Last Word on Pro Wrestling’s series, War of the Words, explores the art and impact of the promo by looking back through the archives. This series will examine all kinds of promos, from the most memorable or ones that have been overlooked and are underrated, showing the background of the promo, the promo itself, the aftermath of the promo and what came from it. Kicking off the series is none other than a promo that is still considered one of the greatest of all time, CM Punk’s pipebomb.
On June 27, 2011, after interfering to cost John Cena a match against R-Truth, CM Punk took a mic, sat down on the ramp, and began to tell his story in the form of his famed pipebomb. And despite Punk having walked out on the company by 2014, the pipebomb, which incorporated fourth wall breaking elements in a way that had never really happened before, is still largely considered to be one of the greatest promos of all time. Additionally, in 2018, during the lead-up to Raw 25, CM Punk’s pipebomb was voted on by the fans and acknowledged by WWE, as the second greatest moment in Raw history.
Punk, since leaving, has become such a divisive and controversial personality among wrestling fans. There is the collection of individuals who are glad to see him gone, who call him a quitter and are the first ones to meme and mock his UFC shortcomings. Then there are the group of loyal supporters who chant his name every chance they get and who hope for the day that “Cult of Personality” once again blares through the speakers at a WWE show. There really doesn’t seem to be an in between anymore.
That said, even the most diehard Punk detractors would be hard-pressed to deny the impact that the pipebomb promo has had on the industry since it was first delivered, and the impact it continues to have today. The fact that it is still being talked about and referenced years later is testament to just how powerful CM Punk’s soliloquy really was and just how true and almost prophetic it was as well. And that’s an opinion that is shared not just among fans either.
A New Era of Wrestling
I don’t hate you john. i don’t even dislike you. i do like you. i like you a hell of a lot more than i like most people in the back.
In an interview with Fox Sports in 2017, Cody Rhodes referred to the pipebomb as being a “defining moment for professional wrestling because it was the first time these streams really crossed.” Rhodes later went on to reference the unpredictability that the pipebomb created as it opened up a new era of wrestling where anything could, and as we’ve seen, likely does happen.
In 2012, John Cena, the man on the opposing end of the pipebomb, offered high praise as well, stating in an interview with WWE.com, “When you see someone come into his own like that, it’s inspirational…It was almost like an opposing coach watching an all-star player have the game of his life. Like man, you know you’re getting whipped and you know you are going to lose, but you’re seeing something great, and something that is going to stand the test of time.”
So far, Cena’s been correct as Punk’s pipebomb has served as a catalyst for wrestling as a whole, but more than that and perhaps most importantly, has impacted the way fans perceive wrestling both for the better and the worse. Punk’s pipebomb, as Rhodes asserted, started a new revolution in wrestling, one that still reverberates today, both throughout the independents and of course in WWE itself. Now, all of this could have been inevitable. It could have been just a matter of time and something that was bound to happen regardless of the pipebomb or not. No one can really know the answer to that. All we can say, at the very least, assume, is that in 2011, the pipebomb got the ball rolling and with the more time that has passed, the more the impact of that promo has been shown.
I’ve been the best ever since day one when i walked into this company. and i’ve been vilified and hated since that day, because paul heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit.
Now that’s not to say that CM Punk himself deserves all of the credit because he doesn’t. While he was the one to deliver and likely script a good deal of the material within the pipebomb, it was WWE that gave him the freedom and the platform to speak his mind. The pipebomb, contrary to popular belief at the time, was not a shoot. In fact, as Triple H so astutely put it in an interview with Grantland in 2013, “If that would’ve been a shoot, it would’ve been off the air the second he started.”
Punk’s Pipebomb: A Lasting Impact
— Gorilla Position (@WWEGP) June 27, 2018
For some, giving the WWE any credit is like pulling teeth but the fact of the matter is that in 2011, they were the ones at the forefront of this new era. CM Punk delivered the lines, but WWE let him say them. They let him mention Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling and Colt Cabana by name. They let him call the Rock by his birth name, Dwayne, and refer to him, Cena and Hulk Hogan, three of the biggest draws in WWE history, as “ass kickers.” They let him say, “I’d like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon is dead.”
It was that honest, fresh and at the time extremely hot take of the pipebomb, that changed the way fans saw wrestling. As people debated the nature of the promo, whether or not it was a work or a shoot, fans got behind Punk for espousing some of the same concerns and issues with the product they themselves had. Punk became the “Voice of the Voiceless” and while he was a Paul Heyman Guy, certainly became his own advocate and advocate for the WWE Universe not to mention the locker room, most of whom got behind his message as well.
I’ve grabbed so many of vincent K. Mcmahon’s brass rings that it’s finally dawned on me that they’re just that, they’re completely imaginary.
