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CM Punk’s Infamous Pipebomb is Still a Game-Changer

On June 27, 2011, CM Punk came down to the ring and cost John Cena a tables match against R-Truth. Then, while wearing a Stone Cold t-shirt, a no more perfect homage to what was about to happen, he sat cross-legged at the top of the ramp. Punk then proceeded to deliver one of the greatest and most genuinely “real” moments in pro wrestling history in the form of his first and absolutely game-changing “pipe bomb.”

In a moment of complete honesty, CM Punk broke the fourth wall. He took to task John Laurinaitis, called the Rock by his real name, mentioning Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. He referenced the oh-so heralded brass rings as being imaginary, citing his own case about he how was being misused and under appreciated. Last but not least, probably the most damning of all, he asserted that the WWE would be better off after Vince McMahon was dead, if only the “rest of his stupid family” weren’t the ones who would be taking over.

Over the past five years, it has been heavily debated (and probably always will be) whether or not this pipebomb, which still impacts the pro wrestling industry and the fans’ opinions of it to this day, was a scripted work or an unscripted shoot. Either way, it was clear that Punk’s real feelings played into everything he said. That among the people he called out by name such as Laurinaitis, one of Vince’s “glad-handed, non-sensical, [censored], yes men,” Triple H, the “doofus son-in-law,” Stephanie, the “idiotic daughter” and Cena, Hulk Hogan and “Dwayne” himself, the experts on kissing Vince’s ass, there was certainly no love lost.

If the promo was a work, it is one of the most well-done in company history given the absolute real feel to it and the impact it had almost immediately. Punk sold his story as a guy who was planning to leave the company and take the WWE Championship with him. And while the contract dispute was part of the storyline, the way CM Punk’s career absolutely blew up afterwards was certainly bigger than anyone likely could have imagined.

Punk’s pipebomb changed him from a villainous heel whose previous mark had been as nothing more than a mid-card stable leader, be it with the Straight Edge Society or the New Nexus, into a cult-hero babyface, who would go on to have a title reign spanning 434 days, one of the longest in history. But Punk’s ascent into greatness, one that mirrored the words of the pipebomb, was not the only impact to come from the infamous promo.

Beyond what it did for Punk’s career, the pipebomb quite simply invigorated a fan base, a newly crowned “WWE Universe,” who had felt their own voices were not being heard. What Punk had said, about Cena being a great ass-kisser and Laurinaitis the perfect yes-man, or even his disgust at a part-time talent like the Rock getting an opportunity he felt he deserved in main-eventing Wrestlemania, were all sentiments the fans shared at the time.

Because the story of Punk leaving was sold as being real, there was a noted excitement of people actually wanting to see him take Vince’s prized possession and defend it on New Japan Pro Wrestling or returning to Ring of Honor. They wanted to see the guy who was overlooked yet who had proved he was in fact “the best in the world,” showcase his skills even if it did happen outside of the company. In fact, it was better for it to happen outside of the company because just like the kiss Punk blew to Vince upon defeating Cena for the title at Summerslam that same year, it would have been a hug middle finger to the boss. And at the time, wrestling fans wanted nothing more than to give Vince that Stone Cold gesture, to tell him how they really felt about his company and his product.

And again, it wasn’t just the fans, but the locker room as well, that could completely relate and sympathize with everything CM Punk brought to light.

A year after the pipebomb, reflected back on the moment through the eyes of its superstars including Cena, Zack Ryder, and former superstars Ezekiel Jackson and Kaitlyn. There was a common theme to those interviews because once again the “Voice of the Voiceless” had stepped up, for himself, for the fans and for them, the guys and gals in the locker room who needed it most.

“I think his words kind of shifted things,” Kaitlyn said in her reflection. “In the WWE fans’ eyes, watching that, it sparked a rebellion in a way and it kind of gave Punk this awesome chance to create himself in any way that he wanted. He totally reinvented himself. It was something that people could really rally around. He related to the WWE Universe and it felt so surreal.”

For many of these superstars, the sentiments expressed in Punk’s promo are all ones they share too. In a lot of ways, he’s an inspiration, a hero. But he’s also a guy who’s an example, an example of what happens when you cross the boss perhaps one too many times.

Since the pipe bomb, which would go on to eerily symbolize and reflect Punk’s real-life exit two years later, the wrestling world has changed dramatically. In some ways, it was for the better. Daniel Bryan, an undersized, indy darling who was classified as a “B+ player,” won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania XXX. That never would have happened if not for a fan base that was determined not to let Bryan become the next CM Punk, someone who never got his due and then left because of it. And he’s not the only one. Zack Ryder won the Intercontinental Championship if only for a day, Seth Rollins, who Punk praised when the man was in NXT, carried the title for about eight months before getting injured, and AJ Styles, after years being told he wasn’t WWE-material is finally where he belongs.

So whether his words were his own or whether he was guided in what to say, Punk’s pipebomb did more for wrestling in the 2010s than anything else has. It spoke the truth, it told the story and it opened the eyes. And while Punk didn’t drop any real dirty laundry until after his firing, everything he said in the pipebomb was relatable to those in the locker room who felt they were being overlooked and those at home who felt their voices were being ignored.

On June 27, 2011, CM Punk changed the game. He is no longer a part of WWE and he is persona non-grata at this point. There is nothing the company can do to erase his name or his legacy. Fans will continue to chant for the current MMA hopeful and the locker room will continue to heed his words every time a part-timer returns to steal the spotlight or every time as Cody Rhodes said in his own departure, “I felt like I had a bag of those brass rings and when it came time for me to cash them in, I find I can’t do so.”

Happy 5th Anniversary to the moment when the “Best in the World” earned his place in wrestling lore!

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