Brent W (via email):
I recently read one of your columns(the one about MSG) and I noticed what you wrote about CM Punk which wasn’t unlike what a lot of people on the internet are saying that primarily he is the THE new face of the WWE, not A TOP Face, but THE top face(THE man so to speak). I consider myself a huge CM Punk fan but I don’t buy it. I think for all intents and purposes Cena is still THE face of the WWE and will be for the foreseeable future. When the whole MITB storyline was going on, I think the WWE kind of plateaued with Punk, that is, they settled him as the #2 guy in the company. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Randy Orton(though clearly, Punk is better) in the last 2 years. Orton was getting great reactions on a level similar to Cena and with the whole WM 25 storyline, the word on the street was he would be the new SCSA but it never happened. Despite going over Cena a few times, having great matches, being featured in high profile feuds, turning face, he was never at any point elevated to the top face of the company. Similarly, I think Punk is definitely being treated as a top star, and there is clearly a lot of support for him, but I don’t think he is the next SCSA at this point, it is far too early to tell, and I don’t think he is THE top guy at this point. I think these calls for the “new Rock” and “new Austin” that come out every year here and with various superstars are without merit. Am I wrong?
I would like to point out that I never once said he was THE face. I do believe I said he was being groomed to become the #2 guy right now, just behind John Cena, but equal to Randy Orton. I think your misunderstanding came when I said the WWE were hoping CM Punk fits the Stone Cold mold. I could see why that would seem I was insinuating that he’d be the top guy, and next leader of the wrestling world. However, my intention was to compare CM Punk to the anti-hero that was Stone Cold. Steve Austin was not heroic, he was a rebel. CM Punk is filling in those shoes.
But, now that we’ve brought the topic up, I’d like to go over the only true and undeniable method of shooting CM Punk into the position of *THE* top face in the WWE.
There’s no denying that Steve Austin launched his successful career with his feud with McMahon. In fact, I don’t think it’s too bold to say that without McMahon, there’s no way Austin would have changed the wrestling landscape and lead the WWF over WCW at the time. While the negatives inside WCW may have led to their eventual demise, the success of Austin vs Vinny Mac made a world of difference.
The awesome power of that angle would be near impossible to recapture today. I’m not expecting CM Punk to raise the ratings to what was achieved in 1998. But Vince was a fresh and new heel character that was immensely over due to real life occurrences. Vince was on TV for almost two decades before he became the #1 heel in the company, and it was practically overnight. He was forced to quit his announcing gig to make it all work. There’s no way he could be taken seriously as a non-storyline announcer after Survivor Series 1997.
The point I am making is that the stars were aligned so perfectly in 1998 that I don’t know how the WWE could realistically expect CM Punk to take over that spot to the same extent and degree. There’s no one in the WWE currently that can put CM Punk over to that extreme level.
No one currently in the WWE.
The only feuds that would really elevate CM Punk to astronomical levels would be with legends. The Rock vs John Cena will no doubt put Cena over, which would diminish what Rock could achieve in the long run for CM Punk. Not useless by any means, but much like Mick Foley’s original return to work with Orton in 2004 to put over the Legend Killer, and much like it wasn’t nearly as special when he did it for Edge 2 years later, the Rock’s loss to Punk won’t be as magnificent as the one to Cena in Miami.
So, who would that leave?
Obviously, Stone Cold himself. It’s not exactly a stretch to imagine, as both have put the work in to build up that feud outside the confines of the WWE TV time. Austin often mentions how he’d love to return to face Punk after the Straight Edge Savior turns heel again.
Sorry Steve-O, but fuck no.
Much like this year’s main event is being delivered in a fashion that divides the audience to choose between Rock and Cena, Austin’s return should be done the same way. Both Punk and Austin could have a great face/tweener feud build up to Wrestlemania. While Stone Cold would help bring back some older fans, and would definitely earn some pops from his standard character, Punk has earned his legion of followers, and I do think many of them would continue to side with him should the Rattlesnake make a return to confront him.
Rock has stolen most of Cena’s cheers in the last few months. I don’t think Austin would achieve that. I think this possible angle could be much closer to 50/50 than the Battle of Hollywood Egos.
And it would put Punk over much earlier in his career than Cena has in his. Plus, it would mean more to Punk’s career than the current rub Cena is/will be earning. Cena will benefit from the upcoming win, even though he’s been put over several times before. So while Punk winning over Austin will not be as huge in comparison, you can’t forget the fact that Punk has yet to earn victories over HHH, Edge, Big Show, Orton…etc. Punk pinning Austin to earn the complete audience would be the biggest step possible in developing THE face of the WWE.
