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The Commentary: Cena and Punk Tell a Story
- Updated: February 26, 2013
A standing ovation from an Internet Wrestling Community writer for a website based around reporting wrestling rumors. Is that what CM Punk and John Cena were aiming for during last night’s match?
Likely not, but they sure as hell got just that. And I don’t think I was alone.
After last Monday’s announcement that Cena would be putting his WrestleMania title shot on the line in order to finally gain a victory of CM Punk, I immediately began to think about several factors surrounding the particular episode. The first being the fact that the WWE Champion, The Rock, would not be present. With this concrete, it eliminated the possibility of any involvement from the most electrifying man in all of entertainment.
Further examining, it seemed The Shield are more so occupied with their own story. Though we’re not quite sure just what yet (Sheamus? Orton?), it seems their involvement with Punk has at least temporarily been put on hold. So get rid of them in the equation.
So, early Monday, I made the call for a match to remember. Regardless of whether Undertaker would return post-match or not at all, I wanted to see something we haven’t seen in years on Monday Night RAW. Something of Shawn Michaels/John Cena proportions. A clean finish that would crown a definitive No. 1 contender for the WWE title. A match that would have to deliver on all aspects, not just athletically, but in believability as well.
And deliver it did.
I was asked to describe myself in a recent job interview, and my response centered around one concept: Storytelling.
“I am a storyteller,” I said. “And I am someone who enjoys being told stories.”
Often times, Vince McMahon’s era of sports-entertainment has been criticized due to the fact that wrestling has been de-emphasized in favor of storyline focus and comedic relief. But there is no reason, in my eyes, why two guys cannot tell a story in the ring themselves with their actions. Let’s set the scene:
1. Two men who have been, more or less, feuding since January of 2011 when Punk joined The Nexus. Their match at Money in the Bank that same year was a “Match of the Decade” candidate, and their numerous battles ever since have held up as entertaining and enjoyable. It is a storied feud, and Punk in the past has been quoted as having said Cena is his greatest rival.
2. The Rock. Both men have a history with the champion. Punk has now lost in two consecutive pay-per-views to The Great One, and started a program with him upwards of seven months ago. Everyone is well aware of Cena’s past with him as well, alongside the fact that he initially won the Royal Rumble, guaranteeing his shot at it. The intrigue is there, as both men are hungry for a piece of him.
3. The match was for the shot at the flagship title of the company. For a main event spot. On the biggest pay-per-view of the year. In the biggest media market in the world.
There was not a single moment in the match where the viewer was bored. The crowd, which was generally pro-face but overall strong, added to the emotion. While the match could have obviously benefitted from the play-by-play of Jim Ross (imagine the powerbomb spot with the Hall of Famer on the call), Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were more than serviceable. But it all boiled down to what the two wrestlers (yes, I said it) told in the ring.
Pacing helps make a wrestling match great. From the get-go, Cena opened up with a fury, as Punk slowly gained advantage. What makes the latter so lethal and believable is his ability to reverse nearly anything in a quick and effective manner. Or how about him ducking the shoulder tackle? It’s different. And while Cena does tend to over-sell, he seemed more effective in this particular match in doing so. As the bout rounded towards the finish, there were excellent sequences of rapid reversals, reminiscent to Punk’s match with Chris Jericho at last year’s WrestleMania.
Yet what put this match over the top is the conveying of the desire for the victory. The finish saw both opponents reach deep into their arsenals, somewhat of a last resort. The piledriver, while supposedly drawing a strongly negative reaction from McMahon, was used so effectively that it caused what was perhaps the biggest pop of the night. When a move (regardless of if it’s banned) is used in a fresh matter, such as the chair shot to the head at WrestleMania 27, it makes it that much more meaningful. It portrayed the culmination of two years for two guys who went from disliking, to respecting, to hating one another. And even with the monstrosity that is the “Cenacanrana”, the ending of the match saw a fitting culmination to what has been one of the most entertaining feuds of the last 15 years.
Punk could not say he got screwed. They let him do what he does best, and that is above all else, wrestle. John Cena is the definitive No. 1 contender to The Rock’s title. The bullied conquered the bully, and did so in a way that allowed for emotional investment rarely seen in wrestling these days. The match did exactly what I wanted it to, and more.
The Undertaker will show up next for Punk. They will put on an excellent match as well. But he was not needed on this night. For the show had already been stolen.
Often times, we throw out the term “clinic” to describe a great technical match. While this installment (which is perhaps the final one) may not have been the most picture-perfect dance, it sure as hell did exactly what a clinic does. Teach. Youngsters, take note.
Storytelling. It can be done in today’s age. Especially in the ring. Thank you Punk and Cena.
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