Tag: professional wrestling

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #077: “CM Punked?”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #077: “CM Punked?”

A little over a year ago, I wrote a love letter to Phil Brooks on this site. My feelings for CM Punk then are the same as they are now. He remains the reason I returned to pro wrestling fandom. He’s my favorite pro wrestler. Full stop. Cool? Let’s go.

First, let’s get the “facts” out here so we can get the the personal-opinion-penguin (which, trust me, is why you’re here):

On Sunday, September 4th, 2022, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) threw a pay-per-view, “All Out”. The main event saw CM Punk face Jon Moxley for the AEW World Championship. 

The story thus far? This year, Punk won the belt originally in May from Hangman Adam Page. 3 days after winning, Punk announced he had shattered his foot, and needed to take time off. AEW doesn’t have champions give the belt back. Rather, they hold a tournament to crown an interim champ. Say hello to Jon Moxely. Upon Punk’s return… the belts were unified in an impromptu match that saw Mox decimate Punk after a single botched kick seem to show that Punk came back from injury too soon. 

With no opponent to face at the pay per view, Moxley left a signed contract on the mat the next week. CM Punk’s long-time friend and coach Ace Steele marched to the ring, grabbed the contract, and later in the show… slapped the taste out of Punk’s mouth to “re-awaken” the Second City Saint. Smash cut to Sunday, Mox — the younger, meaner, current champ… now facing an underdog Punk (fighting from underneath is kinda-sorta his MO, after all). After a bloody battle, Punk became a 2-time champ — crowned in his home city of Chicago. A whole bunch of storyline stuff happened (another article, I promise), and the show goes off the air to uproarious applause.

After the show is why we’re here. As part of the presentation of these pay-per-views, AEW owner Tony Khan throws these odd “Media Scrums”. Faux-press-conferences where various show performers come out to answer questions from the pro wrestling media. Let’s go ahead and stop right there.

Reread that as many times as you need to.

During the scrum, newly crowned champ CM Punk — bloody, battered, and hungry for muffins (no, seriously…) — took his chair. He shot a barb or two at the assembled bloggers, podcasters, and pro-wrestling journalists as things settled. Without a single question asked, Punk began a deluge of word-vomit that started with his current relationship to fellow grappler Colt Cabana and ended with a five paragraph monologue about AEW’s EVPs/on-air talent the Young Bucks and their friend the “anxious millennial cowboy” Hangman Adam Page. In short: Phil Brooks loathes them all for any number of reasons… all of which are outside the purview of the on-air character of professional wrestler CM Punk. By all accounts (and you’re welcome to pull up the video on youtube yourself… I’m not linking it for many reasons), this airing of grievances burned down the fourth wall between storyline, and “dirtsheet” journalism. For the uninitiated, “dirt sheets” are pro-wrestling tabloids; backstage accounts of real politicking and drama behind the stage personas. Shortly thereafter, Phil Brooks left the stage. The ghost of CM Punk never seemingly entered the scrum.

Reports of Punk and the Young Bucks getting into a physical altercation following the presser dropped. Countless wrestlers, media members, and fans all took to the social media streets to give their opinion. It’s “Punk vs. AEW” in the locker room. Following the real fracas, AEW owner Tony Khan was forced to strip CM Punk of his title, as well the Young Bucks of their newly-won Trios belts — won on the same night with their bestie Kenny Omega. Punk, if the same dirtsheets that he glowered at are to be believed… suffered from a very real torn tricep during his match. So, even with a belt, Punk’s now staring down months of recovery… putting AEW and its fans right back to where it started in May. 

But unlike then, with a sullen-but-committed CM Punk vowing to come back stronger than before… now we were treated to a tirade of a tween having a hissy fit over mulled-over stories and unseen backstage peacocking. The once self-proclaimed “voice of the voiceless” suddenly self-immolated. The fans (myself included) left scratching our heads as to the why of it all. 

Personal-opinion-penguin time!

In my heart, I want to believe this is a scripted, Kaufman-esque storyline. With 7 years of downtime, and a deep love of comic books and pro wrestling in his heart? Punk is master storyteller. I could easily see him behind closed doors with Kahn and company concocting this whole affair. The “Punk who can’t stop smiling” act would eventually wear out its welcome. What better way to let Phil Brooks’ creativity loose than a supernova heel turn. Perhaps feeling the tricep injury post-match (assuming the adrenaline kept Punk going and he was unconvinced of an injury during the actual match) led to unleashing this self-destructive angle that seemingly removes the shine from the apple. I fear however, this is me swinging at any theory my mind can concoct to explain away the awfulness of it all.

