by Gus Ramsey
Compelling: Evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.
When I watched CM Punk deliver his promo on Monday Night Raw this week, that was the word that came to mind.
I've worked in television for 22 years, both in news and sports. The highest compliment pretty much any piece of television work can be given is for it to be compelling.
I've been a wrestling fan as long as I can remember. Aware of it in the 70's, I grew up with it in the 80's and stuck with it until Stone Cold and The Rock moved on.
I've been pulled back into it in recent months by my two older boys, who have discovered it with that wide-eyed innocence that makes it so great. On Saturday mornings I often awake to the sounds of my boys "ooohing" and "ahhhing" downstairs as they watch Smackdown on the DVR.
I'm 44 now. I shouldn't really get wound up by anything I see in or around the ring. But Punk's shoot on Raw grabbed me. I was already in bed, doing something on the iPhone and RAW was background music. But when Punk started talking, I gazed up at the tv. In short order, he had my full attention. As he spoke, I found myself having this internal discussion, "Wait, is this real? That whole "my contract is up angle" is just an angle, isn't it? (I don't read up on this stuff so I am in the dark with the behind the scenes news.) Nah, it's part of the show. Good for Vince for letting him say all this stuff. But what if it's not? Man, that was awesome!"
The answer lies somewhere in between. And that's the beauty of wrestling. Just when you think you have the answers, they change the questions. My favorite part of the Punk promo was when he looked at the camera and said "Hi! Oops, I broke the fourth wall." That was the clue. Those big walls the wrestlers all come running out from behind on their way to the ring? Punk was giving us a glimpse behind them. My memory is fuzzy, so maybe there are other instances, but this was the first "hey, I think they're off the script!" moment like that I can recall since the epic Vince/Brett Hart moment.
I hadn't really jumped all the way back in to the WWE. I enjoy the crazy R Truth character. Randy Orton is fun to watch. Cena is Cena. The athleticism of the the wrestlers today is spectacular. But it seemed like the talent on the mic was lacking. Big time. I didn't feel like there was anyone compelling. CM Punk changed the game (sorry, HHH) on Monday night for me. Besides the fact that he isn't a muscles-on-top-of-muscles cartoon character, he can command the mic. He actually comes off as really smart. How many wrestlers can you say that about? Ever? Now Punk has a chance to break out in a Stone Cold Steve Austin kind of way.
But the clock is ticking. It appears the contract squabble is real and in a few weeks, Punk could be gone. Vince McMahon is a smart man and knows the business better than anyone. It doesn't make any business sense to let Punk walk now. For the WWE's sake, and mine, I hope Punk stays. Creating compelling TV is hard to do. And you can't spell compelling without C.M.P.
Here's a cool column about wrestlers reaction to Punk on Monday night.
and here is the promo