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.
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.