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El Pasco, Texas: CM Punk and the TV Casualty

by on June 28, 2011

By Ben Pasco

Good guy’ or ‘bad guy’, hero or anti hero; doesn’t matter to me, what role I play, only the character have something magical. “-Rutger Hauer

CM Punk and the TV Casualty: Why We Care About C.M. Punk 

I feel like for the past week I’ve been staring at a blank Microsoft Word document waiting for the words to come.  Last Monday, CM Punk did something so unexpected that even when we knew it was coming, it still shocks us. On Monday, Punk declared that he was leaving the WWE in July and bringing the World Championship with him. As if that wasn’t enough, Punk then began tweeting the same livejournal posts he had when he initially left Ring of Honor. These are posts that harkens back to days when this dude with a Pepsi tattoo took over one summer.  These are the days that led to some pale 16 year old kid named Ben Pasco calling relatives in Philadelphia. I had no job, no money and no car, but by hell or high-water I was going to be there when CM Punk wrestled Christopher Daniels. (I did not always hate Christopher Daniels and I will never hate Curry Man.)  The posts have seemingly led to this situation becoming an episode of Lost for wrestling fans and internet journalists (I fully expect a bearded Colt Cabana years from now yelling at Punk “We have to go back”). Message boards, newsletters, websites, and the like all just trying to figure out what Punk’s endgame really is. Is he really leaving? Is this a swerve? Is he winning the belt? Is he going to TNA? Is he going to H2? How much of it is a shoot? Is he going back to ROH? How will Gabe Sapolsky work a plug into this?

Regardless of all the questions, the man has mastered the art of pulling our chain. It’s been six years since the Summer of Punk and the same internet craziness is repeating its cycle. I mean, clearly he’s leaving at the end of the summer just like Summer of Punk. Unless that’s what he wants us to think. No wait a minute, what if he’s staying and it’s just an angle. At the end of the day, no  matter how many times I play it out in my head I end up blacking out and waking up with MTV Say What Karaoke on my computer (Note: I had an hour long depression this week when I realized I could never be on that show. I remember watching the first episode live from Seaside Heights New Jersey, it was awesome. (Note: Note: Now that I think about it, Fuck Ed Lover. That douche gave some kid, who did an awesome version of “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys a 3 because it wasn’t as good as the original. Yeah, neither is your partner, Dr. Dre.) “Heaven” by Warrant doesn’t have as much power as CM Punk does. (That’s a power ballad joke, get used to them).  I’ve been bashing my head against the proverbial why trying to find the source of his power. How can this dude just run train on the internet like Thomas the Think-Tank Engine?  Why is it that we (The Internet Wrestling World) care so goddamn much?

And then Dave Roberts came back to Boston.

 

 For those unfamiliar with Dave Roberts (most of you), Roberts played on the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series after an 86 year drought. A midseason replacement (and quite frankly afterthought), he found himself in the biggest moment in franchise history. The Red Sox down 3 games to against the New York Yankees.  With only a few outs separating The Red Sox from total humiliation, Dave Roberts came up to pinch-run. Roberts goal was clearly going to steal second base and the whole world knew it. In those 90 feet, Dave Roberts changed a franchise.  The domino effect of his actions led to a Red Sox comeback, a World Series title, and an arrogance wrapping around the state of Massachusetts so thick even Rick Martel would deem it excessive. So why bring up Dave Roberts and what does he have to CM Punk?

Despite my complete abandonment of baseball since Opening Day 2005 (I maintain that baseball died for me that day because nothing would ever top the emotion from 2004. As far as I’m concerned baseball only exists when Alex Rodriguez looks like a tool or San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson says something awesome.) I still end up paying attention when something of importance comes around. Last weekend, Dave Roberts came back to Fenway Park for the first time in a long time as first base coach of the San Diego Padres. Only a couple miles from the legendary ROH venue that saw a shooting happen outside before a show, Roberts set about doing his job as an opposing coach in an opposing ballpark, and the fans still loved him.

