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CM Punk: The rise of the greatest superstar of 2011 (Part one)

CM Punk delivering his infamous worked shoot promo on Raw on June 27, 2011.
CM Punk delivering his infamous worked shoot promo on Raw on June 27, 2011.

It seems like it's been forever since CM Punk came running out in the main event of the June 27, 2011 episode of Raw to cost John Cena his match against R-Truth. Punk provided distraction enough to allow Truth to drive Cena through a table set up in the corner to win a match of the same name.

After, while Cena lay twisted up in the corner, Punk angrily grabbed a microphone from ringside and slowly made his way to the entrance ramp. Once there, he turned, measuring the crowd and the destruction in the ring, of which he was indirectly responsible for, and assumed his usual Indian style sitting position. He was deliberate but smooth, with his slick-backed hair and Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirt, so obviously here to make a statement.

Then, he spoke.

His tone was serious but even; powerful and eloquent. He spoke as though his very existence depended upon the words spilling forth from his mouth, his tongue a weapon he would only be afforded the opportunity to yield once. With just minutes to work, Punk quickly transformed the microphone he held into a pipe bomb.

The promo:

"John Cena, while you lay there, hopefully as uncomfortable as you possibly can be, I want you to listen to me. I want you to digest this because before I leave in three weeks with your WWE championship, I have a lot of things I want to get off my chest. I don't hate you, John. I don't even dislike you. I do like you, I like you a hell of a lot more than I like most people in the back. I hate this idea that you're the best ... cause you're not. I'm the best. I'm the best in the world. There's one thing you're better at than I am and that's kissing Vince McMahon's ass. You're as good at kissing Vince McMahon's ass as Hulk Hogan was. I don't know if you're as good as Dwayne, though, he's a pretty good ass kisser. Always was and still is.

"Whoops, I'm breaking the fourth wall (waves at camera).

"I am the best wrestler in the world. I've been the best ever since day one when I walked into this company and I've been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That's right, I'm a Paul Heyman guy. You know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar. And he split just like I'm splitting, but the biggest difference between me and Brock is that I'm going to leave with the WWE championship.

"I've grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon's imaginary brass rings that it's finally dawned on me that they're just that, they're completely imaginary. The only thing that's real is me and the fact that day in and day out, for almost six years, I have proved to everybody in the world that I am the best on this microphone, in that ring, even on commentary. Nobody can touch me! And yet, no matter how many times I prove it, I'm not on your lovely little collector cups, I'm not on cover of the program, I'm barely promoted, I don't get to be in movies, I'm certainly not on any crappy show on the USA network. I'm not on the poster of WrestleMania, I'm not on the signature that's produced at the start of the show, I'm not on Conan O'Brien, I'm not on Jimmy Fallon, but the fact of the matter is I should be. And trust me, this isn't sour grapes. The fact that Dwayne is in the main event of WrestleMania next year and I'm not makes me sick!

"Oh, hey, let me get something straight: those of you who are cheering me right now, you are just as big a part of me leaving as anything else. Because you're the ones who are sipping out of those collector cups right now. You're the ones that buy those programs that my face isn't on the cover of and then at 5 in the morning at the airport, you try to shove it in my face so you can get an autograph and try to sell it on eBay because you're too lazy to go get a real job.

"I'm leaving with the WWE championship on July 17 and who knows, maybe I'll go defend it in New Japan Pro Wrestling, maybe I'll go back to Ring of Honor. (Looks at camera) Hey, Colt Cabana, how you doing?

"The reason I'm leaving is you people, because after I'm gone, you're still going to pour money into this company. I'm just a spoke on the wheel, the wheel is going to keep turning and I understand that. Vince McMahon is going to make money despite himself. He's a millionaire who should be a billionaire. You know why he's not a billionaire? It's because he surrounds himself with glad-handing, nonsensical, yes-men like John Laurinaitis who is going to tell him everything that he wants to hear. And I'd like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon's dead but the fact is it's going to get taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family. Let me tell you a personal story about Vince McMahon. They're doing this whole bully campaign... (microphone gets cut off)."