“I was a huge fan of Punk before, and I think that day made me an even bigger fan,” Justin Gabriel aka PJ Black said in the WWE interview. “Just the way he walks and talks is so different. Everything he says, you want to believe him. For the guys in the WWE locker room, he definitely hit the right notes, but he obviously ruffled a lot of feathers. But that’s cool. That’s what we need. I think that’s what we needed at the time and we need more of that going forward, too.
Wow. Seven years ago today, CM Punk dropped the pipe bomb. This promo changed WWE, and on a larger scale, the wrestling world, helping give credibility to "indie darlings" and the "little" guy. Will never forget watching live. https://t.co/CsoKBuVxpf
— Jon Alba (@JonAlba) June 28, 2018
A new star had been created and a new rebellion set into motion. Most people were willing to get behind both. As a result, the guy who wasn’t on the collector cups or the programs or the marquees had turned into the one who was main eventing and whose name was chanted throughout arenas worldwide. The pipebomb made CM Punk a household name and was perhaps a precursor for a similar fan movement that would occur just a year later.
When asked about Punk’s pipebomb, Ezekiel Jackson noted how the former superstar “had absolutely nothing to lose…he could have said anything he wanted, and in way, he did.” Jackson also talked about Punk becoming a “natural leader of the WWE locker room” that night and that he personally felt that Punk was “trying to make it known that he was representing us.” At the end of his statement, Jackson noted how Punk touched upon the fact that a “smaller guy like him wasn’t supposed to ever be WWE Champion,” but he did win the title as did Daniel Bryan, who Jackson also mentioned by name.
the only thing that’s real is me and the fact that day in and day out, for almost six years, i have proved to everybody in this world that i am the best on this microphone, in that ring, even in commentary! nobody can Touch me!
Of course, there is no definitive way of saying that without the pipebomb there would have been no Yes! Movement. However, what can be said is that the fans seemed determined for Daniel Bryan, another indy darling much like CM Punk, not to be ignored and become someone who never got their rightful due and left as a result of it. Punk’s pipebomb could have also been a catalyst for a guy like Zack Ryder winning the Intercontinental Championship in 2016 or AJ Styles, after years of being told he didn’t have the look or size to be WWE-material, not just with the company but one of its top stars.
The pipebomb and Punk’s subsequent success was a game-changer for the independent scene and independent wrestlers hoping to achieve a career in WWE. 2011 was before NXT, it was before the rise of wrestling and social media, before the podcast boom. The path from the indies to WWE wasn’t as accessible as it is today. Punk was the face of a movement that opened doors that had never been opened before and many that have come after him have acknowledged and attributed their WWE success to Punk and the revolution his pipebomb started.
WWE’s Pipebomb Revolution
IMO, you’d have to go all the way back to Dusty Rhodes’ “Hard Times” to find one single promo that resonated with an audience like @CMPunk’s “Pipebomb.”
The defining promo of its era and as scintillating today as it was in 2011.
Hard to believe it’s been seven years. https://t.co/1tc2lfzAjT
— A.J. Kirsch (@AJKirsch) June 27, 2018
Whether intentional or not, CM Punk’s promo seemed to launch WWE’s Reality Era where the lives of the performers in the ring and outside of it were presented as two separate entities. It is an era that has since seen WWE thoroughly acknowledge the roads traveled by their superstars, licensing video and mentioning other promotions by name on the WWE Network and in other avenues.
Punk was one of the first of his kind but since his departure in 2014, the landscape of WWE has become filled with guys and girls, most of whom have some kind of experience elsewhere. The age of the homegrown star seems to be over and while Punk’s pipebomb alone isn’t the reason for that, it’s hard to imagine it didn’t have some kind of impact on the direction the company has chosen to go in the ensuing years in relation to the strong independent presence that now exists throughout the ranks.
And hell who knows, maybe i’ll go defend it in New japan pro wrestling. Maybe…I’ll go back to ring of Honor.
Allowing Punk to speak his mind is something that took WWE from a rough patch in the early 2010s into a star-driven last decade which quite possibly has seen the best pure wrestling talent in the company’s history. The so-called revolution Punk’s pipebomb may have inspired could even be credited with WWE’s recent desire to not be a silo, rather opting to partner with organizations around the world, such as the UK Division, Adam Cole defending the North American Championship at EVOLVE, the announcement that Hideo Itami would be returning to work a show for Pro Wrestling NOAH and more.
At the end of the day, CM Punk’s pipebomb really was the beginning of that. It set this new era in motion by opening up an “anything is possible” mindset and that’s a legacy that can’t be understated whether or not Punk ever steps foot in a WWE ring ever again.
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