9. Brutal Honesty
There were a few too many obvious tells to the “Pipe Bomb” promo for it to have been a total unscripted shoot. WWE clearly approved of Punk’s insubordinate diatribe if they were shooting him from all angles with the TV cameras, instead of panning to a wide shot and cutting the mic sooner. That didn’t stop thousands upon thousands of fans from flooding social media, breathlessly asking, “Was that real?!”
Whether it was that speech, or the Art of Wrestling podcast with Colt Cabana (now *that* was a shoot), or with many other promos and interviews that he’s done in and out of the ring, Punk has had no problem speaking his mind. In an overly sanitized world where commentators have to cheerfully put over the countries they’re in, or performers have to toe the company line otherwise, getting Punk’s gut feelings infused into his words is pretty damn refreshing.
8. His Commentary
Some fans that value versatility in their wrestlers came to enjoy Punk’s several-week turn as a colour commentator on Raw earlier this decade. After a year-and-a-half of suffering through one insidious guest host after another on the most transparently-superficial episodes of Raw in history, Punk made the final months of 2010 worth sitting through.
Whether he was raking Michael Cole over the, well, coals with callbacks and the noting of continuity errors, or he was openly referencing real-life touchy subjects (Alex Riley’s recent DUI, or faintly praising Ted Turner, alluding to the troubling alliteration of King Kofi Kingston), Punk was untethered to anything except his own stream of consciousness. The clear apprehension in the voices of Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler whenever Punk went to say something (because they had *no idea* it might be going) was a nice alternative to the robotic commentary we tend to get otherwise.
7. Excelling In Either Alignment
You know how some wrestlers are well-regarded as heels, to the point where they turn face and are suddenly a less-enjoyable character? You know, the ones who are imbued with too much namby-pamby goodness that they lose their cooler edge? Punk’s very rarely had that problem. Whether he was on top of the roster as an anarchist champion of the people, or as an unrepentant asshole that let loose with maddening statements, Punk thrived as a star on either side of the fence.
To be fair, in his near eight years with the company, Punk mostly played the same character at different levels of intensity. Other than his turn as the Straight Edge Society’s Koresh-like leader, Phil Brooks didn’t have to take too many leaps in playing CM Punk before the TV cameras – face Punk and heel Punk were basically a stone’s throw apart, and it all came down to the character’s present motivations. Some (okay, most) will tell you, “Heel Punk was cooler!”, because everybody should be a heel, apparently. But Punk was rarely damaged by his alignment.