Hustle Reviews.. CM Punk: Best In The World
Oct 7, 2012 - 7:11:41 AM
"You're the best.. around.."
To say that I've been looking forward to the CM Punk DVD set would be an understatement of epic proportions. As soon as word came out about how in-depth the documentary would be, including footage from Ring Of Honor and his days on the independent scene, I was sold, and I knew I had to set time aside to watch and review it.
If you recall any of my DVD reviews from the past, they're about as in-depth (there it is again) as you're going to see on the internet. I look at everything, and I break it all down for you. I paint the pictures for you, to the point where you already know if something is worth checking out or not before I even give you my final recommendation at the end. That's what I'm going to be doing here. I just wanted to give the warning ahead of time that this is going to be quite the lengthy read. My normal editions of HIPRN are anywhere between 1500-3000 words, on average, but if this one doesn't approach the 10000-word mark, I'd be shocked. Let's get things poppin.
"I'm a guy, for all intents and purposes, never should have even made it to the WWE. I've had roadblock after roadblock after roadblock thrown in my way. But, not only did I get passed those roadblocks, I did it while flipping off the people who put up those roadblocks. I feel I have a responsibility to the younger wrestlers on the roster; the ones who aren't signed yet, and the future of pro wrestling as a whole to help make this place better and to change this place. I certainly can't change it by sitting on my couch in Chicago."
With that quote, Best In The World is off and running. If that quote sounds familiar to some of you, it is what led off this week's debut episode of Main Event, as we got video packages for both CM Punk and Sheamus, leading up to their Champion VS Champion match.
The documentary officially begins with shots of the city that Punk calls home.. Chicago, Illinois. It's your usual fare.. shots of the skyline, of Wrigley Field, of Chicago-style deep dish pizza.. that old chestnut. Punk is shown at his tricked-out home in Chicago, before the arrival of his personal tour bus to whisk him off to another WWE event. The package is set to the punk rock sounds of "New Day" by The Bouncing Souls. We get to see Punk's stretching routine backstage, and just how he gets ready for his matches. It's similar to things we've seen on other WWE documentaries for other people, but it never gets tiring to be taken into a different side of things than we're used to seeing on Monday/Friday nights.
Back to Punk's home, we get a sit-down interview, where he discusses his childhood. He mentions always being neglected by his parents, and he brings up his brother, who was given a new car when he turned 16, even though Punk himself wasn't given a car when he turned 16. He mentions how he always thought he was adopted or from outer space, which gives him the opportunity to show off a "Space Boy" tattoo that he has on his wrist. He tells the story of his parents never 100% supporting anything he wanted to do, and how he sat back, watching all of his parents' resources go to his brother.
We're then introduced to Chez, Punk's best friend from childhood. Punk was essentially adopted by Chez and her family, gaining new "parents" and "siblings" along the way, including Chaleen, whose name many will remember from Punk's hilarious "OMG Kevin Nash WTF thought he was dead LOL" line during a promo on Raw last summer. Plenty of photos of a very young Punk, as we get stories from Chez and her family about how big a part of their family he was. This translates to Punk mentioning his alcoholic father, and how everything that was mentioned on WWE television about it was the truth. He mentions seeing how miserable his father was when he was drunk, and how that started his Straight Edge lifestyle, saying that he didn't understand how anyone would want to do that to themselves. We're already off to a good start with the documentary, being taken deeper into his personal life than Punk generally allows wrestling fans to venture.
Time to be introduced to former WWE Diva Lita, who is either Punk's ex-girlfriend or current girlfriend, depending on what news story you're reading on what site you're visiting. Lita describes the Straight Edge lifestyle as an off-shoot of punk rock, calling it "DIY (do it yourself) culture", where you "beat to your own drum, do what you want, make whatever happen happen" and how "it's up to you, not up to what society says". That's a pretty accurate description, based on the admittedly little I know about that entire scene, but if any of my readers who are heavy into either the punk rock and/or Straight Edge scenes would like to speak on that, please feel free. Lars Frederiksen of the popular punk band Rancid, a man who happens to be a close friend of CM Punk, is also interviewed, and he gives his take on things, mentioning that people who are into punk music grew up as "freaks" who weren't necessarily into the same things that most were into during high school.
Punk's first memory of the pro wrestling business is seeing "Rowdy" Roddy Piper smashing a coconut over "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka's head. He mentions how he immediately connected to Piper's character..
"Look at this guy on TV.. nobody likes him. Look at me.. nobody likes me. He wears this skirt, and people make fun of him for the way he dresses. People make fun of me for the way I dress. He's not the biggest guy, but he's got the biggest mouth. Holy crap, I'm 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper."
Punk says that "being Rowdy Piper" was going to be his ticket in wrestling, saying that he was going to go out there and piss people off to make his money. He says that he has always been into pissing people off, and seeing Roddy Piper making money to do it is what sold him on things.
