Mark for War

Mark For War: UFC.M.


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I prefaced my column last week by stating that this week I’d be talking about the CM Punk interview with Colt Cabana that recently went viral. The interview shed a lot of light on the circumstances of Punk’s exit from the WWE last January.

I think Punk overshadowed his interview this past weekend when he announced, during a live UFC broadcast, that he was taking his talents to the world of mixed martial arts.

First off, I’d just like to say that I don’t like the UFC. I hate obnoxious Joe Rogaine (see what I did there?), the bro fans, the Affliction/Tap Out culture, and it’s violent little influence on the world. For example, my friend was in a bar fight in Iowa three years ago. He squared off with another drunk asshole over nonsense. They began by throwing punches at each other, like any other bar fight in history. However, when my friend finally missed a punch, he found himself in a rear naked chokehold and slowly losing consciousness. He woke up on the bar floor after being passed out for a minute due to lack of oxygen going to his brain. He’s probably lucky to be alive. The guy who choked him out was obviously a UFC fanatic who, weighing a nice and round 215 pounds, probably learned said move from watching UFC. Not from a classically trained sensei who first made him wax cars.

That said,  obviously just because I don’t like something, and people see and use it in society improperly, doesn’t mean It shouldn’t exist if the majority of its fans like and support it in a healthy fashion (i.e., alcohol, football, Sons of Anarchy, etc.). 

Before I begin talking about the UFC though, and Punk’s future involvement in it, I will first address the Cabana interview. If you haven’t listened to the podcast already, check it out below:

Props to Colt Cabana, who seemed to keep the conversation on an even keel, when I was expecting him to coddle Punk way more than he did.  All in all, Punk made some amazing points that shed a lot of light on his side of the story. There were, however, also a few things he said that annoyed me.

First off, the staph infection story. Punk’s explanation of this incident really makes him come across as a nonsensical martyr. To recap: Punk stressed how he grew paranoid of a growing lump on his hip. He brought it to the attention of the WWE’s doctor, who apparently said it was “nothing,” and refused to pop it out of laziness. Eventually, Punk left the WWE, went to another doctor who was not employed by that organization, who pronounced it a full-blown staph infection on sight and lanced it (to the point where its puss hit the ceiling). If you were grounded by your mother and told to “not move a muscle” before she headed out to work and the house caught on fire while she was gone, would you stay inside and get burned alive? If Punk was so concerned about a growing lump on his side, he could have taken an afternoon to head to a doctor on his own time to get a paid diagnosis. Then, once it was discovered that it was indeed a staph infection, he can rub it in the face of the WWE’s lazy doctor.

I was also really annoyed by the constant reiteration of the fact that Punk, according to him, outsold John Cena in merch sales (insinuating that his spot and pay didn’t reflect his popularity). Is it me, or did anyone else draw a connection between merch sales and the type of fans Punk has? I’d argue that Punk’s fans are basically the hardest marks in the wrestling business. They go out of their way to buy every shirt with Punk’s name on it because they’re overexcited fanboys who have jobs and money. Punk complaining about only receiving a fraction of the profits from his merch sales is ridiculous. Yes, it sucks that the WWE doesn’t run like the ROH, where your friend can sell your shit at a merch table and you take home 100% of the money after you pay him $50. It’s the WWE! Them being the only game in town gives them leverage. If Punk went to TNA, for example, he’d probably make a much higher merch percentage off sales. He could probably even negotiate to get 100% of his merch sales under a TNA contract. Ironically, he’d sell so much less merch he’d probably make significantly less money than his current WWE deal. Again, this is just a tale as old as time — a “nature of the beast” story that happens to anyone at the mercy of a powerhouse company.

