Since childhood, I’ve been a huge fan of villains: from Darth Vader to Xenomorph, The Terminator to Hans Gruber - hell, throw in Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook, 'cause he’s pretty badass too. I mention this because, as a child, I could not stand Hulk Hogan, or any babyface similar to him. Essentially, I’d rather wear a Batman t-shirt than a Superman, and this sentiment is immensely popular today.
Back then, as a child, I remember not being around many other kids who felt the same, oddly. I mention this because as of today, I am twenty years old. The Royal Rumble is coming once again, and in 1999, this traditional pay-per-view (PPV) introduced me to Professional Wrestling.
The co-main event of that PPV was 'Mankind vs. The Rock', in a highly brutal, and memorable, "I Quit" bout for the WWF Championship. Not to go too deep into details, but basically, my family held a get-together at my grandparents’ house for the occasion. (Apparently, everybody else was already big-time into wrestling, since this was the time-period the product actually had a cool rep.) Halfway through the show, after goofing around on PS1 in another room, I went to see what all the fuss was about in the living room.
Everybody in the living room loathed The Rock. I’d reckon this was attributed to his, then recent, alliance with The Corporation; who had Vince McMahon (the greatest heel at the time) spearheading. But my family is easily led by the generic face/heel dynamic.
Anyway, I’m sitting there, watching The Rock do constant DDTs to Mick Foley all around the arena, punch him off a balcony -- which sent him onto technical equipment that shot off sparks as result of the impact, be driven headfirst into a turnbuckle at an alarming rate, and then eat chairshot after unprotected chairshot, 'til blood spilled from his head -- at six years of age. The visual of Mick Foley lying sideways on the cement, while his head behaved like a leaking faucet, was and likely still is for me, the sickest visual WWF/E has ever broadcast.
And it should not be repeated again.
From what I can remember, this scenario confounded me. Obviously, The Rock’s viciousness and slick use of tongue got me instantly attracted to him. Yet simultaneously, I found the first good-guy character that done me torn. Here was this handcuffed, fat man who wore a mask, and sometimes spoke with a squeal, enduring such unnecessary cruelty and humiliation -- not only in front of the world, but also his wife and two children, who were seated at ringside -- all at the whim of The Rock. He’d not succumb, because he could take it:
"He’s proven it before..." [paraphrasing] I was told at the time by my cousin. Something like, “Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of a cell! He was slammed through it, too! Mankind can take ANYTHING!” My cousin’s quick history lesson had the young me in awe.
That was the first match I ever saw, and it sums up how the rest of the Attitude Era experience was: adult-themed, edgy, dark, bloody, vulgar, obscene, entertaining, provocative and revealing.
Fast-forward to last night’s Monday Night Raw. CM Punk defeated Ryback in an acceptable TLC match to retain his WWE Championship. A little later, Punk came back out to cut a cohesive and smarkish promo. One that spat apparent truth on how WWE ‘Superstars’ get pushes, as well as how he’s, "the puppet master" (seemingly, his favorite phrase).
Next, after a choreographed "commercial break" device, The Rock returned to sort of counter Punk’s argument, while also criticizing his past "pipe bombs".
So far, Internet wrestling community (IWC) reactions are that CM Punk won that "promo battle", by far. Therefore, he is a genius, and The Rock needs to head back to the chalkboard, so to speak.
This reminds me of last year’s ‘Rock vs. Cena’ buildup to Mania. For some reason, people spoke of those back-and-forth "shoots" as if they were legitimate: as if The Rock actually needed to write notes on his wrist, so Cena decided to call him out on it... as if John Cena was truly disgusted by Rock’s promise of never leaving WWE again, only to disappear the next week.
Maybe everybody speculated on that feud as if it were real, because they wanted to bask in the awesome "realism" by making it out to be wrestling’s ‘Anderson Silva v. Chael Sonnen’, but I doubt that. Just like that feud, I can already imagine the IWC discussing this feud as if Vince McMahon told both Punk and Rock, “I want you two to go out there and say whatever you want (smiling) may the best gravedigger win".
When I watched last night’s segment an hour prior to writing this, I was amazed. So much so, I feel compelled to not only defend it, but try to convince you to see it under a different light. Let’s breakdown the points of both guys:CM Punk:
- Definition of "pipe bomb" is: “the truth & honesty”. Although, I’m not quite sure who Punk is referring to when he says it’s been misused. Nevertheless, it served as a reminder of what he means by it.
- Punk keeps consistency in his thoughts, and behavioral patterns, by explaining this heel turn once again. “I’ve created this persona”, that works the audience into supporting him so he may further manipulate the system as he sees fit. Because otherwise, the system doesn’t care if a wrestler is talented and deserving; all that matters is the fans’ reaction and consumption of whatever’s hot. By making himself "radio-friendly", he can eventually be his true, dickish-self, without censorship or burial, as a result of having mainstream-muscle.
- Punk says, "John Cena gets everything on a platter because the people support him, despite all his flaws and botches". He basically says, guys with more pros than cons don’t get equal opportunities because they’re not "over", and it’s the fans’ fault for that.
- The mainstream pro wrestling demographic are the base ignorant masses; therefore, WWE simplifies its product to meet their level and perceived tastes. Once again, Fans are bad people.
- Compares and contrasts himself with past "legends" of the industry, in order to ultimately make it seem as if his championship streak is more meaningful and significant, because of his workload and consistency, which he accomplishes rather well.
