Wizard World: Five Reasons Why CM Punk Should Stay Champ

(or at least remain in the WWE title hunt)

Best in the world and self-confessed lovable jerk CM Punk at Wizard World Austin Comic-Con
Best in the world and self-confessed lovable jerk CM Punk at Wizard World Austin Comic-Con (Photo by Melissa Plunkett)

CM Punk is not just the best professional wrestler in the world. He's also the WWE champion. Tonight he defends that title against rising challenger Ryback, but before facing the beast in a steel cage in Atlanta, he spent Saturday in Austin for Wizard World Austin Comic-Con.

There's a lot of contention amongst wrestling fans about whether Punk, nearly a year into a career-defining title run, should drop the belt to a guy that's barely said three words on TV. But the WWE is in a state of flux at the moment, and Punk's continued run is not a sure thing. A few months ago he revealed that the company had even designed a new title to replace John Cena's infamous and controversial spinner belt. The presumption was that he'd be the one to swap it out. Now, as he told the audience, it looks like that monumental change is being left for someone else.

Whatever happens tonight at the Hell in a Cell PPV, it was clear from yesterday's Q&A that Punk deserves to stay at the top of the heap, and it's not just because he has a mean elbow drop and a high kick that can take your head off.

1: CM Punk cares about the fans. Let's talk about his crazy schedule. Yesterday he flew from Chicago to Austin, spent all day signing autographs and posing for photos, then did a Q&A with the fans, before flying to Atlanta where tonight he will wrestle in a Hell in a Cell match, headlining a PPV. When the "five minutes left" sign went up for the Q&A, he looked a little bummed out. So he kept going, and the 30 minute chat with the crowd went well over an hour. Even though it was the day after his birthday (yes, he was surprised with a cake and a quick rendition of 'Happy Birthday') he was the one that brought treats: Cookies and pumpkin cupcakes for audience members that asked a good question. When one fan, a fifth grade teacher, asked him to record a short message to the kids in her class, he told them to stay in school and listen to their teacher.

2: CM Punk cares about the future of the product. The self-appointed voice of the voiceless remains brutally honest about certain aspects of the industry, like the WWE's seeming refusal to hire any women over the age of 25. He also took time to talk up current WWE US Champion Antonio Cesaro as one of the people to watch. But his big piece of advice about breaking into the industry is simple: "Just wrestle." That's what he and his friends did in Chicago, and when people called it backyard wrestling and said he should go to wrestling school, that's what he did. It wasn't a change for him: It was just "No harm, no foul" because he didn't know there was such a thing as a wrestling school until someone told him. Case in point: Ryback. There's an argument that he's been hotshotted into the title realm, but it's taken him eight years of hard work in the WWE developmental system to get there. Still, there's a big difference between dominating jobbers in two minute squash matches, and main eventing a brutal headliner like a hell in a cell match. Is Ryback ready for the big leap? The only way anyone will know is once the match is over. Punk knows that from when he first became WWE champ in 2008. "Was I ready?" he mused.

3: CM Punk is a real role model. His straight edge gimmick isn't a gimmick. he really is drug free, alcohol free and, as he made it clear yesterday, he doesn't even like frosting. Honestly, he's what Hulk Hogan unconvincingly claimed to be. But pro-wrestling is a brutal career, and he's got the scars to prove it: A fractured skull, a surgically repaired elbow, and a shoulder that gives him trouble. But when one fan asked if he had any techniques for dealing with the pain that other wrestlers dull with medication, he didn't really have an answer. He simply explained that he is "living proof" that wrestlers don't have to swallow a handful of pain pills every night to compete.

4: CM Punk tells it like it is. That's why his best promos are pipe bombs. But that also means he's very clear about what's what. There are terms that he doesn't like, such as sports entertainer instead of wrestler, or WWE Universe instead of fan. As he bluntly put it, if you didn't wrestle for Antonio Inoki in New Japan Pro Wrestling, don't say you wrestle Strong Style.

5: CM Punk isn't going to be around the wrestling ring forever. There's been a lot of discussion recently about how long he'll stay in the ring, and he's Tweeted on a few occasions that he'll be gone within the next two to three years. More than once during the Q&A, fans asked if he would consider sticking around to do commentary. After all, WWE hall of famer Jerry Lawler parlayed a life within the squared circle into a lengthy career. Nope, Punk explained, not him. When he retires, he said, "I'll disappear."

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