This takes us to Punk being 15, when a friend of his invited him to participate in his backyard wrestling promotion called the Lunatic Wrestling Federation (which is funny, because way back in the day, I used to have a character in an e-fed of the exact same name). Punk and his friends actually built a ring to put in the backyard, and even charged admission for their friends and classmates to come and watch them wrestle. Punk says the shows were actually drawing 200-300 people each.
I want you all to stop and think about that for a minute. I don't care how old you are, where you're from, how "rich" you were growing up, etc.. chances are, you participated in a backyard wrestling promotion when you were growing up, even if it wasn't actually called a "backyard wrestling promotion". Think back to those days.. I'll bet you couldn't even find a dozen people that were willing to spend any sort of money to watch your untrained asses land dangerous wrestling moves on one another. Punk and his friends had hundreds that were willing to spend their money for that. Clearly, this can only mean one thing.. there's absolutely nothing to do in Chicago. That might also explain the astronomical murder rate in Chicago, now that I think about it, but that's a different story for a different column on a different site.
We then get one of those weird "Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon"-style moments, as WWE Ring Announcer Justin Roberts tells a story about working for an indy promotion in Chicago when he was 17. He mentions the time where Punk and his fellow LWF performers were at the show, heckling the wrestlers.
As the LWF continued to grow, they were drawing 1000 people to their shows, so again, I want you to think back to your "backyard wrestling" days, where even your parents and family members wouldn't have spent a dime to watch you wrestle. This brings us to the story of why Punk hasn't spoken to his flesh and blood brother in well over a decade. According to Punk, his brother was in charge of the money for the LWF, and how he was responsible for the "big time" business aspects of the company, like paying for insurance and renting out buildings for their shows as they got larger. One day, his brother decided to steal all of the money. Punk never specifies just how much money was stolen, but makes sure to point out that it was not a small amount by any stretch of the imagination. I can't say that I blame him for not wanting to speak to his brother. Money from the old LoP Magazine was stolen by a former LoP writer, and even though that was only around $150, he hasn't been forgiven to this day. I can only imagine the shots that would literally have been fired at his residence if that $150 was more like $1500.
The transition from Punk being an untrained wrestler to a trained wrestler is then covered, as Punk mentions heading to Steel Domain, a school run by Ace Steel and Danny Dominion, including some video footage of his actual training at the school. Two months into his training, Punk would meet the man who would go on to become one of his absolute best friends, Colt Cabana. Colt is interviewed, and he discusses his first impression of Punk upon seeing him, saying he looked like a total slob with his colored hair, tattoos and dirty jeans. Both Punk and Cabana would come to train on their off-days, and bonded over their love for the business, even though they come from very different backgrounds, especially athletically. Steel says that Punk seemed to have lead in his ass because of how unathletic he was, and how even something like a leapfrog was a challenge for him, while Cabana was a natural athlete that had played college football and picked up on everything very quickly. Punk, of course, had the connection with crowds, though, and that was his strong suit.
Next up, we get introduced to one of Punk's ex-girlfriends, Natalie Slater, who talks about how wrestling always came first for Punk, even ahead of her birthday, and anything that was going on with his friends. Punk talks about how some people burn bridges in life, but he blows the bridges up while he's still on them, especially when it comes to how much he has neglected people in his life because he would choose wrestling over them. This transitions nicely into talk of CM Punk VS Colt Cabana, which became almost legendary on the independent scene, with promoters from all over the country wanting to bring them in to face each other, and how the matches were rarely ever the same, as both men would try their best to throw in new wrinkles here and there. Obviously, I haven't seen every single match they've had against each other, but I've probably seen a good eight or nine singles matches between the two, and the "new wrinkle" thing isn't a huge exaggeration. They were experts at finding ways to keep things fresh, even after spending years facing each other. The easy thing to do would be to say "hey, last week's match was well received, so let's do all of that again this week", and while you can deliver good matches that way, you would also become complacent and wouldn't grow as a performer the way you could/should. Kudos to both Punk and Cabana for always looking to grow.
People like Punk, Cabana and Chris Hero were the "wrasslers" in IWA-Mid South, a promotion that was known for its blood and guts in deathmatch-style brawls. It was also in IWA-MS that Punk's girlfriend at the time (the aforementioned Natalie Slater) came up with the idea of Punk becoming a heel, using the Straight Edge thing as a gimmick, with the birth of the "Straight Edge means I'm better than you" catchphrase. She said that Punk's character is basically the antithesis of the "typical wrestling fan", who is into drinking alcohol, and doesn't need someone preaching to them about things. This brings us back to Chris Hero himself, who is interviewed and introduced as "Chris Hero", and not "Kassius Ohno", which is an odd move on WWE's part, but is something that just shows you how much creative input Punk had in the making of his own documentary. Punk and Hero had themselves quite the feud in IWA-MS, and it's covered with both men discussing it, as well as footage of their matches. They had a TLC match that lasted for an hour. They had a Two Out Of Three Falls match that lasted over 90 minutes, and no, that isn't a typo. As footage of the TLC match is being shown, Punk tells a story of how he literally wanted to bring the building down. It was the venue's last night, so both men took it upon themselves to destroy the place during the match. Hero is shown hitting a Spear on Punk that sends him into a wall, putting a big hole in it. Hero then picks Punk up and drives him into the wall, putting another big hole in it. Punk and Hero were dueling as they both hung from the rafters after climbing the ladder, and Punk mentions pulling on the beam as he was up there, literally trying to bring the roof down because "what a way to go out". The match itself was as brutal as you would expect a TLC match to be, but actually amped up a bit, with both men trying to go above and beyond to entertain the fans in attendance. They beat the hell out of each other, and even looking back at the highlights of the match makes me excited over the possibility of seeing Punk VS Hero/Ohno on the WWE stage at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future. The footage of the 90-minute match only solidifies my hopes for the future with these two.
