Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Best Thing in Wrestling

There's something you should know about me. I'm a wrestling fan.

Sure, I don't follow it as closely as I used to, and I don't follow it nearly as closely as I (crazily) follow comics, but I am, without a doubt, a wrestling fan.

I've always been a WWE guy, starting with Hulk Hogan when I was a little kid and then coming back for Steve Austin.

But, as I've said in the past, my favorite wrestler is, was, and always will be Shawn Michaels. (See what I did there? If you're a wrestling fan, you probably see how clever I am.)

Now, I've written about wrestling a few times in the past, including the heartwarming tale of my "meeting" Mick Foley, but I've been meaning to write about it more often.

Because, like baseball and comics, wrestling has pretty much always been there with me. I watched it weekly through the late 1990s and the "Attitude Era" in WWE, where superstars sometimes said quasi-curse words, and there were exceedingly violent matches.

The characters during that era, though, were what kept me interested. They were, after all, pretty amazing. Stone Cold and The Rock, Triple H and The Undertaker. Jericho, the Hardys, Trish Stratus.

It was a classic time in wrestling, for sure.

I was really into it when Shawn Michaels made his return in the 2000s, but I drifted for several years and didn't follow things again until The Heartbreak Kid had his last match at Wrestlemania 26.

When I came back (again), I found that I wasn't taken by the characters. Lots of guys seemed to be derivative. Lots of knock-offs of old heroes. Steve Austin's character was so special because he tip-toed the line of good guy and bad guy, baby face and heel.

He played it down the middle, and dangerous, and people liked that. They related to that. It's why not a one of us can relate to Superman, but we can all relate to Batman.

The world is full of grey areas, and Austin's character lived in that grey area. And he made more money for the company than anyone else, ever.

Recently, WWE has leaned towards the cookie-cutter good guys and the typical bad guy wrestlers, with story angles reminiscent of the 1980s. Good for the kiddies; not so much for the adults.

And, of course, it's the adults who shell out the $40 bucks (!) on the once-a-month Pay-Per-View events, wherein all the major angles are resolved. (Personally, I order Wrestlemania, and that's it. I think last year, that show, in HD, cost nearly $70.)

While that very PG attitude is admirable, I guess, it's also kinda boring for longtime fans.

Just like in comics, the wrestling fanbase is getting older, and they've seen it all before. And if you've seen it before, you don't need to see it again. The wrestling fan wants new, and different, and, frankly, shocking.

Enter CM Punk.

Criminally underused by WWE decision makers, Punk is new, and different, and exciting. And shocking. His in-ring talent is unquestioned, and his ability on the microphone is up there with the greatest of all time.

An Indy legend, Punk has had the respect of the hardest of the hardcore fans for years.

He should be wearing the Championship belt. He should be on TV a whole lot more than he is. But that's not what I want to talk about, because I could go on forever. Recently, it's been announced that Punk is leaving WWE at the end of his current contract.

A couple of weeks ago on WWE's Monday Night Raw TV show, Punk cut a promo telling fans exactly why he's leaving.

The best wrestling promos integrate elements of both the character's fictional story line and the wrestler's real feelings. Punk's promo did that, possibly better than any other promo I've ever seen.

Below you'll find that promo in its entirety.

Real or fake, or somewhere in between, it's the thing that's made WWE must-see television again. More importantly, though, it's made wrestling relevant again.


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