by Luke Raven (@ravenluke)
Wrestling fans are a fickle bunch. We are incredibly audible to things we hate which has become louder with Twitter and other social media. What we love we protect like a pit-bull. We want everyone to know our love for it and don’t ever want it to be taken away. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to CM Punk. Beloved by our tightknit community only to disappear without a goodbye. Since then fans all over the world have chanted CM Punk’s name for various reasons to differing degrees of success, but we have never asked ourselves why we chant his name.
First, we must take a step back and recognize who CM Punk is and what he stood for to the fans. He was a kid from Chicago who became notorious on the indie wrestling scene for his insane feuds with Chris Hero, Colt Cabana, and others garnered attention from upstart Ring of Honor. They saw what we saw: a talented performer who had the raw potential to be great. Soon Punk was facing off with Raven while delivering some of his best promo work. He had unbelievable battles with Samoa Joe that were critically acclaimed and highly sought after for multiple viewings. During his ROH days Punk’s rough edges were smoothed into a definitive character who could be both hero and villain. That’s when WWE came calling.
WWE signed Punk to a contract and sent him to Ohio Valley Wrestling for some seasoning. Luckily for Punk and all wrestling fans, Paul Heyman was at OVW which helped form a relationship between the two. It’s been said that no one in WWE saw much in Punk except for Heyman. When ECW was rebooted (yuck) Heyman took Punk with him. Punk quickly became the super “rookie” in ECW due to his hard hitting style and intensity. He rose through the ranks of WWE becoming a champion multiple times over. He was often put into programs that looked like they would be failures from the start, but was somehow able to make them must-see television. After multiple starts only to be pulled back down Punk was obviously becoming frustrated when he delivered what is known as “The Pipebomb,” where he vented his own frustrations with the product that paralleled many of the fans’ feelings. Truly one of the greatest promos of all time combined with the five-star classic match against John Cena at 2011 Money in the Bank Punk was undoubtedly a top talent. A rushed Summer of Punk left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, but he would remain near the top of the card throughout his time in WWE. Then he was gone.
After the 2014 Royal Rumble match Punk was not on Raw the next night. Rumors flooded the internet. We were left with questions and confusion. No one was talking. During those awkwardly silent weeks “CM Punk” chants filled arenas. Our beloved anti-hero could return any minute, right? Nope. Finally breaking his silence in two episodes of his buddy Colt Cabana’s podcast, Art of Wrestling, Punk let loose. He told us of the years of issues he had with WWE ranging from creative to financial to health. This honesty endeared him to us even more. We got to hear firsthand the sacrifices he made for our entertainment. The “CM Punk” chants grew louder and were even occasionally acknowledged by WWE. It felt like they were listening and we were supporting our fallen leader. In 2016, however, the chants are not in support of the man.
“CM Punk” chants are an audible “fuck you” to the WWE. Honestly, there is no problem with that. In fact, it’s somewhat nice if you think about it. If this were 1997 where middle fingers, crotch chops, scantily clad women, and other risqué ventures were seen on each week on WWE television then a “fuck you” chant would have probably been appropriate/encouraged. How often did each of us chant “Asshole!” to our television when Mr. McMahon appeared? In 2016 we cannot do this because the arenas are filled with small children. Instead of cursing and driving future fans away, some fans chant for a guy who no longer wrestles at all.
It’s when fans chant Punk’s name at the worst time that has gone too far. Chanting during a good cruiserweight match on Raw because you don’t know who the wrestlers are only hurts the performers themselves. Guys like TJ Perkins who are busting their ass to introduce themselves to the audience who clearly would rather hear themselves repeat the same three syllables than pay attention to what they paid a ticket for is infuriating. Yes, if you buy a ticket to a show you have the right to say what you would like, but when fans chant someone’s name who isn’t employed there anymore does no good. It hurts the performers who are trying to entertain whether they are new to WWE like TJP or cemented veterans like Dolph Ziggler. It hurts the audience watching at home because the crowd is chanting something totally unrelated to what we’re watching and makes many want to change the channel. It hurts those in the crowd not chanting “CM Punk” because they’re either enjoying themselves or don’t want to ruin the show for others. Believe it or not, chanting for Punk hurts those chanting too because it shows somewhat of an arrogance and ignorance to the product.
Listen, at this point we all no Punk isn’t coming back to wrestling anytime soon if at all. We can still support him. He still writes comics, has a store at prowrestlingtees.com, recently fought in UFC, and we can watch all his old stuff whenever we want. We can be dissatisfied with the product, but we should know what we are dissatisfied with and how best to address it before chanting. We only hurt ourselves by being disrespectful at the wrong time. We, as a community, are better than this. Stop chanting “CM Punk.”