THE SPECIALISTS PWTORCH ROUNDTABLE: Debate on WWE introducing alcoholism in Punk-Jericho feud - good or bad for business? (Part 2)
Mar 18, 2012 - 2:06:59 PM
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PWTorch Roundtable Question 3/17: Do you agree or disagree with the direction WWE went with the C.M. Punk-Chris Jericho WrestleMania build-up by introducing alcoholism and Punk's alcoholic father?
Jon Mezzera, PWTorch specialist
I gave the segment with Chris Jericho bringing up C.M. Punk's alcoholic father a Miss in my Hits & Misses, and I stand by that as it made me uncomfortable. I did want to see something more from them, but this isn't quite what I had in mind. The more I think about it, the more I think I was wrong to want something more. A wrestling match over the WWE Title where both wrestlers claim to be the best in the world and want to win the Title to prove it would have been enough in this case.
They could then go on to ratchet up the tension by making the feud more personal after WrestleMania in a build-up to the re-match at Extreme Rules. I did like seeing something other than snarky sarcasm from Punk. The performances were fine from both. I'm not a fan of the alcoholism storyline, but I would be more willing to accept it after WrestleMania if Jericho wins the WWE Title, and then brags about being the best and then you can morph it into the alcoholism angle. Then, Punk really has something at stake after losing once, now in his hometown he wants to prove that he really is the best, and get revenge on Jericho for talking about his father. Meanwhile, Jericho can say that in addition to once again proving he is the best, he will turn Punk into an alcoholic. That would still make me uncomfortable, but would make more sense than randomly doing it now. (Read Mezzera's Hits & Misses column on each week's Raw and Smackdown.)
Charles Cress, PWTorch specialist
My favorite super hero is Iron Man. The story is older than me and I'll save you the annoying recant of everything you already know. The important part to know for the uninitiated is that Tony Stark (the man behind Iron Man), is a multimillionaire manufacturer and all-around sarcastic know-it-all with more confidence than common sense. On the surface, he's pretty much the best super hero ever: he has money, women, cars, a job (psshhh, the economy, am I right, fellas?), a dearth of smart ass quips...he has it all. In fact, I'd say if he just had those attributes, he'd be downright unlikable. How could anybody relate to this ego monster? But, the key to Tony Stark's mesmerizing story is his Kryptonite, his weakness. Tony Stark's flaw isn't a big baddie. His fatal flaw is himself. Always running from his problems and deflecting with his attitude, Tony Stark quickly gained a full conscience and urge to erase it. Enter: Alcoholism, Tony Stark's biggest enemy, and now, C.M. Punk's as well (for different reasons, but it works).
Read the description of Tony Stark again from the first paragraph. Doesn't that fit Punk's character? Sarcastic, confident...it's all there (you know...besides the being a weapons manufacturer and a genius). Trust me, it's easy to dislike Punk. His act can wear thin, and it's not easy to endear yourself to a room you hold yourself so far above. But, this, having an enemy, a fatal flaw, is what will endear C.M. Punk to the fans forever.
What are wrestlers if not real-life super heroes putting on an elaborate stage show complete with panel-like camera shots and prettied-up morality plays? And, what's a superhero without a weakness? Not only does C.M. Punk's outward persona now seem downright likable if not tragic (his humor and attitude are shields he uses to deflect his real feelings), but it makes Jericho that much more evil. Superhero, meet supervillain. Now fight for the fate of the world...championship. For any lazy people, here's the TL:DR version: I like it. (Read Cress's Alphabet Soup column on each week's Raw and Smackdown.)
George Chiverton, PWTorch specialist
Although I agree with where the story has gone, I'm really not sure about the execution. This is a fun little storyline for me because it has suddenly gave Punk-Jericho some substance beyond name-calling and title desires. It also makes Jericho look really crafty and resourceful, which are obviously good assets for a number one contender. Punk suddenly looks in trouble, too, with Jericho under his skin. So, the face looks in trouble, while the heel looks dangerous - well, what do you know? A well-promoted title match!
Unfortunately, this piece of lovely planning by some bright spark in Creative is ultimately undermined by the statistics. It's now two weeks until WrestleMania. That's 14 days. On two of those days, Punk and Jericho are going to be on Monday Night Raw. Unfortunately for them, so will Rocky and Cena, Laurinaitis and Long, and Taker, Hunter, and Shawn. That'll leave them, optimistically, 20 total minutes to push this potentially intricate and in depth storyline.
The headline here then is seemingly the same as many around WrestleMania, the feud is only just getting started and yet the two are having their big match in just a couple of weeks. The Elimination Chamber really needs moving, because with even three to four more weeks, Punk and Jericho could have really got their feud drawing some serious heat. Instead they'll drop some one-liners, which will be cut and pasted into a nice video package before they go out and have a (admittedly great) match. The only thing I'll add is if Punk's father turns up, that'll make or break the feud. I'll calling break. Read Chiverton's weekly NXT Rankings & Evaluation on Wednesdays.)
