Headlines have been pouring out in the wrestling world about the best promo in 25 years between the 24 year old Maxwell Jacob Friedman and the vet CM Punk. Every single ounce of hype it is getting is absolutely worth it.
Professional wrestling is at it’s best when it breaks the 4th wall and bleeds into real life. It is the most captivating when you blend the fact v fiction. It is at it’s best when long term storytelling comes into to play.
I will gladly admit I am a mark for professional wrestling. Basically, it means you buy into the emotion and characteristics of the storyline and talent. STILL REAL TO ME DAMNIT! To say I marked out during the promo would be an understatement. I was on the edge of my seat clinging on to every single word and insult. Just kidding, I was standing up watching because I was too damn excited to be sitting for this.
The reason someone like MJF (aside from being better than us and us knowing it) is so captivating and why he is probably my favorite wrestler in the last 10 or so years, he never breaks kayfabe. Ever. On screen and off screen, he is an absolute dick and a heel in every sense of the word. Very early on he was drawing comparisons to the late great Rowdy Roddy Piper, one of the best (if not the best) heels in the history of the industry.
Piper came up in a time where is easier to keep your on screen character vs real life character close to the vest. You didn’t have social media, the message boards, the videos and all of the things that make it hard to not break kayfabe.
MJF being able to be a heel and never break character is absolutely insane for 2021. The beauty of that is wrestling fans love it. One of my favorite videos on the internet involving MJF is his interaction with a wheelchair bound guy. The people he was with said in the video they set it up for MJF to insult him. The guy is laughing the entire time and bantering with MJF. It is one of the most pure forms of fan interactions you will see. He’s a bad guy so he acts like a bad guy.
As I stated earlier, wrestling is at it’s absolute best when there is long term storytelling. This what AEW does so much better than WWE. They let storylines build over months and even years before coming to a head. They don’t go for the quick pops from the crowd. They let it build and watch it absolutely explode.
One of the storylines that has been building is the 4 pillars of AEW. The 4 young stars they are clearly behind. Those pillars are MJF, Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara and Darby Allin. All 4 are amazing at what they do. MJF defeated Darby Allin at Full Gear, making the last remaining pillar he needed to defeat.
After defeating Darby Allin, The Past, The Present and The Future of Professional Wrestling, Maxwell Jacob Friedman was doing his usual banter on a promo talking about why he is the best and no one in the company can touch on the mic or in the ring. Cue Cult of Personality…
I received 3 or 4 texts before I could even watch saying shit like “Oh my god, it’s happening.” Depending on the spoiler, my friends know not to go full in detail without my approval. I responded asking what happened and then I got the response…
MJF v CM Punk. Holy shit!
Instead of having these verbally berate one another in the first time they faced off, they left us wanting. Punk doesn’t say a word as MJF arrogantly introduces himself extending out a hand. They saved the verbal beatdown of one another for the best wrestling crowd in the world, Chicago. Also Punk’s hometown.
The second CM Punk became All Elite, this was THE moment I have been waiting for. Like many wrestling fans, it was not about the match itself, it was about the absolute fire these two would give us on the mic. Good God, did it deliver! The insults were vicious, timely and broke kayfabe in so many ways. It was absolutely glorious.
Mark Henry described it perfectly on the Busted Open podcast…
“I’m sitting at the monitor. There’s 30 wrestlers sitting around that area, and everybody is popping,” Henry revealed. “If you’re popping wrestlers, you’ve done something in your life. You won. I had to get up, walk out to the crowd to feel it because that’s why people go to wrestling. People go to wrestling because of how you feel, not because you just want to be entertained. There is true life, emotional investment. You want to feel it. That’s one of the reasons why AEW is so popular right now is because the crowd feels like they have a role in what they’re seeing, and they do. They absolutely do. I got to go out there. It felt like electricity moving my clothes one zinger to another one, one zinger back and forth. The city of Chicago, everybody that was there, will get to tell people for the rest of their lives, ‘I was at that show where CM Punk and MJF went toe to toe, a battle of wits, over 20 minutes, and not one punch connected.”
Since jumping back onto the train that is professional wrestling circa 2009-2010, there are a handful of moments I watched and then proceeded to re-watch over the years. Some of which involved these 2 and most of them coming from the last 2-3 years of AEW.
Earlier when talking about historical relevance, this to me is probably the best promo and moment of that time frame. Perhaps this was even the best promo of all time. It was 18 minutes of gold, each insult building up to the next before nukes began dropping.
Here are my Top 10 Favorite Insults from MJF v Punk…
10. “You made the New York Times, WOOOOOOW! You want to sing me a song Maxwell? You are stepping in the ring with a professional. You’ll make the New York Times again, but this time it’s going to be the obituaries.”
