Best: Little Jimmy Learns About New Japan Pro Wrestling
I write about what an outstanding and important part of Raw CM Punk is nearly every week. If I’d been around doing The Best and Worst of ROH Unscripted II in 2005 I would’ve talked him up there, too. Punk did something last night that WWE hasn’t done since Daniel Bryan showed up and choked Justin Roberts to death with a necktie — they got people who don’t talk about wrestling talking about wrestling. The Smoking Section is putting up posts with clips from Raw. Jimmy Traina from Sports Illustrated tweeted about how he can’t believe how many people thought Punk’s promo was “real”. Wrestling is … exciting, even if just for today. Even if just from the end of last night’s show until this morning, when you read those July 4th show spoilers.
What Traina isn’t considering is that Punk’s speech WAS real. It comes down to your definition of “real”. WWE is very concerned with making you think what they want you to think. If Kelly Kelly points at you and smiles as she’s trotting down to the ring, they want you to cheer for her. If someone says “each and every one of you” or “you people” into a microphone, you’re supposed to boo. This is supposed to translate into an emotional reaction that is hard to have if you aren’t five. That’s WWE’s reality.
What Punk did was smash a hole in that reality using OUR reality, the reality of the jaded fan on the Internet who wants what you’ve never seen to be the focus of television, and when that happens, wants something else. They didn’t support Scotty Goldman when he was doing picture-in-picture jokes on Smackdown, but they get excited when Colt Cabana is mentioned by name. They get excited when Matt Hardy shows up and blurts out “Ring of Honor”, but give up on him when they realize he’s still just in the WWE, and he’s still just Matt Hardy. That’s how we work, for better or worse. Most of us, anyway.
Punk took what we consider reality — held down wrestlers, pushes for guys who suck, “sports entertainment” replacing “wrestler” on TV, no promotion existing in the eyes of WWE except for WWE, Triple H, Stephanie, backstage WWE and basically everything Chavo Guerrero will be blogging about for the next six months — and used it as a tool to enhance WWE’s interpretation. That’s the genius of last night. Punk took a formula that doesn’t work (“everything else on the show is fake, but this part is real”), paired it with a few other things that don’t work (talking to the Internet on TV, mentioning backstage stuff 90% of your audience has no idea about), and willed them together into something that works by doing something nobody else who has tried has: being great.
Punk’s charisma, delivery, and unstoppable personal honesty gave us the most memorable moment of the year, no matter where it goes from here. When I was 9, one of my favorite wrestlers was the Great Muta. When he left, I asked myself “where did he go?” I found out, and that led me to Tiger Mask, which led me to tape trading, which made me a wrestling fan for life. So who knows? Maybe a kid will go “what’s New Japan Pro Wrestling?” and his dad will look it up on the Internet, and they’ll watch some Satoshi Kojima matches on YouTube and that kid will still be here in 20 years, no matter what John Cena’s doing at Wrestlemania 48.
Supplementary Best: Colt Cabana is Trending
At least he was last night. Colt is the kind of wrestler who should be trending, because if you stumble upon something with Colt Cabana in it there is a 100% chance you will enjoy it. I’ve been in the crowd live for some of his most memorable moments, from the Drano and forks Chair Riot against Homicide in Chicago to his catch-as-catch-can masterpiece against Archibald Peck at this year’s CHIKARA King of Trios tournament, and I can say honestly that if more wrestlers were like Colt Cabana, wrestling would be a better place.
That being said, is there a way we can get Punk to namedrop Matt Classic on Raw and get him trending? The only thing wrestling needs more than Colt Cabana is an indeterminately-old wrestler who hates women and black people doing neck bridges and squats.
Worst: I Am 99% Sure This is a Worked Shoot
I love how the Internet turns into Dwight Schrute and Benjamin Franklin every time something good happens on Raw. They’re so used to calling spots and crash-to-breaks that they forget people actually get paid money to write these shows and are able to come up with something decent from time to time. I would be happy if I never heard the word “worked shoot” again. I cut it out of my life by 700% by turning off Impact, but still.
The Golden Rule, in case you’re new to this: If it’s on TV, it’s part of the show. Remember when New Jack flipped out and stabbed that guy a bunch of times? Not on TV.