This was the "shoot" that catapulted him into the mainstream. The fact that it was (slightly) a work didn't matter. We, the viewers, were hooked. Appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Simmons podcast would follow. He truly became a superstar starting with that promo.

Most fans were acquainted with his story but few ever bothered to truly invest in it. So let's take a look, shall we?

A super talented wrestler and performer, Punk worked his way up through the indie scene, perfecting his craft while preparing himself for the brighter lights and bigger stage of WWE.

When he finally made it to the big show, he did so with the dreaded label of being a "Paul Heyman guy," as he stated in his now infamous promo. Essentially, Heyman, a genius creatively and one of the greatest minds in pro wrestling history, saw enormous potential in Punk and did everything he could to protect Punk during his early days with the company on the relaunched WWE version of ECW. Vince McMahon never believed in Punk, from his gimmick to his personality and on down to his abilities as a performer. Not only that, he openly mocked Punk in meetings and behind the scenes, generally making fun of his character and everything he represented.

This is where the power in Punk's promo so obviously came from.

As stated, Punk was a Paul Heyman guy, and while most of the creative team may have viewed him with such disdain, it was the mad scientist that kept him from getting chewed up and spit out by the machine. This couldn't last forever, of course, and Heyman left WWE in Dec. 2006. That meant the only man who was saving the "Straight Edge Superstar" was now gone.

Naturally, this led to an increasingly hostile environment, one Punk had absolutely no chance at surviving in with no support. Bob Holly was given a huge push at his expense and a growing contingent of agents were apparently pushing for Vince McMahon to show Punk the door.

Thankfully, this never happened, and as it turns out, we largely have one man to thank for it -- Shawn Michaels. Former WWE writer Dave Lagana explained how it went down in a series of articles from back in July of this year when Punk was at his hottest. The three posts he did are amazing reads, which I urge you to check out (here). Here's the story on how Michaels saved Punk:

I needed a veteran voice to help turn the tide. I needed an ally.

Fast forward to the agent meeting in Houston. Vince McMahon was scheduled to appear on ECW for the first time in the start of a new storyline. He was going to rid ECW of it's "Original" stars and make the way for a "New Breed". The meeting quickly turned into another CM Punk bash fest. My role was to run the meeting but dare not speak out of turn on the veteran agents. This was how the previous months meetings had gone but this day was different. It was a new voice in the room that changed everything. "Um, if you don't like something the kid is doing, why don't you work with him to fix it... instead of killing him." That voice belonged to Shawn Michaels.

In January of 2007, Shawn Michaels was my consultant on ECW. I was able to get in his input on the shows, thoughts on talents and in this situation the voice needed in that agent meeting. Like getting to work with Paul Heyman, Vince McMahon, Dusty Rhodees, working with Shawn was a dream come true. In that meeting in Houston, Shawn brought up that guys like him and Undertaker will not be around forever and, while everyone liked Holly, it was guys like Punk who were the future. The mood in the room changed, the den of negativity that existed was silenced for the time being. Punk wasn't pushed strong that week or even the next week but the ship had turned. Punk was positioned better from that point forward.

Shawn Michaels was pulled back into active duty when Triple H was hurt and programmed to face John Cena at Wrestlemania 23. Dusty Rhodes ended up joining me to help book ECW. And CM Punk made Wrestlemania 23 as the only ECW guy in the Money In the Bank Ladder Match.

Lagana goes on to explain that various unexpected occurrences led to Punk continuing on his quest of becoming the biggest act in pro wrestling, most notably the infamous Sports Illustrated article that blew the lid on many a steroid abuser within WWE. Punk, obviously, was not one of them.

Being straight edge can pay, after all.

He would go on to become a massively successful heel, winning Money in the Bank twice and was given a couple runs with the heavyweight championship. All the while being himself, Punk made it through extremely tumultuous early days with the company to become a main event level player. Still, the overall attitude of those in power remained largely the same. Sure, Punk scratched and clawed his way to the top, despite so many forces actively working against him, but it also felt a little too much like he'd hit the ceiling.

Until his promo on June 27, 2011, on Raw.

Part two: The fallout and Money in the Bank in Chicago.

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