Character Progression #4 – CM Punk

For the next entry in Character Progression, I decided to take a look at one guy who was on everyone’s minds weeks ago. Since it looks like he isn’t returning to the WWE anytime soon, I figured it is best to take a look back at CM Punk’s history with WWE. Seeing as I have followed CM Punk since his debut in WWE’s ECW this will be an interesting look back.

The Straight Edge Superstar

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CM Punk’s first official appearance with WWE was on the July 4th episode of ECW during a pre-taped promo in 2006. His first match wasn’t until August 1st, where he beat Justin Credible. CM Punk established himself as a no alcohol, no drugs, no nonsense fighter. He continued to dominate throughout ECW, and began to start the typical undefeated archetype story. He remained undefeated in singles competition for 6 months. During that time, he found himself feuding with Mike Knox for the affection of Kelly Kelly as his first real feud. CM Punk spent the next year in various feuds and story lines in ECW including: being on Team DX when they fought Team Rated RKO, competeing in the only Extreme Elimination Chamber, and winning his first championship by becoming the ECW Champion. His most memorable feuds in ECW were against Hardcore Holly (who ended his undefeated streak), and Johnny Nitro turned John Morrison (who CM Punk eventually beat to win the ECW Championship). After being screwed out of the title by Edge and Chavo Guerrero, he went on to win the Money In The Bank and cashing it in on Edge after he was drafted to Raw. His first title reign was unmemorable as he lost it by being unable to compete in the Championship Scramble. CM Punk continued to win championships, and turned heel after winning his second Money In The Bank and cashing it in on fan-favorite Jeff Hardy.

Looking back, CM Punk had a very successful first gimmick. Of course, this character stays with him and has evolved over time, but when used as a main focus it served him very well. The character was entertaining, but I never saw main event potential in him at this point. Even his run as World Champion seemed a little odd to me (granted I never knew anything about him prior).

The Cult Leader

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After turning heel and feuding with the likes of Jeff Hardy and Undertaker, CM Punk’s character evolved from the simple straight edge superstar to leader of The Straight Edge Society. He recruited Luke Gallows and Serena to his new cult of a substance free lifestyle. In devotion, Punk ordered for people to shave their heads to be reborn, and continued to grow his hair out to resemble his purity. Sermons and practices of devotion became common for the group. Punk began feuding with Rey Mysterio, which eventually resulted in CM Punk getting his head shaved. Eventually the group was disbanded with the assistance from Big Show. CM Punk was switched back to Raw and was injured where he began color commentating. This wouldn’t last long as CM Punk would eventually take over the Nexus as its new leader. This would eventually end quietly later in the year.

This was the time that I finally saw CM Punk as a main event talent. I loved The Straight Edge Society, and overall I would say this was his him at his best. New Nexus was a failed attempt to recapture this leader character he established, but he tried to keep that faction alive as best he could; lost cause in my opinion.

Modern Age Rebel

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This evolution of CM Punk’s character truly began with the historic pipebomb on June 27th, 2011. He broke the fourth wall, and instantly went from heel to fan favorite. This led to him beating John Cena, and leaving the company as champion. Upon his return, his next big feud was with John Laurinaitis and his authority. This brought out more shoot styled promos, and comedic jabs; submitting him as a babyface.

Most would say that this was CM Punk at his best. I would say this is CM Punk establishing himself as a long stay upper mid card guy, similar to Sheamus or Kane. His pipebomb was his crowning achievement. It was one of the best things I ever saw on Raw.

Best In The World

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This part of CM Punk’s character came to light during his pipebomb promo, but really took off during his feud with John Laurinaitis. CM Punk took this monarch as Best In The World, and started feuding with a returning Chris Jericho. This brought into play many of CM Punk’s other versions of his character. With his continued feud with John Laurinaitis’ authority, and Chris Jericho bringing back CM Punk’s straight edge lifestyle to the forefront of the feud. The feud focused on Jericho’s mission to prove he is the best in the world, and drive CM Punk to alcoholism after he beat CM Punk for the title at WrestleMania. Chris jericho would not be successful in his quest. After his feud with Chris Jericho ended at Extreme Rules, CM Punk went on to feud with Daniel Bryan. The love triangle turned four way love square (involving Kane and real life girlfriend AJ Lee), kept CM Punk busy till he returned to being a heel demanding respect as WWE Champion, and being the best in the world. This led to his friendship with Paul Heyman, and focusing his attention on maintaining his historic reign as champion. After he dropped the title to The Rock,  he went on to feud with Undertaker, Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar, and The Shield.

This era of CM Punk’s character provided some of the most entertaining bits of wrestling. Paul Heyman and CM Punk teaming up was pure gold, and CM Punk’s historic reign as champion was well deserved.

It is a shame that CM Punk and WWE have split ways. CM Punk was a very entertaining superstar, who could get over both as a heel and a face. His mic work was top notch, and his wrestling wasn’t far behind it. One thing I love about CM Punk’s character is that he doesn’t change character, but had true progression in character. He added elements to an already established persona. This became evident with the feud with Chris Jericho. So what did you guys think of this edition of Character Progression? Should I do more legendary wrestlers or stick with the modern superstars? Let me know in the comments below.

  • Darren Poole

    Do more legends. How about the Godfather in his many characters.