An obsession with old school wrestling is what was pushing Punk at the time. He would look at the territorial days, when the NWA Champion would travel to the various territories and wrestle 60-minute matches against the territory's top talent on a weekly basis, and that's what he wanted to emulate in his time. Colt says that Punk's goal was to be "Ironman of Professional Wrestling".
"I thought I was good. I really thought I was good, and then I got in the ring with Eddie Guerrero, and I was like 'holy crap, am I bad'."
We move on to Punk's famous match with Eddie Guerrero, while Eddie was in between stints with WWE after being fired. We get some clips of that match, too, and I recommend you folks check the match out if you haven't already done so. Eddie was wrestling with a large chip on his shoulder, trying to prove that he still belonged in the public eye, so he was on top of his game, and that caused Punk to wrestle on top of his game. It was a real joy to watch, and obviously something of a "forgotten gem" when people discuss the best matches of Eddie's career.
Joey Mercury then joins the documentary, calling Punk "unapologetically confident", saying that he didn't like Punk when he first met him because of how arrogant he came across as. He talks about Punk always feeling he was the best wrestler in the world, even back when he wasn't the best. We then got to hear from Curt Hawkins, who talks about getting into indy wrestling while he was in high school, and how Punk was the "king" of that scene at the time, so he became a huge fan. I can remember hearing and reading about Punk for a couple years before I ever got to watch any of his matches. I just remember a lot of buzz surrounding his name, with people praising him as someone that would/could/should become a big star for WWE one day. He wasn't my favorite indy wrestler when I started watching, but his charisma and the way he carried himself was immediately recognizable. I'm not going to sit here and play "wrestling hipster", saying I knew he was going to be a WWE Champion at some point, but I could just tell, even back in 2005 when I started seeing his matches, that he'd become a bigger name than he was then.
Next up is one of the more talked-about segments on the documentary from the pre-release news and notes.. Punk returning to the Ring Of Honor wrestling school. Words really can't express how odd it is to watch him doing an interview as he sits next to a wrestling ring with "Ring Of Honor" and "RoH" all over it. He talks about Gabe Sapolsky, who was RoH's booker at the time, bringing him and Cabana in because he wanted them to have "their match" on an RoH show. According to Punk, he figured RoH would be the highest level he would reach in wrestling, so he set out a goal to study and learn as much as he could while he was there. The Ring Of Honor footage begins to roll, including clips of interviews Punk cut while he was feuding with Raven. Punk credits Raven for being the first major name to actually sit him down and help to teach him about the wrestling business, instead of just focusing on a single match and what the match would include. The feud with Raven helped to make Punk a much bigger name in Ring Of Honor, and it helped to push him towards the top of the card, which transitions perfectly into his match trilogy with Samoa Joe for the RoH World Title.
If you've been paying attention to my columns through the years, you'd know how big a fan of the trilogy I am. Some of you might remember a Lords Of Podcast Roundtable show where we watched the entire trilogy in one sitting, with five minute breaks in between the matches, and the trilogy was introduced to a new set of fans, most of whom had no previous introduction to RoH, period, let alone that particular series of matches. As previously mentioned in the documentary, Punk was obsessed with old school wrestling at that time in his career, and these matches with Joe further proved that point. The first match went 60 minutes, when nobody expected it to. The second match went 60 minutes, when nobody expected it to. The third match went about 30 minutes, when nobody was expecting it to last any less than an 60 minutes. Joe and Punk did a masterful job of keeping the unexpected around, and when you consider they put the matches together themselves (with a little help from Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, who was working with RoH at the time), it becomes all the more amazing to see how entertaining everything was. The trilogy gets yet another recommendation from me. If you haven't seen the matches, you owe it to yourself, as a wrestling fan, to check them out, but don't forget the length of the matches. Be sure to set aside some time so you can sit and enjoy them, even if you don't watch all three in one sitting.
