“I don’t hate you, John... I hate this idea that you’re the best. Because you’re not. I’m the best. I’m the best in the world”
Ten years ago today, the wrestling world was turned on its head. CM Punk had been a popular figure, the Straight Edge Superstar finding an audience with both his in ring and storyline performances. However, he was still viewed as “alternative” by many, including seemingly part of the WWE management. He had been successful, winning multiple World Heavyweight Championships, but his first reign was marred by being positioned as a plucky underdog, and he lost the title as an afterthought, injured before a “Championship Scramble Match”, being stripped of the title and never getting a rematch. His second reign started much better, a great series of matches with Jeff Hardy after cashing in his Money In The Bank in a heel turn that really cemented his place towards the top of the card. Again however, Punk’s title reign came to an abrupt end when he came up against The Undertaker, which involved a couple of screwjob endings, and then some clean loses to Taker . This gave the audience the feeling that although Punk might be good, he was never going to be “THE” champion.
And this seemed to be bore out, when Punk formed The Straight Edge Society at the end of 2009, an idea he conceived, developed, and wrote the first 12 weeks of TV scripts for. This involved Punk recruiting members and getting them to shave their heads – the previous “mentally challenged” wrestler Luke Gallows became his sidekick, and female independent star Serena Deeb shaved her head in the ring to show her devotion. There were many more audience members had their heads shaved by Punk in this run, and he pushed the usual wrestling envelope by talking about “saving” those followers who joined him, and becoming like a televangelist preacher, talking about the purity of his way of life. He even had moments in the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber matches where he would preach to the crowd and his fellow wrestlers, imploring them to see the light and join him. This petered out when an unsuccessful attempt to get Rey Mysterio to join the Straight Edge Society led to a series of loses in matches which had various stipulations. Eventually Punk had to shave HIS head, but his insistence that he was already pure meant that he shouldn’t have to show his shaved head. This resulted in him wearing a mask and continuing the Straight Edge Society despite his hypocrisy, but again, any heat was well and truly squashed when The Big Show beat, and unmasked, Punk then beat all three of the Straight Edge Society in a handicap match, then beat Punk again.
A similar story happened later in 2010, when Punk formed The New Nexus, a group of young wrestlers that he led as a stable. He had a great run at the 2011 Royal Rumble, before John Cena cleaned the ring of the group, and then a feud with Randy Orton which saw Orton deal with all of the individual members of the group quite easily, and hand Punk a comprehensive defeat at Wrestlemania XVII.
So CM Punk had proven he had a connection with the audience with these gimmicks, adding layers to his original character, but was not quite able to break through to the absolute top level. He would always fall short against the “real” stars of WWE, whether that be John Cena, The Undertaker, Randy Orton, or even Rey Mysterio or The Big Show. However, when he won a number one contender match in June 2011, he went about things in a different way, and delivered what is now the famous “Pipebomb Promo”:
(The promo actually starts at 1:47, the stuff before that isn’t great, although it does put in context just how much Punk was raising the bar for WWEs usual output.)
John Cena, while you lay there, hopefully as uncomfortable as you possibly can be, I want you to listen to me. I want you to digest this because before I leave in 3 weeks with your WWE Championship, I have a lot of things I want to get off my chest.
I don’t hate you, John. I don’t even dislike you. I do like you. I like you a hell of a lot more than I like most people in the back.
I hate this idea that you’re the best. Because you’re not. I’m the best. I’m the best in the world. There’s one thing you’re better at than I am and that’s kissing Vince McMahon’s ass.
You’re as good as kissing Vince McMahon’s ass as Hulk Hogan was. I don’t know if you’re as good as Dwayne though. He’s a pretty good ass kisser. Always was and still is.
Whoops! I’m breaking the fourth wall!
Punk waves to the camera
I am the best wrestler in the world.
I’ve been the best 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. You know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar. And he split just like I’m splitting. But the biggest difference between me and Brock is I’m going to leave with the WWE Championship.
