We got played. The marks got out-marked, and the smarks got out-smarked. Turns out, CM Punk is a Paul Heyman guy after all. And we are all just along for the ride.
Last night’s revelation that Punk is seemingly working alongside Heyman brings full circle the relationship that has appeared destined to make WWE television since last June’s epic “shoot” by the latter. It came mostly out of nowhere, becoming an immediate attention-grabber to what was a seemingly slightly above-average RAW. The series of epic promos and encounters that we are about to witness could send someone into cardiac arrest from pure anticipation. The “big summer angle” is finally kicking off (albeit, a bit late).
Then, Heyman shut it down. He closed the door on the IWC, essentially stating that a pairing between the two was nothing more than a mark’s dream. And everyone believed it.
Why did everyone believe it? Because he is that damn good.
Which is what makes the prospects for this program soar through the roof. Both Punk and Heyman are that good. And they are, above all else, believable.
When the first hint of a Punk heel turn was displayed at the 1,000th RAW, it most certainly came as a surprise. However, a simple takeout of The Rock would not serve as a sufficient grounding for the change, hence why the “respect” character was then created. He did not beg for appreciation, nor did he even ask for it. He demanded it. Except one problem remained.
He deserved it.
For more than a year, WWE developed Punk as a top babyface, exposing even the most casual of fans to the brilliance that is Phillip Brooks. His in-ring work ethic is matched by few others, and his presence on the microphone goes unrivaled by any wrestler currently in the lockeroom. When this was fortified by a WrestleMania program against a mainstay of similar nature that saw Punk coming out on top, it only solidified his grounding among the WWE Universe.
On certain occasions in the world of sports-entertainment, reality takes over kayfabe. The reality is, Punk will never lose the respect that they spent 365 days building for him. So naturally, the creative direction is to go with the classic “hero vs. anti-hero” feud. John Cena vs. Punk. But what happens when the anti-hero is connecting with just as many people as the hero is?
Think of it in terms of pop culture. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight attracted far more people to the film than Christian Bale’s Batman. If the crowd is wowed by the bad guy, they will follow. If the bad guy is “cool” to them, they will flock to him. Punk is the “cool” heel, and thus, needed to find more ways to build heat.
Enter Heyman. While massively respected by wrestling fans from all walks of life, there is no doubt that he is one of the best in the business at turning even the most likable of characters into the most hated. Throw him in a heated environment like the TD Garden for Night of Champions, where Punk is the proverbial mega-heel, and gold will follow.
The chemistry that we will see from these two will be unmatched by anything the product has produced in the last several years. Heyman, after all, was the one who stood up for Punk at the infamous December to Dismember pay-per-view in 2006, which turned out to be his last night on the job because of his stances. The former ECW head knows the wrestling business (well, perhaps not the logistical aspect) better than anybody else in the game at this point, and recognizes the potential there is in turning Punk into a larger than life figure.
A cult of personality, if you will.
After returning as the mouthpiece for Brock Lesnar, Heyman has quickly picked up where he left off in the WWE. He is over with the fans, for good or for worse, and with Lesnar “walking out” on the company, he can now utilize his talents with the WWE Champion.
So where do we go from here? Well, after all, this is all about respect. Heyman will need to help Punk push the limits. Go to the extreme to get the respect he deserves. Ensure that his client, and moreover, his friend, is in the main event scene. The Jerry Lawler program was a great way to turn sympathy away from the champion, but it was not enough. The extra emphasis was needed, and now it is there.
Punk and Heyman need to become the featured presentation of every Monday Night RAW. Furthermore, they need to lead into something that we got such a small taste of and were left with wanting more: CM Punk’s WWE.
The ensuing program with the two loose cannons must relate back to Punk’s quest for change that kickstarted the “Summer of Punk” last year. Except this time around, it needs to revolve not around installing change that is beneficial not for the rest of the WWE and for the fans, but for him, and only him.
Eventually, this will likely lead to a Royal Rumble program with The Rock. If they can carry the story that far, though, there will be no sympathy for Punk heading into it, even if the match is against a part-timer. He will be the most hated figure in the company to the casual fan, and should he still be represented by Heyman at that point, carry it on long past the Royal Rumble and into the buildup for WrestleMania 29.
Mr. Heyman, you said that there was a wild ride in store for us. If that’s the case, then you better believe I’m ready to strap in tight. Everyone else will as well.
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Jon Alba is a broadcast journalism student at Quinnipiac University, and the head administrator of SportsFullCircle. He has been an avid wrestling fan for more than 15 years. Follow Jon Alba on Twitter!