I recently marked the fifth anniversary of being a regular viewer of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. I didn’t talk publicly about being a pro wrestling fan until about half-way through my current run, but on Monday, June 27, 2011, it pulled me back in.
I was lucky enough to channel surf upon one of the most interesting moments this business saw in years. My days as a wrestling fan began in high school, and lay dormant until that night. I kept up with the company by checking results online, but never saw anything that intriguing.
And then CM Punk, a wrestler covered in tattoos and visibly not on steroids, sat cross-legged at the top of Monday Night Raw’s entrance ramp and delivered a monologue that’s now known as “The Pipe Bomb.”
He performed this speech at a man lying ‘unconscious’ in the ring, who had just been put through a wooden table. That man was no ordinary wrestler, but John Cena, the one current WWE employee that regular civilians might recognize.
This was before Cena’s turns in Trainwreck and Sisters, when the guy was simply the jorts-clad hulking Ken doll of a man that sat comfortably on top of the ranks of WWE wrestlers.
Why was this CM Punk monlogue so important? How did it turn me from an interested party to a regular viewer? It’s because Punk broke the fourth wall into a billion splinters, as he declared:
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. Because 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.
Up until this moment, many wrestlers had opposed Cena, and all told him they were better than Cena. Not only were they always proven wrong in the end, but none outted Cena’s success as a byproduct of Vince McMahon, the aging and insane decision-maker CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. By admitting this, Punk declared what most already knew: that the industry is not a sport, but a performance.
This speech is such a milestone in the history of pro wrestling that it’s annotated on Genius. Punk’s words were so beloved because of the heaps of fans who had grown bored with Cena, who was then a rather vanilla, stale character that won so often that a LOLCENAWINS meme evolved.
By the time Punk ended his promo — his mic was cut off by a backstage producer — I was back in, and unbeknownst to even me, I was all in. Wrestling adapted to meet me mid-way. Through CM Punk, wrestling was finally ready to give viewers some credit and treat us like adults (though it wavers on the latter).
Over the next five years, CM Punk won and lost the WWE Championship twice, and left the company. He’s booked to debut in the UFC later this year, and a heavy underdog that I want to succeed even though he left.
In slightly less surprising news, John Cena would evolve into a remarkably more interesting wrestler.
I even got comfortable telling my existing friends that I watch pro wrestling.