There will never be another Ric Flair.
But C.M. Punk comes close.
Punk has assumed Flair’s spot in fake wrestling’s hierarchy. The best talker. Respected by all. The top all-around performer. A wrestler with devoted fans who passionately care whether he wins or loses.
Even though Punk almost always loses.
The ability to stay over without a belt, or without even winning much, may be the true art of fake wrestling. True, Punk didn’t lose – didn’t lose the belt, anyway – for 434 days. But he’s been quite often kept from the pay window since, and it hasn’t affected him one bit heading into WrestleMania 29.
Punk always has an excuse, or a parallel agenda, or some reason losing didn’t matter, and marks believe him because he really is that good.
Which is to say: WHOOO!
Setting up a ‘Mania match with Undertaker isn’t easy. Everyone knows ‘Taker will win. There is no good reason to ever beat ‘Taker at ‘Mania. But you still have to forge reasonable doubt – create disbelief, ironically – and Punk has done that using an urn as a prop. AN URN.
It’s juvenile. It’s Memphis. But it’s working. Not because of the booking. It’s the execution. Paul Bearer’s death was good timing, too. Team player.
Punk’s shtick is his disdain for ‘Taker’s powers. But Punk's face went pie-eyed in the split-second between the bell tolling and the lights going out this past Monday night. He sold fear at a precise, telling moment.
That was the face of true greatness. Few realize how important a split-second can be. Punk does, and he got the most out of it.
Yesterday was the twelfth anniversary of the last-ever WCW Monday Nitro. I’d already been fired by WCW for being too good at announcing, but I still look back on the immolation of WCW with great sadness.
WCW was my promotion. I always preferred WCW to WWE, just like I always preferred Ric Flair to Hulk Hogan. I was A FAN. Lots of people were. TV ratings suggest lots of WCW fans don’t watch wrestling anymore.
WCW deserved better. Most of the egomaniacs that killed WCW still have jobs in wrestling. They’re still killing wrestling. Irony dipped in outrage.
When Vince McMahon bought WCW, he should have let the promotion continue. Move Nitro to a secondary network, or to a different night on Spike TV (then home of Raw). Let insiders know what they know. But maintain parallel promotions. Invasions and dream matches seem that much more real. Kayfabing McMahon’s buyout would have been profitable.
But Vince was always going to enjoy the glory of publicly winning the Monday night war. It’s his money, and he’ll do what he wants. That’s been made fairly clear over the last three decades. Ego over business.
To be fair, Vince still does pretty good business. And four years later, Spike TV finally got crappy, second-rate wrestling. Everything worked out.
Follow Mark Madden on Twitter: @MarkMaddenX. Listen to his “Voice of WCW” podcast at WXDX.com.