If this is indeed a shoot? I’m disappointed in Phil Brooks as a professional. At 43 years old, he knew better (again: leading me to think this is all some concoction of fiction). During his electric comeback speech, he laid it out:

I’m back. And I’m back for you. I’m not gonna lie, I’m back for me too, and I’m back because there’s a hell of a lot of young talent that I wish I was surrounded by 10 years ago. So insane that I sit back and I say, well, hell, they’re here now, so why aren’t you? Here I am. I’m back, because I want to work with that young talent that had the same passion that I had stamped out. I’m back because there’s a couple of scores to settle in that locker room. I’m back for the young guys.”

And for the better part of a year? Punk was back for those young guys. He wrestled solid matches with Darby Allin, Powerhouse Hobbs, Daniel Garcia, Lee Moriarty, Wardlow, Max Caster, John Silver, and of course… an unforgettable series with MJF. The latter, of course, the heir to the throne that Punk’s sat at for so very long. Following that series, he transitioned to his match with Hangman Adam Paige, took the title, and well… here we are now.

What happened to Punk while he rehabbed his shattered foot? AEW’s ratings didn’t significantly shift up or down. Matches and angles remained as decent as they’d been with Punk actively competing — save anything as dynamic on the mic as his MJF feud. It’s hard to imagine Punk sitting at home and seething over things essentially remaining generally positive; save perhaps a scenario wherein he rages against the notion his absence was missed but not detrimental to the overall brand. The rarely-to-believed blogosphere seems to believe Punk’s diatribe was premeditated. That’s even more baffling to me; because going into business for himself by way of backing up the bus over beloved roster members would only wind up with everyone losing. “It’s them or me” seems shallow for someone who had nothing left to prove to the fans that loved CM Punk.

In the wake of the fracas, fans like me sit in idle. AEW’s television this week pulled an amazing WWE-esque smoke-and-mirrors show. Punk removed from the opening video packages and graphics. No mention by name, save only for MJF referencing that Moxley “went to sleep last night” and mimicking Punk’s taunt. YouTube news channels like What Culture and Cultaholic now have multiple reports daily, and think-pieces lending to their view count. The dirt sheets lap up every muffin crumb to drive click-baity BS while the fanbase sours. Social media is now choked with memes and carefully chosen video clips that rewrite Punk’s history to show him the villain of the piece all-along. 

Was this what he wanted? Like many, the line from The Dark Knight lingers in my mind. “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” It’s deflating to think that after deciding to return to the ring with nothing left to prove… Punk became so self-absorbed that he became blind to the irony his bang-the-table preening was no better than those he mocked during his pivotal pipebomb promo that pushed his career forward (and soon enough to its then-end). How could he not understand that publicly airing his dirty laundry with his coworkers was a better way to solve a problem then sitting down like adults in the back away from cameras and civilly discussing the issues at hand? We’ll likely never know.

I’ve met Phil Brooks. He was nice. Genuine. Dare I even say… a sweetheart. I wouldn’t want to believe the guy who snapped a shot of my birth announcement comic to send to his wife and was elated to be given a copy (because my second son happens to be Colton Mikel Fishman, aka CM Fish)…had grown so bitter — especially over so little. For better or worse… I believe in the long game. When Punk heals up, I pray for a return. An explanation. An angle. Anything to retcon or relight this dim ending to the brightest spot in my (and many others’) wrestling fandom.

CM Punk. Phil Brooks. You’ve said of yourself… you are the best in the world. Well, sir? Prove it. 

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #076: “I’m Back.”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #076: “I’m Back.”

“August 13, 2005, I left professional wrestling. August 20th, 2021… I’M BACK.”

Buckle up. I’m not holding back the words this week, kiddos.

When the rumor mill said Phil Brooks, known as CM Punk, was coming to All Elite Wrestling… I snickered. You see, 7 years ago, Punk went to his best friend’s apartment and recorded a scathing indictment of sports entertainment. Over the course of his tenure at WWE, under Vince McMahon, Punk was ground into a nub of a human. His body? Broken down. By several infections treated by a blitzkrieg of Z-packs (Azithromycin) which shredded his insides. His mind? Mush. Fighting the powers that be for everything he earned as one of the top performers of the company. Never given anything without heavy-handed control by the writers’ room and ineffective bookers. His spirit? On life-support. Forced to endure idiocy like being literally fired on his wedding day, needing to sue the WWE and lose a best friend over it, as well watching part-timers be brought in to spike ratings and take championships needlessly. This was CM Punk 7 years ago. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #076: “I’m Back.””

