This week’s WWE Raw just wrapped from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. WWE didn’t follow my proposal to a T but they did honor Paul Bearer in a very similar fashion to open and close the broadcast. The company paid tribute to Bearer throughout the night, airing past footage and featuring Touts from fans. So why the editorial?
Well, if you haven’t seen this week’s show then you missed WWE taking a very real-life event – a death – and incorporating it into the build for CM Punk vs. The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 29. To recap, WWE opened the show with their awesome Bearer tribute video then Undertaker came out to pay homage to his former manager. You can watch the Raw opening at this link.
Following the tribute and Undertaker coming out for a knee, Punk came out and said he wanted to extend his heartfelt condolences and apologies for your [Undertaker] loss… at Wrestlemania. Speaking to Undertaker, Punk said, to Paul Bearer you will always be perfect, you will always be 20-0, but to everybody else, in four weeks, you’re going to be 20-1. He continued and said to Undertaker, the night after Wrestlemania, we won’t be showing heartfelt tributes to Paul Bearer but a new video about me [CM Punk] beating the streak. You can watch the promo at this link.
Punk went on to face Kane in a no disqualification match in the show’s main event. The finish saw Kane hit a chokeslam on Punk after he was surprised by the gong of Undertaker. Kane pinned Punk clean to go over in the match.
Undertaker came out and took a knee on the ramp and as he and his “brother” Kane paid tribute to an image of Paul Bearer on the titantron, CM Punk used the urn (placed at ringside throughout the night) to hit Kane over the head. This brought Undertaker to the ring, only for Punk to retreat and pose with it at the top of the ramp.
The question that will likely be raised over the next 24-48 hours will be – Did WWE go too far?
It’s a question that drew an almost immediate reaction by Nick Wildey here at WWENews.net and already has my phone and email blowing up with readers, friends and business contacts wanting to know my thoughts. Before I divulge, let’s speculate as to why it was done.
Indianapolis, IN is 180 miles from Chicago, IL… the home of CM Punk… The home where the 434-day WWE Champion possibly surpasses the popularity of President Barack Obama and Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose. I’m sure someone brought it up that it was going to be extremely difficult for Punk, the heel, to get over so close to Chicago. It’s likely the writers were told to brainstorm ways to get Punk booed out of the building.
Even after the opening segment, where Punk “disrespected” Paul Bearer, there were still pro-CM Punk chants. They were simply too hard to completely drown out. Since WWE turned Punk heel, the feeling has always been Punk’s fans are going to be Punk’s fans, regardless if he is working as a babyface or a heel. While I am still amazed at the amount of people Punk has turned against him, this sentiment has mostly held true.
So back to our question – Did WWE go too far?
Not only do I think that WWE did not go too far but I feel by incorporating Paul Bearer’s death into Punk vs. Undertaker, the company enhanced their tribute to the late Bill Moody. Now don’t get me wrong. There are things Punk could have said that would have crossed the line and there are ways this could have left a bad taste in my mouth, but the way it was handled was both classy and respectful.
No one in their right mind is going to watch this week’s WWE Raw and feel that Bill Moody was disrespected. As I reflect on this week’s show, my memory is left with nothing but good memories of the late Paul Bearer. I can’t help but think he would be thrilled WWE thought enough of him not only to honor him throughout the night but to incorporate his character into the build of one of the main event matches of their biggest show of the year.
This was classic good guy vs. bad guy, protagonist vs. antagonist, babyface vs. heel – this is the type of old school philosophies that built this business to what it is today. The most effective gimmicks and storylines are those that blur the line between what is real and what is contrived and some say death is off the table. It usually is… and it usually should be… but not with this.
I’m under the impression that everyone signed off – Punk, Undertaker and Kane. Moody’s children were there so they were likely brought in by WWE to take in the tribute live and in person.
I realize there will be some that will say this did cross the line – that’s part of the reason I’m staying up late to write this. I want those people to know that you don’t have to take the business so serious. This is entertainment and Punk’s work was entertaining. The work wasn’t disrespectful and it wasn’t offensive. Yes, it dealt with a very serious real-life subject in death but it was handled how I would think any pro wrestling legend would want it handled.
Bravo to WWE for advancing a storyline while also acknowledging and paying tribute to one of the best managers of all-time. May Paul Bearer forever rest in peace.