I suppose if I’m going to do this, I should give myself a proper introduction. Hello. My name is KingKervin00, and I am a columnist in the Columns Forum here at LOP. Recently, there was a vote held for who should be the Columnist of the Month, and you’re welcome, because although you probably didn’t vote, I still fucking won. It is my first CotM victory, and with that being said, strap yourselves in, because I might just cause you to riot. Or cry. Your choice.
Ever since the infamous “OMG SHOOT!!!” promo CM Punk crafted back in June, we have been witness to quite a shifting of the guard in the wrestling world. Things are changing, and they are changing fast. The Berlin Wall of kayfabe seems to be getting torn down in some ways, and yet still standing in others. For instance, Punk can mention the firing of Vladimir Kozlov, yet Alberto Del Rio can’t tell everyone the reason he missed RAW recently was because of Visa problems. The Fourth Wall, as it is rightfully called, seems to resemble more of a see-saw than a wall. It is going one way, only to go right back where it started.
Even still, that’s not my entire focus for this piece. The real focus for me is “The Best In The World” CM Punk, and what his actions have meant, and will ultimately mean for the world of wrestling. The reason why I chose this topic was because of the rough comparisons of the last superstar who really changed wrestling: Steve Austin. You can specifically go back to the 90’s and point at moments where Steve Austin changed this business, and ushered in one of the most controversial, yet beloved eras of all time; The Attitude Era. Sure, other people can stake claim to being part of the era, but nobody can quite take credit for being the true catalyst except for Stone Cold.
When you look at the wrestling world right now, there seems to be a general consensus that CM Punk may be that “next” Stone Cold Steve Austin. He may be the guy to usher in this new, nameless era. He may be the one to take the WWE to new heights, and keep them afloat amidst a country of television viewers who are always looking for the next big thing. Unfortunately, the key word here is “may.” When all this first started to escalate and even after the excellent worked promo, I was one of the guys touting these claims and writing them down on large pieces of fabric attached to poles, so that when I walked around people knew I was the guy who believed in CM Punk. Then, I realized something.
CM Punk can never be the next Stone Cold Steve Austin. Never.
Before I go any further, I want to dispel all notions that I am against Punk, because I’m not. Admittedly, I am not familiar with his independent work, so I can’t say I have followed the long journey, but that really isn’t relevant for what I’m arguing to begin with. Once he got his feet wet in the WWE, he eventually won me over, and I consider myself a fan of the guy. However, I am not similar to those music freaks (and you know who you are) who have followed bands since their inception in their grandmother’s garage, then cry in outrage once they make it big as if being successful is something to frown upon. So, let’s just keep all those arguments tucked away (okay Facebookers?) for now.
Many of the things that could have hindered Punk’s meteoric rise are what we are seeing on the television screen each week. After a few weeks of good times, Triple H got involved and took over as the COO of WWE (come on Punk, give us that fourth wall and tell us Vinnie still runs the show). Once that happened, a lot of the spotlight that maybe should have been reserved for Punk filtered over onto Mr. Levesque. Then, Kevin Nash inserted himself into the picture. Then, Punk lost the WWE Title abruptly. Now, we are in a war of words week after week between Punk/Nash/HHH with a slew of other variables that make this whole scenario seem like a difficult Trigonometry question.
I think it’s safe to say that maybe Triple H inserted himself into this whole thing too soon. One of the reasons for Vince McMahon’s success as “Mr. McMahon” wasn’t just the fact that he was the bad guy. It was the fact that he developed himself as the bad guy. Once he screwed Bret Hart in 1997, the con was on from there on out. He took that whole ideal and ran with it. Triple H is coming into an entire new role, and in a lot of ways playing a sympathetic role. It’s hard for fans to see Triple H as a figure of sympathy because of his actions as a WWE Superstar. He hasn’t done anything for us to really care whether or not CM Punk beats the living dogshit out of him or not. Hence, the WWE seems to have blown this open too soon.
Even with those being some of the variables as to why Punk can’t usher in the proper change he’s looking for, that’s really not the reason. There is a much bigger reason for why Punk can never be Steve Austin (and no, it’s not the straight-edge factor).