I’ve grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon’s brass rings that it’s finally dawned on me that they’re just that, they’re completely imaginary. The only thing that’s real is me and the fact that day in and day out, for almost six years, I have proved to everybody in the world that I am the best on this microphone, in that ring, even in commentary! Nobody can touch me!
And yet no matter how many times I prove it, I’m not on your lovely little collector cups. I’m not on the cover of the program. I’m barely promoted. I don’t get to be in movies. I’m certainly not on any crappy show on the USA Network. I’m not on the poster of WrestleMania. I’m not on the signature that’s produced at the start of the show. I’m not on Conan O’Brian. I’m not on Jimmy Fallon. But the fact of the matter is, I should be.
This isn’t sour grapes. But the fact that Dwayne is in the main event at WrestleMania next year and I’m not makes me sick!
Oh hey, let me get something straight. Those of you who are cheering me right now, you are just as big a part of me leaving as anything else. Because you’re the ones who are sipping on those collector cups right now. You’re the ones that buy those programs that my face isn’t on the cover of. And then at five in the morning at the airport, you try to shove it in my face and get an autograph and try to sell it on eBay because you’re too lazy to go get a real job.
I’m leaving with the WWE Championship on July 17th. And hell, who knows, maybe I’ll go defend it in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Maybe…I’ll go back to Ring of Honor.
Punk looks at the camera and waves
Hey, Colt Cabana, how you doing?
The reason I’m leaving is you people. Because after I’m gone, you’re still going to pour money into this company. I’m just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel is going to keep turning and I understand that. Vince McMahon is going to make money despite himself. He’s a millionaire who should be a billionaire. You know why he’s not a billionaire? Because he surrounds himself with glad-handed, nonsensical, douchebag (censored) yes men, like John Laurinaitis, who’s going to tell him everything he wants to hear, and I’d like to think that maybe this company will better after Vince McMahon is dead. But the fact is, it’s going to be taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family.
Let me tell you a personal story about Vince McMahon alright. We do this whole [anti] bully campaign…
Punk’s microphone is cut-off
I’ve been silenced!
Now, let me just be clear – I know wrestling is choreographed, and pre-determined. And although this is presented as Punk going off script, but I know that’s not true. Personally, I think every line of the promo would have been loved by Vince McMahon. Remember, this is a man who made himself the bad guy in the most successful run of the WWE, pitting himself against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in many matches which due to his lack of wrestling skill basically resulted in Austin beating up McMahon, never mind the constant insults thrown at McMahon by Austin over their run together.
But, this was something different. This wasn’t just someone defying, or insulting, or beating up their boss. This was a systematic unpacking of the behind the scenes problems with the wrestling industry, and the WWE in general. The best positioned wrestlers are not the best wrestlers. Hard work is NOT rewarded unless you fit the narrow viewpoint of what a CEO thinks he can make money from. Success only came from one thing – kissing Mr McMahon’s ass.
Now, this definitely was a promo that played to a certain part of the audience. The Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) has a vocal minority of fans who seemingly only hate-watch WWE to complain about it. Their favourites seem to get overlooked in favour of the more corporate wrestlers and Vince McMahon is only a businessman who hates wrestling and wrestlers. Punk hits all the talking points of the IWC definitely, but this connected with an even wider audience.
Three weeks later, Punk beat John Cena in Chicago to win the WWE Championship, and left the company through the crowd.
He turned up at a small independent show, and there were rumours that Punk would never return. When John Cena won the WWE title in Punk’s absence, Punk returned.
Punk won a unification match, and after a back and forth title switch with Alberto Del Rio, he embarked on a mammoth 434 day reign as WWE Champion, the longest in the modern era of wrestling. It was only the return of The Rock at the Royal Rumble of 2012 that dethroned him. But that is a story for another time!
However, Punk’s frustrations grew with his booking and the backstage politics, and eventually quit WWE after the 2013 Royal Rumble. But he left behind a series of memories that fans will never forget – and the Pipebomb Promo is the top of that list.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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