Back to the documentary, we get footage of the trilogy, and I'm sure that Punk pushed for WWE to try and get Joe to appear in the documentary to discuss the matches, but that didn't happen. Colt Cabana and Daniel Bryan gladly pick up the slack, though, and heap praise upon both men and the matches they were able to create, with Colt calling the trilogy some of the best matches that pro wrestling has seen anywhere in the last 25 years. Lars Frederiksen refers to an unspecified match in the trilogy as the best wrestling match he's ever seen. Curt Hawkins says that you have to see the matches. Lots of rapid-fire praise here.
We move ahead, this time to Punk discussing how he felt like he accomplished everything there was to accomplish in RoH, and because he's a goal-oriented person, he wanted to take things to the next level. Because he had already wrestled for TNA (referred to as "Nashville" here), he felt he needed to work for WWE. On his way out in RoH, Punk decided to create his "brainchild", which would affectionately become known as the "Summer Of Punk". Punk came to Gabe Sapolsky and told him that the RoH fans were going to find out about Punk receiving a WWE contract, so it would behoove RoH to use that to their advantage and turn it into a storyline in and of itself. News broke that Punk had not only received a WWE contract, but had agreed to sign it, which caused everyone to (rightfully) assume that his next show would be his final show with the promotion. The fans came out to say goodbye to Punk, showering him with chants of "please don't go" before his match with Austin Aries. As part of the twist laid out by Punk, though, he won the RoH World Title in his "final show", which only led to confusion, as even the notoriously smarky RoH fans were now wondering if Punk was actually leaving or not. After the match, Punk cut a promo, turning himself heel. He made the first reference to a microphone in his hands being like a pipe bomb, calling himself the devil and telling the RoH fans that they fell for everything. Looking back, Punk said those were some of the best times of his career, as he enjoyed being able to manipulate people and have the "smart fans" actually start to question what was happening. We get footage of the sheer brilliance that was the promo where heel Punk literally signed his WWE contract atop the RoH World Title belt, which was basically like slapping every RoH fan across the face.. with a sledgehammer.
Wrapping up the "Summer Of Punk" was his actual farewell match, wrestled against.. surprise, surprise.. Colt Cabana. If you've been a reader of mine for a while, you've seen me mention the match on a few different occasions. We get to see many sides of CM Punk when we watch him on WWE programming (and even those of us that have seen him elsewhere).. we get the self-proclaimed "prick" side, we get the class clown side, we get the serious wrestler side.. but in this match, we got to see a real side of Punk. The man was leaving the promotion that helped to make him a star on the indy scene, and would be leaving some of his best friends in doing so. When he came out for the match, he was already a mess, red-faced with tears in his eyes. It was quite the emotional scene watching him make a lap around ringside, giving out handshakes, high-fives and hugs to the fans who were all thanking him for everything he had done. He hit the ring and dropped to his knees at the RoH logo, where he was then showered with streamers from the crowd. I've seen many a match where fans threw streamers into the ring as a sign of respect for the wrestler(s), but I've never seen this many streamers for one wrestler at one time..
Clips of the emotional pre-match scene are shown, with Punk nearly losing it again as the fans chanted "C-M Punk". Punk talks about grown men in the crowd crying, and how the atmosphere in the building was very emotional. It was quite the nice way for him to head out of RoH.
We fast forward through time a bit, back to the modern day, with Punk discussing how much he enjoys running to help stay in shape. He likes that he can just throw on some headphones, listen to music and be alone for a while as he runs. We're then joined by WWE's head Athletic Trainer, Chris Brannan, who discusses the change in Punk's diet, and how he has gotten into better shape. Punk mentions that he quit eating meat, which leads to a funny clip of him in the catering area before an event, unable to find anything to eat. He finds something that he says was named after him, but he still can't eat it.. only for the camera to pull back and see that he was referring to the "jerk chicken". His diet consists of "more whole foods" and "more raw foods" these days, and he still can't find anything to eat at catering. We then get to see Punk chowing down on a veggie burger at a Chicago Cubs game, and he mentions that he'll occasionally take his diet to another level by going on a juice fast for the direct boost of nutrients into his blood. He mentions how different this was in comparison to when he first signed with WWE. He was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling for development, and he started putting on weight, thinking that the "land of giants" wanted wrestlers who were bigger. Cabana mentions that Punk weighed about 240 pounds at the time, and we get clips of Punk during his OVW days, where he looks every bit of that 240. He even has a bit of a double chin forming in some of the clips, which is really strange to see.
The OVW chapter of the story is when we're first introduced to Paul Heyman, who was running OVW at the time. Heyman talks about how pissed off Punk was to even be in the company's developmental system, and not on the main roster. Heyman says that he had been hearing about Punk for a while, thanks to Sapolsky, who worked with Heyman in ECW and has remained close to him ever since. Some more rapid-fire clips of Punk's OVW work frame Heyman discussing how he used to get in trouble with WWE management for constantly asking them why they weren't using Punk on the main roster. This takes us to Michael "PS" Hayes, who was the head writer for Smackdown at the time, who talks about how the writers and the management heard Heyman and everything he had to say about Punk, but they all took it with a grain of salt because of Heyman's penchant for overexaggeration and his ability to sell people on things. PS thinks that Heyman's constant praise of Punk actually hurt him, saying that management may have felt the praise was more about Heyman trying to get himself over by finding the "next big thing" instead of Punk actually being the "next big thing".
