Posted in: Doctor's Orders Doctor's Orders: July 16, 2012 - Can Chicago's Dark Knight stop Wrestling's Superman? (Money in the Bank 1 year later)
By The Doc
Apr 20, 2012 - 9:59:03 PM
July 16, 2012
CM Punk has been WWE Champion for eight months, netting the longest reign as a world champion in several years. Taking on all challenges, from the monstrous Kane to the World’s Strongest Man to the former holder of the “Best in the World” moniker to up-and-coming stars such as The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, and Dolph Ziggler, Punk has defeated a variety of villains and always walked away with the title. In the process, he confirmed what few had known for years but of which many still needed convincing: that CM Punk was one of the most resourceful, skilled wrestlers to ever step foot in the business.
He is a beacon of hope, fighting for those underappreciated fans that pour their hearts and souls into the WWE and for those underutilized talents that have jobs as WWE performers but have not yet had the opportunity for success that they crave and desire. He bucks the traditional trend of what is expected from wrestlers and supports the fans that do not adhere to what is asked of them as members of the live and TV/PPV viewing audience. For all intents and purposes, Punk – the tattooed, pierced, outspoken, Straight Edge Superstar that looks about as out of place in a major media interview as a devil costume wearer in church – is the antithesis of the prototype WWE “top guy.” Punk is, thus, no mere hero; he’s a symbol.
One year ago tomorrow, Punk stepped into the ring at Money in the Bank at Chicago’s Allstate Arena and took the WWE Championship from John Cena. That is where it all began. Punk had been just another superstar before that night, capable of great things but never achieving his potential. It all changed with one classic match. In the cinematic masterpieces known as the Christopher Nolan “Batman” series, Bruce Wayne walked a similar path as wrestling’s Punk, moseying along as a human doing rather than a human being; seemingly with a purpose but without a destiny. An event occurs which prompts Wayne to make a change and the end result is the Caped Crusader. Like Punk, Batman is described as being “no mere mortal,” but mortal he is nevertheless. In discovering and embracing his destiny, Batman becomes a legend. Punk is traveling a path toward being legendary, as well.
Next to Superman, though, Batman looks ordinary, does he not? Superman is immortal. Though Batman has intelligence, gadgets, and wits to outfox every scoundrel that you could put in his path, he has no other worldly powers. His symbolism is power and his influence is strong, but does it even compare to that of the Man of Steel?
Last night, in the same building in the same city at the same event some 364 days after July 17, 2011, CM Punk walked the aisle, this time as the defending champion, but the aura was different. The rabid Chicago fan base that had cheered on their hometown hero a year ago was still wild with excitement, but it was not the same type of excitement. 2011’s Money in the Bank felt like a moment where history was being made in such a way that change was forthcoming. Punk becoming “The Man” was like Batman defeating the longstanding crime syndicates and restoring order to Gotham. You could feel it; it was palpable. 2012’s Money in the Bank felt like an end; the WWE changed the venue shortly after the New Year, giving Chicago MITB again and giving Las Vegas the April PPV, so it felt as though the circle of wrestling life was cycling back around. Punk’s opponent was the same as last year, but Cena was not the same man.
John Cena had often been compared to Superman. That was not entirely accurate. A more appropriate comparison in those days would have been Clark Kent, Superman’s private identity. Kent could do all of the same things as he could in the red and blue tights and the “S” on his chest, but tried hard not to be Superman. At Wrestlemania XXVIII and the months since then, all of that changed. Imagine Kent ditching the secret and announcing to the entire world his superhero identity and you have a clear depiction of John Cena circa July 2012. He’s not a villain. Many people still love him, but his decision to wear the public face of the unstoppable force has its own set of consequences that the super hero must deal with on a daily basis.
Last year’s Money in the Bank was CM Punk’s Batman versus Cena’s Clark Kent. Punk got the win and won the title. It felt like his night. His hometown, his ring, his battleground, his environment, and his people…and it still took everything going his way for him to win.
In the TV series that detailed a new story of Clark Kent’s upbringing and rise to the “S,” there is a type of meteor rock – red kryptonite – that does not harm Kent like its green counterpart, but rather takes away his inhibitions and makes him embrace his power. Cena has figuratively gotten hold of a red kryptonian arm band over the last three months. He appears to be the same Cena as before; yet he is not. Kent is gone, replaced by Superman. Like it or not, CM Punk put the title on the line last night against the one man he truly may never be able to beat.
Witnessing the happenings live was quite the experience. We have never seen Superman vs. Batman, but we assume that we know who would win. After all, the red cape wearer is super and the black cape wearer just a man. Unless Batman has green kryptonite to mortalize the immortal, what chance does he truly stand? The only way to give Batman a chance is to put the battle in Gotham City. Put them in an arena where nothing but Batman supporters are present. Even then, he is still going to be at a fundamental disadvantage, but maybe it gives him a fighting chance.
