For the past year and a half I have generally have avoided writing about “wrestling news,” in favor of approaching the ephemera of this sport the same way an art critic approaches a new installation. It is, however, impossible to separate art from the world in was made in. Any attempt to fully divest art from politics is at best a fool’s errand and at worst actively harmful to society. And that is why I want to talk earnestly with you today about how “CM Punk Sucks.”
Several weeks ago, CM Punk removed all t-shirt designs from his Pro Wrestling Tees store, save one, a plain design that screams out “CM Punk Sucks” in bold white font. A brutalist message that profits off of Chick Magnet Punk being despised.
This week, a little over a month after the change to his store, Punk shocked the wrestling world by showing up on Fox Sports 1’s WWE Backstage. Punk has actively avoided working with any wrestling organization since famously leaving WWE in 2014. Airing a list of (very legitimate) grievances, Punk chose to abandon the world of wrestling altogether rather than continue being beat down by a job and boss he hated. If you can’t relate to that feeling I can’t relate to you. Since then, he has been cast as an avatar of fan displeasure with World Wrestling Entertainment. For years, whenever a Monday Night RAW segment went bad, it was greeted by thousands chanting his name, a call for the company to do better by both their employees and their customers, while the man himself chose to remain fairly distant from the wrestling world beyond interviews and podcasts.
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Cut to 5 years later, and Punk walking onto the stage of Fox Sports 1’s WWE Backstage, thus re-entering the WWE sphere of influence. In doing so, Punk has divested himself of the principles that made him leave WWE in the first place. Deciding that now is the time to do the wrestling equivalent of soft imperialism and discuss the latest storylines of WWE in the guise of a dirt sheet. WWE Backstage is an attempt to control the messaging and drama that comes from the business side of the wrestling biz, and further clamp down any non-approved messaging regarding “the product.” Backstage co-opts the discussions had by journalists and fans alike, but in a way meant only to benefit World Wrestling Entertainment. What better way to appear as a non-biased source than to have on one of the most famous detractors to do the astroturfing for you?
CM Punk knows he sucks, he knows that I think he sucks, and he wants to make sure these feelings benefit him. I do have to respect the shirt, because the entire basis of professional wrestling is to profit off of seeing people you’re not supposed to like, and “CM Punk Sucks” sure is effective heel work. I do think CM Punk sucks, but not enough to give him money, and not strongly enough to wear it literally on my chest, only figuratively on my sleeve.
[Ed. note: as of the publishing of this article, CM Punk’s Pro Wrestling Tees store has been taken down, with the URL leading to a 404.]