Thursday 30 June 2011

That RAW Recap 27.06.11 - CM Punk Shoots

The Monday 27th edition of WWE RAW will not be remembered for great wrestling or the appearance of 'the Heartbreak Kid' Shawn Michaels. It will be remembered for the astonishingly good shoot promo from CM Punk during its closing moments. We’ll get to that...

The show opened with a Shawn Michaels promo in which he did his usual comedy routine and promoted a hunting program (for viewers in North America only I believe)and his Twitter account. WWE have been mentioning Twitter a lot over the last few weeks. It's a good decision: Twitter is a popular and useful promotional tool. It lends itself particularly nicely to live sports, which is essentially what WWE is (though they’d probably deny it). Tweeting during live sporting events can help to create a feeling of being part of things while not actually being in attendance, and it’s something that WWE fans have embraced. Audience participation: it used to be what WWE claimed it was built on (this was a painful lie but at least they were acknowledging the passion of their fans).
Considering how often WWE related trends crop up on Twitter it's surprising how long it’s taken them for them to begin tapping into the site's potential.
'HBK' was interrupted by CM Punk pretty quickly, and they had a great exchange on the microphones. Punk said he's the best wrestler in the company, just as Michaels was before he was forced into retirement. For me the highlight of this segment was Michaels listing the similarities between him and Punk. He said he doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, and doesn't do drugs, prompting an immediate "any more" from Punk. Lines like that are the reason for his popularity.
The segment ended with 'HBK' laying out McGillicutty and Otunga with superkicks (yes the WWE tag team champions were disposed of with ease by a 45-year-old retiree) and an announcement that Punk would be facing Kane in the evening's opening match.
The rest of the show was the usual assortment of bad and decent. Sin Cara v Evan Bourne was a highlight in the ring (Cara got the predictable pinfall victory) and the appearance of Diamond Dallas Page was enjoyable for what it was, but the show itself was fairly generic. Kelly Kelly v Nikki Bella, Mysterio and Riley v Miz and Swagger, and Del Rio v Big Show (in a cage, no less) were all variations on matches we've been seeing a lot lately. ADR v Show in particular stood out as poor. A feud with Big Show is, as I've been saying for several weeks now, wasting Del Rio’s considerable talent. I still can't understand why SmackDown has been shortchanged on star power to provide RAW viewers with a Del Rio v Big Show feud sparked by Big Show waddling in front of a car. I imagine nobody on either of WWE's creative teams would be able to explain (or defend, depending on your viewpoint) the decision either.
The show's main event was John Cena v R-Truth. I'd like to note that the starting point of the Cena v Truth conflict was the fact that Truth had never had a title shot, yet he has been wrestling the champion on a weekly basis for well over a month now. That means Truth has had more opportunities than others on the roster, making him something of a hypocrite if we follow his own (heel) logic.
The match was a tables match and was utterly unmemorable. With Punk promoted to a championship feud R-Truth is no longer being protected as he was before Capitol Punishment. It's a disappointing but understandable side effect of WWE's challenger-of-the-month approach (though Truth making way for Punk so quickly is acceptable because of the special circumstances of the new program).
The match ended after Punk distracted Cena and allowed Truth to spear him through a table. Two weeks ago that finish would've been designed to make Truth look strong by obtaining victory over Cena. Now it's designed to make Punk look strong by outsmarting the champ.
Truth made a quick exit as Cena lolled about on the remains of the table. If you want an example of Cena's inability to sell then look no further than this. He was required to lie still for several minutes but his natural "superhuman comeback" instincts kicked in and he was clearly conscious the whole time he lay there. The smart approach would've been to feign unconsciousness until Punk was in full flow before gradually showing signs of coming to. That or simply get up, sell lightly, and listen to Punk’s promo. But that's Cena: he's been getting the basics wrong for years.
While Cena was showing he can't even be relied on to lay still CM Punk (now wearing a ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin T-shirt) had taken a microphone and sauntered to the top of the ramp, sitting down to cut what is one of the greatest promos in the history of WWE. He spoke passionately about his misuse at the hands of the company. He mentioned that he was a “Paul Heyman guy”, shorthand for someone who was has potential but won’t be allowed to use it because of company management’s bizarre vendetta against Heyman (who was employed by the company at the time in question). He cited his absence from merchandise, the opening signature, WrestleMania posters, the company’s (mostly lamentable) films, talk shows and next year’s WrestleMania main event as examples of how little the company does with him. He noted that he is barely promoted, overlooked in preference of John Cena.

His remarks on Cena were enlightening. Punk admitted that he doesn’t dislike Cena himself, more the idea that Cena is the best. Punk (rightfully) stated he’s the best, in the ring, on the microphone, and even on commentary. He branded Cena an “ass-kisser” following in the footsteps of Hulk Hogan and The Rock (whom Punk only referred to as “Dwayne”), the implication being that they reached the top of the company at least partly by becoming friendly with Vince McMahon.

After saying that he would win the WWE championship on July 17th Punk said he may defend the belt in New Japan or return to Ring of Honor, then turned to the camera and said hello to Colt Cabana.  Just hearing Cabana and those companies mentioned on RAW was enough to let people know this was no run-of-the-mill promo (if they hadn’t already figured it out).