"I owe my career to Paul Heyman. 100%."
Punk hints that WWE management wanted to change a lot of things about him, saying that Paul Heyman is the only reason he got to keep the name "CM Punk" and didn't have to change his name and look while under WWE contract. When Vince McMahon made the decision to relaunch ECW as a separate brand, and the proverbial keys to the car were handed to Heyman, it was Heyman that saw the writing on the wall. He saw that there were no plans to bring Punk up to Raw or to Smackdown, so he told management to let him have Punk for the ECW roster because he wanted to prove to the world what kind of star-in-the-making CM Punk was.
We cut back to the modern day again, as we get Punk discussing his tour bus, talking about how it goes against just about everything he stands for, but it was a necessary purchase in an attempt to keep his body in order and to try and prolong his career. Punk feels that he's as hungry now as he has always been, with the only difference being the amount of money he's making compared to what he made on the independent scene.
From that, we transition right back to ECW in a strange bit of editing, and we get to see Punk's ECW debut. Kofi Kingston compares Punk to a big fish in a small pond, with the way he looked on the ECW brand. Heyman wanted Punk to be the man who would inherit the "ECW legacy" and show it to an entirely new generation. Punk was over from the beginning in ECW, with the "C-M Punk" chants happening almost from day one.
Next, we get a segment that I think is going to be talked about a lot, simply because of the man who was talking.. none other than John Cena himself. Cena talks about how the locker room heard all of the stories about CM Punk, and how he had a bit of a reputation that preceded him. He compares it to numerous other things in life, where people hype something up to you on a nearly constant basis, to the point where the hype is astronomical, and no matter what happens, that hype simply can't be lived up to. I've already seen people taking Cena's comments the wrong way. They feel Cena was taking shots at Punk, but I think his comments were as clear as day. He says Punk was good from the beginning. He says Punk was polished from the beginning. He merely mentions that the stories about Punk reached near mythical status, and it was impossible for Punk to live up to those stories in the eyes of those who had never seen him before. I totally get that. I compare it to just about any of the "indy darling" wrestlers, past or present. Look at the amount of hype that they get from indy fans. Think about the likes of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, Chris Hero, Tyler Black, Claudio Castagnoli, Davey Richards, Austin Aries, AJ Styles.. the list goes on and on. Before you got to see them wrestle, chances are you heard stories from people that would tell you how good they are. Maybe tags like "future of wrestling" or "future WWE Champion" were thrown in for some extra flavor. You had preconceived notions about these people before you got to watch them. You were expecting five-star match after five-star match. When you finally got to see them, unless they had a five-star match in their debut, you were disappointed. Even if the person looked good, they didn't match up to the expectations you had. The best recent example is Claudio Castagnoli. He was heavily hyped for a while, finally signed with WWE, was hyped some more, and then debuted on WWE television as Antonio Cesaro, with an atrocious entrance theme, weird tape around his legs and a finisher that everyone hated from the beginning. If that was your first time seeing the guy wrestle, your first thought was probably something along the lines of wondering what indy fans were smoking in thinking this guy would ever become a star. It happens.
Heyman feels that nobody in management "got" CM Punk. Referee Scott Armstrong says that Punk looked like someone that would either be parking cars or stealing cars, but he completely transformed once he changed into his gear and stepped into the ring. Jim Ross says that there were people involved in "talent relations" who felt that Punk should be released, but that Heyman continued to fight for him. Triple H makes his first appearance on the set to talk about how he and Shawn Michaels saw something in Punk from the start, saying that Punk had the right attitude for the business, and that particular attitude of "whether you want me to or not, this is mines for the taking" was missing with too many wrestlers in the business these days.
We move to Punk's feud with John Morrison for the ECW Title. Punk says that Morrison wasn't "ready" at the time, saying that the company clearly wanted to push Morrison as the future, at least of ECW. He then takes a large verbal dump all over his matches with Morrison, saying how dumb they both were for trying to do too much, and how they would try to cram 15 minutes worth of action into a match that didn't even make it beyond five minutes. Things changed in Punk's final title shot against Morrison, and the ECW Title victory is something Punk feels is one of the best matches of his entire career.
It's time to fast forward to the current time again, with Punk at Wizard World, signing autographs for the comic book fans. It's cool to see Punk marking out when he meets the legendary Stan Lee for the first time, and he mentions that he has gone from his first job of working at a comic book shop to appearing at a comic convention in this regard. He compares himself to a superhero, saying that he is involved in a constant fight, whether it's with his opponents in the ring or with management to get things that he wants, so he feels that it's fitting to be at Wizard World.
