When Punk first walked out on the WWE Universe just four months ago, I was the first in line to cast a stone. I took Punk to task for walking out on fans in the middle of his contract. I went as far as to call it a “dark day for professional wrestling.”
But time heals all wounds. And so after saying my peace, hearing what the fans had to say, and witnessing enough “TMZ sightings” to last a Hulk Hogan-sized wrestling career, I’m done. Punk deserves his oft-sought-after peace.
Last week, Natalie Slater (a close friend and former romantic interest of Punk) wrote a piece for Redeye Chicago titled ‘My Friend is Famous, and it Sucks.’ She spoke of an anonymous friend, a wrestler, who achieved his dreams inside the squared-circle, but now struggles with the celebrity of it all. She specifically noted “fans” camping outside the wrestler’s house, “fans” mobbing him at the airport, and “fans” tweeting angrily when he ignores them in public. It was more a commentary on our TMZ-culture than a CM Punk fluff piece. Still, her points valiantly defended “The Best in the World.”
I stand by everything I wrote in January. Every last word. Even the “major blemish on his legacy” closing line. But I’m also willing to admit when my viewpoint has changed, especially when new facts presented bring about a fresh perspective. Opinions, no matter how strongly worded or fiercely defended, always have room for growth.
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While Punk’s reasons for leaving – being burnt out, needing to heal, feeling fed up with the constant spotlight – still feel like excuses, and while Punk still made a poor business decision (reneging on contractual obligations in WWE’s most important season), I also think fans have taken it too far. Quit using “money” as the excuse for your vileness. We’re past that. Quit trying to snap cameraphone pictures of Punk when he’s at a hockey game, just for your five-minutes of fame on WrestlingIsStillReal101.com or whatever shady news site you endlessly refresh. Be a decent human being for once. CM Punk is flesh and blood, not dollar-signs and t-shirts.
As the biggest CM Punk fan here at Between The Ropes, it’s not hyperbole when I proclaim that Punk made me love professional wrestling again. He’s one of the last decade’s top-five superstars – even ranking higher than Daniel Bryan (so far). Still, I couldn’t conceive of treating Punk as anything less than a decent human being. Yes, it hurt when he walked out on the fans. But that was a business choice, not a personal attack. The fans helped make his promos and his career monumental, but the fans had nothing to do with his personal life. We’re not entitled to endlessly stalk him just because he made us happy for a few years. Sorry, but a twenty-dollar t-shirt and a fifty-cent ice cream cone isn’t enough for “Punk All-Access.”
And stop bringing others into your vicious cycle of entitlement. These same “fans” made personal attacks against Slater last week in response to her article. They Pointed out her body weight and told her she needed to “eat a steak.” That’s your response when somebody posts a plea for help? And you expect CM Punk to come back and sacrifice his body, and more, for you?
Natalie Slater did what she felt was right in defending her friend. She painted Punk as the unwitting anti-hero instead of the villain, and I applaud her efforts. More importantly, I respect her point-of-view. She see’s a side of CM Punk that none of us are privy to – a powerful, intimate side to WWE’s pipe-bomb extraordinaire. Her article reminded us that professional wrestlers are still humans, no matter what super-human qualities we project upon them.
I would never ask you to silence your voice, because as fans, we all pay for the right to be heard. But keep in mind the message you’re conveying. And offer up a little peace and quiet every once in awhile.