Looking At CM Punk Vs. Jon Moxley

CM Punk propelled himself in popularity in 2011 when he dropped the pipe bomb promo and was dubbed a man of the people, later calling himself, “the voice of the voiceless” as he raged against the corporate machine of the McMahon empire. That’s an easy narrative for the crowd to get behind. As we know, WWE management completely fumbled a major chance when mainstream media outlets picked up on the famous CM Punk promo because the corporate agenda, not what got over with the audience, dictated the decision-making process. “The Summer of Punk” was memorable, but very brief, as he lost the WWE championship a month after he won the title at the almost legendary MITB bout in Chicago. He dropped the belt via Alberto Del Rio’s cash-in at Summer Slam, and of course, the following month, Triple H had to pin Punk just to make sure that any momentum he had was halted.

There’s absolutely no doubt that CM Punk could’ve been a major mainstream star for the WWE and they made sure it didn’t happen because Punk had a reputation of difficult to work with behind-the-scenes. Keep in mind, in 2011, the WWE completely dominated the market share of the industry so that made it possible for politics to decide the direction of the product instead of the right business move. Punk challenged the notion that the WWE formula was always the right decision so the office made sure he was kept at a level underneath the top tier.

That descension led to a 7-year hiatus from the industry, including a lackluster, but lucrative stint in the UFC, where he lost two fights, but was paid a total of $1 million for his time in the octagon.

When the subject of All Elite Wrestling was brought up to Punk, he was initially unhappy that he was approached via text message instead of a formal introduction. That’s somewhat of a prima-donna move, but at the same time, Punk hesitation when AEW launched was understandable. If Punk would’ve debuted as one of the faces of the company in 2019 and then the promotion didn’t get off the ground, he would be associated with the failure. It was the smart move to make sure that All Elite had a future, especially when you take into account how many upstart projects fizzled out in the time since WCW folded.

When Punk made his debut in his hometown of Chicago last year, he had a heroes welcome, and all things considered, he must be happy with his tenure in the company. He’s paid and treated like a top guy, and he reclaimed the position as a flag bearer for the prosperity of pro wrestling. But is that really the case?

The opening promo between interim champion Jon Moxley and Punk featured an intense exchange on the mic, where Moxley proclaimed to be the heart and soul of AEW before Punk interrupted with the line that he will be the dollars and cents. That was a very revealing line and it creates questions about what’s in the future for Punk in All Elite. There was chatter for years that CM Punk is less about putting a spotlight on pro wrestling and more about putting the spotlight on himself, which was essentially the basis for the Eddie Kingston feud. Granted, the pro wrestling business is about making the most money possible, but much of the reason the audience was behind Punk was based on the guise that he wanted to contribute to the art of the sport. After his stellar dog collar match with MJF in March, he tearfully mentioned that Bret Hart was right, and that the Saudi money that part-timers collect now is cash that Bret deserved for everything he gave to the business.

On the flip side, it’s possible that CM Punk has an ego to the point where he will consider it an injustice if he isn’t the focus of the company. Was Punk standing up for what the fans wanted in 2011 or was he posturing to get a better position for himself? Both are possible, but make no mistake about it, CM Punk puts CM Punk first, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that in the wrestling business, except for that fact that the notion that Punk “does it all for the business” is a major reason for the fan reaction.

By comparison, Dax Harwood is a guy that’s undeniably genuine when he tells the audience how much he loves pro wrestling. Obviously, Dax has to pay the bills, but you get the impression that money isn’t the biggest reason that he pursued pro wrestling. You don’t get that same impression from CM Punk promos, at least not in the past several years. Don’t get me wrong, CM Punk is an absolutely tremendous performer and the dog collar match against MJF was a masterpiece, but don’t be fooled, CM Punk signed with All Elite because he could walk in the door as one of the highest paid talents in the company, not because of a passion for the industry.

The dollars and cents that Punk referred to in the promo on Dynamite are the dollars and cents that he gets paid by Tony Khan. On the other hand, Moxley had a level of authenticity, especially in this promo, that you didn’t hear from Punk. Sure, Moxley is getting paid big cash, too and wouldn’t be willing to beat up his body for a ham sandwich and a Diet Coke, but money doesn’t seem to be his biggest motivating factor either. Remember, he chose not to re-sign with WWE, leaving major money on the table. Moxley is also the current GCW champion, and he’s not taking the booking in the dingy venue in Atlantic City because he needs the payoff to cover the mortgage. He’s a throwback to the grapplers of a previous era. He’s working an indy show a few days before he’s on national television because he wants to be a pro wrestler.

If I had to guess, if CM Punk had gotten everything he wanted in the WWE he would’ve stayed there and enjoyed the fame that goes along with it. Again, this is just a guess, but Moxley might be happier getting to have the freedom to wrestle on the indies than he was in the strict corporate structure of the WWE. Moxley just doesn’t seem like the type of guy that wants to work for a corporation that has a stock price. CM Punk would’ve put on the corporate smile for more stardom and more money.

However, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock Punk, the guy is probably the biggest star on the roster and he’s undoubtedly still a major draw, but he might’ve revealed his hand with the off-the-cuff remark about dollars and cents when Moxley mentioned being the heart and soul of the company. If the audience sees Punk as gloating about glory, it’s possible they could reject him, considering that when Cody took the self-promotion too far, he garnered a hostile reaction.

I have no idea why CM Punk vs. Jon Moxley is being put on Dynamite next week instead of the All Out pay-per-view at the beginning of September, and the only logically possibility is that there must be another piece of the puzzle that will be put in place next week, but even if the bout does end up being booked for the pay-per-view, putting the match on free TV first takes away some of the luster from the unification match. That said, based on the promo, I don’t think it’s automatic that Punk wins the championship match. How healthy Punk is could also be a determining factor, and it’s possible the title bout was moved up so there the crowd in Chicago isn’t disappointed if Punk wasn’t booked to be the unified champion. Ironically, while Punk had a big run as “the voice of the voiceless” it was Jon Moxley that sounded like the blue collar champion, which is why he might be the better choice to win the championship.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta