AS I SEE IT
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
I’m writing this on Tuesday, the day after the shocker of the year in professional wrestling…when CM Punk, out of nowhere, cashed in his Money in the Bank stipulation and becomes WWE “World” Champion.
I was sitting on vacation at the Gaslamp Tavern, a local San Diego sports bar, watching the various baseball games that were on satellite, when something reminded me that RAW was on at 6:00 pm San Diego time. I decided to leave, got shrimp fried rice for dinner from a little takeout down the street from my hotel…and sat down, not expecting much, but figured RAW with Chinese food couldn’t be all bad…then having my jaw drop as I watched the shocker we all saw last Monday night.
My jaw absolutely dropped to see CM Punk, who worked before smaller crowds at IWA Mid-South and indies all over the country, when his matches were seen all over the United States (and actually worldwide) thanks to the folks from Smart Mark Video.
After what happened with Chris Jericho and HHH back in April 2000 with the infamous match where Jericho won the WWE Championship from HHH, only to have the decision reversed after HHH threatened to beat up Earl Hebner who then claimed a fast count….I had my doubts that it would stand after JBL challenged Punk for the second hour main event. But then Punk went over on JBL in the main, and I was quite frankly shocked as hell.
It was quite a night for those of us who’ve heard of Punk even before his Ring of Honor days, back to his first matches in Steel Domain Wrestling and IWA.
Punk’s highlights in IWA Mid-South Wrestling included programs with Colt Cabana and Chris Hero while winning the IWA Mid-South Light Heavyweight Championship twice and the IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship on five different occasions. His matches with Punk included a 55-minute TLC match, a 93-minute two out of three falls match, as well as multiple 60-minute draws (for all of you who want to see these matches, go see the good folks at Smart Mark Video and order these tapes at this link).
With Smart Mark Video helping people see Punk’s work in IWA Mid-South, he was then able to settle into Ring of Honor. Punk won the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship twice with Colt Cabana, and on his way out…in an example of Gabe Sapolsky’s unpredictable booking, won the Ring of Honor World Championship from Austin Aries, defending it four times before losing it in a four-way (along with Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels) to Jamie (Noble) Gibson.
Punk’s final scheduled (he worked an additional match to help out Ring of Honor in 2006) match in Ring of Honor took place at Punk: The Final Chapter on August 13, 2005 putting over long-time friend, opponent, and tag team partner Colt Cabana in a 2 out of 3 falls match. The emotional reaction from the crowd had Punk obviously visibly crying, showered by the crowd.
Punk’s Ring of Honor entrance to AFI’s “Miseria Cantare” and the fans at ringside slamming their hands on the metal barriers in rhythm to the song is still one of the best entrances I’ve ever seen, independent, ECW, WCW or WWE.
Ring of Honor is also making Punk’s best matches available on DVD, which you can check out at their website at this link).
Punk has worked so hard for seemingly so long; starting with a small but intense fan base…which built over time to fans popping for him in WWE, not because they were programmed to by WWE, but…even better… because they wanted to.
To see him on top in WWE, and Samoa Joe on top in TNA is really fun to watch for someone like myself who admires what Ring of Honor has put together…wrestling as wrestling, not merely as sports entertainment.
So for now, be happy for CM Punk and hope that it shows WWE realizes that change can be good…and can be what’s needed to move the stagnant television and PPV world of WWE. Let’s hope it brings some other changes that make WWE watchable again.
I don’t know about all of you, but that’s the first time since the Benoit tragedy a year ago, that wrestling put a smile like that on my face, even if only for a little while.
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