It's the question we've been asking all night last night (Oct. 8, 2012) and all morning this morning: Was CM Punk wrong for lashing out and striking a WWE fan in the crowd in Sacramento, California, on Monday Night Raw?
It's a difficult question to answer.
Let's start with the basics of the situation. Punk, after being chased away by Ryback, John Cena, and Vince McMahon, ran out through the crowd, presumably to avoid any of the three. This appeared to be part of the show.
Once he got up into the stands, the crowd turned volatile. Fans surrounding the WWE champion were eager to touch him, eager to get their hands on one of the biggest stars in the industry today, eager to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to physically interact with Punk.
Unfortunately, some did so in a hostile manner.
Punk was pushed multiple times, bumped into, shoved, and finally outright slapped in the back of the head. His response to this was to turn around and land a spinning back fist on a fan putting his sunglasses on (yes, while indoors) and follow it up with a lunging strike once he was turned around.
The problem, of course, is that the video shows Punk was hitting the wrong guy, a guy who subsequently filed a police report after having his sunglasses broken. The man who had actually struck Punk was cowering behind the man in the sunglasses. That cowering man would ultimately take to Twitter later to brag about his actions, seemingly taking pleasure in the ruckus he caused.
Obviously, this has caused quite the stir in the pro wrestling world, with fans coming down on both sides of the fence. One side believes Punk was just, thinking he was simply acting in self-defense. Plus, the fans can't insert themselves in the show lest they risk such a thing happening to them.
The other side believes Punk was wrong, reckless in his actions. No matter how upset a performer might be, even if instigated, he cannot lash out in this manner. Yes, the fans shouldn't be inserting themselves into the show but it's the job of the performer to weather those storms.
The truth, at least in my estimation, is somewhere in the middle.
It may be a relatively tame position to take but Punk's actions are both regrettable and understandable. Do I think he should have punched a fan, especially when he ended up punching the wrong guy? Absolutely not. You could argue self-defense, sure, but even then, he has to rise above the situation and realize he's the one in the public spotlight who will have to deal with the repercussions.
Not the guy bragging on Twitter that he caused all this.
The flip side to the coin, where it's understandable Punk did this, is that it's a scary situation to be in. The mob mentality is strong and Punk was surrounded by strangers all eager to get their hands on him, some in a very hostile manner. The WWE champion was alone and on an island, with the failing security team seemingly nowhere to be found until punches were already thrown.
If you were getting pushed around from multiple sides in the middle of a big crowd all by yourself, wouldn't you feel naturally inclined to protect yourself? After all, if you let someone push you around, they'll continue to do so unless given a reason not to.
A stiff spinning back fist is a good reason not to.
That said, again, it's a problem for multiple reasons. He hit the wrong guy and he did so on live television. That's a bad look, even for a guy who plays a heel character and has a history with run-ins with fans.
Punk was wrong to lash out the way he did.
But it's understandable why he did so.
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