Last night, on the January 7th edition of Monday Night Raw, CM Punk gave one of the most important promos of his career. And while some may have thought it was a little dragged out, the substance of what the WWE Champion said should not be lost.
I don't think I've ever seen a WWE superstar try as hard as CM Punk to get people to legitimately dislike him. At the upcoming 2013 Royal Rumble, it isn't just CM Punk versus The Rock. It's "people hater" versus "people's champion."
And while that is the intentional angle that's being used for this match, it begs an important question—how does the WWE truly view what it calls the "WWE Universe." Do WWE superstars truly care about the fans? Is it all about the fame and fortune?
What are the fans' true role?
The Rock made a strong point when he said that Punk's nick name as "The Voice of the Voiceless" is a contradiction because wrestling fans are never shy about their opinions. They cheer it at every show and they blast it on media sites like Bleacher Report.
And that's when it hit me.
What is our role, as writers, on websites like Bleacher Report? Do we truly provide news or are we simply just another part of the complex kayfabe machine?
In trying to answer that question, I turned to an interview with Mark Callaway (The Undertaker) from back in the day when he played the "American Bad-Ass" character. Towards the end of the first part of the interview, when asked about the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC), Callaway made a very interesting point.
Regarding the IWC, Callaway said, "The ones that call themselves experts...they're a big joke...they're only smart because of what we let them be smart to...they forgot that they are fans and that's all they are."
Ouch. As a writer, that statement hurt. And it hurt because it partly rang true.
While WWE superstars are most certainly athletes, pro-wrestling is not a sport in the way that basketball or football are. It is competitive in the sense that the superstars are all trying to be successful, but the WWE entertainment product is more closely related to theater than it is to sports, in spite of its physicality.
And when I look on Bleacher Report for updates from my peers, it seems that what we consider news is simply what WWE officials allow us to know.
So again, I ask, what do we bring to the table if not news in the true sense of the word? Are we just fans with a voice?
Do we influence the wrestling industry? Do readers truly look to us for answers or are we simply providing a place where readers, fans and writers alike can argue with one another about a scripted show?
When I watched CM Punk stand in that ring with The Rock last night, the answer became clear to me. CM Punk was brutally honest with the people, whether in character or not, what he said was truth. The Rock came and did what the Rock always does.
And the people cheered. Because it doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter that the Rock is a part-timer. It doesn't matter that CM Punk has held the title for over a year. It doesn't matter that certain guys deserve to get pushed. It doesn't matter that Cena is Cena.
Because at the end of the day, you and I are going to watch it. And the minute either one of us decides not to watch, it won't matter.
The show will go on. We can sit here and talk about ratings all day. But the fact of the matter is that without any true competition, the WWE program has the attention of most pro-wrestling fans.
CM Punk's title reign isn't about the fans. CM Punk wants to destroy the notion that there are heroes and villains.
There are only winners and losers.