Monday, March 26, 2012

The First Time I Met CM Punk

WrestleMania is a week away! I remember WrestleMania 3 in my home state of Michigan, when Hogan slammed Andre. That night was also when Macho Man went toe to toe with Ricky Steamboat in what some consider the greatest wrestling match in pro wrestling history. It is kind of similar to this year’s WrestleMania, as the biggest match on the card is the return of The Rock to face John Cena, but the best wrestling match will probably be Chris Jericho challenging WWE Champion CM Punk. Long before CM Punk was WWE champion, he was the best on the independent circuit. I met CM Punk before he was even that.

Every story begins somewhere, and this one isn’t CM Punk’s origin. This story is just another testament to why the man who proclaims himself, “The Best in The World”, has always been the best at what he does. I guess it all starts before I even knew who CM Punk was. Fasten your seat belts, and let’s hit 1.21 gigawatts on this way back machine.

My first job in professional wrestling was helping out a small independent wrestling promotion out of Lansing during the turn of the millennium called the, “Pro Wrestling Federation” (PWF). Yeah I know real original. The promotion was owned by a man named Ben Justice, who ran a collectibles store in the area. I would help book shows and work on storylines with Ben. A few months into the promotion Ben was confronted with a choice.

A guy, who was barely trained, would make sure his 50+ biker buddies would show up to shows if he was one of the PWF champions. Since the promotion was struggling to draw, this seemed like the best option to keep it afloat. I was then presented with solving the challenge of putting a belt on this guy to get his ticket sales, but also cover up the fact that he couldn’t wrestle. Luckily I had at least one guy on the roster I could trust, Colt Cabana.

Colt was a student at Western Michigan University at the time, and was a regular on the shows. We had become friends through the few months of working together. I had come up with a scenario that would work for all sides. I was going to “borrow” the free bird rule for tag belts. I was going to hide the fact that this one person couldn’t wrestle with talent I knew could; and that I trusted. That’s when I asked Colt if he knew anyone he trusted that could help pull this off. He assured me he had a friend who would be perfect. The next month I met CM Punk.

To most CM Punk’s first impression is douche bag. He has a chip on his shoulder, a bad attitude on a good day, and he’s honest to the point of insult. I couldn’t have been happier to meet him. He was exactly the guy I needed for the angle because he wouldn’t let himself be part of a crap storyline, even if it was in some night club on Sundays in front of 50 bikers and about twenty other fans. For a few months Cabana & Punk mixed up the tag work, protecting the biker, and protecting the other talents in the ring. The storyline got pretty hot & when the straps went on the three in a six man tag, it blew the roof off the joint. In fact we had the bikers (which had already dwindled to 30), plus now there was about 50-60 real fans in the crowd. CM Punk and Colt Cabana turned the albatross around my neck into the best drawing angle on the show. Those two turned a turd sandwich into prime rib.

After the PWF closed down, I tried to keep track of Punk’s career. I never got to write storylines for him again; which will always be an unmarked line on the career checklist. Believe me I tried every place I was, but either money or schedule got in the way.

We would run into each other sparingly over the next few years. We usually exchanged a few nice words when we saw each other, except for once backstage at a TNA show in Nashville but that’s a different story for a different time. I even appeared on his last IWA:MS show when Punk wrestled Delirious to a 60 minute draw in a comedy match. I’m the fat guy in a suit two sizes too small in the corner of Danny Daniels’ (BABY!) opponent, CK3. Something that, even if CM Punk had never made it out of OVW, would always be one of the crowning moments in my career.

In life you meet a lot of people. Most are unremarkable, and little more than filler. CM Punk was anything but. He was one of those guys when you met him you knew he was only going to be limited by himself. Which if you really knew him meant he had no limits. When I order up WrestleMania this weekend, it will be to see CM Punk, because he’ll always be the guy who showed me that success is about the man, not the situation.

Enjoy your weekend kids, and if you get a chance, plop down the fifty bucks to see the biggest show of the year. Hopefully we’ll all see the greatest wrestling match in pro wrestling history … and I’m not talking about The Rock vs. John Cena.

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