Wednesday Morning Backlash: Lessons from CM Punk vs Miz on Raw – the Best in the World Debate Revisited
by Pulse Glazer on October 19, 2011

Hello all! Guess what? I didn’t watch Raw again, but I did A) read the spoilers, B) read both Wheeler and Scott Keith, and C) watch the CM Punk vs Miz match (I had Wheeler tell me when it was on). My plan was to talk about Bound for Glory, but well, I hit my major point on that here or Sheamus, but he can wait a week, since something important struck me while I was watching Punk vs. Miz.

CM Punk is almost inarguably the best wrestler in the world today. He’s top notch on the mic, quite literally unmatched, and is at least as good as anyone active, probably better, within the ropes. If you go back two years, however, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Two years ago, both Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho were better than Punk. While Punk had his supporters, those that would actually assert that he was superior to Jericho or Michaels were few and far between. Punk has clearly stepped his game up since then, but he has also done so in the absence of his main competition for being the best. So, we must ask, for historical reasons, if nothing else – is CM Punk the best wrestler in the world with both HBK and Jericho active?

On the mic, Punk is entirely unmatched, even by Jericho and Michaels. Michaels, while he could be great (see the Jericho the second time, Hart, or Diesel feuds), and influential (early Degeneration-X), was just as often merely very good (with JBL, Kurt Angle, Jericho the first time). While that’s not a huge knock, Jericho rarely was less than great, and had far more memorable individual promos (bashing Stephanie, Bashing HBK, as the unified champion, the Malenko-holds, owning Goldberg) with consistency that was unmatched. At least until CM Punk turned up. Jericho was always great, but Punk has already established himself, since his heel turn, as one of the best promo guys ever. He’s literally not had a single lull period – he went from verbally annihilating Jeff Hardy to the Straight Edge Society and amazing Royal Rumble mid-match promo, to the creepy mask-stuff with Rey Mysterio, straight to an amazing commentary role on Raw, and then his return setting himself up as the Nexus leader against Cena then Orton, followed by his face turn, which, well, you might have heard a bit about. What’s more, while Jericho has certainly drawn money with his promos, they never made him the man in the company. CM Punk’s promos have now done just that, so he takes this area, followed by Jericho, then HBK.

But as great as his promo work is, Punk lags far behind the other two in the ring. His top tier matches are of similar quality – John Cena was five stars, as was Samoa Joe, while Rey Mysterio and even John Morrison delivered classics – to the rest of the best, but even then probably drags behind the other two. More egregious, however, are his Raw efforts, as seen with his bought against Miz. It’s not that this, or his matches with Alberto Del Rio for that matter, were bad, but they were merely acceptable. It was straight face-shine, heel beatdown, comeback-to-win stuff that Jericho and Michaels never did. Even on television, they’d go the extra mile, put the extra flair to make their matches memorable. For Michaels, everyone’s favorite instance of this is against Shelton Benjamin, while for Jericho, it’s his quick Nexus match against Daniel Bryan, but my personal favorite instance of this is Jericho, right before he left, wrestling some Nexus heel or another, and just working face. Despite being the most despised heel on the roster, he was able to in-ring utterly change the crowd’s mind about him and what they were seeing. He was getting some of the biggest pops on the roster. There was just something special every time either Jericho or Michaels got in the ring that Punk doesn’t match.

As far as top tier matches go, where Punk has Cena, Morrison, Rey and Joe, Jericho matches that pretty well with Benoit, Malenko, Rock, Rey, and Triple H. But here Shawn blows even Jericho out of the water. He’s the best or second best match of the career of practically everyone he wrestled for over two decades, even if they were largely stiffs. Foley? Check. Undertaker? Check. Bret Hart? Check. Diesel? Check. Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Sid, Triple H, Jarrett? All checks. The list goes on and on. The only one who can really compete with him on this is Chris Benoit, who HBK, by the way, had two classics with, but Michaels was generally better in on Raw and was better working with big stiffs outside of his style. In ring? HBK is the best, probably ever, but certainly in this comparison. You could argue his last match was better than anything else the other two have done, and probably be right.

