I believe that I have a great deal in common with former professional wrestler and current mixed martial arts fighter CM Punk. I am very much anti-establishment, I don’t “suffer fools easily”, I can be cantankerous, I will tell people what I think of them and I am motivated a great deal by being the best I can possibly be. With that said, there was a post on the wrestling observer message board which described Punk and what he may have been missing in terms of being a transcendent star. I think that I may have the same problems. What is in bold is where Punk and I intersect.

“Despite his tiresome whining to the contrary, CM Punk has my (and many others’) respect – but only as a superb wrestler and promo man. And therein lies the flaw in Punk’s entire presentation : a failure to grasp that someone can be respected – at least to a degree – but not admired. He may be saying “Respect me” but what he’s really demanding is “love me.”

Punk’s iconic predecessors Hogan, Piper, Savage, Flair, Austin and Rock are (or were) each blessed with a vast abundance of charisma, something that blinds enthusiasts to shortcomings. Punk simply doesn’t have the luxury of overwhelming magnetism, and is instead seen precisely as he is : a never-satisfied, highly opinionated, snarky sort of person, even as a babyface.

Which is a long way from loveable. In a sense, Punk is a victim of his own persona. His “no gimmick” gimmick means there is virtually no separation between his ring and real selves. To dislike the character is to dislike the man (and vice versa). There is no fantasy element, a surface on which fans traditionally project idealised images. There is no mystique. Most cannot identify with his alternate-lifestyle leanings. And with a roster full of former champions, being the current one creates little wow factor. Punk’s “real me” persona got him where he is, but also trapped him there.

In mid-2011, people were intrigued by the “something different” he supposedly represented. But intrigue is primarily a temporary interest, not a calling. Furthermore, whether it’s fair or not, a large portion of the general public feel threatened by the counterculture types or the “different”, their uneasiness generally compounded by talk of wholesale changes, especially since the listeners are the very people who apparently most enjoy the current product.

All the old excuses – not getting enough camera time/promo time/push/product tie-ins/media exposure/et cetera – are now out the window. In the end, Punk chose to be unconventional and to base his wrestling image on his own reality ; however, the consequence of those choices is a limited mass appeal.

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