After CM Punk “turned on the WWE Universe” by clotheslining the People's Champ out of his boots, he started to self-indulgently advertise himself as the “Best in the World" in order to aggravate the fans. Despite the fact that Punk exceeded John Cena’s merchandise sales when he was babyface, and also was still being significantly cheered even as a heel, Vince McMahon, for whatever reason, still wanted him to be an antihero.
Thus, WWE tried everything to make him a hated antagonist. They provided him with one of the most narcissistic, insufferable, and obnoxious managers--Paul Heyman; in addition to that, they incorporated him into segments with some of the biggest legends in WWE's history, so he could receive tons of heat. And because of all the effort they put into his heel persona, Punk finally developed into the most hated wrestler in WWE.
Whether babyface or heel, CM Punk is never shy to call himself the best wrestler in the world. However, wrestlers such as Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Kevin Steen, and Bryan Danielson have proclaimed that they are the best in the world too. Anybody can say it, but that clearly doesn't prove it.
So, is CM Punk truly the best in the world?
And if not, who is?
In order to be the best wrestler in the world, there has to be a criteria behind it. After all, what makes a wrestler better than the rest? Is it their popularity, in-ring performance, ability to talk on the microphone, significance to the company, charisma, desire, or long-term influence? The answer is all of the above.
In his recent DVD, also called “Best in the World”, CM Punk talks about how he much he is proud of what he has already accomplished in WWE since he was an individual that did not belong there.
As someone who was so versatile, could play both a fan-favorite babyface, and a hated heel, combined with the ability to talk and work in the ring, why would someone like CM Punk not be welcomed with open arms?
Well, it was primarily because of his appearance. Mr. McMahon has always had a compulsion with muscular wrestlers because of their larger-than-life, carnival side-show appearance. To his credit, his philosophy that big men sell has made him bundles of cash. His obsession, however, sometimes went too far, and resulted in the roster consist of too many gigantic wrestlers that all talked, acted, and wrestled identically.
In a company that is filled with yes men, there was someone who stuck up for whatever he believed in, no matter the consequences. His name was Paul Heyman. He was the same man that fought and clawed for the Chicago native to become a WWE superstar because he knew the kid had talent. Heyman was eventually able to convince McMahon that CM Punk was worth signing, which, of course, ended up being one of McMahon’s best investments ever.
Now, we must determine if CM Punk is what he claims to be--the best in the world.
CM Punk's popularity is bar none, as no matter what role he is playing, he is still getting a massive reaction from the crowd. With the exception of Cena, he is the most well-known and most over full-time wrestler in the company.
His massive growth of popularity all started after his infamous "Pipebomb" catapulted him to the top-tier of WWE. Fans, largely the older demographic, started to notice him more. After all, many of them saw him as a modern-day Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was the first genuine anti-establishment star of WWE, as well as the wrestler who drew many, myself included, into professional wrestling.
I find Daniel Bryan's work to be unparalleled in the ring. His fluidity and execution are so high-caliber that it's fathomable to put him on the list of all-time top-tier technicians alongside workers such as Bret Hart, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and so on.
With that being said, CM Punk is still one of the best in-ring wrestlers in the world today.
Ric Flair, who is one of the greatest of all time, created a formula referred to by many as the “Flair formula”. Ideally, Flair would have the same match almost every night. That sounds uninteresting, right? Actually, it was the complete opposite. Flair had essentially impeccable timing, ring generalship, pacing, ability to the crowd, bumps, and was unparalleled as a feeder for the babyface.
Then there was Bret Hart, who was someone that did the same moves every match with most of them being in chronological order. What made him stand out were his exceptional execution, realism, and ability to adapt to his opponent’s style.
Punk has all the intangibles that Flair and Hart had, just to a lesser degree. He also has an attribute that neither of those legends had—tons of diversity in the ring. Punk has a state-of-the-art hybrid style as it has so much complexity and range to it. He adds fresh spots and ideas to his matches every time he wrestles which makes his matches tremendously unpredictable.
