WWE = Compelling TV? Wait… What?!
It’s surprisingly true. It’s very likely that one of the week’s television highlights will be this promo by wrestler CM Punk from 6/27’s Monday Night Raw. First, a little backstory: in wrestling parlance, a “shoot” means that a wrestler is being “real” and abandoning storyline, whether it’s done in the ring or through breaking character and addressing real-life issues on the mic. Wrestling fans go nuts over this kind of thing because the realism angle is a welcome respite from the often cartoonish storylines favored by WWE head Vince McMahon. The opposite of a “shoot” is a “work,” which refers to the scripted outcome or lines delivered by a wrestler. The popularity of shoots in the past 15 years or so (as the internet has made information about behind-the-scenes conflicts more readily available) has lead to an increase in “worked shoots,” which take elements of real-life and incorporate them into the scripted storylines. The goal of the worked shoot is to make the audience believe that the scripted storyline is actually real-life. As the WWE builds to their July 17 pay-per-view event, Money In The Bank, the storyline that’s leading to their main event is that Punk, a straight-edge arrogant heel (bad guy), is readily admitting that his contract with WWE is up (which is true — he has yet to re-sign with the promotion) and that he’s going to take the WWE Championship from John Cena (the kid-approved, PG most popular wrestler in the company) and walk out of the promotion with it. Punk last night again reiterated his desire to leave, but not before getting a few things off of his chest. His promo (the term used to describe a wrestler getting on the mic to advance his ongoing storyline) incorporated many real, behind the scenes nuggets such as the fact that WWE doesn’t promote him (true, despite the fact that most recognize him as the best in the ring and on the mic in WWE today), that in order to get ahead in WWE you must kiss McMahon’s ass (true), that McMahon surrounds himself with yes-men who support his bad ideas (very true), and that the company isn’t in good hands after McMahon steps down (as it will likely go to his daughter and her husband, WWE star HHH). Employees of WWE just aren’t allowed say those kinds of things. Ever. McMahon is notoriously thin-skinned when it comes to criticism and is more than willing to take his frustrations out on his employees when they mouth off, effectively burying careers in the process. Now, in this case, it’s clearly a storyline because there’s no way that the WWE lets a wrestler have six minutes of TV time to effectively denegrate the company like Punk did, and they’re also not going to let someone who’s ostensibly leaving the promotion walk away with their top title, but by allowing him the leeway to say what he said and by cutting Punk’s mic at the end of the promo and fading to black abruptly instead of using their usual end of show production, they’ve crafted what many are calling the best promo in wrestling in many years. They’ve also likely cemented a high buyrate for Money In The Bank which, make no mistake, was their ultimate goal. Back in the late ’90’s, the war between WWE and WCW made Monday nights one of the best TV nights of the week as each side was constantly trying to one up the other and that competition lead to incredibly entertaining TV. At least for one night, it felt like the late ’90’s again and almost all of the credit for that goes to CM Punk. Watch the promo below (at least for as long as WWE allows it to be on YouTube).