At Money in the Bank ’12 one night ago, Chicago played the role of Gotham; and its people seemed genuinely worried. Wrestling’s Superman had come to dethrone their Dark Knight. Like last year, it seemed inevitable that the title would change hands. Reflecting back on the match itself, there was one thing noticeably missing from the crowd this year. Not once did the Chicagoans utter the chant “Cena Sucks.” It was not about supporting the rebellious Punk against the establishment this time, sure that their guy – the hottest name in wrestling last summer – would win and prepared to riot if he didn’t. This time, the home town environment meant something more. It helped having his people behind him last year, but this year he needed them. They must have sensed it, for they gave him everything that they had. For the first time in years, this was not about Cena not winning. Half the crowd was not angrily booing, while the other half cheered. This was about Punk not losing; every chant was for him. The place where people should boo Cena was replaced with unified struggles for breath. Instead of “Yes”– “Boo” …it was “Yes!” – “(GASP).”
Upon second viewing, the decision to bring in Jim Ross to do commentary was wise, for this was epic and Michael Cole could not properly put it into context. J.R. has a way with words that cannot yet be duplicated as the voice of wrestling. Take, for instance, his comments just before the match: “The WWE had waited for years to find a foil to Cena – a man that could be his modern equal, even if in a different manner. It had to be someone special. They’ve clearly found it in CM Punk, but instead of finding the Lex Luther to his Superman, they found a Batman; a hero of a different kind. Superman vs. Batman would be the ultimate battle. The WWE has Cena vs. Punk.” What better way to set the stage? If you were there in Chicago, do yourself a favor and re-watch the match for JR’s storytelling.
It was an interesting display, the match itself. Punk was the more cunning of the two, having clearly game planned for multiple counters to each of Cena’s signature moves. Name a counter to the Attitude Adjustment, STF, and Five Knuckle Shuffle that had been performed in the last eight years and Punk pulled it out of his bag of tricks. Unfortunately for the champion, that did not translate to victory. Cena was as domineering as Punk was crafty, in a way that some critics likely will refer back to as “no selling.” Those same critics jeered the human nature right out of Cena, so it was no surprise to see him embrace his uncanny superiority. The expression on Cena’s face never changed. He had this look of knowing the entire match. Even when Punk seemed to be turning the momentum away from him, Cena powered on.
Perhaps the most telling moment was when Punk trapped Cena’s arm in the Anaconda Vice. Cena’s facials would have you believing he’d merely been stung by a sweat bee. That was when the energy from the crowd died down just enough to make you think that they understood that the inevitable was upon them. False finishes that were as near to falls as we had ever seen in a Cena-Punk match still brought out a considerable reaction, but you got the impression that Gotham was quietly preparing for a life without their Straight Edge Crusader as the champion. When Cena hoisted Punk onto his shoulders and connected with a thunderous AA, it served to more definitively adjust the attitudes of Punk’s fans. What happened as Cena made the cover cannot adequately be put into words, but if one had to try, the best word to describe it would be…
The lights going out and the bell tolling seemed to foreshadow that perhaps the Undertaker had answered Cena’s challenge from several weeks ago to a match at Wrestlemania XXIX. Titan Tron theatrics allowed Punk to recover long enough for one desperation GTS that brought the last bit of renewed energy out of the Chicago faithful at Allstate. The entire building thought that maybe the Deadman’s supernatural power had acted as kryptonite to Cena’s own mythical clout.
Yet, it seemed to only strengthen Cena’s resolve. Though everyone watching thought Cena was down for the count, he aggressively kicked out at the very last second. Afterward, it was just a matter of time. Cena wasted little of it and, with a bright smile spread across his face – his first real show of emotion in the match - he hoisted Punk up for a second Attitude Adjustment, dropping Punk hard to the mat. The arena was so quiet that the sound of Punk’s back slamming against the canvas echoed throughout the building and reverberated across the TV airwaves. 1…2…3. New WWE Champion.
As “The Champ” celebrated by going to each corner and posed with the title belt held high above his head, the former champion resiliently appeared to already have the gears turning in his head as to how he could one day win back the gold. The fans in the front rows replaced Punk’s fascinating mixture of disappointment, determination, and desire with looks that begged the question as to whether or not there was anyone or anything that could end Cena’s 13th world title reign. J.R. seemed to recognize both, outlining the circumstances and ending the show by commenting that “The latest chapter in the heated competition between these two men clearly gave the advantage to John Cena. Up until tonight, CM Punk had Cena’s number. The John Cena of the past and this man you see holding newly won championship gold are not the same, though. Tonight, Cena walked into Punk’s hometown and took the title. Not even the Deadman’s mind games could stop Cena. It certainly makes you wonder, ‘If Cena didn’t lose on this night in these circumstances, then on what night and under what possible circumstances could he lose?’ Only time will tell…Goodnight, everyone, from the Second City!”