This, though, is not up for debate--CM Punk's forte is talking and no one comes close today. I can honestly say that I have witnessed nearly every extraordinary talker in this business—from Ric Flair, to Terry Funk, to, Jerry Lawler, to Roddy Piper, to Mick Foley, to Stone Cold Steve Austin, to Jake The Snake Roberts, to Michael Hayes, to Dusty Rhodes, to Chris Jericho,to Jim Cornette, to Paul Heyman, all the way to Arn Anderson and Raven.
I can honestly say that CM Punk belongs at the top of any promo list. He is one of the best trash-talkers of all time, and what is so fascinating is that he does not yell or scream in order to strengthen the promo. Instead, he does his promos in a subtle, calculating manner as he methodically justifies himself in a glorious, narrative manner.
His promos are so outstanding that they could be examples of modern-day art insofar as how to articulate resentments in an ingenious manner. As well, his character has absolutely revolutionized the blueprint of a heel to fit the modern era. It’s someone who's not naïve enough to fall for trite babyface shenanigans and someone who is dominant not because of their stature but rather their knowledge.
CM Punk can portray so many roles. His best role is the pompous, in your face antagonist. His most infamous persona is the “I'm straight edge, which means I'm better than you” character. He has used it from the indies all the way to WWE.
Punk has also played the sadistic dictator and leader of the cult known as the Straight Edge Society. He has been the much-loved anti-establishment babyface as well as a sympathetic babyface—as seen in his feud with Jericho. His passion and credibility are so impeccable that he could pull off the monster heel role as well.
What's more, Punk has become a pioneer in WWE. He was one of the first men in WWE's modern era to tear up a promo some writer wrote for him. It seems as if he one of the few men in the company who understands why writing an entire promo for someone else lacks emotion and believably and comes off as overly choreographed and rehearsed. Hopefully over time, Punk will be the reason word-for-word scripted promos are eliminated from WWE (at least for the main eventers). Basically, he is someone who is unafraid to express himself, regardless of the consequences.
Additionally, the Straight Edge superstar has turned almost everything he has been handed into gold. He even made the best out of ECW, in spite of jobbing countless times as champion. He overcame his paper championship run, where he was not allowed to seem as if he was on the same pedestal as the higher-profile wrestlers.
And after solidifying himself as one of the best heels in wrestling during his feud with Jeff Hardy, The Undertaker came back and in their feud, Punk was booked as inferior to The Undertaker. Instead of being WWE's flavor of the month and then getting “lost in the shuffle” in the midcard, CM Punk created the Straight Edge Society, which skyrocketed past anyone's expectations in WWE.
Punk also restored honor and prestige to the WWE title (which, prior to his remarkable run,was being treated as a subplot for top-caliber feuds) by emphasizing the importance of being champion in the biggest wrestling company. He showed that it solidified the champion as someone who is at the very top of their game.
Ultimately, CM Punk is one of those who absolutely loves wrestling. His passion and charisma are so off the charts that his actions speak much louder than words. He is truly one of the most passionate wrestlers I have ever seen.
Currently, CM Punk's character desires to do something nobody has done yet: terminate The Undertaker’s flawless record at WrestleMania. A number of people think that The Undertaker and CM Punk have nothing in common, but just like Punk, The Undertaker made the best of a bad hand from WWE. After all, he took one of the most ludicrous gimmicks on paper and ended up turning it into one of the greatest, most mysterious, bone-chilling gimmicks of all time.
It seems a foregone conclusion that he will become another victim in the Devil’s playground. It is almost a certainty that CM Punk will be getting his comeuppance for mocking Paul Bearer. Despite the
predictable finish, we will probably be on the edge of our seats while holding our breath during every close near-fall due both wrestlers’ skill at making us suspend our disbelief.
I predict that The Deadman will have his hand raised high and remain perfect, while CM Punk will be laying down while looking at the lights as the referee counts to three and then walk off in disappointment. The Undertaker’s record will move to any Blackjack player’s favorite number, but after the match, the people backstage will not be talking about the streak. They will be talking about CM Punk’s performance, as he will have proven once again why he truly is the best in the world.