Now keep in mind this was 7 years and two championships ago, but yet people still went crazy for the guy. Why is it that Dave Roberts came back to Boston and receive such a loyal reception?    Quite simply, it’s because he’s ours.  He achieved greatness for us and it’s something that fans will never forget. Dave Roberts belongs to Boston no matter where he goes or where he’s from, just like CM Punk.

Punk’s been wrestling since the late 90s and the dude’s traveled all over the world. That being said he probably reached his independent wrestling apex around 2004. At that point this pale, chubby 15 year old wannabe punk rock kid (Pen Basco) was dissatisfied with professional wrestling and looking for something new. One day in Revere, Massachusetts he saw this blonde tatted dude who came out to AFI make fun of a guy in a TNA shirt.  (I can still repeat the line. “You can wear whatever shirt I respect you for that. What I don’t you respect you for is that stupid looking haircut”.). After that, I was hooked. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a rebel, but he was also a big, old redneck stunnering people whereas CM Punk was this normal sized punk rock  kid with a big mouth just inviting everyone to take a piece. “Stone Cold” beat people up and CM Punk verbally destroyed them. I couldn’t relate to some bald guy named Steve on an ATV, but I could sure as hell dig the dude with a Misfits hoodie. CM Punk was just as badass as “Stone Cold”, but in a completely different way. Punk didn’t need to win in order to make his point.  In fact, CM Punk’s win-loss record in Ring of Honor seemed to rival that of the Washington Generals. He quickly assumed the mantle of my hero, finally ending the decade long reign of Bucky O’Hare (Listen, there are worse heroes a 15 year old can have then Bucky O’Hare). When you’re in your teenage years you become obsessed with things quickly. It’s almost as if you’re trying to make up for lost time. I devoured movies, music, video games, and anything that happened before that moment I was in right then. I scoured the internet for clips and music videos and anything I can find (Thank God YouTube came out like…the day after I saw CM Punk) and hence the complete fanboy status.

I was a fan boy and I was surely not the first. If CM Punk was an indie rock band, then I was just another bandwagon jumper who doesn’t appreciate his early artsy stuff (IWA).  I’m sure I was obnoxious as hell about loving CM Punk, but I was a teenager whose favorite band (The Misfits) didn’t exist anymore, so wrestling took the substitute. Within a few years, he had captivated and polarized an entire generation of wrestling fans. To some he was God and to other he was sloppy and didn’t know how to work. The man was probably the first fully formed star of the Internet age to “make it” in the WWE. Keep in mind that CM Punk peaked right as the internet seemed to finally become fully embraced in America. Also, the dude never even had a MySpace in the early 2000s. Believe it or not, Indy workers used to get booked without social media. It was the dark ages kids.   He hit his stride right as the availability of content exploded. You want to see him cut a promo on Raven in FWA? You want to see awkward TNA wallpapers? You want to have someone make a montage of Pepsi Plunges set to the Ray Charles theme? (I did it. It was awesome.) He was the crown prince of the internet.

Despite all the praising and love I don’t think anyone outside of actual talent (even that’s stretching it) could see Punk then and predict him for where he is now.  Early 2000s WWF was just awful, despite the greatness of superstars like the Smackdown Six, it just seemed like an abyss over there (that means that everyone fell into thumbtacks and convulsed). Anyone who mocks Vince’s size fetish currently as being a “major problem” can turn a chair upside down and sit on one of the four seats it makes.  Early 2000’s WWF may be the reason “gas” prices went up so high. Our poor Punk rock hero was this generations Jake Roberts, not Jake from Tough Enough 2 (he may or may not have been in a porn according to IMDB).  Of course he had talent, but CM Punk was the kind of guy who’d go late in the first round of an NBA draft. You expect him to play some hard minutes and contribute to the team, but you know he’s like a little bit too small (6’0) or that he may have attitude issues (long-standing Punk reputation) or that he takes a few too shots (reminds me of the actual, legitimate discussions people were having over who’d be the first diva to take the Pepsi Plunge). He was more Crash Clark then Bull Durham, a battle-tested warrior waiting for his chance at the big leagues. To us, that wasn’t his destiny. He would be eaten alive by the politics of Stamford. Triple H as going to hold him down and force him to play a time-traveling cereal rapist (Forced Entry Frosted Flakes). He’d have to learn to do lots and lots of headlocks. Even when we tried to think positively,“Oh well at least, he’ll be getting a steady payday”.

