“Nothing from nowhere, I’m no one at all…” and so are you.
It’s through wrestling though that we as a community come together, not always on the same page, but radiating silently nonetheless as one flame as wrestling’s torch. Maybe we don’t get along all the time, mostly because we’re all very strangely tribal, but at our core we’re same.
Punk highlighted that in mere minutes.
Sunday night at Revolution CM Punk turned back the clock in more ways than one even before the bell rang to mark the opening of his dog collar match with MJF. It was his music, familiar to some even though many in the crowd also didn’t understand just yet what was happening. It was his gear — replicating what he wore during a previous dog collar match he had with Raven many years ago. It was his presence, and that gravity came to everyone with greater clarity — even the initially confused — as he drew closer to the ring, climbed onto the apron and up to the ropes — and standing there with his arms crossed over his heart as Orlando chanted his name.
Even if you didn’t understand the importance of CM Punk coming out to AFI’s “Miseria Cantare,” by the end of the entrance you understood the impact. This wasn’t the same man who signed with WWE many years ago, and much less the man who left wrestling in 2014. Perhaps even more so to the point, this was a different animal when comparing the man who stepped back into the wrestling sphere last August for the first time in seven years.
This was the person who took forever to come out for his last Ring of Honor match many years ago, whom people loved then and showered in streamers as he knelt down in the centre of the ring, and did so as AFI’s 2003 track played over the arena speakers before it bled into The Bouncing Souls’ “Night Train” by the time he finally entered the ring. It’s weird how music can transport you back to a point in your mind, a memory or moment you recall vividly because you witnessed it first hand and the only result from all of it are goosebumps that don’t deteriorate even after you’ve experienced it multiple times.
I suppose much of it comes back to wrestling being built off the stories told; equally as much the ones told to us as the ones we experienced and tell others in return to birth that cycle. Both matter in the bigger picture of what we take in as wrestling fans. That’s how we sell it, and that’s also why we buy into it; it’s never just the alphabet soup we’re slurping from our bowls for dinner as much as it is the people between the ropes who go in there and make you care more than you thought possible. That’s how they get you, and that’s why when something as simple as not coming out to “Cult of Personality” occurs, it is a pivot to evoke nostalgia and sentiment to inject greater meaning into the story that Punk and MJF were trying to tell. It’s how they get their hooks into your head and heart and take you for a stroll through their personal playground-like battlegrounds.
They started their story without a word — just an exchange of looks. As they developed their story the pieces fell into place — from their verbal sparring on the microphone in the middle of the ring, to their first match in Chicago where MJF beat Punk “twice,” through Punk’s tag match to secure this rematch at Revolution. That of course, however, is the dressing on a story that has reminded us of why fans loved CM Punk while also humanizing the previously uniquely deplorable MJF who we believed through and through is beyond reproach as a wholesale heel.
I wouldn’t shy away from calling that storytelling “mastery” in its purest form, without even unleashing the utter brutality of what MJF and Punk did in the ring Sunday night. The story was purposefully pure, while the match was violently gritty and together authored something of a throwback toward the foundation of professional wrestling. Wrestling makes a difference in our lives as fans when we feel what’s happening in a match from head to toe, from our fingers down our toes and the surface of our skin right down into the marrow of our bones.
Wrestling is paraded about as something larger than life and that definition is too often devoutly clung to as though it were the only description that could characterize what professional wrestling or “sports entertainment” is at its core; it’s everything defining those as much as it is the waypoints in between. And while we need to believe in bigger things, that someone like a Thor or Incredible Hulk will smash through and save the day, we need to be brought down to earth and rediscover the humanity of the people in the ring in order to find deeply personal stories which are often the best kinds. They’re the ones where the artists have something unique to say, a story to tell, or wish to encapsulate a moment of time. And if it’s done well, you’re transported back to that time, to those moments, to those first chords that build up inside hundreds or thousands of people all at once to the point it can’t be quantified. Not accurately.
But qualitatively? You feel it, second by second while capturing moments in your mind. What you see though isn’t necessarily Max or Punk in either position they were standing in inside the ring last night at Revolution. It was you, and the magic of wrestling storytelling done right happens when beyond what you think you know, you discard that preconception at a moment’s notice because you relate to the moments in time.
Max was Punk, and Punk was Max. Whoever you were, was up to you.