A couple of weekends ago I was in the grocery store with my wife. In the bread section, Kristin and I navigated around a woman with two young children. As I bent down to pick up some hamburger buns from the bottom shelf, the little boy’s mouth gaped wide open as he pointed at my back. “I know that” he said, continuing to point. I was wearing this, which is what caught this young guy so much by surprise:
Yep, I’m 32 years old, and I wear a hoodie with WWE Superstar CM Punk’s logo on it in public. The greatest thing about being married and in your 30s is you no longer give one hot shit about what’s cool, and you like what you like very unapologetically.
In this case, we struck up a conversation with this family about WWE. They’re all John Cena fans and they love The Rock. I said, “CM Punk is my guy. He’s the best in the world,” which is his catchphrase and self affirmation. The little girl in this family, who couldn’t have been more than 3 marched up to me, and proclaimed right in my face, “CM Punk is a jerk!”
Last week, CM Punk walked out on the WWE, and it appears he’s done, at least for a while, if not forever. CM Punk is still my guy, I still think he’s the best in the world, and yes, this little girl is right, CM Punk is also a jerk. That only makes me like him more. And offers a path forward?
Bear with me as this won’t take long, but context is important in understanding why CM Punk walked out on the WWE. The general consensus is that Punk is burnt out thanks to nagging injuries that never seem to go away, the grueling WWE travel schedule, and, most notably, dissatisfaction with his scheduled match at WrestleMania against the company’s COO, Triple H.
The first two are understandable, and, if you’ve followed the WWE at all, make you totally sympathetic for the dude who has been in the top echelon of the WWE for the last 4 years. That final reason is pure fuck you punk rock beauty. And that’s what makes me love CM Punk all the more.
WrestleMania is the biggest event of the year, and a match against Triple H is undoubtedly high profile. But it’s not for the Championship, it doesn’t involve John Cena, Daniel Bryan or one of WWE’s money-drawing part time stars like The Rock or Brock Lesnar. So when you’ve saved your money, your busted ass body is begging for mercy, and you can’t bear the thought of climbing into another rental car, and you have to fight a match that’s exciting you about as much as your next teeth cleaning… fuck it. Hit the ejection seat. Life is too short to fuck yourself around if you’re not getting what you want.
There’s an episode of “Friends” (I clearly have ALL the best pop culture interests – current ones too!) where Chandler encourages Rachel to quit her job at Central Perk in order to pursue her passion. Quitting will give her the necessary fear to light a fire under her ass and go after her dream. She asks Chandler, “You hate your job, why don’t you quit?” Chandler responds, “Because I’m too afraid.”
That’s me. I’m Chandler. While I’ve gone into excruciating detail about what it’s like to go through infertility, I’ve only sort of obliquely discussed the challenges at my job. I’m certainly not going to start getting into the nitty gritty here, and while I don’t hate my job by any stretch, it’s been a pride swallowing two years filled with frustration of many stripes and more bureaucratic horseshit and tedious personality management than you can shake your dick at. I am THIS CLOSE to being totally mentally checked out, but I always manage to come back from the brink.
That’s why seeing someone like Punk just say, to hell with this – I’m going home, is so goddamn life-affirming. He doesn’t know what he’ll do next, but implicit in his exit is an unyielding belief in himself. He will land on his feet, and almost certainly be better off in whatever he does next. But leaving the cushy comfort, as brutal as the day-to-day demands are, of a sure thing in the biggest wrestling company in the world, is a daunting proposition. And one that I think very few would have the balls to actually go through with.
I think that’s why I cannot escape pro wrestling. It’s pure passion play, heightened melodrama, and I know its tropes in my bones. It’s a vehicle for vicarious wish fulfillment. In the late-90s, fans cheered Stone Cold Steve Austin as he pounded the holy living shit out of his boss. Who hasn’t fantasized about that at some point in their career?
And while I’ll miss seeing CM Punk on Monday nights, today I get to bask in the glory of his saying, “Fuck it. This isn’t working. I’m going home.” Would I ever have the balls to do the same?
Best in the world.