I thought in light of my last post relating to Punk and Paul Heyman that I would did up some of the past between the two. Here is an interesting article from 2009 when punk was world heavyweight champ by Heyman himself it talks about punk in the early stage of his WWE carrer in OVW and then ECW, leading to how he eventually got his break.
CM Punk OVW
I want to publicly offer my most sincere compliments to World Wrestling Entertainment on the character development the audience is witnessing revolving around Smackdown’s world heavyweight champion CM Punk.
There are many reasons the proverbial glass ceiling in WWE is being shattered, at least for the moment, by the Straight Edge performer from Chicago, Illinois, but here’s one thing that can be stated as an “absolute”…
The CM Punk character is “in play”, and WWE is offering its audience the opportunity to come along for the ride and have an emotional investment in a genuinely interesting character.
When Punk first signed a WWE contract in 2005, he was thought of by the Internet fan base as a “can’t miss” prospect.
Punk was sent to the OVW Developmental System in Louisville, Kentucky to be groomed for the main roster. This was during the time I was assigned to write and produce the OVW Developmental television show.
Gabe Sapolsky, an assistant of mine from the original ECW who scripted Punk in Ring of Honor told me: “He will be a smash hit no matter how long it takes for them to realise it.”
Punk became the focal point of the OVW television show, and was the subject of the scouting reports I would send every other week to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, Talent Relations Exec John Laurinaitis, Stephanie McMahon-LeVesque and the entire writing team.
Yet, of the 30-plus talents called up to the main roster during my seven months developing characters in OVW, Punk was never drafted to Raw or Smackdown.
While I understand that everyone views talents differently, I was always shocked at the lack of any vision whatsoever for such a hard worker and intriguing storyteller like Punk.
His subtle heel mannerisms in OVW were that of a seasoned professional and when he was presented as a babyface, his ability to connect with the crowd could not be denied.
So when I had to build a roster for the resurrected ECW brand, Punk was my first draft choice from the developmental system. That was a no-brainer.
Punk has had his growing pains in WWE, some of which can and should be directly attributable to the fact he was painted to Vince as a “Heyman guy”.
I always hated it when wrestlers were labelled as someone’s project. Punk was a WWE project, for WWE to profit on and from.
His progression should not have been derailed because others lacked the belief in him that I had nor because I was willing to fight to creatively protect a character that obviously connected with the audience and the audience with him.
But a while after my departure from WWE, when the need for a youth movement was evident, the focus started swaying back towards this uniquely charismatic individual.
Much in the way Rob Van Dam and Jeff Hardy are the antitheses of Vince McMahon’s vision of a true WWE superstar, Punk doesn’t talk like anyone else, wrestle like anyone else or present himself like anyone else on WWE’s roster.
That’s why his character works. It stands out.
When Punk won the Money In The Bank match for the second straight WrestleMania, no one in WWE could see the direction in which the product was headed.
Undertaker needed some time off. Shawn Michaels decided to take a much-deserved rest. Then came the whammy. Jeff Hardy wanted to go home, at least for a while.
The panic button was pushed.
The creative mandate was obvious. The youth movement was in full swing.
Randy Orton was the centre of the WWE Universe. Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase would be the ones to help him get his heat and the first line of defence when it came time for the babyfaces to shine like heroes.
Then there’s Chris Jericho. Despite banging on the “40 and over” club door, the presentation of Jericho makes him a new character and, since he has been injury-free his entire career, WWE could count on him.
But then there’s a lot of attempts to create new main event players, but nothing that’s catching on or taking hold.
The Colon Brothers are designed to appeal to the Latino audience, but the lack of emphasis on tag teams in WWE keeps them “luke warm” instead of “hot”, despite them being the unified champs.
MVP is now a babyface but there’s no reason yet for the audience to get behind him, besides that he might just be bedding one of the panellists from The View. Perhaps if WWE told the real life story of this reformed thug who spent almost a decade in US Federal Prison, only to rehabilitate himself and become a global superstar, fans would have a compelling reason to cheer on MVP for his riveting life story.
John Morrison is another character who has been presented as a babyface with nothing to entice the crowd to have a vested interest in his success. Morrison has everything it takes to become this generation’s Heartbreak Kid, but that ascent up the ladder will only commence when the audience is given a genuine reason to latch on to his rising star.
So with all eyes on Orton but HBK, Taker and Batista on the shelf and HHH needing time off too, the pushes of The Colons, Morrison and MVP needing time and TLC (Tender Loving Care from creative, not “Tables Ladders and Chairs”) and Kennedy and Umaga fired, WWE was reeling.
Add in the uncertain future of the popular Jeff Hardy, and what do you do?
WWE came up with a most interesting solution.
Put CM Punk in play.
When Jeff Hardy defeated the awesome Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland for the Smackdown version of the world title in a Ladder Match at Extreme Rules, the audience rejoiced
Then came the best moment in WWE since Orton punted Stephanie.
CM Punk came out, cashed in Money In The Bank and defeated Hardy for the championship.
He didn’t do it in heel fashion. He played by the rules.
All world champions must “defend themselves at all times” from the Sword of Damocles of the Money In The Bank winner cashing in that title contract.
The debate was on.
Was Punk a heel, making what could be at best described as an un-sportsmanlike decision by taking advantage of Hardy’s exhaustion, having just defeated The Rated R Superstar in such a gruelling battle?
Or was Punk a babyface, a ruthless man in a ruthless world, doing something no doubt The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin would have done if given half the chance?
In the coming weeks, I am sure Punk will display personality traits of both hero and villain. Fan favorite and subtle rulebreaker. B abyface and heel.
His character, based on his real life discipline of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, can be presented as both a man of principles, and a champion who, with the exception of the drugs and alcohol he is above, will do anything to remain the World Heavyweight Title holder.
As Smackdown looks to hold onto its audience in the post-Jeff Hardy Fall Season 2009, the audience has a lot to be interested in.
What will Hardy’s send-off be like?
He surely has to be given time off. A man with two strikes in the Wellness Policy who speaks up publicly of his desire to go home for a while should not be pushed to stay on the road. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Where does Edge’s character go? Are there enough heroes to stand up in the face of adversity personified by heels Edge, Jericho, and Punk?
Is it time for the Vickie Guerrero-less Edge to become Smackdown’s Last Hope?
And what becomes of CM Punk?
Each week, as a new clue emerges for both sides of the heel v babyface debate, an uber-talented performer gets the chance to tease the audience, get them to care, make you wonder what’s next for a champion you absolutely know is “the character in play” on Smackdown.
When the audience knows the WWE Universe revolves around a pivotal superstar, it gives fans a reason to discuss the latest twists and turns with their friends, to watch the television shows and to purchase tickets to the live events as well as the monthly PPVs.
Every show featuring Punk becomes a “must-see” because his star is emerging, and you might just miss the event that kicks off the big push to WrestleMania season.
Or even just the next big clue as to where WWE is headed with his character and the world title picture.
With WWE sending out ill-advised press releases treating Donald Trump’s “purchase of Raw” as “real”, and a top tier that has unfortunately grown stale because of the lack of new matchups, World Wrestling Entertainment has found a reason for you to watch, care, and spend.
And that reason is CM Punk.