By Ryan K. Boman, Editor in Chief
Some people must have it out for CM Punk.
At least, that’s what he would have you believe, based what he’s been saying publicly over the past several years. Be it doctors, lawyers, or the WWE’s head Chief, Vince McMahon, the veteran wrestler-turned-UFC-fighter couldn’t seem to catch a break.
It was Punk, as we all know, who was forced to depart from the Cathedrals of Stamford, not long after being given the keys to their heavenly kingdom.
At one time, his run with WWE was almost a christening, and the birth of his very own ‘Cult’. Then, due to situations conveniently beyond his control, Punk was hung out to dry by the company that he worked so hard for. At least, according to him.
When he left, Punk sang the same refrain he often had in his wrestling career: There were certain people in the company who held him down and stabbed him in the back.
Why? Well, it was plain and pure jealousy… of course. As old as the days of Cain and Abel. And in Punk’s version of the gospel, it was Triple H who was the main Judas in question, even risking the grappler’s health in the process
So Punk, acting on his ethics, walked away from the wickedness of WWE, and all their golden shekels.
Fast forward to today, and Punk is in the middle of a civil trial with the company’s doctor, based on some disparaging comments he made on Colt Cabana’s podcast. The well-documented case has produced some embarrassing testimony and even reduced the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion to tears in the court room.
So, it’s been a tough week for Punk, who’s standing at a bit of a crossroads. He’s about to turn 40 in October, his public perception isn’t favorable, and he’s now almost five years into a mixed-martial arts experiment that leaves him at the grandiose record of 0-1.
At UFC 225, he will try to redeem himself against a fellow inexperienced opponent, Mike Jackson. Jackson is winless in his only pro fight, having also lost to Punk’s one opponent, Mickey Gall.
In other words, it’s not exactly a Clash of the Titans.
Win or lose, his biggest opponent will likely be a UFC viewing audience that’ll look for any reason to burn him at the stake. Commentator Joe Rogan has already hurled his share of stones at Punk, saying it’s a “joke” that he’s even being featured on the card.
It would take a god-like performance to convince hardcore fight fans that he’s for real. And on top of that, he’s dealing with the strain of his trial while training for this bout.
For a guy who seems to thrive on claiming that everyone is against him, Punk should be in heaven right now. The odds are astronomical that Punk will manage to impress the MMA crowd. Like it or not, he will be fighting more not to embarrass himself in his hometown of Chicago.
For that reason alone, the events of Punk vs. Jackson on Saturday night should be interesting, as it might be the last time he decides to step into the Octagon. Originally agreeing to a total of eight fights when he signed with UFC in 2014, this second bout could very well be Punk’s last. Surely, he’s growing tired of all these slings and arrows.
But make no mistake – In CM Punk’s case, it’s NOT persecution.
It’s more like a self-fulfilling prophecy… bordering somewhere between having a Jesus Complex, and just being a glutton for punishment.
Punk isn’t a legitimate UFC fighter, yet continues to try and turn that same water into wine. He complained about not being given a chance in WWE, but when the rivers were parted for him, he ran away. And when it hasn’t worked out, he has talked his followers into believing he’s somewhat of a sacrificial lamb.
It’s the same stubbornness that he hits the heavy bag with, knowing it will barely move.
Punk has to realize his prime earning power over the next few years is tied directly to the squared circle, yet he continues to burn bridges in the business that could pay him more than anyone. Since departing, Punk has openly mocked aspects of the industry that made him famous, yet sports entertainment has always been his softest landing spot.
So, in many ways, it’s hard to feel sorry for Punk, and the same can be said with his current legal dealings.
Unlike fans who have been blinded by their faith, I don’t see Punk as a savior-like figure; I don’t feel like he’s taking the thorns for his fellow wrestlers, or being persecuted.
I think he’s a guy who decided to wrestle hurt – out of loyalty. When he didn’t feel like that loyalty was reciprocated, he was left with a staph infection and a whole lot of sour grapes.
In this case, I see Punk following, basically, the identical pattern as he has throughout his entire career: He’s the victim. Of politics. Of bad medical advice. Or, of people simply not liking him.
And while I certainly don’t think he and Cabana owe the doctor any damages for their previously-podcasted opinions, I do believe this trial illustrates just how badly that CM Punk needs a re-birth.
Hopefully, he’ll be content to grab some kind of spiritual victory at UFC 225, and move back to where he inevitably belongs. Rumors are swirling that he might be secretly involved with the Bullet Club’s All In event in September. For his disciples, it’s a sign of hope from above that Punk could very well be looking for a wrestling Resurrection.
It could also be the start of a personal Reckoning – The indication that he’s done playing the martyr, and that he’s ready to be the savior that some observers believe he could be. In the process, he might even quiet a few of his critics.
As a fighter, Punk has already grown stale and is considered a publicity stunt. But as a wrestler, he’s got fresh opportunities in an arena where he’s wanted. And, all he has to do to repent is merely come back.
If he does return to wrestling, Punk would instantly be one of the most popular and polarizing athletes in the world once again, and likely the hottest commodity in the industry. He would be reborn, in so many ways… Almost miraculously.
So, here’s to hoping Saturday night is the last verse in Punk’s UFC run. It’s time to add a New Testament to his very old story.
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