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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Stone Cold Truth About CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
By The Doc
Aug 11, 2013 - 4:45:48 PM

Summerslam is nearly upon us and the wrestling world is talking up a storm about Daniel Bryan's quest to become WWE Champion. It should be an all-time classic match between he and John Cena, if all goes according to plan. Yet, color me more interested in the other of the top two bouts on the card. "The Best" vs. "The Beast" is the match that I'm most looking forward to and have been since the beginning of the summer when it became apparent that all roads to August 18th would lead to Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk.

I have gotten just about everything that I have wanted from the feud, thus far. I just wrapped up the 8/9/13 Smackdown! and saw that they even got Brock Lesnar to do one of those sit-down interviews that I had suggested two months ago (I figured it would help to have Brock say something in this feud after becoming a mute in his multi-month saga with Triple H). Excellent mic work from CM Punk and Paul Heyman, intense interactions between Punk and Lesnar, and a little bit of verbal output from Brock have created for a well-rounded storyline that seems fit for an epic payoff at Summerslam.

Some have suggested that the rivalry extend past the Summer Classic, but I do not think that is a good idea. My colleague, Super Chrisss, suggested that Brock needs to win at Summerslam and that Punk can win the feud later. I disagree. Summerslam 2013 may be all about the rise of Daniel Bryan to the weekly, avid Raw viewer, but I would argue that the unquestionable top draw for the unique viewer that stops by during Wrestlemania and Summerslam seasons sees it differently. Brock Lesnar is a box office machine, thus far, in his WWE return. His appearances have been statistically significant. The casual viewer, I would argue, sees the Summerslam card and immediately recognizes that Lesnar is going to be facing the man that they have recently seen give The Rock and Undertaker everything that they could handle. In Punk's Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and Wrestlemania matches, respectively, he was booked to look superb in defeat. We should, collectively, make no mistake about the impression Punk left on the broader audience in the last 18 months since his classic title defense against Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania XXVIII amidst his record 434 day championship reign. To the hardcore member of the fanbase, Punk is quickly approaching legendary status (if he hasn't already achieved the honor). To the fan that watches WWE similar to how I do the NBA and NFL - Playoffs only, while merely paying attention during the regular season - Punk is an emerging commodity on the brink of joining the legends that he has faced on recent big 3 PPVs in the pantheon of all-time greats.

Victory still matters. Multiple types of victory must be achieved by CM Punk for Summerslam '13 to yield him the type of success that he vociferously desires. Only one goal remains for CM Punk: to main-event Wrestlemania. To get there in today's environment is unique. This is not the WWE of five years ago, when the WWE had to call up celebrities like Donald Trump and Floyd Mayweather to drive the buyrates. They have their own, homegrown mainstream stars, now. The Rock has proven that you can come back and knock out huge Wrestlemania buyrates, make a ton of money for not much work, and create legendary, legacy-enhancing moments. Brock is in a similar class. Celebrities of a non-wrestling background such as Trump and Mayweather came in without the expectation of being in the main-event, allowing guys like Edge (and Randy Orton) - non number ones - to get the show closing spotlight. Those days will return, but with all the rumors flying of big returns, it is not likely to be this coming year (or even the next). John Cena is the prime candidate to continue pushing his career to rare heights unless CM Punk can do something that would make himself indispensable on a level that only Cena (on the current roster) can match. If Punk has any hope of turning his dream of facing Stone Cold Steve Austin into reality, then he needs to prove that he can pop a buyrate in another special attraction match. A lot would need to go right for the Austin-Punk scenario to come to fruition, not the least of which would be Stone Cold's own desire to return, but Punk is going to have to make it clear to the WWE higher-ups that, if they build a Wrestlemania around his match as the main-event, then the buyrate has a chance to hold steady at producing over one million buys.

CM Punk must achieve two victories at Summerslam. The first will come from the match result, itself; the black and white, winner and loser variety. There can be no "looking good in defeat" this time around. In fact, I would suggest that he could even get his rear end handed to him for the better part of the presumed 18+ minute affair, but he must achieve the three count in the end. It does not have to be definitive, but it must at least be resourceful. It cannot be cheap, but it does not have to be resounding either. The "bottom line" is that CM Punk must win. To counter Super C's argument, Brock can maul his Wrestlemania XXX opponent into next millennium and still look credible based on his background, reputation, and size. Because of Punk's stature, never will he be able to say the same. Punk has proven to the broader audience that he can compete with and take the best to their breaking points, but he has not proven that he can defeat them. CM Punk is the New Orleans Saints of professional wrestling. In the NFL, the Saints had very few of the qualities that made the casual fan pick them to win over the big boys. They proved in the 2006 Playoffs that they could hang with the elite, making it to the NFC Championship game. It was not until three years later when they won the Super Bowl, though, that all question marks were erased about the franchise's stature. In every walk of life, there is the old, established guard and then there's everyone else trying to get to where they are. A win over Brock Lesnar tells the at-large viewership that CM Punk can do more than just "hang" with the elite, but that he has taken a seat at their exclusive roundtable.

Make no mistake about it, Punkers, your guy - and the wrestler that I've pegged the single most entertaining in the business today - is on the brink of something special. The WWE is paying close attention to Punk's impact. It is not lost on them, I can (as a fellow businessman) assure you, that Punk's feud with The Rock popped incredible first quarter numbers or that Punk's match with Undertaker was the only match in the WWE's most important market at Wrestlemania that garnered a "Wrestlemania worthy" reaction. Punk's potential to main-event Wrestlemania, though, may very well hinge on the financial data released a month or so from today about the Summerslam 2013 buyrate. Brock being on the card last year against Triple H popped a major increase from 2011 to 2012 Summerslam buys. Expectations will be similar for 2013 as they were for 2012. I have stated this since the first shots were fired in the Punk vs. Brock feud that the biggest victory that Punk can claim other than the 1-2-3 will be the 350,000 buy mark. To expect equal to last year would, in my opinion, be too presumptuous. Brock is not the same draw that he was upon initially returning in 2012. Punk vs. Brock is not the same, historical draw that Triple H vs. Brock was last year. However, if Summerslam 2013 hits 350,000, give or take 5-7K, the idea that Punk can main-event a Wrestlemania this coming year or the next will gain quite a bit of empirically-based backing.

Steve Austin has his eye on the same things that the WWE does. He needs to know that Punk can up his game against the elite. He should probably have confirmation of that by now. What he still needs to know - and what the WWE still really needs to know - is whether or not Punk can draw consistently big buyrates. Austin will not want to come back to a financial flop. He'll want to be on the show that challenges for the buyrate record set two years ago. Prospective PPV buyers need to see Punk pin a star of Brock's magnitude so that they can buy him as a threat to Austin or John Cena in the Wrestlemania main-event.

Summerslam is going to be a big night for CM Punk. The pressure will be packed. He will need to put on the performance of his life, frankly, to live up to the lofty standards that he has set in big match situations in the past. Brock is like Rock, in that he can still go, but is not a seasoned, every day wrestler. Punk is in for a challenge. He will also need to win. He also needs to hope beyond hope that he and Daniel Bryan have done enough to entice a lot of fans to come out of the woodwork and order this PPV. CM Punk's dream might well depend on it.

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