The Pipe Bomb at 10
CM Punk's speech was supposed to change everything. It didn't.
Ten years ago today on Monday Night Raw, CM Punk gave the promo of his life.
Punk’s “Pipe Bomb” promo was one of the most famous worked-shoot promos of all time and laid the stage for the next two months of WWE programming. Punk would go on to win the WWE Title six days later and “leave the company” before a surprise return on Raw a month later (with new theme music) to confront new WWE Champion John Cena, leading up to a winner take all title match at Summer Slam.
Punk’s “Summer of Punk” angle was a WWE version of the same angle Punk used on his way out of Ring of Honor. In 2005, Punk signed with the WWE yet went on to win the ROH World Title, (kayfabe) signing his WWE contact on the belt and threatening to take the title with me. He ultimately dropped the title before leaving the company at the end of that summer.
The WWE Summer of Punk angle was supposed to change everything for professional wrestling. It’s hard to say that it did.
Punk “took” the title with him when he “left” the WWE, but in typical WWE fashion they rushed the angle to bring Punk back in time for the Summer Slam match. Instead of dragging the thing out all summer, Punk was back barely a month later.
Yes, Punk won the undisputed title at Summer Slam. But then he was immediately attacked by Kevin Nash (of all people) and dropped the title to Alberto Del Rio (of all people) in Del Rio’s Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in.
Yes, Punk held the title for 434 days after winning it back from Del Rio at Survivor Series 2021, but he was hardly given a series of memorable angles or matches. Here are the major title matches Punk had during his reign before losing the title.
Alberto Del Rio
Chris Jericho (at Wrestlemania)
Punk held the title for well over a year and none of those programs are what I would describe as memorable. It’s hard to imagine, all these years later, that Punk’s last major title program before losing the title involved a Hell in a Cell match against Ryback.
Instead of Punk getting the Wrestlemania main event match that he deserved where he could make a new talent on the biggest stage of all, Punk dropped the WWE title to The Rock (of all people) so John Cena could get his win back from Wrestlemania XXVIII at Wrestlemania XXIX. It was The Rock’s first match in nine months.
It was mostly all downhill for Punk’s run from there. Yes, he got a Wrestlemania match against The Undertaker, but nothing in the last year of Punk’s run was memorable. And Punk finished up with the company at the Royal Rumble 2014.
He hasn’t had a professional wrestling match since.
The Pipe Bomb promo was a star making event for Punk and yet, ultimately, it did not send him to the stratosphere. A lot of that had to do with Punk’s iconoclastic nature; Punk was one to march to the beat of his own drummer and that, ultimately, had a lot to do with curtailing his push.
But a lot of that had to do with the very critiques that Punk lodged in his promo about marketing and who was and was not getting pushed. Look at the WWE product now and the same complaints that Punk had in 2011 still exist in 2021. Well-written angles and well promoted stars are few and far between. The company seemingly backed into Roman Reigns being a megastar heel due to the circumstances of the pandemic and Reigns illness. Performers from Asuka to Bray Wyatt to Rhea Ripley are terribly miscast and misused.
The real positive developments in the pro wrestling business in the last ten years have come from outside the WWE, not within. The creation of All Elite Wrestling, a TV deal for Major League Wrestling, and the re-emergence of the indie wrestling scene have reinvigorated the business. Just the fact that there are major company alternatives gives workers a greater opportunity to make money and make themselves a star.
The Pipe Bomb promos was supposed to change the wrestling business and it was supposed to make CM Punk a megastar. Ultimately, it did neither.