz. Both of those men are top heels that would benefit from working with someone of Punk’s status and ability, and the new direction would help to freshen up WWE’s stale TV output.

At a time when WWE is starved for star power I find the refusal to push Punk to the top baffling. He’s a proven headliner who can draw crowds, handle mainstream interviews well, and help build new stars. He’s got a unique gimmick and fans want to embrace him. Two words: push him!

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