Dear PEN15: Concerning Zack Ryder
Once in a while, I’m going to take the time to publicly respond to some feed back I’ve received. I hope this encourages more people to respond, and give their views. Again, it all comes back to debate/discussion that I love so much, so if you have something to add, or something you’d like brought up in a column, be it a subject, or a different view point on what I have to say, feel free to email me.
Chris Hagerman (via facebook):
That's a good point you have there Pen. Zack Ryder cannot be a long term star working only with his current gimmick. I think it may run longer than you suspect but it will run out and then if Ryder's forced to rely on his in ring talent alone he's a goner. "Serviceable" is the word I would use for him. He's completely adequate, and completely unremarkable in the squared circle.
The only thing that may separate him from the pack is something I prize very highly in a wrestler, and that's good old fashioned HARD WORK. In a world where WWE Creative "has nothing for you" if you're not one of a half dozen names that are hot at the moment, Zack Ryder didn't wait to be future endeavored but instead had the drive and motivation to craft a new persona, one that people could get behind.
Serviceable is quite the perfect word to describe Zack. Very good description.
As for the hard work, you might be right. And we have most likely all witnessed before that now that Zack will be working with a higher quality of opponent, he might improve leaps and bounds in ways we could never predict. And maybe he’ll hit the nail on the head with the PERFECT heel persona and surprise me, and many others. I’m not dismissing him entirely, nor am I expecting him to fail.
I just don’t see any signs of this possible improvement, or drastic heel talent.
Derek Price (via facebook):
The difference between a guy like Zach Ryder and a guy like Santino is motivation. I think Santino is just lazy and okay with being the comedy low card character. Whereas, Zach reminds me more of Cena or Miz in his drive to improve. Zach also has creativity going for him. Not a lot of the people in WWE are as creative as Zach so I would't doubt that he couldn't reinvent himself. He does have a long way to go in the ring, but then again but if he has the work ethic he can improve. Time will tell, really. I think b/c of his creativity and his strong drive, I'll go out on a limb and say in a couple years he will be a top star.
Derek, you’re wrong on several accounts. Allow me the pleasure of educating you:
Santino is not lazy. To call him lazy because he did not remove himself from the comedy gimmick and excel much like Zack Ryder has, is like calling everyone lazy who did not get out of a creative rut. Zack is a tremendous example of forcing creative to do something, and I won’t take anything away from that, but he’s the exception, not the rule. Many talents continued to work in the WWE mold and on TV, but still didn’t keep their jobs. Santino is still on TV, a very over character, and recently was in the final 2 of the Royal Rumble.
Also, you might have some sort of extreme mental prowess to be able to ascertain that Ryder is more creative than most in the WWE. Ryder has a youtube show, and some lame catchphrases that caught on for how lame they were. Santino’s ‘trombone dance’ is more creative than anything Zack has done on TV. Also, the Honk-A-Meter, the Santina angle, and constant mispronunciation of words… I won’t doubt that WWE creative helps him with a large part of those things, but to credit them 100% would be asinine.
Jake Francis (via email):
I was really torn by your column. on one hand I sincerely agree with you that the under dog schtick will eventually get old. I dont know if it bothers anyone but me, but in his match with cena last night I noticed every single move he hit he was going for a pin attempt. That just screamed out to me he had no chance to pull off the upset. Im hoping that makes sense. And his music has absolutely no excitement to it. That HAS to change. But last night I noticed a couple things. I found myself legitemately rooting for ryder. I cant remember the last time I can say that about an under dog. And the second thing I noticed was that these two are making me give a shit about the u.s. Title. I know that largely credited to ziggler. Hes awesome and everyone knows it. But the fact that ryder started that petition and has busted his ass so hard to get a u.s title shot seems to add a lot more worth to it. Sorry this would had been a lot less scatter brained and better written if I werent typing it on my phone and not fighting a pair of toddlers lol
The problem with Ryder’s music is the “Woo Woo Woo” at the start of it. I have no problem with some sort of “bang” to start off a theme, much like Stone Cold’s glass shattering. But “Woo Woo Woo” doesn’t work. The music itself has enough of a bang for his gimmick. And I wouldn’t change that.
“Ohhhhhh Radioooo” is a great start for his song, it doesn’t need to be changed.
Agreed on the petition. Any angle fighting over a title works to make the division better. Right now, Ziggler is a tremendous US Champion, as he makes the title mean something with his promos and actions. Adding the desire to keep the title in a feud with anyone only augments the value of the champion.
As for toddlers, I’ll vote for legalizing 56th trimester abortions at the next town rally, just for you.
Oh, and Son of Repoman, I don’t regret a lot about sleeping through Wrestlemania 3. Honestly, I find the event insanely overrated, much like a lot of early WWF PPVs, due to weak wrestling content.
And on that note, peace out.
Feel free to email me a comment (Email PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. I don’t look at the facebook comments too much, so I’ll hope for your email instead. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
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