The weird back-and-forth continues, and we move back to Punk's ECW days. We've now reached WrestleMania 24, and we get a video package of the Money In The Bank match that Punk participated in and won. Colt Cabana said that Punk winning MITB was the first time he could actually see Punk's WWE career and feel the company was actually going to do something with him. Highlights of Punk cashing in on Edge to become the World Champion are shown. Punk was thrilled to be the owner of "Ric Flair's title" and "Dusty Rhodes' title". Stop me if this sounds familiar, but Cabana mentions that Punk was the World Champion, but he still wasn't "the man" in the eyes of the company. Colt calls Punk the "wrestling fans' champion", while calling John Cena the "machine's champion". Michael Hayes says that Punk didn't receive the proper recognition as the champion. He feels that the locker room probably looked at Punk and felt he was tarnishing the value of the title. Punk wasn't positioned as "the guy", according to Triple H, saying that the man should make the title, not the other way around. This is just eerily familiar, as Hayes discusses the rivalries going on at the time (Shawn Michaels VS Chris Jericho, John Cena VS Batista, etc) that were viewed as "bigger" and "more important" than what the champion was involved with. Hayes then goes on to say that there are people in wrestling history that are "bigger" than titles. Those people don't need the title as a "drawing factor", and instead use their ability to connect with audiences.
We then move to Unforgiven 2008, where Punk was supposed to defend the World Title in a Championship Scramble, but was attacked backstage by Randy Orton and The Legacy. He was taken out of the match, and Chris Jericho would go on to win the title in the Scramble. To this day, that remains one of the biggest head scratchers I can remember in the world of wrestling. Those types of scenarios are commonplace, but only if the champion is legit injured and can't compete, or even if the champion has to be written out of storylines for something (Wellness Policy violation, heading off to film a movie, etc). This was done because the company had nothing else for Punk. He was the World Champion, and they didn't know what to do. Punk says he wasn't informed of the company's decision until he arrived at the building for the pay-per-view that day. The company felt that the Jericho/Michaels feud needed the World Title to make it even bigger, but that still doesn't explain why they did what they did. Punk was the World Champion, but didn't really advance up the card at all, and then had the title taken off of him in a backstage segment. Incredible.
From there, we go to Punk's tag team with Kofi Kingston, ending up with them winning the Tag Team Titles, and then to Punk's feud with William Regal for the Intercontinental Title. Regal says that his feud with Punk was the best thing he did, as far as wrestling quality is concerned, since being hired by WWE, which is saying a lot. Even with the titles won, Punk says the company still didn't know what to do with him, which is why he was shocked to no end that he was chosen to win Money In The Bank again. Fast Forward to Extreme Rules, and Punk became the World Champion again after cashing in on Jeff Hardy, capping one of the oddest years of booking for any one single wrestler in WWE history.
After winning the World Title again, Punk was given a challenge by Vince McMahon himself. Vince wanted to see if Punk could be a heel. Vince told Punk that Michael Hayes said that he could be a good heel in wrestling, but that he just didn't see it, which is why he was challenging Punk. Punk said he was incredibly offended, telling Vince that he would become the top heel in the company just to show him. This brings us to the feud that Punk had with Jeff Hardy. The Straight Edge Superstar and the man who had himself a storied history with drugs. The man who felt the wrestling fans should look up to him for being so virtuous and the man who had the fans looking up to him even with all of his personal demons. It was a perfect match, and a natural feud to have. Punk says that the feud with Hardy was the first time that the creative team would write promos for him, but that he'd rip the papers up in front of them because nobody could ever see what was inside his head. Hayes says that Punk can be a "real moody prick" sometimes, and that he wasn't afraid to tell people that he didn't want their help. Thankfully, this section of the documentary didn't include any of the ridiculously stupid promos from Hardy where he essentially told children not to listen to Punk's "preaching" and that they needed to experience things on their own to be able to make their own decisions. If you were watching WWE at the time, you know what I'm talking about.. Jeff Hardy was basically telling children they needed to drink, smoke and do drugs.. you know, just to see if it were a good idea. How he was the face in that feud, I still don't understand. Cabana hilariously says that the heel Punk is a lot like the real guy, because he has that crabby side that often comes out when fans see him in airports and places all across the world, and that crabby side is what comes out when Punk has a microphone in his hand.
After feuding with Hardy, Punk moved on to a feud with The Undertaker, and according to him, he moved back to the creative team telling him that they didn't know what to do with him again, so he was just going to drop the title. Hayes tells a story about Taker not thinking Punk would earn his respect in the ring, but that he was wrong, and he admitted to being wrong after wrestling him, which is pretty cool. It was the feud with Taker that had Punk looking like a "made man" in the eyes of Jim Ross, who said that's when he started to view Punk as a bonafide WWE main event-level worker.
