Fake "shoot promos/angles" in pro wrestling are notoriously troubled. Most attempts at them fly too far over people's heads or head in the "everything you're watching is fake except for this, which is real" direction. CM Punk masterfully avoided all of the problems and did everything he could to make it work on every possible level.
It was never implied that wrestling is a work, and the references catering to hardcore fans were structured in ways that could plausibly be understood by causal fans:
- Plenty of fans were watching when Paul Heyman was around and knew he was behind ECW. Everyone knows who Brock Lesnar is and plenty know why he left.
- Even if you aren't familiar with New Japan Pro Wrestling or Ring of Honor, you're immediately aware that they are other wrestling companies. Colt Cabana was clearly implied to be a wrestler in this strange "Ring of Honor" place.
- He laid out that John Laurinaitis was one of Vince's "douchebag yes men" before mentioning his name.
- Stephanie McMahon and Triple H are firmly established on TV as being a married couple.
- The ending implying that he was going to tell a story about the anti-bullying campaign being hypocritical in light of things Vince McMahon has said to him makes sense both with the hardcore fan interpretation of the real Vince McMahon and the on-screen character he portrays. It also works plausibly as the cut-off point, as sponsors, bad media exposure, etc. are more than just some references to other promotions existing and WWE higher ups being stupid/out of touch.
Take all that and wrap it up into a calmly furious, brilliantly delivered wrestling promo where he still positioned himself firmly as a heel (even using the infamous tales of fans that constantly harrass him and WWE wrestlers at airports in the process), and that's why it worked.
There were also little touches that at least for a split second, would make you wonder if Punk threw some things in that weren't cleared beforehand (for me, it was how Vince is "a millionaire who should be a billionaire," which sounds like the type of thing that drives him crazy since he still tries to position himself as a billionaire). I also loved the slow burn: It started like a textbook attempt at a shoot promo with the references to Cena, Hulk Hogan (OMG HE DOESN'T EVEN WORK HERE), and "Dwayne" (OMFG NATIONALLY KNOWN SHOOT NAMES HAVE BEEN UTTERED) "kissing Vince McMahon's ass" before he actually started letting go of it all. That made it seem a little more out of control, and fed the suspension of disbelief.
And really, when was the last time, even for a split second, that you weren't sure if reality had seeped in or not? How many of you are now buying the Money In The Bank PPV because you think that whatever happens, it'll be so fun and interesting, that you have to see it live?
That's why that promo worked.
If there were any doubters left, CM Punk proved he was the real deal last night. He showed that it was possible to cut was could be classified as a "shoot promo" that not only didn't insult the audience's intelligence with nonsensical drivel, but also got members of that audience to commit to buying a PPV event that they previously hadn't given much thought to.
It goes even further than that. For years, Punk has been buried by message board posters, reporters, and gossipy wrestlers with agendas like Matt Hardy as someone who had no idea how to deal with WWE politics. He didn't get the credit he deserved for getting to keep his name and straight-edge persona (which often kinda implied that most wrestlers in WWE were on drugs), getting to do the straight-edge heel gimmick in a feud with Jeff Hardy, getting to hand-pick the members of the Straight Edge Society, or getting to do a modified version of his ROH farewell run while leaving WWE.
No, he didn't get credit for any of that, some of which, like keeping his name, was pretty much unprecedented in modern WWE, especially whem it isnt someone's legal name. He was just the guy who, among other things, was "considered dangerous around the women" in OVW, "excessively made out with" his then WWE Diva girlfriend during one of the "Tribute to the Troops" trips, "disrespected The Undertaker" in a conversation about the dress code, and was falsely reported as dating Lita because some people thought it made him look bad, among a bunch of other BS fed to wrestling reporters to smear him.
Now, according to that one wrestling site I won't name for computer security reasons (which is, in fairness, the most accurate site about backstage WWE news), none of Punk's promo was scripted/outlined/approved ahead of time. He got free reign to say whatever he wanted, and would be cut off at the point where they felt he went too far.
I'll say that again: With the end of his contract near, he get free reign to cut a shoot promo during the most-watched segment of WWE Monday Night Raw without running any of the content by Vince or Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, etc. They'd just cut him off when he went too far, and he clearly knew what "too far" was.
I think he'll get the proper credit for being able to pull this one off.