The “Shoot” Heard Round the World
“What the hell just happened?”
That seems to be the statement of the night regarding the alleged “shoot promo” made by “suspended WWE Superstar” CM Punk. I’ll admit that I was just as shocked as everyone else when I heard the names “Hulk Hogan” and “Paul Heyman”. My jaw hit the floor when he threatened to go to Japan or return to Ring of Honor, and I smiled as he gave a shout out to the one and only Colt Cabana. But make no mistake about it, Punk knew what he was going to say before he stepped through that curtain, and I’ll bet the farm that Vince told him to say it. There will be speculation as to what he was supposed to say and how much trouble he is in backstage, but the bottom line is that they could have cut that feed long before they did. If Punk was legit shooting, do you think he would have given a damn about the WWE Championship, or stayed in character by proclaiming himself “the best wrestler in the world?”
Late last week Wrestlezone reported that the writing staff was in the dark on the whole situation surrounding CM Punk. Apparently, Vince McMahon and the powers-that-be were the only people privy to that information… If I were trying to pull off a shocking shoot promo, that’s exactly the kind of tactics I would use. If nobody knows what’s going on, the rumor mill begins to turn. You start to wonder if he’s really leaving, or if there is much more to the picture. And when he hits that stage and works the mic, every jaw in the arena is on the ground, including the guys and girls backstage. Twitter starts to roll and the dirt sheets start to phone their contacts in the building. Within an hour after Raw went off the air there were probably 100 different sides to that story, and I’ll bet only CM Punk and Vince McMahon truly knew what was going on. It’s brilliant. It’s red hot. It’s completely against the WWE way of doing things…
Vince does not appeal to the internet crowd, he does not pander to the independent promotions, and he sure as hell doesn’t shape the main event picture around a shoot promo. I know what the forums are saying, but this isn’t Attitude Era tactics reborn, it’s textbook TNA. CM Punk nailed all the usual Impact storyline norms: dropping the name of the competition, degrading the product you work for, calling out your boss, naming a friend from inside the business that nobody actually knows, trying to convince the internet that it’s all real, and most importantly…making Hulk Hogan look like an arrogant tool. You could have substituted Dixie Carter, Vince Russo, and Bubba the Love Sponge into that shoot and Ken Anderson could have delivered it, albeit with a lot less class and believability.
Don’t get me wrong, Punk’s promo was the highlight of the year in my estimation, but it just doesn’t make any sense. Will the kids in the audience understand any of the Paul Heyman rubs? Will anybody but a card-carrying member of the IWC even know who Johnny Ace is? It’s almost like Vince decided to drop his primary fanbase to keep CM Punk around… Or maybe I’m completely wrong and Punk went all-in, took a huge chance, and is waiting to see where he lands. Maybe he figured since he was leaving in three weeks, and they had built the WWE title picture around him, he had the free will to speak his mind, and did just that. Maybe he figured if he could convince Vince McMahon that he could produce compelling television by doing things his way, he had a secured spot in the top of the company. What’s the worst that could happen, he gets fired three weeks short of his contract ending, and he heads back to Ring of Honor as the hottest wrestling commodity in the world? Or maybe he’s just that damn good at what he does, and the whole wrestling world is now eating out of his tattooed hands. Either way, the story here is that Punk has crafted a must-see storyline, and only a fraction of the WWE’s main fanbase will understand why it’s a big deal.
My gut tells me that this is all somewhere between out-of-control shooting and scripted scandal. Vince planned for Punk to shoot, Punk took it too far into the territory of reality, and they will somehow find a way to gain back that cheesy, over-the-top, fake level of control before somebody realizes their product is finally worth watching.
Follow Mike Killam on Twitter @killeReview or send emails to MikeKillam@gmail.com