That odd editing of the documentary continues, and we go from discussing Punk's feud with The Undertaker to looking at Punk's history with tattoos. He says he never intended on having a "real job", so he started getting tatted up when he was in high school. He likes to tell people that he's a real "heart on my sleeve kind of guy", and he then points to his arm.. where he has a tattoo of a heart.. in his full sleeve. Clever. Punk almost feels sorry for the people in the world who don't have tattoos, because he feels that it means they don't believe in things as strongly or as passionately as he believes in things. As someone who doesn't have a tattoo (although I'm definitely not against the idea of getting one), I'm not quite sure how to react to that.
We get stories about Punk's friends and family, and how you don't have to be related by blood to be considered family in his eyes, and this transitions back to wrestling The Undertaker. WWE management felt that Punk wasn't "believable" going up against someone of Taker's size and stature, so he needed a "big man" on his side as backup. Punk was offended by the idea, but he immediately thought of his good friend Luke Gallows, calling him perfect for the job. He enjoyed the storyline of Gallows wrestling as Festus, but being "saved" by Punk, who got him off of the drugs that had Festus in those trances. Festus, with a clear mind, body and soul, then became Luke Gallows, the first member of the Straight Edge Society. Punk then discusses the members of SES, from Gallows to Serena to Joseph Mercury, and this leads to Mercury telling an amazing story about the type of man that CM Punk is.
Mercury mentions that he was released by WWE in 2007 because of his serious addictions to drugs and alcohol at the time. He says that his release broke Punk's heart because he wanted to help him so much. They never fell out of touch, even after the release, and Punk found out that Joey's house was in foreclosure. He asked him if he was in trouble, and when the answer was "yes", he wrote him a check "in the six figures" to buy Joey's house so that he wouldn't lose it. Mercury calls Punk his best friend, and you can hear the sincerity in his voice as he talks about him. He says that Punk helped him out yet again a year later by personally requesting he be brought back to the company as a member of the Straight Edge Society. Fantastic story, showing how fiercely loyal CM Punk is to his friends, and the lengths that he'll go to just to help them out when they're in trouble. That's definitely not a side of the guy that most people would have guessed existed, so I'm glad that it's in this documentary for the world to hear.
Back to the Straight Edge Society, Punk admits that he was going out of his way to try and be "Wrestling Jesus" at the time, with his look, his character, his promos, and the fact that Luke and Joseph were named after two of Jesus' apostles in the bible. He even says that Serena was portraying the "Mary Magdalene" to his "Jesus". It actually blew my mind to hear Punk admitting all of this. Obviously, the "Wrestling Jesus" thing was a popular joke in the IWC at the time. We saw what he looked like, and we heard the "tone" that his promos had, but most of us just wrote it off as a mix of coincidence and humor. We didn't think that was the actual plan all along. Punk said he would watch late night religious shows with the likes of Benny Hinn to get ideas for his character. Mercury discusses the times where he would hear people in the crowd refer to Punk as "the fucking devil" (censored, of course), and we get footage of a house show where fans were throwing trash in the ring, nWo-style, during one of Punk's promos. Very, very entertaining segment of the documentary, highlighting the amount of sheer heat that Punk and the group, as a whole, received at the time. We're back to angry, disgruntled Punk again, though, as he talks about the SES originally being his idea, and everything being according to his vision, but that people kept trying to put their hands on the blueprint and change things around, to the point that the group didn't even resemble his plans and his visions anymore. In case you haven't noticed it, Punk being upset with WWE management has definitely been a running theme in this documentary so far.
We then go to footage of Punk at a Rancid concert, and let me just tell you this, ladies and gentlemen.. watching Punk dancing off to the side of the stage while Rancid is performing is hilarious on multiple levels, and is damn near worth the purchase price of the DVD set all by itself. He's just so awkward.
Back to Punk being angry and frustrated, though, and he talks about The Miz being in the main event of WrestleMania 27. He says that he was the best bad guy in the business, and he sat back and watched Miz get handed something like a WrestleMania main event. He felt disrespected, saying that Miz didn't work harder than him, wasn't better than him, wasn't a better bad guy than him.. but he still got the main event gig. He says that, in his world, the company's top face should take on the company's top heel at WrestleMania, so he didn't understand why that wasn't happening. The countdown to his contract running out was already underway, and he was ready to leave. He felt frustrated with the way his career was going, and just didn't enjoy coming to work anymore.
We have now arrived at the infamous "pipe bomb" night on Raw, and the entire promo is included here. No matter how many times you watch the segment, it just doesn't get old. It wasn't the greatest promo of all-time. Hell, it wasn't even the best promo of CM Punk's career. With that said, though, it was still a magical night in the current era of wrestling, and it's amazing to think about how much the company was charged up by a single promo. Everything seemed bigger. Everything seemed more important. It just goes to show you how organic things can be in wrestling, and how simple something can be that can turn a promotion around. Perhaps WWE management should watch the promo again on a loop, now that they find themselves in dire straits and need another shot in the arm to help save the horrendous ratings for Raw, as the show sees its lowest non-holiday viewership since before the Attitude Era began.
