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Grimmas

CM Punk

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I always felt like his promos made people overlook a lot of flaws in his ring work, even if he was in some great matches. But even that is a positive -- the ability to get people to look away from your weaknesses.

 

This is an interesting comment, because I can't think of a wrestler who tried things that he wasn't good at in ring as consistently as Punk did. I do think that ties in to what made him successful, in that he had ego/hubris enough to say "I'm gonna do this springboard every match. I'm gonna do this elbow drop every match" and not really care or be aware that it didn't look particularly effective or compelling. That being said, I have a hard time thinking of another wrestler I'd consider on the same level as Punk (I generally think he's pretty good) that forces the audience to witness his limitations as often.

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I always felt like his promos made people overlook a lot of flaws in his ring work, even if he was in some great matches. But even that is a positive -- the ability to get people to look away from your weaknesses.

 

This is an interesting comment, because I can't think of a wrestler who tried things that he wasn't good at in ring as consistently as Punk did. I do think that ties in to what made him successful, in that he had ego/hubris enough to say "I'm gonna do this springboard every match. I'm gonna do this elbow drop every match" and not really care or be aware that it didn't look particularly effective or compelling. That being said, I have a hard time thinking of another wrestler I'd consider on the same level as Punk (I generally think he's pretty good) that forces the audience to witness his limitations as often.

 

 

Pretty excellent observation. He'd be in my 100, higher than even I would think initially just because he is a favorite, and it's in large part despite how shitty a rana he has. Awful a moonsault, less than convincing strikes. It does say something how over he and his matches were despite how . . . bottom tier his execution was (for a good/at times elite worker)

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I haven't been participating in the GWE at all, but I've been reading most of the threads and this one's got me thinking. What exactly did Punk execute well in the ring? I'm gonna hafta fire up some of his matches from various points in his career to nail down the stuff that he did well. Seems he should've stuck with a far more simple, direct moveset, but he came up in an era where athleticism and intricacy reigned supreme, especially on the indies. That is so not Punk's bag. He's not an athletic dude. I've seen footage from a training camp Liger did and Punk is struggling. He was a scrawny, lanky kid that didn't play sports. In another worker's hands, Punk's moves could have been graceful or athletic-looking. It's not that he's gumpy or clumsy. With some of his stuff, his body just doesn't have it to jive with what it should be doing or what he thought it actually looked like, if that makes any sense.

 

Tell ya what, though. That piledriver on Cena in that one post-Mania RAW match? GODDAMN.

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It's interesting. He'd reach for moves that he shouldn't have worse than Jericho. His execution is what people have been saying, and he called spots worse than Cena.

 

But I wonder if somehow the whole wasn't greater than the sum of the parts? I have no use for him in 09, but his last few years I enjoyed. I'd have to look back. He wouldn't rate high on my list, but I could see him rating.

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This is probably just excuse making, because I totally agree that his execution most of the time was far from crisp and he most definitely chose too many moves that he didn't seem capable of delivering well. Yet oddly I found a lot of that endearing, because of the fact that he WASN'T athletic and clearly not a natural. I enjoyed him as a character and as an overall storyteller, and to me part of that story was always that of an outsider trying to make it in the wrestling business as if to prove some sort of point (to himself usually). I know it wasn't necessarily intentional on his part, but his flawed execution seemed like part of his story. He was a scrawny kid who didn't care for sports and generally loathed "sport entertainment" but who was determined, come hell or high water, to become a star in the business if for no other reason than to shove it up the ass of the jocks and a-holes he hated as a kid. His kayfabe and non-kayfabe characters are very similar, which is why I found his promo work so effective. So in the ring he was prone to attempting epic shit because that's what someone who couldn't rely on natural strength or agility would resort to.

Compare him to someone like Lance Storm who was pretty smooth in his execution of moves (and who by most accounts is a hell of a good guy), but who never really got me to emotionally invest in what he was doing on a consistent basis. I enjoyed watching both guys but for entirely different reasons, but at the end of the day Punk would probably rank pretty high in my top 100 (whereas Storm would be nowhere near that list) because I'm more interested in that emotional connection than I am in a display of athletic prowess.

In a way it's a lot like why as a Red Sox fan I had no real love for JD Drew during his time in Boston despite the fact that he had one of the sweetest swings in the game and played the outfield with grace and elegance, whereas Dustin Pedroia became a favorite even though he had a reckless looking swing and ran the bases rather awkwardly. Some things just come naturally to some people and that works well for them, but from a dramatic standpoint I'm always going to be drawn to the guy who looks like he's fighting like the devil to overcome his own physical limitations, even if it means he looks sloppy a lot of the time.