Then there were the release papers that were delivered to Punk on his wedding day. Now, if that was the case, and the WWE went out of their way to negatively impact Punk’s wedding day out of spite, I side with Punk. I really thought upon hearing this story, though, that as dastardly as WWE could be, this for sure wasn’t something Vince and company would do. Fittingly enough, in this past week’s interview with Steve Austin, Vince McMahon did mention his side of this story, and said that the papers being delivered that day was merely coincidental. All due respect to Mr. McMahon’s deviousness, I totally believe him. Besides a couple of questionable, below-the-belt transgressions in the Monday Night War era, rarely have I heard stories of McMahon going out of his way to zing a guy. He’ll screw someone over, yes. But the stories of McMahon laying cheap shots are very rare.

As a whole, I got the main crux of Punk’s argument: he was worked to an unhealthy bone, was owed favors that weren’t getting reciprocated, andon several occasions had to step aside for part-time players, especially around ‘Mania time. Points very well taken.

Fast forward to this past Saturday, when my friend Anne texted me saying that CM Punk was now in the UFC. I quickly checked my phone and found out that, indeed, CM Punk was headed to the octagon.

A wave of immediate “Why is he doing this?” washed over me.

Here’s the thing: I know the UFC is super hot right now. I also know that it’s basically the only way for a sports entertainer to validate that he is actually a legit skill fighter and or/badass in real life. But does anyone else feel that CM Punk should be above going this route?

If we compare Punk to Brock Lesnar (the previous WWE guy to do this), we have two guys cut from very different cloths. Lesnar was an All-American legit wrestler from Minnesota. He gave a hell of a fuck about wrestling, but it’s well documented that he didn’t give a damn about sports entertainment. When someone recruited him by saying, “Hey, you can make a shit load of money to fake wrestle,” he jumped on the opportunity, and his in-ring skills and look were able to quickly propel him to the top.  

Then there’s CM Punk: a dude who worshiped sports entertainment growing up. He was a Roddy Piper fan. He was a Randy Savage fan. He respected the concept of having a great promo, and realized having one was just as important as lighting it up in the ring. His goal as a teenager was to be the best in sports entertainment, not legit wrestling combat (like Lesnar). The UFC world may have been Lesnar’s birthright, but it isn’t Punk’s. Lesnar’s involvement in the UFC is what will make him a future WWE Hall of Famer. It cemented him as the first crossover superstar that conquered both worlds. In the process of conquering the world of the UFC, I think a significant hole was filled in Lesnar’s character. This hole was legitimacy. I don’t think CM Punk has any holes in his game to fill.  He is outstanding on the mic and in the ring, and he understands the business in a top-notch fashion that, frankly, Lesnar never will. So Punk’s involvement in the UFC is far more likely to hurt his reputation than add to it. It’s almost like when Michael Jordan left the NBA to play baseball. Even if you have a desire to succeed at something new and different, you throwing away a skill at which you are arguably one of the best ever to give something else a shot is a failure in and of itself. 

Luckily for Punk, if he actually wins in the UFC, his character will only get hotter before his return, which I feel will inevitably take place within the next five years. His first UFC fight will more than likely be against a lame ass he’ll surely beat. The buy rate for the PPV will be high. Then he’ll start to get real competition. What if the competition handles him, or worse, destroys him? Plus, didn’t he constantly reiterate in the Cabana Podcast that he is nursing chronic injuries, most notably in his knees? News flash: an opponent is going to know about and exploit said injuries in any UFC fight.

I respect Punk for his ambition, but at the same time, he’s playing with fire here. But again, for the umpteenth time, you got to give Punk props for doing what he wants to do when and how he wants to do it.

Match of the Week Brock Lesnar/Undertaker Impromptu Encounter: UFC 121, Oct 23, 2010

This isn’t a match. Actually, it isn’t really anything. It’s basically the aftermath of Lesnar being pissed off after losing the UFC Heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez, and ‘Taker getting in his face afterward about a cryptic personal matter. I love how pissed Brock is to see ‘Taker, how hot Michelle McCool looks, how Taker wears a black bandana for a night out on the town, and how ‘Taker constantly says “Cain” in it, like he’s said the name several times before (wink wink), and how MC Hammer is for some reason lingering around in the background.

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