How WWE should have booked "The Summer of Punk."
This piece looks at how WWE should've booked CM Punk during summer 2011 and beyond.
My original piece, “Looking back at ‘The Summer of Punk’” looked back at the what WWE actually did with CM Punk in the summer of 2011 and how it was blown. In this piece, I outline how I would have booked Punk during this period.
The WWE creative team was on the right track when it had CM Punk show up at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, July 21, 2011, which came off very well and was actually reported on, as if it were a shoot, by a number of websites. Punk gate-crashed a WWE panel Q&A session featuring new CEO Triple H, Rey Mysterio, writer Brian Gerwitz, and Bret "Hitman" Hart, and began to mock the session.
He was not happy with the WWE Championship tournament that took place on the previous week’s episode of Monday Night Raw and challenged Mysterio or anyone else to head to Chicago and face him. Punk then took it a step further and questioned Triple H and Gerwitz as to why under-utilised internet sensation (at the time), Zack Ryder wasn't on Raw.
Triple H told Punk that things had changed on RAW and that there was a new regime and told Punk to give him a call. Punk responded by telling Hunter that he was sure Stephanie had his number. Four days after this ground-breaking angle, Punk returned to Raw, in time to wrestle at SummerSlam, in one of the worst hot-shot booking decisions of all-time.
Despite its brilliance, the Comic Con angle did have its one flaw, it had to be reported on WWE.com. Without doing that, your main storyline would have only been accessible to 10% of your fanbase, and even on WWE.com, it only would have only reached a small portion of the fanbase.
If Punk had taken the WWE title around the world and faced different wrestlers every week, as some suggested, the WWE would have still needed to put this on TV, and there would have been no storyline/booking logic in airing the matches of a former employee wrestling outside your promotion.
With the WWE thinking there was no way to maintain the Punk vs. WWE angle as a shoot on a long-term basis, they brought Punk back in after a few weeks. The problem with that, though, was that they killed CM Punk’s revolution.
For weeks Punk had made demands for ‘change’ and had said that he wanted things to be made right. Two weeks after winning the WWE Title and quitting, Punk returned to face the same man he had already beat, solidifying that nothing had changed and rendering his entire cause meaningless.
With WWE unable to find a way to play out the Punk .vs WWE feud without isolating 90% of its audience, they should have found a way to get Punk back on TV without rendering his cause meaningless.
They certainly needed to wait longer than two weeks to pull the trigger. But, what if they could have maintained the entire shoot side of the angle for 2-3 months without putting him on TV, while still keeping their entire audience in the loop? Enter Ring of Honour, and the implementation of my idea to solve the issues WWE had in pulling off this storyline.
Ring of Honor is an American professional wrestling promotion known for its focus on superior wrestling. It was founded in 2002 and was sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG), an American telecommunications company, in May 2011.
In the past, it has featured the likes of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe and several more. Many wrestling observers believed that CM Punk should have gone to ROH temporarily, and were interested in the prospect of Punk facing Davey Richards in Champion vs. Champion match.
However, the original problem still remained unsolved, in that there was no way for it to make sense that the WWE would air ROH wrestling on their its show. While ROH would have benefited greatly from the extra attention on its product, the WWE would have gained nothing from this, without being able to air the footage.
But what if WWE was content with using 30 seconds of footage to sell and legitimise their top storyline to their mass audience? What if the WWE could create the illusion that ROH had gone into business for themselves, and had purchased advertising on the USA network, strategically placed to air during Raw?
A concept so unique, that even the smartest fan would be left wondering if it was a work or a shoot. WWE Raw manages to get around 5 million viewers per week. The benefit of going live each week is that RAW doesn’t suffer too much from being a show you can simply DVR and watch later, as people prefer the live feel to the show.
During their three-hour broadcast (two hours in July 2011) the Raw rating fluctuates segment by segment, meaning that people float in and out of Raw depending on what they are watching, but also depending on what they are told to watch by friends or family, who watch the entire show all out, without channel surfing.
By allowing CM Punk to go to ROH, the WWE could have allowed ROH to advertise upcoming live shows, featuring “real” WWE Champion CM Punk, on Raw, but making it appear as if the adverts were purchased on the USA network by the ROH promotion, or whatever channel they were appearing on internationally.
They would have done this by adding a 60 second ROH commercial, featuring “real WWE Champion” CM Punk, just before the actual commercials or just after the final commercial, before returning to Raw.
This would give the impression that the ROH commercial was simply the first or last commercial before Raw was back on the air, much like WWE do when they advertise their house shows for local markets.
Through airing these adverts enough during Raw, and by making them very different as compared to the WWE adverts, like ECW did with their adverts in the mid 90’s, ROH and WWE could have pulled off the illusion that Punk was wrestling in another promotion, with the WWE title hostage.
Through word of mouth, their entire mass audience would have seen or been aware of the ROH commercials airing during Raw over the three month period Punk was away from the show.
After building this up during this time, Punk would return to WWE at an appropriate time and place and would receive a similar reaction to the night he left at Money in the Bank Chicago, while never being out of the minds of the WWE mass audience of Monday nights.
Madison Square Garden for the Survivor Series would have a fitting place for Punk to return, and possibly unify the belts. If WWE showed true patience, they could have allowed Punk to begin invading WWE shows from Survivor Series only to be ushered out of arenas.
That being until the Royal Rumble, where the winner could insist on facing Punk, feeling he was the true Champion. This could have lead to a triple threat featuring Champion vs. Champion vs Royal Rumble winner.
CM Punk could have even won the Royal Rumble, giving him more obstacles on his way to back to the pinnacle of the company. Whatever options the company opted to go with, they would seemingly have all been better than what actually happened.
Despite his long title reign, the summer of Punk will always be viewed as a lost opportunity.