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015:  The first W in WWE stands for… What?

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?

This past weekend marked the first, historic, monumental, astounding, amazing, never-happened-before* pay-per-view of all female­ talent in the world of professional wrestling sports entertainment. WWE Evolution was a rather enjoyable event that shined a positive light on one of the strongest brands in American television producing content today. The evening was chock full of messaging that spoke directly to little girls straight through to women to tell them that anything they want can be achieved. And in between these self-aggrandizing promos, there were some damn fine wrestling matches to enjoy.

But somewhere after the fourth or fifth of these interstitial talking heads, wherein the performer would choke up (rightfully so mind you) over the very notion that the ladies of the WWE would be given this time to shine… I began to sour. Again to be clear: not because the event wasn’t deserving of praise — but because WWE Evolution was not erected to right a wrong… it was a consolation prize for the WWE selling its soul.

For those who don’t religiously follow the ins and outs of the World Wrestling Entertainment company, allow me to spoil the surprise. WWE Evolution was created first and foremost as a PR move to appease the noisy internet smart-marks (think gatekeepers, only slightly less awful) who would rightfully (for once!) denote that the women of the WWE would not be allowed to perform with the company at the next pay-per-view event. One week after Evolution comes WWE Crown Jewel. Coming to you live this Friday from the King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And in case you didn’t know? Women are not allowed to wrestle or perform in that particular country.

I won’t dive into the recent history here, if only to sum it up succinctly:

Vince McMahon accepted a ten year multi-million dollar contract with the Saudis to bring to them his oiled-up carnival several times a year. And not only would he deliver a standard show from his cavalcade of Cro-Magnon cohorts, no! Vincent Kennedy McMahon would succumb to any whim that the Crown Prince so desires.  Dust off the Undertaker? Sure! Unretire Shawn Michaels? Here’s a dump truck of money! Give the Rock the championship back? Well, it’s been reported by several outlets it’s been under consideration. And as a fan? It makes me sick.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?”

Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart (1955-2018)

Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart (1955-2018)

Continue reading “Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart (1955-2018)”

The Smarky Six #006: Week of August 6th

The Smarky Six #006: Week of August 6th

Related imageHello and welcome back to yet-another listicle on pro wrestling! I mean Sports Entertainment. With only 2 weeks until the biggest party of the summer upon us… well… we got a whole boatload of wheel-spinning! Yippee. Let’s go over the week in the WWE, and see if we can separate the wheat from the chaff. Or the Rock from the Rocky as it were. The Stone Cold from the Ringmaster. The Undertaker from the Mean Mark. You get me, right, playa? Holla if you hear me. Actually, on second thought? Don’t.   Continue reading “The Smarky Six #006: Week of August 6th”

The Smarky Six #005: Week of July 30th

The Smarky Six #005: Week of July 30th

Image result for brock lesnar readingOh, I’m sorry. Was I supposed to write the top six stories that tickled my fancy, concerning the week in the WWE? I was just sitting here on my couch. Reading “Outdoors Heels Monthly”. Or was it “I’d Rather Be In UFC, But I Get Half a Million Bucks For Being Here Weekly”. Fine. Fine. Here’s your stories, jerks.

  1. Ignore. Ignore. Yell. F5. Choke out. Smirk. Yeah, that was well worth the money.

This is what constitutes story development these days in the WWE. They have a three hour show, and Brock Lesnar acts like an insolent child for 9/10ths of it. For this Vince McMahon needs to waste $500,000? While I totally get what the creative team was attempting — make Heel Lesnar Heel — frankly, I don’t want face Roman to get a pop because Brock is made to look annoyed. However… can I really complain? From Lesnar’s point of view, I’d be annoyed too. Against Lashley or Strowman? There’s story to mine. For his 807,957th battle with Rock-with-Rogain-but-nothing-else, we have no new angles to take. Is this the time Roman finally conquers the Beast? Are we seeing him train differently? Maybe attempting to expand his repertoire? No! He’s just same-old-cock-sure-snarky-Reigns.  Continue reading “The Smarky Six #005: Week of July 30th”

The  Smarky Six #003: Week of July 16th

The Smarky Six #003: Week of July 16th

Orton overwhelms his wounded rival.
© 2018 WWE

So “Extreme Rules” was… not half bad! Letting Dolph and Seth close the show continued the elevate the only mens title on RAW. AJ’s match with Rusev made both competitors look strong (but put a pin in that). And hey, the B Team getting the tag straps? They deserved it (clap clap clapclapclap).