How you balance these two areas comes down, in essence, to personal preference. Were all three active right now, Jericho would be working all over the crowd, demanding attention to the parts of the card that don’t usually get it. Shawn would be involved at the top of the card, if not necessarily main eventing, but more likely would actually be in Punk’s spot as Triple H’s partner. Punk has, though, demanded attention, and would have to be in a high profile, big spotlight feud – either still involved with Cena and Del Rio or being D-X’s third wheel with someone else involved on the heel side… Christian or Jericho make sense, to even the numbers. So, where’s the most value? Being able to work everywhere like Jericho? Having earned a permanent spot atop the card like Michaels? Or being just so good and drawing so much money that you demand a top spot, like Punk? In the end, money is what it comes down to, and while Punk is certainly weakest in the ring, that’s what I’ll take as the current best in the world – the total package, including drawing power.

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Pulse Glazer

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  • Jack Newbury

    What’s your argument for Punk being a better draw than the other two? I get the arguments you make for Punk being weaker in the ring, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them, but, in the end, it seems like you just equate mic work with drawing power.

    Punk hasn’t drawn with this angle where he’s in the spotlight. People can argue about the subjective specifics you mention, but, Punk hasn’t drawn. Ratings haven’t gone up for shit, nor have PPV buys. Ultimately, if your conclusion that Punk is better is based on your belief that Punk’s mic work is stronger to a degree that it surpasses the ring work deficiencies, that’s fine, but, you shouldn’t mask it by trying to fit this drawing power idea.

    I don’t think your premise is very sharp, especially in how you lay it out here, because you essentially are comparing Punk’s brief run at the top here with a much more vast body of work to come to your conclusion that he’s weaker in the ring. This isn’t terribly flawed logic in itself, but, it becomes such when you take the premise this column portends.

  • Cristo

    Didn’t MITB draw double the previous year, or something to that effect?

  • sideshowbob

    Michaels sure as hell did draw on the mike.. Look at his runs against hart and Austin. So the guy with a 30yr career had more interviews that weren’t perfect? Of course he did. I don’t get how you came to your stats

  • Jack Newbury

    @cristo – Just googling it real quick, it did like 20k more buys than the previous year. It was originally reported to do 100kish more buys than last year. Another quick google says Summerslam this year did about 50k buys less than last year.

    I think it’s very hard pressed to make an argument Punk is a better draw than Jericho/Michaels at this point.

    Again, if the point he meant was Punk’s mic work made up for (the article’s other point) Punk being weaker in the ring, fine.

    @sideshowbob – Agreed. That’s what I meant about the article premise lacking. At one point he mentions that he is questioning whether Punk is the best with Jericho/HBK “active.” Granted, that’s a muddy focus question to begin with, but, using the totality of their careers that are, at a minimum, twice as long as Punk’s seems flawed. Especially when you consider that Punk is just entering his time in the spotlight and it’s too early to say what he’d do with it in comparison to the two names mentioned.

  • CB

    If Punk actually gets Ice Cream bars back to market, he’ll be the best who ever lived (except HBK and Jericho, who are still better). :)

  • sideshowbob

    Right. The sheer volume of the bodies of work make this a disjointed comparison.

  • Zork

    Gonna have to agree with Sideshowbob and Jack on this. Michaels was a draw on the mic and he demanded attention during his DX days. He was, and still is great.

    Jericho is also still great, but it’s just too early to throw comparisons like this out there when Punk hasn’t been in that many higher profile feuds and matches and on top of that has not had the support of the people backstage until more recently. Now he should get more opportunity.

    But it’s just not realistic to compare a roughly 10 year career which you can probably cut down to like 8 or so because of not being able to find really early matches…to HBK’s 25+ Year career and Jericho’s roughly 20.

  • Paul L

    You were basically making an argument on why Punk is the best today. But, in comparison to two legends (one of which Punk stole his catch-phrase from (Jericho)), your argument actually contradicts what point you were trying to make.

    This is what it basically broke down to:

    Mic Work: Chris Jericho
    In-Rig Work: Shawn Micheals

    Even in your final point, you’ve basically stated that Punk would equate out to a 3rd wheel if both Jericho and Micheals were still active. He would be more like a young gun, just starting to make his impact, but not the guy whom you’re making him out to be.

    Also, comparing ROH with WWE isn’t a good argument. WWE is the big leagues, WCW was on par with WWE in the late 90’s. ROH is nowhere near the league where the WWE is (and is never really going to be).