Simply put, this is purely generational. What do I mean by that? It’s simple (simply put, duh). Steve Austin wasn’t just the anti-corporate hero. He was way more than that. He was an answer. Don’t get it confused with Allen Iverson, but he was an answer for the WCW and their massive ratings. Stone Cold’s ongoing feud with Mr. McMahon was the answer to the New World Order. It was the answer to Bill Goldberg. It was the answer to Eric Bischoff. See, back in the 90’s, there were plenty of wrestling fans. They just had a choice. Both shows were putting up numbers. One was just putting up larger numbers than the other. Fans had a choice as to what to watch, and it was simply based on what could keep their interest piqued long enough.
These days, it’s completely different. Why can’t CM Punk be Austin? Because he’s not an answer. He’s a recruiter. Think about it. For those of you who are in the military or have at least been contacted by a recruiter, what do they do? They try and get you to join. But how? They tell you of all the wonderful benefits of being a soldier in the military, and how you can help protect your country and change the world. It all sounds nice and lovely. CM Punk is meant to be that guy. He is meant to be the one to bring fans back. In the 90’s, the fans were there. It was just a matter of steering them back onto the WWE ship. Punk is here to bring them back completely.
His calling is much greater, in fact. The ratings the WWE was splitting with the WCW back in the 90’s are about where, if not higher, than what the WWE is pulling right now. Wrestling just isn’t as big as it used to be. There are plenty of things to blame. A lot of people will point to “spoilers” and it makes it more difficult to actually sit down and watch when you know what’s going to happen. Some people point to all of the other endeavors McMahon has attempted to succeed with, and in turn, it caused the main product to be neglected. This is valid reasoning in my opinion. There is more, though. There has been a thought that maybe the WWE got complacent because they don’t have any true competition.
Guess what? They still don’t. TNA isn’t anywhere in the WWE’s ballpark, and as a matter of fact, TNA seems to be getting progressively worse as time goes on. Ring of Honor isn’t at a point where they can compete, and this whole Wrestling Revolution, while beautifully crafted at its core, is going to take some work if they ever plan to compete. The fact is, WWE is just realizing that they are losing viewers and fans quickly. So what did they do? Essentially, they recycled a storyline but added new characters. Think of a remade movie, just a few elements are different. That’s exactly what this is.
That’s exactly why it’s already starting to fail. It doesn’t help that football is even more popular now than ever before and the lockout has caused people to be even hungrier for it. Mondays could really take a hit once that truly begins. But, more than anything, this is falling apart because we’ve seen it. Punk isn’t really changing anything. Neither is Triple H. Nor Kevin Nash. None of them are really doing squat, to be honest. People don’t just want to see promos every week. They want to see punches thrown, not people shoved. This isn’t anything groundbreaking. It started out that way, but now, it’s falling apart at the seams.
It’s actually appalling, because in terms of pure wrestling, the Attitude Era doesn’t have anything on this current product. The wrestling aspect seems to be much more important right now, even if we can’t utter the word “wrestler” without being lambasted. There is plenty of room to throw matches together on RAW to help build storyline for the match at Night of Champions, and to continue to help this entire thing grow for the future. However, we are being force-fed the same diatribe every week, and it’s getting stale. Even the staunchest supporters of Punk have been saying this lately. That’s not a good sign. When the guy you’ve chosen to make wrestling cool again isn’t really making wrestling that much cooler, you have a problem.
For those of you that will dare ask me how I would change it, I will tell you right now, I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t get paid for that, and if I did, then I’d probably try to answer it for you. However, my booking skills and creativity aren’t on par (I’m not delusional. Know anybody who is?) with the guys who do this weekly. Unfortunately for them, they get crucified if we don’t like what we see. I’m not here to crucify as much as I am here to show you why CM Punk will probably never reach the level Steve Austin has. There is a major difference between the two, and it goes beyond mic skills and wrestling ability. WWE didn’t need Austin to bring wrestling fans towards the sport. They needed him to beat WCW. WWE doesn’t need Punk to beat anybody. They need him to make sure they don’t drown themselves.
Thanks for reading, and until I see you all again…The King has spoken!