Reaching the crux of his problem Punk revealed that the reason he’s (apparently) leaving is the way the company is run. He called Vince McMahon “a millionaire who should be a billionaire”, stating that the reason he isn’t is because of the people he surrounds himself with. John Laurinaitis was branded a “glad-handing, nonsensical, douchebag yes-man” who tells his superiors whatever he thinks they want to hear. Perhaps, Punk opined, the company will improve after Vince dies (yes, he was allowed to say that but the word “douchebag” was edited out), but then said it was unlikely because Vince’s “idiotic daughter” and “doofus son-in-law” (Stephanie and Triple H, obviously) will be taking up the reins.

Moments later the promo ended. Punk had just said he wanted to tell a story about Vince and referred to the anti-bullying campaign the company is currently running when his mic went dead. According to various websites that happened because WWE didn’t want to run the risk of the campaign being seen as part of a storyline as that could hurt its credibility. Fair enough, but if you watch the footage you’ll notice that the microphone was cut before Punk had finished saying “campaign”. That’s a remarkably quick reaction don’t you think? It’s strikes me that the mic was cut either because Vince (or someone else in the back) had an inkling Punk was about to tell a story they didn’t care to have revealed on air or that cutting the mic was always the planned finish for the promo and that Punk had sent a signal to the back (through a hand gesture or a phrase) indicating he was done.

This was easily the most entertaining, fresh and believable interview aired on any of WWE’s programs in years. The twist of realism is precisely what the wrestling business needs at the moment. The uncertainty surrounding the Cena v Punk match at Money in the Bank shows how effective the last two weeks of RAW have been. Right now nobody can be sure who will leave Chicago with the belt. That’s how all pay-per-view main events should be but it’s been a long time since it’s been the case in WWE.

The promo itself was incredible. Without actually spelling it out Punk revealed that the way most get to the top in WWE is by ingratiating themselves to Vince McMahon. Hogan, Rock and Cena were all directly accused of doing just that. The mentions of Paul Heyman, Cabana and rival wrestling companies were clearly anachronistic for WWE programming and aren’t references that everyone would have understood, but that’s part of the magic of interviews like this: fans feel thrilled at gaining an insight into the backstage machinations of the McMahon empire while casual viewers are aware that it’s something out of the ordinary and can’t quite work out how much is real so tune in the next week to get some answers.

There are a lot of people who think that everything CM Punk said was entirely legitimate. I’m not one of them, but I imagine there was an element of truth to the vast majority of it. But was this a man hijacking the closing moments of a television show? No, of course not. The fact that the Cena v Truth match ended with enough time for Punk to rant should be enough to tell you this was a scheduled part of the program. If Punk had really been speaking out against Vince McMahon and WWE then his mic would have been cut immediately, he certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to talk for five uninterrupted minutes.

My guess would be that Punk was told to go out there and say whatever he felt he had to to get the angle over and convince people that he really is leaving. Essentially Punk was out there to boost buy rates for Money in the Bank, and I imagine he did exactly that.

So where will it go next? Well, after RAW went off the air it was announced on WWE’s website that CM Punk has been stripped of his title shot at Money in the Bank. A quote from Vince McMahon himself was posted noting that with only a few weeks left to run on Punk’s contract it was best for all involved to simply let it expire. Anyone even remotely familiar with how WWE usually operates in situations involving suspensions and firings would be able to tell you this is suspicious: why would the company go from keeping such things as low key as possible to having the chairman commenting on a suspension? It doesn’t look normal and that’s because it isn’t, it’s the latest development in the angle.

I believe the decision was made because next week’s RAW was taped immediately after this week’s live episode. Had Punk appeared to further the storyline then spoilers would have ruined the hottest angle the promotion’s had in years. Not only that but shoot promos traditionally work better on live TV, especially when they’re being presented as someone going into business for themselves. It’s also good to give the Punk character a rest for a week: by the time he’s back on TV in two weeks (he is reinstated at the end of next week’s taped episode and given back his title match) people will be desperate for the next part of the story.

So when that next part of the story comes what will happen? I would imagine an in-ring segment between CM Punk and John Cena is very likely. They have largely been kept apart since Punk earned his title match, and a main event segment in which they both break the fourth wall (as Punk put it) would be tremendous television. Cena is much more entertaining when he’s not doing his kid-friendly act. If WWE announce a CM Punk and John Cena face-to-face confrontation before the July 11th RAW airs they could earn a very good rating. Longer term I’m still not sure who will win at Money in the Bank, but I still think there’s a chance the Money in the Bank winner could be involved. It could be part of a larger storyline to write out the WWE title in favour of the World Heavyweight championship, or it could be designed to get Punk over as one of the biggest heels in history by allowing him to leave with the belt and “disrespect” it by taking it elsewhere.

Even longer term this could be the start of a Cena heel turn. I don’t believe it is, but if WWE wanted to do it there’s still time: in a shoot environment Punk is more capable of coming across as sympathetic than Cena is due to the clear misuse he has suffered at the hands of the promotion.

This storyline is easily the most enjoyable thing WWE have come up with for years, possibly since the Attitude Era a decade ago. Hopefully they keep going the way they have been and get the live July 11th RAW and Money in the Bank right. Punk and WWE deserve success with this.


  1. My only hope for this entire story line is they don't mess it up. As you say it's very enjoyable but because it's been happening for years now I'm worried it'll end up just like the Nexus angle and be ruined somehow. Probably in a way that makes Cena look like the hero to all the little Jimmys (another angle they look to have messed up)

  2. They've managed a good couple of months now without messing the angle up. I think it will continue to be well booked for the foreseeable future. Right now I'm expecting Nash v Punk at Night of Champions, which doesn't sound great but does show they're not rushing into the more appealing Triple H v Punk feud/match, instead building to it logically.