And then Summer of Punk happened.

  It’s easy to look back now and think how quaint it all was, but for three months I was Matt Kennedy Gould at the end of the Joe Schmo Show (“What is going on?!?”).  For those under a rock, CM Punk announced he was signing with WWE. He came out crying and hugging fans and the crowd embraced him as only could. Unexpectedly, he won the title in his final match. Everyone in the audience expected a feel good title vacancy and wondered how the inevitable tournament (Bound for Glory by Honor Series) would play out. To the shock of everyone, Punk turned heel on the crowd and declared he had always been evil. As if it couldn’t go more nuts, Christopher Daniels came back for the first time and assaulted punk. The goddamn internet blew up like a Bruce Willis film. I was so in love with that post match angle and interview that my senior quote the next year was, “The greatest thing the devil ever did was convince you people he didn’t exist, and you’re looking at him right here”. I found out three weeks later that it’s a line from The Usual Suspects. I am a mark and yet I am an also an idiot. My friend Ben Gordon went to the show and ended up stuck in traffic for four hours (it’s an hour and a half trip) afterwards. Whenever I ask him if it was worth it, it’s never anything different: “Yes.”

It should have dawned on me just how much he meant to people.

The Summer of Punk rolled on and Punk became like Mega-Heel vs. Rudoctopus. The Punker was on fire and let out performance after performance of just straight heel perfection. I’ve always theorized that Punk is at his best when CM stands for “Chickenshit Memphis”. His dates were never announced ahead of time, and every match seemed like it could be his last.  Wrestling fans may know it’s fixed but there’s something in our human nature about wanting a satisfying conclusion (Fuck you Lost) even when we know it’s not real. After losing the belt to James Gibson, Punk returned home to Chicago for his “fa real real not fa play play “(Foxxxy Love) farewell celebration. As far as goodbyes in wrestling can go, few can ever match the emotion. The man who carried ROH on his back for two years, the man who helped define internet wrestling and the man who nobody fully expected to was heading to the show. Grown men wept, women cried, Punk was a wreck and the Bouncing Souls made it that much worse (sadder in a good way) by encapsulating one man’s feelings in another man’s words. He rode off into the sunset like Shane, with all of us begging for him to come back. He could go one day but not just yet. Please Punk, give us just one more Joe match. Give us just one more Chris Hero match. Just please Punker, say it ain’t so.

Then, for the first time in about a year, CM Punk wasn’t a constant fixture in my internet wrestling life. It’s almost like when your dog dies for the first time (I wrote this and realized I may have implied zombie dogs. I kept it in because it sounds awesome) and you wander around the house wondering where he is until you realize and get sad all over again. It wasn’t sadness, but a John Travolta esque “Wonder what he’s doing now?” (CM Punk for Wild Hogs 2).  He’s wasn’t dead, but rather in OVW (insert talent goes to die joke here) where his internet presence was so huge that people actually began downloading OVW television shows.  I don’t care how much people act like he didn’t matter, I didn’t know anything about OVW, other then Leviathan was Batista until CM Punk came along. After that I learned things like, “wow, Ken Doane is built like a triangle” and “Robbie Dawber is awesome”. After a memorable stint there, a legendary moment came on July 4th 2006.