Punk says that the promo was the frustration of every Diva and Superstar, pouring out of him, and Curt Hawkins talks about the entire locker room freaking out during the promo. Kofi Kingston gets goosebumps just thinking about it, and then Triple H compares the promo to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's "Austin 3:16" promo as the moment where you can point to a wrestler and say that's when he arrived. We get clips of Punk making the media rounds, and doing radio interviews. He talks about how this is a part of his life in the aftermath of the "pipe bomb" promo.
We move back to Money In The Bank 2011, and we get to soak in the atmosphere in Chicago that night, with how amped up those fans were. Punk refers to that night, and that match, as the most high pressure situation he's ever been involved in. The commentary of the match cuts in, allowing Michael Cole calling the match one of the biggest in WWE history to be heard, and then we get a video package of highlights from the match. John Cena calls it a match that, as a wrestling fan, he knows he'll be talking about for years to come. We go back to Joey Mercury, who tells the story of Punk asking him what he should do. Punk told him that he wanted to change things in the company, and was told by his friend that he can't change a single thing from his couch, which is a great point. Punk says that he re-signed with WWE halfway through Money In The Bank, and when the pay-per-view started, he was still set to leave.
Triple H and Michael Hayes both refer to Punk as a locker room leader, talking about how Punk is almost like a "big brother" to the younger workers. Zack Ryder shows up and credits Punk for saving his career, saying that Punk tweeting about Ryder's YouTube show is what brought new fans over and helped create his buzz.
The documentary "ends" like many WWE-produced documentaries do.. with a couple minutes of praise and compliments from various people. Just about everyone that made an appearance during the documentary talk about how hard a worker Punk is, and how he earned everything that he has today.
I put "ends" the way I did, because the credit rolls, but we get a "bonus scene".. an ode to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, with Punk emerging from the bathroom of his tour bus in a bathrobe saying "You're still here? It's over. Go home. Go.", which is a great touch as the movie was set in Chicago. Humorous way to officially end the documentary.
The Final Verdict
Clocking in at just under 1 hour and 50 minutes, this was a superb documentary. There's no doubt about that. I can't stress enough just how deep into Punk's career this went. There was an insane amount of footage from his pre-WWE days, going all the way back to his backyard wrestling days, and every stop along the way (other than TNA, of course, even though there wasn't much to that chapter, anyway) was covered in great detail.
One thing that I look for in these documentaries is the amount of things that I didn't already know. Even when it comes to the stories of the biggest names in the history of the business, I want to hear stories or see footage of things that are brand new to me. I got that with this documentary. Whether it was the footage of his backyard wrestling matches or the stories that Joey Mercury was telling, that's what I got here. A very nice mix of common knowledge and new knowledge. A very nice mix of independent footage and WWE footage.
In my opinion, this documentary is everything that a wrestling fan could ask for. It doesn't matter if you love CM Punk, hate CM Punk or just tolerate CM Punk. No matter what category you fall into, you'll find enjoyment out of this.
In the best case scenario, CM Punk: Best In The World is the second best documentary WWE has ever produced, behind only The Monday Night War or Randy Orton: The Evolution Of A Predator (depending on the day you ask me). In the worst case scenario, CM Punk: Best In The World is still in the top five of the best documentaries WWE has ever produced.
If there's one thing I would have changed, I would have added an extra 30-ish minutes to the entire thing so that we could hear from more people about the backstage vibe during Punk's WWE "pipe bomb" promo, as well as at Money In The Bank. Those two events will go down in wrestling history, and it would have been nice to hear from more people about what they were doing backstage, or even sitting at home, as they happened. That's a really minor complaint, though. This is absolutely, positively something you should be checking out, and it's actually something that is worth the purchase price.
If you're looking for the match listing to go with the documentary..
- CM Punk VS Brent Albright from OVW in 2006, which is a surprisingly good match.
- CM Punk VS Justin Credible from ECW in 2006, which is historic, as it was Punk's first match on the main roster.
- CM Punk VS John Morrison from ECW in 2007, which is the match Punk said is one of the best he's ever had.
- Money In The Bank Ladder Match from WrestleMania 24
- CM Punk & Kofi Kingston VS Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase from Raw in 2008, which is a fun Tag Team Title match.
- CM Punk VS William Regal from Raw in 2009, which is all you need to know, as this was a great technical match.
- CM Punk VS Jeff Hardy in a TLC Match from SummerSlam in 2009, which many feel is the best TLC match of all-time.
- CM Punk VS Rey Mysterio from Over The Limit in 2010, which is another great match between them in a long line of them.
- CM Punk VS John Cena from Money In The Bank 2011.. nuff said.
- CM Punk VS Chris Jericho from WrestleMania 28
- CM Punk VS Daniel Bryan from Over The Limit in 2012, which is one of the best technical wrestling matches WWE has had in years.
A fantastic documentary, and a match listing that features zero duds? Are you kidding me? Buy this set, folks.
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