Column examines CM Punk’s character in WWE

Josh Deaver passed along a column on The Grantland blog by The Masked Man examining CM Punk’s role on WWE television since the summer and wondering where the “change” is that his character promised.

“The real question, however, isn’t what happened to the reckoning, but how much did Punk ever really want a new era? As he emerged as the WWE’s top star over the past six months, Punk’s character seemed in conflict with himself. He was a progressive figure — an agent of change, as he’ll frequently say — but remained fixated on the past. He billed himself (functionally, if not explicitly) as wrestling’s savior, the man who would rescue WWE from its monotonous, outmoded ways. Yet he spends more time rhapsodizing about the wonders of WWF ice cream bars than plotting an inspired path for the future.

On one hand, Punk deserves credit for combining these two divergent strains; on the other, his historical references and wrestling in-jokes might be seen as simple pandering to fans in their 20s and 30s. These children of the 1980s are Punk’s bread and butter. They’re savvy to wrestling’s backstage machinations and they’re old enough (or spend enough time on YouTube) to lovingly remember pro wrestling’s days of yore. Thus, the cheers for Punk’s recent appropriation of “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s signature elbow drop.1 Punk’s character provides a logical selling point: He’s a wrestling fan who just happens to be a wrestler. He’s one of us.

Even Punk’s most forward-looking routines aren’t entirely new; the worked-shoot style that he’s brought into vogue was perfected in ECW’s heyday, and many of his antics are revisions of his pre-WWE, Ring of Honor shtick. He fetishizes wrestling’s glory days, just like us. His beef is with the present, with the tedious, aimless, and audience-insulting TV-PG format. Those are legitimate gripes, but it’s becoming clear that Punk doesn’t aim to overthrow the system so much as carve out a contrarian niche within it. He has failed to define his radical goals — other than his own ascension and those ice cream bars — and it’s worth wondering whether he wants to move wrestling forward or is content with remembering the past.”