Monday 25 November 2013

Wrestling's Most Contentious Phrase

Best in the world. That utterly subjective term was once a boast favoured by Ring of Honor competitors, a trend started by Bryan Danielson. In 2011 it was claimed by CM Punk, during his famed worked shoot promo on June 27th 2011, and has been repeated so often that some now genuinely believe it to be true without analysing Punk's work. Others treat it as a hollow moniker. It's even reached the point that the term has been pilfered by Paul Heyman for reasons comedic and heat-garnering.

This man is not the best in the world
I've written before that I don't believe Punk is the best in WWE, let alone the world. My opinion has not changed. Punk is a talented wrestler and gifted promo man, no doubt, but better than everyone else involved in the wrestling business he is not.

In order to be the best he needs to be without peer. That's not the case. Within WWE he is outclassed as a technical wrestler by Daniel Bryan. In theory that shouldn't be too much of a problem because the company's house style of main event is brawling based.

Unfortunately the boast is shown to be even more of a lie there. When it comes to WWE's style of brawling Punk is bettered by Cena and Orton, and arguably others like Sheamus and Big Show. And that's me (generously, I feel) omitting part-timers Triple H, Undertaker and Rock. All of these men construct better matches working that style and, more importantly, get better reactions from the crowd doing it.

On the microphone Punk fairs better. He comfortably outclasses practically everyone else in the company. The only men regularly appearing on WWE television that are comparable to Punk with a mic in hand are John Cena and Paul Heyman. ‘The Second City Saint’ can even, just about, outdo master orator Triple H.

Verbal prowess is his top strength but the fact that he isn’t decisively better than Cena and Heyman means he cannot claim to be the best in this regard. The best would clearly be the number one guy at everything related to being an active wrestler, including delivering promos.

Can a man outclassed or equalled in every aspect of his profession stake a legitimate claim to being the best? Not to my mind. Within WWE there are arguments for Bryan, Cena and Heyman being better in some areas than Punk. Even as an all-round talent it could be said Cena and Bryan are better. Some, though not me, would even likely throw Orton’s name in there.

Nor is this man
Cena is underrated as from an in-ring standpoint because he so frequently overlooks basics. This is not to say that he cannot produce an excellent match when the need arises. Equally Bryan is a better promo man than he’s given credit for. Just because he’s fallen into the shadow of a one word rally doesn’t mean he’s incapable of giving a reasoned, compelling verbal performance. He is and has been for a while now.

On a global scale many routinely state that Hiroshi Tanahashi is the best wrestler in the world. Naturally I can’t judge his promos but as far as match quality is concerned I’d say he’s better than Punk. Kazuchika Okada is another man who receives similar praise, again understandably. Meanwhile the champ without a promotion AJ Styles has a loyal following that say he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Promos certainly aren’t his strong point, but he has managed to produce passable ones in the past, when he’s got something meaningful to say and he’s been prepped on how to say it. He wouldn’t be in my list of all-rounders but the fact that so many others would disagree means he would crop up in a legitimate discussion of who the best in the world actually is.

Which brings me back to my earlier point: it’s a subjective term. CM Punk has no more claim to the moniker than anyone else I’ve mentioned here. Wrestling is an art form and as such greatness is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s greatest is another man’s worst. Punk is one of the best in the world but the best? No. Bear this in mind next time you go to refer to him as such.

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