Of course the week in episodic wrestling did much to spin the wheels out of Sunday and turn our focus directly to “the biggest party of the summer!”. Let’s unspool this ball of yarn and pull out six hard takes to carry us into the next week, shall we?

  1. Brock Lesnar loves the WWE like I love a good colonoscopy.

Oh, Paul E. Dangerously… I can’t quit you! But lord I can quit your client. I do not buy the poop you’re shoveling, Mister Heyman. Brock Lesnar doesn’t love the WWE. The Beast Incarnate is only about 4 things: Eat. Sleep. Extort promotions for an insane amount of money to see him compete, because, yes we all acknowledge he has both a look and prowess in combat sports that is mesmerizing to see, however ultimately he is at this point only delivering a repeat of the same tried-and-true by-the-numbers performance time and again, and his time with the WWE Universal Title has ultimately grown stale because of his inability to care long enough to sell us the match. Repeat. Continue reading “The Smarky Six #003: Week of July 16th”

The Smarky Six #002: Week of July 9th

The Smarky Six #002: Week of July 9th

“Extreme Rules” is tomorrow kiddos. And boy howdy am I excited! Actually? I’m not really. I’m not not excited. After a week of ups and downs (sorry, Simon at WhatCulture!), I wound up feeling like both RAW and Smackdown had one PPV quality match each on their cards, surround by “go home” chum. Let’s unpack the week with six observations I pulled out from Kane’s Pyro. Don’t worry, Daniel Bryan set them off for me.

Continue reading “The Smarky Six #002: Week of July 9th”

The Smarky Six #001: Week of July 2nd

The Smarky Six #001: Week of July 2nd

Oh, you didn’t know? Hello all my fellow smart marks. This here is the first in my new weekly series wherein I cover my Smarky Six of the week; six hard takes on this week in the WWE. Please denote, while I am a fan of all professional wrestling… honestly I only make time for Raw, Smackdown, and the PPV’s. I would love to do deep dives into 205 Live, NXT, New Japan, and all the indie stuff out there… But I’ll want your demand that I do it before I start investing my time, and limited energies. I mean, come on. I only have so much snark to smark about. Can you dig it, sucka?

 

As we make our way towards “Extreme Rules” here in the not-too-distant future, this week we saw several steps forward for a few decent storylines, as well as the all-too-usual steps backwards in other sagas. Let’s unpack this week in wrestling with my six snarky sentiments shouldered straight to the mat.

  1. Kevin Owens is being wasted, what a surprise!

On one hand, I shouldn’t complain; Kevin Owens was featured in multiple segments on Raw this week, and he (as always) nailed the comedy of the situation. On the other hand? I don’t particularly enjoy “the Prize Fighter” being reduced to a Port-O-Potty blue goo crash test dummy. It hardly even makes sense, from a story perspective. It’s clear as the shine on Bobby Lashley’s head that this is all a time waster while Brock Lesnar heards cattle in the mountains. The “Monster In The Bank” is literally just bullying someone because it makes him laugh. And because he’s over like rover (deservedly so!), the fans are eating this up. This all just leads me to the larger point: The Universal Title needs to be on RAW again. I have been nothing short of a Paul Heyman level apologist for Lesnar up through Mania. But at this point, sitting home for months on end does nothing for what should be a top prize of the company. And given that we saw both Braun and Samoa Joe eat clean losses to Lesnar? Any chance of Strowman stripping the Beast will barely come across as a monstrous victory. Way to shoot yourself in the foot, WWE. Oh, wasn’t this supposed to be about Kevin Owens? Meh. I’m sure he can listen to Shania Twain while I wrap this up. Next!

Continue reading “The Smarky Six #001: Week of July 2nd”

5 Reasons Pro-Wrestling Isn’t Cool Anymore… But Has Never Been Better

5 Reasons Pro-Wrestling Isn’t Cool Anymore… But Has Never Been Better

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Professional Wrestling has lived through several golden eras up until now. The Rock N’ Wrestling era of the 1980’s saw the birth of Hulkamania, the rise of the Ultimate Warrior, and implosion of the Mega Powers. Soon Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Million Dollar Man, and Junkyard Dog became household names – if only in the mouths of young boys and their cantankerous fathers who watched with the same amount of love for the sports entertainment brainchild of Vince McMahon.

Continue reading “5 Reasons Pro-Wrestling Isn’t Cool Anymore… But Has Never Been Better”