Nathan Kyght, PWTorch specialist
While I can certainly see that this stor line may be a little uncomfortable, I think that, basically, it's not our place to make a judgment over what WWE is presenting here; there is no way that the company is forcing Punk to do this angle, or making Jericho shoot barbs at a genuine and obviously painful truth. Both men are in on it, and it may even have been Punk's suggestion. He had a legendary feud with Raven in ROH built around the same "cringe-worthy" references to the past, and it led to some insane crowd heat.
This year's WrestleMania is obviously standing under the vast shadow of The Rock vs. John Cena and The Undertaker vs. Triple H, and for WWE to manage to add some genuine drama to what will likely be a tremendous match is not going to detract from business. I thought the angle on Raw came across very well, and added an intriguing dynamic to the WWE Title match. Also, it was refreshing to see Punk on the receiving end of the so-called "shoot" promos he was has become synonymous with; too often he simply smirks his way through a verbal attack and then fires back with "insider" references. This time, he seemed actually shaken.
We'll see how the rest of the build goes, but for now this is not crossing the line as far as I'm concerned. Edgy? Sure. Interesting? Definitely. But, this isn't a case of a wrestler taking an unprotected chair shot and defending it with "But, I knew it was coming!" It's a case of two wrestlers being comfortable introducing a very personal touch to build a match. If they're fine with it, I'm fine with it. (Read Kyght's PPV Evaluation column after each major wrestling PPV.)
Alex Roberts, PWTorch specialist
I don't think observers and critics were asking for too much from Chris Jericho's return, one that now largely feels like a disappointment. After all, Jericho has made a career out of consistently creative, excellent work. He stated in several interviews that he wanted to return to WWE only if there was a truly new and inventive role for him to play. Indeed, this seemed to be the case in the first few weeks of his return, with Jericho offering a silent, pandering lite-brite rock star that was by turns hilarious, frustrating, and strangely disturbing. Alas, it was over all too soon - Jericho started speaking and competing, while his pronouncement of "The End of the World" came up short at the Royal Rumble and was quickly parlayed into a solid but unspectacular WWE Championship feud with C.M. Punk.
Unspectacular, that is, until Jericho's promo on Monday. Like many of his promos, it caught me completely off-guard at first. I was thrown off by his delivery and initially shocked by the personal, loaded subject he was bringing up. It didn't take too long to recover, though, and realize I was witnessing yet another brilliant Y2J promo. No one plays the part of a cold, calculating heel like Jericho, and his proclamation that Punk was doomed to follow the same life path as his alcoholic father was as exhilarating as it was chilling. It was great, too, that the usually sarcastic Punk really sold the moment - finally, something got under the skin of The Best In The World. This is what I think Punk may have really meant when he declared the dawn of the "Reality Era" last summer - not that wrestling would become "more realistic" or a complete "worked shoot," but that WWE could become a more interesting, aesthetically gritty product by combining personal aspects with basic, solid pro wrestling storytelling.
I argued at the time of Punk and Jericho's face-to-face promo a few weeks ago that, while their exchange was solid, there was still something too reasonable about their arguments to make it truly compelling. Wrestling works best when two rivals are making grandiose, transgressive claims about one another, elevating their match to something of a transcendent importance. Just look at Cena and Rock - while their WrestleMania match essentially sells itself, the build-up remains hampered by both men's apparent unwillingness to focus on anything but petty personal issues. Jericho's promo on Punk, meanwhile, gave their program a spark that just might be able to push their match from good to great. It's no longer just a belt that is at stake here - it's Punk's very identity, symbolized by the WWE Championship. Punk and Jericho may be playing a distant third to Cena-Rock and Hunter-Taker this year, but they are doing it in a way that I feel has been stronger than either. I can't wait to see where this goes. (Read Roberts's regular DVD/movie/book reviews.)
Ben Tucker, PWTorch TV specialist
Do I agree? As Daniel Bryan so quaintly states, YES! YES! YES! YES! What is one of the main things people complain about with John Cena? He's invincible. Super Cena. Nobody beats him, nothing affects him, no weakness. People have been saying the same things about Orton for a while now, too. Some may call this distasteful, but in the end it gives Punk a huge amount of sympathy. Everyone loves the underdog, the guy who has to face his greatest weakness. This story makes Punk's character much more relatable and prevents him from becoming too invincible-esque. At the same time, it makes Chris Jericho look like an absolute monster, yet also a cunning one. And, in the end, this has created a personal issue that will sell WrestleMania tickets. Some may call it distasteful, but are people offended when alchoholism is portrayed on other TV shows? Is this really that much different? The answer is no. (Questions or Comments? Follow Ben on Twitter @BTuckertorch, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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