“I’ve been the best ever since day one when I walked into this company, and I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy.”
CM Punk has never shied away from the fact that he owes his career to the creator of Extreme Championship Wrestling. It was through the resurrected version of ECW under the WWE umbrella where Punk first found success in the company.
Years later, we have watched Punk rewrite the history books of the WWE Championship.
It has been nearly 12 years since the original incarnation of ECW went bankrupt and finally folded, after a long battle with two companies much bigger and wealthier than the Little Philadelphia Promotion That Could.
The reach of ECW’s influence is immeasurable, and wrestling today would not be the same had Paul Heyman not been at the helm.
Had CM Punk been born just a few years earlier, he would most definitely have played a key factor in the success of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
First and foremost, CM Punk remains a Paul Heyman guy.
Heyman demanded that Punk be brought up from Ohio Valley Wrestling, WWE’s developmental territory at the time, with both his name and character intact, as soon as he was ready to debut for the new version of ECW. Back before the days of YouTube and social media, wrestling relied on the art of tape-trading and simple word-of-mouth marketing to bring in new talent and create new stars.
Had Heyman caught the scent of CM Punk, who began his professional career in IWA Mid-South in Louisville, Kentucky (founded by ECW alumnus Ian Rotten), it would only have been a matter of time before he was brought him into the ECW Arena and made him into one of the newest sensations.
Making a character out of his straight-edge lifestyle and rubbing it in the face of people whom he considered beneath him would have worked incredibly well in almost any venue. In the heart of South Philly, where the audience reveled in violence and pure wrestling, Punk could have turned into the company’s top heel overnight.
Punk was involved in a feud with Raven during his time with Ring of Honor in 2003. It was a feud which saw Punk compare Raven to his father, starting a bitter rivalry that finally saw Punk defeat Raven inside a steel cage in November of that year.
It’s entirely conceivable that this could have taken place inside an ECW event years earlier, molding Punk into the performer we know now, and allowing the character of Raven to naturally evolve in a free environment.
Who else could he have personally attacked for their lifestyle choices and wrestling styles? The Sandman comes to mind, as does Tommy Dreamer and a multitude of other men who passed through ECW and made a name for themselves by brutalizing each other until the canvas looked like a section of Hell.
One battle I would like to have seen while still a viable option would have been Cactus Jack/Mick Foley vs. Punk. In the late ’90s and even the early 2000s, this would have been incredible. Today, however, I feel sad whenever I see Foley hobble into the ring just to speak. I pray he doesn’t try and wrestle again.
Punk no doubt would have reveled in the notoriety that came with the ECW name. For all the controversy that he sparked for mocking Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, he would not only have the ability to generate 10 times the heat in a Paul Heyman-run company, he would have the same desire.
Had he been able to start a Straight-Edge Society in ECW and attempt to convert people in small venues one at a time, he would have been chased out of buildings.
This is not to say I don’t like what he has been doing for years in WWE. Coming as far as he has and holding the WWE Championship for over a year has been nothing short of incredible to watch, and after next Monday he will dethrone John Cena in his continuing conquest of the longest reign with the title.
Still, it’s fun to imagine what could have happened if Heyman had discovered Punk before anybody else.
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