- Regardless of Punk’s recent accomplishments, everybody knows he’s a transitional champ; The Rock knows that Punk is scared of that truth.
- Rock basically says: Punk is truth? He says credible things? He’s Mister Pipe Bomb? How about this pipe bomb: when Punk said he’d make a major difference as WWE Champ last year, what happened? Nothing. The product hasn’t changed at all. He isn’t the Stone Cold Steve Austin people predicted he’d become. Hell, the dude couldn’t even manage to bring back ice cream bars. Not so credible now.
- There’s no such thing as the "voice of the voiceless". When people want John Cena, Zack Ryder and AJ Lee; WWE supplies them. When they desire CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan; WWE supplies them. The fans voices do matter, and they don’t need a singular "spokesperson" -- especially not one who tricks them into believing him as a credible savior -- and right now, they want The Rock to put his boot to Punk’s ass; which WWE will assure the fans he will do.
- The Rock is back to do three things: entertain the millions, dispute CM Punk’s alleged realness, and have another good run as WWE Champion.
Putting all that into perspective, it’s a strong back-and-forth. But Punk’s rebuttal really "layeth the smackdown":
He’s glad The Rock is back. It doesn’t matter if Rocky is half-committed to the ‘E, so he can make his movies, nor how much more famous he becomes, how many catchphrases Rock creates, or how hard Rock tries to verbally smash Punk. There’s something Rock lacks: the murderous desire to be the best in the world. CM Punk is a nonstop, solid presence in WWE, and this is all he wants. He’s fully committed. Therefore, he’s going to overwhelm the future HoF’er, because Punk is in his prime.
Man, I don’t understand why the IWC’s immediate reaction wasn’t more along the lines of, “that is the smartest promo battle we’ve watched since maybe something Mick Foley did”. Nope, the complaints are that Rock got fans to chant “cookie puss” (who is an obscure 1970’s ice cream character, not a play on vaginas -- although he did do that later on), said Punk looks like a crackhead version of Pop-Eye (the beloved naval cartoon character), is nut-less and has a hard-on for himself.
Three ‘immature’ jokes, in an altogether twenty-minute plus promo. I guess some people can’t handle that.
Even worse, people fail to realize a common trait whenever the Rock shows up: he brings the best out of whomever he works with. Last year when he had a feud with John Cena, the Rock got Cena to do critically-acclaimed segments, and managed to get a shit load of smarks to finally embrace Cena (albeit shortly).
The Rock is an old-school businessman, and it is evident. How many ‘good guy’ characters in the modern-era put over the heels at all? Definitely not John Cena. Hell, not even CM Punk did, except for maybe Daniel Bryan (I will always remember when CM Punk called Alberto Del Rio one-dimensional, and then proceeded to take an unnecessary shit on him -- that was trash).
Yet Rock applauded Punk’s record-setting title reign, even calling him creative and innovative. Those are respectful compliments. Actually, near the end, The Rock said, “...Don’t you think for one single solitary second that The Rock doesn’t know how "bad" you are, how "tough" you are, how "dangerous" you are.” & “You hit The Rock with the GTS and knocked him out cold as a block of ice. The Rock didn’t forget it; you hurt The Rock, you embarrassed The Rock.”
You try to find me another promo where someone has put over the "bad guy" as much as Rock did in recent memory. Mick Foley doesn’t count.
Rock is a smart businessman. Just like he did with John Cena (and I’m certain he’ll repeat the formula once again), he allows his opponents to do utterly their best shit-talking, because he knows this is what we, the fans, want. Before he came back to WWE (in an interview likely found on YouTube), Rock says he wants the type of build you’d see in the UFC. He wants that realism, the kind we all eat up because it’s credible and believable, and a good convo-starting topic.
Rock doesn’t care about his reputation; he doesn’t need to always have the upper-hand. He’s a bona fide legend, and one of the last universally acclaimed wrestlers who will always be welcomed on our televisions, no matter what. It’s because of this, that he cleverly portrays himself as someone "slipping and relying on an overdone routine". Not only does that put both characters on equal footing, it allows the challenger to make a convincing case.
By now, we all know (at least, we should) The Rock could absolutely bury the fuck out of whomever he wants; based purely on him being the most successful wrestler to break out of the industry, and the fact McMahon mostly needs him to help Raw's ratings stay afloat. Yet, he’s a businessman who sees McMahon as a father-figure, and has returned to not only have fun and pay homage to his roots, but to help the company that made him to try to get back those MILLIONS OF DOLLARS recently lost in Linda’s McMahon's Senate attempt, among other things.
Back in 1999, Mick Foley put over The Rock the way he did, because he felt The Rock shouldn’t just be a handsome smart-aleck, with Michael Jackson-esque smoothness and cruiserweight agility. Rock would become a man capable of so much more... and from there on out, when The Rock said he’d "whip someone’s candy ass" -- we knew exactly what he meant.
Now, in 2013, I expect CM Punk to go over clean. The Rock doesn’t need the WWE Championship. What would he do with it? Take it with him to movie premieres? No, a win over the Rock would do so much more for CM Punk. But in this era of WWE, Rock is very unlikely to eat eleven unprotected chairshots. Instead, he lets CM Punk "outsmart and outwrestle him".
Because it’s good for business.
Editor's Note: This FanPost has been mildly edited for promotion to the front page and various sections within Cageside Seats for your enjoyment due to its excellence, Cagesiders. Enjoy the read, we sure did!