Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Strike While the Iron Is Hot, Dammit: Why Punk Coming Back Last Night Was Good

Pictured: The Right Call
Photo Credit: WWE.com
The end to last night's RAW was pretty epic from where I stood. CM Punk, coming out to ruin John Cena's party after winning the WWE Championship from Rey Mysterio in a hastily-announced match (one that quite frankly Mysterio in character should have bitched about like Christian did, although his circumstance was worse), "Cult of Personality" blaring, fans chanting for him once they knew who it was coming out from the Gorilla position. To me, it signaled that the WWE has a burgeoning megastar on their hands, one who could at the very worst help Cena, Mysterio and Randy Orton populate the top of the card as heroes and at best could be their biggest star since The Rock or Steve Austin. The segment itself took a lot of criticism though, but not for execution.

It seems there are a lot of people out there who didn't like the timing of it, that Punk should have been stowed away from view for much longer than the one week he was away. Some of them no doubt were the ones who said RAW sucked last week because there was no Punk, but I do take comfort in seeing that most people criticizing this were different from that crowd. It gives credence to my view that Internet wrestling fans don't share a hive mind and actually have their own individual thoughts and feelings. Still though, I can't help but disagree with that crowd. Why?

Surely, you all know about Seth Rollins, aka Tyler Black. Before he was scooped up by WWE, he was probably the most popular guy in ROH for three years running. His big moment, winning the ROH World Championship, though felt flat, almost anti-climactic. Why? Because he'd spent three years futilely chasing the title, losing at every turn he could have. The iron was hot for him to win in 2008 and 2009. So why wait to strap him until the 2010 Anniversary Show, after he'd already gone to a crowd-deflating time limit draw with Austin Aries at Final Battle 2009 three months prior?

Conversely, look at Kevin Steen. A little over a month ago, he made giant waves getting himself "kicked out" of a ROH show in New York as part of an ongoing angle. This has made him the hottest property in the indies ongoing, and if it weren't for Punk, he'd be the hottest thing in wrestling I'd imagine, at least in my scope, which admittedly is a bit skewed. Regardless, Steen has worked indie crowds into a fever pitch, becoming one of the most in-demand wrestlers for any fed to bring in. So what does PWG do? They put the World Championship on him. They struck when the iron was hot, and now, people are talking about them. Well, they'd be talking about them even more if Punk hadn't shown up in AAW on the same night.

But that's the thing. Punk gets people talking, like Black did in ROH and like Steen is doing now in every promotion but ROH (although under the guise of a ROH angle, if that makes sense). Why wouldn't you want the spotlight to be on him in front of fans that want to see him and want to cheer for him? You could argue that he "hasn't been away" enough, but I argue that every second between his disastrous feud with the Undertaker in late 2009 and his epic promo on 6/27 this year was him being "away" from the limelight. He's been building up this furor among his most ardent supporters, all while just haphazardly being there for the rest of the fans, being a dickish heel (enhancing guys like Big Show, Mysterio and Orton along the way), but also showing flashes of awesomeness like his role as an announcer or his Slammy acceptance speech. When he "returned" so to speak, that was the first catharsis. The second one was winning the title. The third was his return and his promise to continue being the voice of the voiceless that essentially made him a good guy.

This isn't the case of someone who has been overexposed needing to go away to freshen up like Cena at the end of last year (although before they haphazardly sprinted to the finish between his first night "gone" and TLC, I really didn't have a problem with him not missing any time then either in terms of how the story could have been told). This is a guy who just, as many people are saying now, had his "Austin 3:16" moment. He doesn't need to be kept away to be built up more. He needs to be paying off on that buzz before he gets too cold.

Black is the ultimate cautionary tale here. Hell, ROH itself is the cautionary fed. Everyone seems to love ROH, but there's a reason why they don't have widespread TV or big mainstream appeal, and it's not because of the style of wrestling. I seriously do think that more wrestling can get over if presented right. However, in the last few years, it hasn't been presented right. The only feud that they've really hit on all cylinders for was El Generico vs. Kevin Steen. Why? Because it was tense all the way through, and it ended at the right time with Generico giving Steen his comeuppance. Otherwise, they waited too long to put the title on Black. They waited six months too long to put the title on Davey Richards. The fact that they put the title on Jerry Lynn at all (instead of Black or even Roderick Strong, another guy that could be argued was kept too long from the title depending on how you view their fanbase) should tell you that ROH's booking model isn't exactly the best one to emulate.

And believe me, Punk does not deserve the same fate as Black. He needs to have the crowd feeding off him, wanting him to be there and anticipating his matches at SummerSlam rather than at Hell in a Cell, whatever they're replacing Bragging Rights with or at Wrestling Match: The PPV Event. As it stood last night, a SummerSlam main event of Cena and Alberto del Rio or even Mysterio would have been nice, but not something that would be must-see for a lot of fans out there. Now that Punk's involved to continue the story with Cena he began in the build to Money in the Bank? Yeah, you get a lot more people excited.

That's why Punk is back, and more importantly, why he needs to be back. Then again, maybe I'm not the best example since I wanted him to sign his contract extension on top of the Spinner Belt. And yeah, I loved the viral stuff they were starting to do and may even continue to do. Again, we don't exactly know what the circumstances of Punk being there last night were, and for all we know, he might have been "crashing the party" (that video on WWE.com where he says "I'm baaaack!" notwithstanding… then again, if it doesn't happen on camera, does it happen?). But yeah, this is certainly the right call. Again, following up on that is key, but I have a strange feeling that everything's gonna be alright.

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