The sarcasm and then the punchline was perfectly delivered. But this line brought us back to pipe bomb, sarcastic asshole Punk. MJF and Jericho did a dancing skit when they were teaming together which made waves. Being from NY, Punk saying he would make the obits after he destroys him was poetic.
9. “You had a whole week to think of zingers and you came out here with the lowest hanging fruit.”
MJF opened the promo going after Punk for all the typical things. He went after his UFC run, being straight edge, leaving wrestling and living off the pipe bomb. Punk insulted him for those right away, which once again played into the perfect build
8. “I’m about to verbally finish you quicker than your UFC career. You can drop cute little pipe bombs all you want. Because I’m MJF and I drop nukes.”
This was the final line in regards to MJF discussing how Punk is a one trick pony (of course wrong) because the Pipe Bomb is his best promo and moment by far (not wrong). Obviously it is incorrect of Punk being a one trick pony. He is not wrong about that being Punk’s best moment. It was the ultimate middle finger to WWE as he was disgruntled by that shit show of a company. In that same part of the promo, MJF mentioned that every MJF moment is his best. That is also not wrong. MJF doesn’t have a single moment that encapsulates his career because every time he is on the screen, it is brilliant. Off the cuff, the Lex Luger insult, the 10 lashes of Cody, the labors of Jericho, the Darby match, the double cross and reveal of the Pinnacle, there are just too many MJF moments that don’t stand out above the rest because they are all equal. This isn’t to say Punk isn’t because he sure as shit would have been if he had the creative freedom AEW gives it’s talent. The same freedom he had when he dropped arguably the best promo in professional wrestling’s history. If it is not number 1, it is number 2 behind this one. Let that be clear.
7. “He thinks what he does is revolutionary when in reality, he is just a less famous Miz.”
This was fucking hilarious. I was having a conversation with a friend a week before the promo happened. My friend is a big fan of the Miz, rightfully so. The Miz is awesome. Pun obviously intended. He may possibly be less famous than Miz, but he is certainly better than the Miz. This opened the floodgates of “oh, we’re going there” referencing WWE.
6. “You’ve been nothing more than second best. Whether it was the You Can’t See Me Man or the King of Kings.”
While again, kind of true. But not really. This was clear references to Punk’s rivalries with John Cena and Triple H. The big reason Punk left WWE was because of health and being shelved in favor of guys he was better than. However, WWE felt those guys were better and gave them the bigger matches.
5. “I was selling out Madison Square Garden when you were marking out for Rosie O’Donnell.”
Another funny line. MJF was a guest on the show as a child. His first moment of fame.
4. “I never mentioned you because I went for the heart and soul of AEW and that’s Darby Allin. And I beat Darby Allin and I didn’t need a ring to do it.”
As I discussed in the intro, MJF recently beat Darby at Full Gear. He used his dynamite diamond ring to do it. Darby was the first opponent for Punk in AEW. The match was fantastic and Punk won clean. This was Punk playing into MJF’s saltiness about not being name dropped by Punk.
3. “You talk about being the most powerful of the 4 pillars, but you don’t realize you’ve been replaced by Britt Baker.”
Going back to the 4 pillars. While the statement is not necessarily true again, it is still a great pop shot and just downright hilarious. Baker is far and away one of the most popular wrestlers in AEW. Her merchandise is currently 6th behind Brodie Lee, Punk, Sting, Cole and Mox. She actually sells more merch than all of the pillars. I love that Punk is an absolute mark for Baker. He has mentioned her on more than once occasion.
2. “This is no longer CM Punk. This is PG Punk. What happened to the guy I grew up on, man? What happened to the renegade? The Ass Kicker? The Outsider? You might as well be coming out here preaching Hustle, Loyalty and Respect.”
After being compared to the Miz, this was the moment the promo really picked up steam and went right after the core of WWE. Punk has been criticized by some for not being prime Punk. MJF talked about him being robotic, thankful and a good babyface since his return. Wrestling fans have loved it. But on the deep pits of the internet and some high profile pundits, some are shitting on new Punk for being that. Most like myself don’t care because we are honestly just happy to have him back in wrestling. MJF took that hate and turned it into the perfect response to the Miz comment by calling him AEW’s John Cena.
1. “The only way you’re going to be number one is if we wait around long enough for Tony (Khan) to have a daughter that you marry.”
This is the clear number one of the entire promo. MJF is the golden boy who is being primed for a legendary career. Punk absolutely went there saying it resembles Triple H who married Vince’s daughter Stephanie. Which of course has led to belief that is the sole reason he has such a big footprint in WWE.
I have watched and re-watched the promo 9 times since it aired last Wednesday. Each time I watch, the flow and the insults are all just so damn brilliant and perfectly executed. The part that I love is neither one got buried by it while showing that both are every bit as good as advertised on the mic. The wait was well worth it. Long term builds for the win.
I will be sitting 7th row this Wednesday and I cannot wait to see what more this rivalry has in store.
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