    It’s like saying that a AAA minor league baseball player will be the next Superstar once they make it to the majors. And all their accomplishments in the minors should count in his transition to the majors. In this case the WWE style is such a different style than the Independents, that comparing Punk’s ROH career to now isn’t a fair comparison at all.

    But, it was a nice opinion. It’s just that the argument blew up on you.

  • owangotang

    Punk is the most complete package. I get it. Punk rules on the mic, can go in the ring, and crosses over more than Jericho or Michaels ever did. How quickly so many forget how mainstream figures, think Bill Simmons and Michelle Beadle, were enthralled by the Summer of Punk ’11 edition. That stuff matters when you are talking about best in the world.

    Is Punk the best ever? No, but he may get there. Is he the best in the world right now? Damn straight.

  • Aaron Glazer

    Big leagues argument is flawed and has been shown to be so an absurd amount of times. The difference in Punk’s drawing is, in a word, merchandise. Given how much of WWE’s profit margin that is, that = drawing, if you take drawing to mean “making money.”

  • flamingwombat

    I don’t think there’s a huge drop-off from Jericho’s ring work to Punk’s, but even if you only count post-comeback Michaels (a period of time roughly equivalent to Punk’s WWE run) Michaels is still FAR ahead of Punk overall.

  • Jack Newbury

    I like it. Faced with criticism of horseshit logic instead of stepping back and coming up with a coherent point you double down on the horseshit.

    First off, you don’t really address a comparison of CM Punk to Shawn Michaels or Chris Jericho in selling merchandise.

    Second, you mention their profit margins…merchandise profit margins are an important part of drawing, in an era catered towards children. So, if we went back to 1992 where Michaels was hot with merchandise, his target audience would be children. The most money that was made seems to be in the era where merchandise wasn’t the top drawing source.

    “Making money” is obviously important to being a draw. But, the reason why the WWEs profit margin is so heavily reflected in merchandise is because of failure to find a draw in the other money making categories. I’m not necessarily saying Jericho/HBK fill that role, that’s a whole argument in itself, I’m just saying that’s the point you miss.

    Punk passing Cena in merchandise sales is a great thing. But, because he passed Cena, and Jericho/HBK didn’t, wouldn’t be grounds for calling him a better draw than Jericho/HBK, since the only time their merchandise went head to head with Cena’s was after they would have sold a lot of it in years past.

    Your point just lacks big picture logic, and even if it were taken at face value, you aren’t able to support your argument.

  • Aaron Glazer

    Simple big picture logic? HBK on top didn’t draw, by all accounts, until D-X. In any fashion. Buy-rates, ratings, merchandising. So on. Punk, meanwhile, has popped at least a merchandising… and at any rate, since the argument is best TODAY, you will, of course, be able to show me HBK increasing ratings, buy-rates, or merchandising to anywhere near the level Punk has. Hey, no problem, why not just continue to be a hack? It’s what you’re good at. OF COURSE HBK and Jericho are better than Punk over the course of their career. The issue was if all were active today, who would be best in the world… TODAY. Considering body of work when ranking quality is relevant when assuming they’d still work at around the same level. It isn’t, however, the be all end all.

  • Jack Newbury

    “you will, of course, be able to show me HBK increasing ratings, buy-rates, or merchandising to anywhere near the level Punk has.”

    My point was more that your article is unfocused with regards to making YOUR argument, right? You’re the one advancing the notion that Punk has drawn enough money to make up for the deficiency he has (your argument) by being weaker in the ring than Jericho/HBK.

    Like, you say, “HBK on top didn’t draw, by all accounts, until D-X. In any fashion.” well, OK, but, D-X did draw, right?

    I don’t necessarily think Shawn was a draw. I especially don’t think Jericho was a draw. I even said this in my last post. (“I’m not necessarily saying Jericho/HBK fill that role, that’s a whole argument in itself,”) But, I do think if you are going to throw the point out as something that increases Punk, you should attempt to support it.

    “Considering body of work when ranking quality is relevant when assuming they’d still work at around the same level.”

    This is something I think you should have said in your article. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but, I think it would have helped your article be a bit more focused.

    I think your premise is still muddy, but, this helps.

    “Hey, no problem, why not just continue to be a hack? It’s what you’re good at.”

    I’ve written four columns here and made a handful of comments and yet you’ve sized me up as a hack? Please, that’s hardly much of a sample size. But, glad to know if I criticize just one column I get broad judgments based on very little passed my way.