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I've been thinking about this since yesterday, and I've sort of decided that the reason we often look past Punk's sloppiness in the ring is because he was always very good about not just doing moves in a vacuum, which a lot of his contemporaries have been guilty of. I think Punk has always been a great listener; his matches always came across as pretty organic, and he had a great sense of timing (maybe not physically, but emotionally). I think it's why so many of his matches are remembered fondly by people who experienced them in the moment but fall short for people who watch them later on. I remember being about as vocal as I've ever been during the summer of Punk stuff, and I still like it because it resonates in that same way for me, but I'll bet if you showed people those matches for the first time, they would fall very flat. I guess this is all saying that the things that have made Punk a great promo and character over the years, this innate sense he has to probe and react along with the crowd as if it's a scene partner, are the same reasons that his sloppy execution doesn't ding him in the way it would for another performer who is less dynamic character wise. Like, even though Punk tries the same shit as AJ Styles and it looks horrible, it matters less in the grand scheme of things for Punk than it would for AJ, who isn't as good a promo and isn't as good at portraying his character, because execution is a bigger part of what we have to go on for him.

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Simply a worker who was bigger than the moves he did. I agree with the in the moment sentiment. 10 years ago Aries vs. Punk is a masterpiece, from entrance to final promo. Master class stuff in all the aspects of pro wrestling you care about. Now? Still good, great even, but there is (was) an emotional investment there that went far beyond the moves.
While I'd argue AJ Styles has become a much better worker than simply a guy who does great moves . . . it is still kind of in his name

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Punk is a very interesting case and I think really demonstrates what people will look for in a worker on this list.

 

On one hand his execution sucks. His moves aren't very good. On the other hand he has great psychology, tells a great story and brings real emotion into his matches.

 

I'll be high on Punk, because who cares about pure execution? The matches are great. The stories are great. Who cares about whether is backbreaker looked nice or shitty, never takes away from the matches to me.

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...his flawed execution seemed like part of his story...in the ring he was prone to attempting epic shit because that's what someone who couldn't rely on natural strength or agility would resort to.

Really agree with this and I might add that you don't have to look much further than the Macho Man elbow drop he started using. To me, it looked pretty terrible, like he was just tossing himself off the top, not really aiming for any specific part of his opponent and rarely connecting with the "sweet spot" that Savage always seemed to land on.

 

But man was it a great tool in his arsenal, one that worked on two levels too - the first being the obvious nod to Randy Savage The Wrestling Legend that every fan under the sun remembers, the second being the slightly more subtle nod to Randy Savage The Excommunicated Black Sheep. Punk's adoption of Mach's elbow drop worked fine as a desperation high risk move (even if sloppily executed), but its real brilliance was that it further defined Punk's own status/character as the company's chief outspoken outlaw, the pipebomb-throwing individualist who stood for the future by standing up for the past.

 

So, yeah, not a very elegant worker - but it absolutely worked for him, arguably more than if he would've been smoother.

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Most of Punk's stuff always looked fine to me. The only thing I consistently had a problem with was the Go2sleep, which he seemed to botch on a near-weekly basis. When he had to pick up people who were much bigger than him, the move usually looked like shit. All too often the knee strike was an obvious airball, coming nowhere near the other guy's head.

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On one hand, he has some matches I really like vs. Mysterio and Cena. On the other, he has so many lackluster, sloppy matches that he feels like a victim of the modern TV era. We've already dissected why he was often bad in-ring in this thread, but the Jericho comparison seems really apt to me: he simply wasn't as good an athlete as he often attempted to be. Points for ambition. The whole Bret comparison of "he didn't work hard outside of the spotlight" reads as inaccurate to me when discussing Punk. I've seen him phone it in on ROH house shows for sure, but his failures were in doing too much rather than too little.

 

His pre-WWE stuff is a mix of good and bad. Again, I think he gets way too much credit by virtue of being what a lot of fans picture themselves being if they were a wrestler. "I wouldn't take roids or pain meds. I would cut promos that tell it like it is and bring truth to power. I might not be the best wrestler, but I'll have the coolest matches by building heat and being a great talker. I don't need to be a babyface when I'm this good of a heel." Etc.

 

As time passes, his "pipe bomb" stuff holds less and less appeal for me. Yes, WWE booking is incredibly stale and corporate. But cutting IWC troll promos was equally self-serving and lame. He didn't counterbalance or remedy what was happening via the McMahon direction the way people sometimes suggest: in some ways his legacy is having made it worse. As I get older I have less esteem for the guys like Punk, who I would put into a category with someone like Hunter or Nash as a promo: egotists who want to promote themselves as being above it all. I have far more respect for someone like Austin, Savage, or Jake as promos: guys who could separate from the pack and be unique without undermining the show at the expense of their company/peers.

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Personally, I think the two most interesting comparisons are Jericho and Michaels, both of whom often attempted ambitious things that outpaced their skill (Jericho's physical skill, Michaels' storytelling/acting skills). What I am seeing on the last couple of pages, however, is that people seem more forgiving of Punk (who was relatively ambitious in his attempts at both) when it comes to these, and that maybe he was able to overcome his limitations somehow.

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As I get older I have less esteem for the guys like Punk, who I would put into a category with someone like Hunter or Nash as a promo: egotists who want to promote themselves as being above it all.

