CM Punk held back by the superficial

Image from Wrestle Heat

Professional wrestling’s biggest stars always seem to find a way onto a non-wrestling fan’s entertainment radar. Hulk Hogan is ubiquitous. (And continues to ruin facets of the business.) John Cena does everything from movies, TV, music and appearances, all while never losing the WWE championship for an extended amount of time. There are other household names professional wresting has given our mainstream entertainment world: The Rock, Steve Austin and Chris Jericho (depending how closely you follow music.)

But what about CM Punk? You know, the guy who arguably had summer’s most intriguing entertainment angle. Why has the pinnacle of Punk’s exposure been “Jimmy Kimmel Live!?” Admittedly, Punk (whose real name is Phil Brooks) says he is not a media darling. He comes off relatively standoffish, but remarkably comfortable in his own skin.

But maybe that’s the problem: his own skin. Punk is a heavily tattooed, greasy-haired anomaly. (He actually looks remarkably similar to my own tattoo artist.) This is the major differentiation between Punk and the other stars listed above. The Rock absorbed some ink later in his career, but the look between The Rock and Punk is very different. Punk’s ink is an old-school, colorful arrangement typically seen in a (surprise) punk culture.

Stigma still alive

Tattoos elicit a love/hate response from people. (This is my experience.) Handsome, non-tattooed people elicit a love response from people. If you’re the CEO of the WWE, who would you market the most? From the WWE’s perspective – a company that puts a lot of effort into bringing kids on board to their product – parents of these kids could visualize Punk as the anti-role model. Children want to be what they see. Parents don’t want a 7-year-old CM Punk spouting off to their second-grade teacher. (This is a strange paradox because many of Punk’s tattoos would be supported by these parents. Punk is straightedge and displays symbols of that culture prominently.

Image from

It’s no secret WWE is a company that leans to the right politically. (See: Linda McMahon.) I’m not saying all Republicans look down on tattoos. But if you look down on tattoos, you’re probably Republican. Punk is not the image that a company with a major player seeking political office wants.

For a culture that has made strides toward progression from the dark days of the early-20th century, ignorance among the population will forever slow acceptance. Historically, having a tattoo in America landed you under a circus tent. The best and worst thing to happen to body art is the cultural trend.

The trend of the tattoo (tramp stamps, barb wire and TV shows like “Miami Ink”) has helped in its acceptance. But it has also lowered the standard of what we see as unique, and why we see it as unique. In Japan, tattoos are still associated with organized crime. Tattooing is also one of the main identification keys within street gangs. Of course, the average person walking into a tattoo shop is neither in the mob or gang bangin’.

This wrongful association comes from close-minded people. And there are plenty of those in our society. This hurts Punk’s value to be elevated in the entertainment world.

What they’re missing out on

The entertainment value of Punk is off the charts. You don’t have to like or appreciate professional wrestling to appreciate his humor and wit. A trip to YouTube will offer to be quite the time waster. If Punk were void of ink in his epidermis, sans a lip piercing and had frosted hair he would be hosting a game show on ABC.

There is a reluctancy in the entertainment world to elevate professional wrestlers beyond their niche audience. Like tattoos, professional wrestling has a stigma against it. More often than not you can take the performances from WWE’s flagship show “Raw” and put them up against the latest Hollywood film and “Raw” would prevail.

Punk has the deck stacked against him. He’s a heavily tattooed professional wrestler; there isn’t a lot of room for growth in our stuck-up society for him. For a culture that complains about the homogeneity of entertainment choices, they sure are willing to to blindly deny what is out there.

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5 thoughts on “CM Punk held back by the superficial

  1. workmancer says:

    HHH was never entertaining outside of wrestling… I mean accepted in the entertainment world outside of wrestling… I know more non wrestling fans who know John Cena more than Steve Austin. Punk’s value is off the charts because he peaks behind the curtain and calls people by their real names and shoots on the company. That’s not wrestling.

    CM is a wrestler for sure. Far more than the Miz. The Miz is an actor playing a wrestler. Miz will never get anyone into wrestling because he doesn’t have the look. Cena, Sheamus and HHH have the look of pro wrestlers that will draw people into RAW.

    Kelly Kelly is seen in the mainstream… catch is she will never get anyone to watch RAW… but they’ll download her pictures. Beth Phoenix will get people to watch the show if she’d get into the mainstream.

    • Joey says:

      Thanks for bringing up “the look” that elevates a lot of wrestlers. I meant to bring that up in the blog, but neglected to get it in. Good comment. Keep up the good work on your end.

      • workmancer says:

        Yeah because if guys like the Miz & Chris Jericho look like an actor… people would be more interested in him in other roles. If Kelly Kelly looks like your stereotypical model it helps pictures. Wrestling has that negative stigma that there’s no way anyone will watch wrestling, but guys like Sheamus and Beth Phoenix will break the stigma and draw people in to watch wrestling instead of see them outside of wrestling or go LOL wrestling sux…. its not real (but nothing else is real).

        Chances are Punk doesn’t want to deal with people outside of wrestling. He doesn’t want to wear a suit… yet Cena and Austin all worse suits. I’ve seen Punk do low level interviews and wow is everything very honest. He’ll bring up injuries and stuff like that. He’ll kind of show what wrestling is really like and how much it sucks. That’s not someone the WWE wants to have talking for them. He doesn’t show the industry positively.

  2. Joe Brown says:

    I think CM Punk’s image has quite a bit to do with why he’s not in the upper echelon like a Cena or a Rock, but I feel like it’s more because he’s more of a pro wrestling throwback than the “sports entertainer” that internet fans have come to loathe.

    You look at a guy like Randy Orton who is also sleeved up like Punk, but they put him in the movie “That’s What I Am,” and he’s been a top guy for years. I think image played a difference there, but more because Orton is built more like a movie star (chiseled face, arms, etc.) than CM Punk, whom Triple H famously referred to as a “skinny fat ass.” I recall hearing on Colt Cabana’s podcast that Punk would take an opportunity at a movie if it came along, but he knows he’s not of the leading man build, plus, he said he’d “rather be a Dreadnought in a ‘GI Joe’ movie.”

    I think the two main things holding him back are: a. his mouth. The same thing that brought him to the attention of the mainstream is also what makes him a concern for a publicly-traded company. Like he said to Bill Simmons, he’s not media friendly, he doesn’t give safe answers like The Miz or John Cena. He shoots from the hip, and that’s his greatest attribute and his biggest downfall.

    The second part is b. the current WWE system. For all intents and purposes, Punk’s main focus of entertainment is in the ring, whereas Vince McMahon seemed to stop caring about wrestling years ago. Plus, despite all the great promos he put out there, the ratings didn’t improve that much, and with Nielsen ratings dictating their business model (which it shouldn’t), it feels like they’re going back to Cena-Orton-HHH-etc. as opposed to making tangible changes. If you want great insight to the uphill battle Punk has gone through, check out the I Want Wrestling podcasts that talk about Punk.

    I think the superficial certainly plays a factor in the regard that he’s not 250 pounds and looks like he was carved from Mount Olympus like Cena or Hogan moreso than the ink on his arms.

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