Corrigan’s Corner: CM Punk, Another Hero Fallen

In the wake of UFC 203, John Corrigan mourns the loss of his adolescent hero.

I wanted to believe.

For the first time since Royal Rumble 2014, CM Punk entered an arena to the familiar anthem of “Cult of Personality.” Hoodie draped over his head, the ex-WWE Superstar marched toward the Octagon. Once called a “skinny fat ass” from on-screen as well as real-life rival Triple H, the tatted warrior now looked downright emaciated. Before stepping through the cage, and meeting his undefeated, 13-years-younger opponent, Punk flashed a grin to all the spectators.

Some were lifelong supporters, cheering their childhood hero in his next great challenge. Others were critics, students of the MMA game anxious for this phony wrestler to get his ass kicked by true competitors. Many were pro wrestling fans, jilted that their Voice had abandoned them.

I empathized with all, yet remained unto my own.

Until Survivor Series 2006, I hadn’t drunk the Pepsi. CM Punk was simply a guy I read about in Pro Wrestling Illustrated who made it to WWE. Well, WWE’s bastardized version of ECW. He looked like a drug addict, but apparently abhorred them. He wrestled like a cruiserweight, but exuded a main event aura. He said luck was for losers, and this pale Irish lad began to wonder.

As thousands of my Philly brethren united behind Punk, roaring louder for him than for his Survivor Series teammates Matt and Jeff Hardy, Triple H and Shawn Michaels, I wondered…just who is this guy?

I looked in his eyes, and I liked what I saw.

From that night on, I was addicted to the Straight Edge Savior. His cash in on Edge. His society. His chastising of Jeff Hardy’s drug abuse.

Clobberin’ time. His diet soda.

The Pipebomb.

I wore his hoodie along Temple’s campus, matching head nods with fellow members of his Cult. Punk’s matches were classics and his promos were gospel. He never had the typical pro wrestler build or family connections in the business. He didn’t have amateur wrestling credentials or a football background.

He was simply a wrestling fan chasing his dream, scratching and clawing until he made it to the top of the mountain.

He evoked the teenage anarchist in all of us. He knew our anger, he knew our dreams. He was everything we wanted to be.

He was the Best in the World—not because he said it, but because he made us believe it.

Then he quit.

He aired his grievances on Colt Cabana’s infamous podcast, earning a lawsuit in the process. He alienated much of his Cult, complaining that he didn’t make nearly as much money as he should have despite making more than most of his fans ever will. He lambasted Ryback, exposed the Roman Reigns’ push and vented about losing to part-timers (albeit legends) The Rock, Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. He spewed about being fired on his wedding day despite not showing up for work in six months.

It was a rebellious stand against the corporation, made while lounging on his best friend’s couch.

I loved the podcast. I respected Punk’s candor and was glad that he seemed finally at peace. He married the woman of his dreams and could rest his body while still young enough to enjoy his fame and fortune.

So a couple weeks later, when he announced that he signed with UFC, I was bewildered.

He just complained about the abuse on his body, and now he wanted to sign up for Ultimate Fighting? I didn’t care that he ditched pro wrestling, I cared for him. He was undoubtedly going to lose, definitely going to get hurt. He was too old, too inexperienced, too delusional.

But I was, too. That’s what bothered me most. In an age where our heroes fall, where we don’t end up with the girl, where our hopeful youth settles for the reality of adulthood, we long for that one anchor in life, that one truth we can still believe in.

If CM Punk entered the Octagon, he would no longer be the Best in the World.

I still wanted to believe.

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