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Will CM Punk usher in a new boom period? Or will his storyline sputter out like Nexus?

The 1996 "King of the Ring" pay-per-view (PPV) was a watershed moment for my wrestling fandom.

Without dating myself entirely, I was at a very appropriate age to become captivated by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's anti-establishment, give authority the middle finger, rebel persona.

It was also the first time in a good while that wrestling was interesting to me. It seemed fresh, it seemed new. I got the same feeling I had when I watched Hulk Hogan take on the Ultimate Warrior years prior. The superhero, larger-than-life characters from the '80s no longer appealed to me but I fell off only because the product had become stagnant and stale.

Fast-forward about seven years after that momentous night in Milwaukee and I found myself in the same situation.

Even after having spent the better part of a decade obsessing over professional wrestling -- the TV shows, the PPV's, the video games -- I once again grew tired of the same storylines, the same characters, the same... everything.

That all changed on June 27, 2011.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it."

                                                                                      - George Santayana

The mid-'90s were just an absolutely awful time for the WWE. Hulk Hogan had fled to Atlanta with dollar signs in his eyes and a film career in his thoughts. A subsequent attempt to recreate Hulkamania with Lex Lugar failed, so the company was hoisted onto the shoulders of Bret Hart, Diesel, and Shawn Michaels.

While each of those men are talented in their own way, none could fill Hogan's big, yellow boots. The WWE was floundering financially which was due, in large part, to their lack of creativity.

House show attendance was down and PPV buyrates were abysmal. It seemed that a lot of the WWE's fans had stopped tuning in but I was at least able to keep up with the product thanks to relatively new Internet service providers like American Online and Prodigy.

It was during this time that I heard rumblings of a new character that was wholly different from the rest of the roster. He cussed, he defied authority, and he marched to the beat of his own drummer.

It was, of course, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

His big coming out party was at the 1996 King of the Ring where he defeated Jake "The Snake" Roberts in the finals of the tournament and delivered his infamous Austin 3:16 promo:

The phrase "Austin 3:16" eventually become a license to print money, but on that June night, it received a healthy -- if subdued -- pop from the audience in attendance.

It was nearly two years later at WrestleMania 14 when "The Texas Rattlesnake" was given the WWE Championship and another two weeks after that for Monday Night RAW to finally beat rival WCW's Monday Nitro in the ratings war after 84 long weeks.

This period and the few years after were some of the best to be a wrestling fan. The two shows on Monday were all you talked about on Tuesday morning and both companies enjoyed massive success.

Of course, Vince McMahon went on to purchase World Championship Wrestling (WCW), effectively killing the promotion and leaving the WWE as the single biggest wrestling company in the country.

And without the drive to compete, without the risk of losing his empire shadowing his every move, McMahon let his company once again become stagnant and stale.

When combined with the death of Eddie Guerrero and the horrific acts of Chris Benoit, the future of the WWE wasn't looking so bright.

"The seed of revolution is repression."

                                        - Woodrow Wilson

During this time, small companies like Total Nonstop Action (TNA) and Ring of Honor (ROH) offered an alternative to the WWE. But neither managed to make the same impact (no pun intended) that WCW did a decade earlier.

For years, the WWE seemed to be going through the motions.

I traveled to San Antonio in December 2009 for the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs event and left feeling underwhelmed. It wasn't that I didn't like the the characters -- favorites of mine like Shawn Michaels, Christian, and The Undertaker were all featured -- I just didn't care.

The most intriguing point of the evening was Sheamus defeating John Cena, but that was erased two months later when Cena won the title back.

Then a glimmer of hope came on June 7, 2010.

By chance, I had tuned into RAW after I got home just to have some background noise. It was the night Nexus debuted and nearly destroyed the set. They attacked Cena and the ringside personnel. Even Jerry "The King" Lawler wasn't safe from them:

Much like the Austin 3:16 promo from 14 years prior, the segment was met with some enthusiasm but nothing overt. Because, much like 14 years prior, fans just weren't sure how to react.

We were seeing something new, something fresh, something exciting.

Unfortunately, the company completely botched the angle and made the new stable look weak against top star John Cena. It became more of the same, more of the status quo.

And that is exactly what worries me about the current CM Punk angle.

Watching it unfold, I feel the exact same way as I did watching the "Stone Cold" character evolve or watching a group of young, cocky punks destroy everything in their sight.

There is an outside chance this is the storyline that catapults the company into another boom period like the ones it experienced in the '80s and '90s. Or it could just be an aberration, a slight deviation from the norm that will be rectified soon enough.

How SummerSlam unfolds on Sunday night (Aug. 14) will give us a clue as to which it might be.

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