Don’t let these tattoos fool you. I’m straight edge. I’m a man of great discipline. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. My addiction is wrestling. My obsession is competition. Discipline. My name is CM Punk.

There are very few moments in my life I scream “YES!” repeatedly, legitimately get out of my seat and fist pump during televised professional wrestling. This was moment number 3 (Mick Foley and Sting’s title wins are the first two. Punk has three more on the list later on). With that, the ball was rolling and CM Punk was in ECW. It was a match made in heaven. The man was anointed as our personal savior against the evils of Vince McMahon and like a star player; we valued him as something more than human.  When people went after Punk, we decreed it a personal attack on our own values and ideals. When CM Punk’s undefeated streak was ended by Bob Holly,  that was an affront to the very foundation of professional wrestling.  He lost to somebody who wasn’t a certified main eventer and to us that meant WWE had no faith and him and he was in “the doghouse”. Punk seemed to spend his entire WWE career in the doghouse and WWE sabotaged his career with multiple world title wins and hot angles. In 2006, Punk became the face of ECW.  With Rob Van Dam leaving, ECW became more about CM Punk then it did about any of the “ECW Originals”.  He and John Morrison began their long feud, which a lot of people don’t remember as starting off rather shaky. Their matches were disappointing and not memorable; until Johnny Morrison decided to “take a mandated 30 day vacation” and CM Punk won the ECW World Title.  The match was the first time that they truly clicked and they picked of hell of a great time to do so. Watching that match still gives me chills. He had peaked at that point…right? I mean he won the ECW Title, was a star on a third tier brand and was nailing that chick who pronounced things wrong. Where is there to go but down?

I hate being wrong.

You all know the rest of the story; CM Punk became the WWE’s Jake Roberts just making angle after angle. Always near the top of the card, but never the main eventer. CM Punk served as arguably the most consistently entertaining thing in the WWE in years. Even when he was injured, he remained on-screen as a commentator.  As far as I can recall, there hasn’t been a month on WWE television since his debut that CM Punk has not been on-screen. He’s won over a lot of those who criticized him with his awesome Straight Edge Society heel turn. He’s become a fringe celebrity, one adored by his fans and ignored by the masses. (He also cracked the number two spot on my pro wrestling Halloween costume list behind my three-year stint as Sting). The man made me actively listen to Monday Night RAW commentary just to hear him back smartass comments about the divas.  He’s held nearly every belt in the company feuded extensively with two of its top stars and delivered the creepiest rendition of Happy Birthday since my Uncle Charlie babysat me when I was 9. 

But last night….

CM Punk plugged into the internet and became one voice.  This article was going in a different direction, but then Punk went buck wild on television. Punk became the voice of all those people who had followed him over the years. He blasted off every internet talking point since his debut in 2005. CM Punk became the voice of the fans of Mid-American Wrestling, IWA-Mid South, Ring of Honor, OVW, and ECW. Whether anything he said last night was true, CM Punk became just like the people who always supported him. (He also hit moment number six on the “YEAH!” chart when he name dropped Colt Cabana.) The fan and the wrestler became one voice, and it was CM Punk’s.

CM Punk was the first superstar of the internet generation. He was the wrestling equivalent of a Jenny Jones episode where she was ugly in high school and ended up being Cham Pain before New Jack took him to boot camp (I didn’t always fully watch the episodes). He was someone who just seemed to fight his way up the ladder.  Dave Roberts changed history and became an icon with only 5 seconds and 90 feet. CM Punk had over a decade and a hell of a lot more miles.  Whether he likes it or not (and I could never blame him for the latter) he’s been adopted as the champion of the Internet Wrestling Fan. Whether it’s IWA, ROH, ECW, Smackdown, RAW, Zero-One, Chikara, PWG, CZW, JAPW…no matter what or where he’s been at the end of the day. He’s ours.

And the best part: there’s a 60 percent chance he signed his contract months ago and he’s not going anywhere.

Greatest thing the devil ever did…..

      -Ben Pasco

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