    I like forward to your criticism on my future hack-job columns, though, has the potential to be enlightening, I reckon.

  • KON

    @Aaron Glazer

    How is it that you’re still working for this site when all you seem to do is take shots at your fellow writers?

    You’re calling Jack a hack?
    He’s not the one throwing fits every time someone disagrees with him.

    First you threw your toys out of the pram because Blair replied to your comments IN AN ARTICLE WITH THE SINGLE PREMISE OF REPLYING TO COMMENTS(!), now you call Jack a hack because you posted a “puff piece”?

    What’s next, are you gonna ban every single person who doesn’t agree with you?
    It’s clear that you don’t care enough about your article to actually defend it, so why expect other people to read & enjoy it?

    Lastly, and this is a big one:
    You get paid to write about wrestling shows. If you’re not gonna make the effort to watch the show, why should you be able to keep that job?

  • flamingwombat

    KON, to be fair, Jack started all the shot taking here, not Glazer.

  • James Alsop


    So this spiralled way out of control, eh? Where’s Penny when you need her…

  • Jack Newbury

    @flamingwombat Even if I “took shots” I only did so at this article. There’s certainly a difference between what I did in criticizing this article Glazer’s making sweeping judgments that I’m a hack.

  • Aaron Glazer

    @ KON Every time? Someone disagrees with me on everything I write and I rarely care. Some new kid decided to take shots here and elsewhere, so I replied, even though, well I’ll save my criticisms for a more private forum. And where do I throw out anything at Blair? You keep making things up. I’ll watch again around mid-November. Somehow, I think talking about wrestlers I’ve seen for years for the next 2-3 weeks should be acceptable. And this isn’t my job.

    “@Finn @owangotang…I realize there are horrible writers everywhere. This wasn’t done to prop myself or the pulse up over anyone. It was done merely because when I used this format for a smaller audience, the audience enjoyed it. So, I thought I’d try it here.

    I get that there is horrible writing everywhere, including here. Case in point: the Punk vs. HBK/Jericho article. ”

    If you take shots when your own contributions are so questionable, then don’t complain when you get labeled a hack. Or a troll. Basically, kiddo, put up (write more and better) or shut up (keep it constructive and respectful). Welcome to the staff.

  • Jack Newbury

    You forgot to quote the next part of that, though.

    “Case in point: I’m sure I’ve already written something in ROH Thoughts that is awful and worthy of being mocked, and if I haven’t, keep reading, I’m sure I will.”

    So, yes, I ripped this article in another comments thread. I was conceding a point he made that SHOULD be conceded. Could I have done it by pointing out just my stuff can be bad? Maybe. Should I have done it by pointing out that OTHER pulse stuff is bad without giving specifics? Again, maybe. But, I was clearly on the record as thinking this column was poorly written. So, I gave the example that was already out of the bag instead of presenting it in a way that might make someone think, “so which pulse stuff does he dislike?”

    “If you take shots when your own contributions are so questionable, then don’t complain when you get labeled a hack.”

    Look, this statement just shows that you haven’t been able to comprehend what I’ve been saying. First, I took a shot at my own work, as mentioned. Second, I’ve never once implied that the hack label is wrong. My point from the start has been that my FOUR articles for the Pulse is too small of a sample size.

    “Some new kid decided to take shots here and elsewhere, so I replied, even though, well I’ll save my criticisms for a more private forum. ”

    Feel free to criticize me in a more private forum. My criticism certainly started out as valid and properly placed. Should I have mentioned this column in the other thread? Again, maybe not.

    I would certainly prefer your criticism be placed in my columns rather than a more private forum. Just because that allows it to be in the open and readers can chime in and either add to the criticism, defend or otherwise talk about it. A private forum is alright, but, certainly isn’t as wide a dialogue.

    Either way, I can’t imagine it’s difficult for you to e-mail me if that’s the way you want to go…

  • Blair A. Douglas

    Well, this certainly got out of hand.
    “Kiddo”? “Troll”? “Hack”?!?!

  • James Alsop

    Don’t forget “horseshit.” Haven’t heard that one in quite some time. Which is odd, when you think about it… ;)

  • James Alsop

    And by that I mean “odd because I’m also a writer who’s said a few controversial things on this site,” not “odd because I’m really, really into sodomizing horses.”

  • James Alsop

    Although that too.

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