I disagree, cuz Punk always worked his ass off to put over whomever he was working with. You'd never see him act like he just didn't give a shit about his opponent. Yeah, his rants about Best In The World had some shoot element to them; but they were also pretty similar to his old indy gimmick of "he thinks he's better than you!" (you need to imagine Gabe whining that phrase on commentary for it to have its full nostalgic effect). He'd go for some borderline reality cheapshots when he was cutting a promo on someone, but he'd never try to just cut a guy's nuts off and leave him without any way to retaliate in the way that Nash and Trips would. Another big difference: Punk would actually lay down for whomever he was talking rings around, unlike the Kliq members who were so pinfall-phobic that they didn't even sleep on their backs. And even when they DID do a job, they'd just laugh it off with a "whatever, it doesn't matter, wrestling's fake and I let that guy beat me" wink-and-smirk routine. Punk always acted like he gave damn whether he won or not, and did it openly IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS rather than doing it sneakily in the back.

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On one of the ballot reveal podcasts (which has been really good so far though I estimate it will take me about a week to get through it) Tim called Punk a great in the moment wrestler and I really do think it's a great point, and it is something that I think is especially relevant for promotions in which he wrestled in whether it be ROH, IWA:MS or WWE. He has that unique ability to cause mass discussion by doing virtually anything. I was a huge proponent of his during his run, but looking back on it I feel like he is missing what I value the most in a wrestler. Sure, he has great matches, he managed to create an aura about him despite his plain looks, he managed to work through his sloppy offence and make it not matter even, but what I value the most in wrestlers, whether it's Hashimoto or El Hijo del Santo or Onita or Christian, is a certain idea about who they are. When I watch a Misawa match-even if it is a disappointing one-it never really diminishes my opinion of him because he still bring a lot of stuff I love to the table. It's not even so much consistency in how good their matches (and maybe even performances to a lesser degree) are is as much as consistency in consistently bringing who they are. This is not to say I'm opposed to wrestlers stepping out of their comfort zone and doing things that aren't usual for them but when I watch a great wrestler in a spot that is unusual for them I'd want them to perform like a different setting isn't a challenge, like they could likely be slotted there and fit right in. My problem with Punk is that he has a lot of bad stuff and just outright didn't care a lot of the time, and I can't look past there because there's nothing there for me to hold onto. And while initially I thought it may just be how much emphasis I put into offence, I looked into how much I value what guys like Cena and Christian (not saying he has bad offence btw) brough to the table, and just US TV workers in general, and I really have no problem leaving Punk off my list because of that. There isn't a saving grace for his best stuff and when his creative input wasn't as big (in WWE before the heel turn) he really couldn't transcend that with his ring work alone.

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I ended up having him way, way higher than I thought I would but as I was doing head-to-heads with him and other wrestlers I kept convincing myself that he had the stronger argument. Consistency is pretty clearly his weakest point, and it's one of the things I have found I most look for it, so it was odd to me to see him where I had him in the end. But as I looked at the guys around him I couldn't argue against it. Being able to make me give a shit about his character AND deliver great matches at least a half dozen times in major feuds/storylines over this ten year period is a massive plus to me given where wrestling is right now.

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Listening to the various list shows, I think I am actually the high vote on Punk so far, which is just ridiculous.

 

It's possible I just outrageously overrated him using the BIGLAV metrics. Just for refernece he was #44. I am so tempted to meddle ...

 

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Interesting Punks name hasn’t popped up in conversation yet, but I guess it makes sense to the degree that he hasn’t been active in so long.

 

I am curious though if the thought process is for everyone 5 years removed from the last go around. I know for me Punk is a lock for my list still, but with the thought process that he was a great “in the moment” wrestler, I’m wondering if space has knocked him down for anyone?

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1 minute ago, El Dragon said:

Interesting Punks name hasn’t popped up in conversation yet, but I guess it makes sense to the degree that he hasn’t been active in so long.

 

I am curious though if the thought process is for everyone 5 years removed from the last go around. I know for me Punk is a lock for my list still, but with the thought process that he was a great “in the moment” wrestler, I’m wondering if space has knocked him down for anyone?

I appreciate him more now. He is truer to my heart.

The only way he drops is because I've deep dived into joshi and women's indies.

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I love the Joe trilogy and his entire WWE run, so he'll make my list, but to define exactly where I would need to dive deep into more of his pre-WWE stuff. Any recs?

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The CM Punk watch party is this Saturday and I haven't really watched him in a LONG time. I'm so excited to see what I think now and to watch it leading up to his return.

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Rewatched the Punk vs. Roderick Strong (07/09/05) ROH match a few weeks ago and it still holds up.  Maybe my favorite "Summer of Punk 2005" singles match.

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On 9/1/2021 at 2:02 AM, Grimmas said:

The CM Punk watch party is this Saturday and I haven't really watched him in a LONG time. I'm so excited to see what I think now and to watch it leading up to his return.

I'm quite curious about this week's watch party, because this is the first time I'm going into one thinking "This wrestler probably isn't as good as Terry Taylor", which is my default cut-off for who makes my shortlist. I'm partly interested to see if the matches change my opinion on Punk, but also partly to see how other wrestlers who might be on my shortlist look against a wrestler I don't think is great. It's a change in the usual dynamic for me.

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