Reflecting On CM Punk, Daniel Bryan And The WWE Universe by Ron Pasceri

Before we even get started, let me be clear that I know CM Punk does not need me to speak for him. He does not need me to defend him from anyone. He is arguably the best talker of his generation. He said what he felt and what he thought and didn’t care what anyone thought about it. There also isn’t much I can say that he hasn’t already, but that won’t stop me from trying. He is a man who loved pro wrestling, pushed his way to the top and found his way into the hearts of others who loved pro wrestling. He became something of a poster boy for hardcore wrestling fans everywhere. Before Daniel Bryan was The Authority’s target as a B+ player, CM Punk was sort of in that role. He was denied in the story, and in real life, the moment Bryan was afforded in New Orleans at WrestleMania XXX. The empathy fans felt for Daniel Bryan during his last two years as an active member of the WWE roster was once reserved for Punk.

Daniel Bryan lasted just 64 days as champion before injuries forced him out of action. The following WrestleMania saw him take home the Intercontinental Championship, which he held onto for 43 days before his career was effectively over. Bryan held the two titles combined for a quarter of the time of Punk’s 434-day reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion in 2011. Unfortunately for Bryan, injuries ended his title reigns short, and unfortunately for Punk, The Rock ended his before passing the belt off to John Cena for the 11th time. Daniel Bryan returned to Raw last week as a superhero and rightfully so. He spoke to many of us and for many of us as well. We saw ourselves in him and he saw himself in us. He also paid a heavy price for the joy he brought to WWE fans. He will be saddled with physical complications for the rest of his life and even more scary, saddled with complications to his brain. Similar to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises he gave us literally almost everything he had. CM Punk left on a different note.

CM Punk decided on his own that he just didn’t want to be a pro wrestler anymore. He had grown tired of WWE’s bosses and creative. He had grown tired of putting over guys less deserving of the top spot than himself. Many fans turned on him for leaving, yet we agree whole heartedly with the issues he had with the company. He also left because he felt unhappy and unhealthy with his work environment. If you think about it, how is that not a legitimate reason to hang the boots up? Don’t we all want happiness and health in our jobs and our life? Aside from his personal issues, you can make a case that he made the right choice based on history. Daniel Bryan hadn’t already suffered his fate at the time, but performers like Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Scott Hall, Kurt Hennig, Chris Benoit and Brian Pillman had. Even guys we view as older like Roddy Piper and Dusty Rhodes left the fans and their families behind way too soon. If anything, more of these guys should be calling it quits a few years earlier than they do, especially when they are making a significantly better living than wrestlers of previous generations.

Pro wrestling at it’s very core is a physically demanding and dangerous business. You don’t get to go sit at a desk or stand behind a cash register or stare at a computer for 30 years before you retire. You throw your body around and sustain consistent damage over 300 days a year. If you’re lucky you do that for 10-15 years before you move on to something else. The roster’s health is definitely monitored better than it used to be, but there is no way to insure the safety of any single human being that steps out into that ring. They destroy themselves physically and mentally to entertain us. They sacrifice precious time with spouses, siblings, parents and children to spend more with us. CM Punk just decided that his body, his mind and his life had had enough. It’s not even as if he decided to fade into obscurity. He chose another line of work that will see him beam onto our TV’s a few times a year. Add that to his appearances on shows like Talking Dead, his writing for Marvel and appearances at comic book expos and he isn’t all that much less available.

Basically what CM Punk decided to do was go out and try something new. Try something that most people would never have the courage to do. He is choosing to step into a locked cage and fight someone who is trained to knock and/or choke people unconscious. He may only fight once, or with his current injury issues, it feels like he may never fight. But that’s the fun part. It’s like many NFL coaches who say Sundays are easy, the rest of the week is what’s most grueling. Training as a mixed martial artist today has turned into a lifestyle. You are literally dedicating your entire life to learning these techniques and disciplines. He could have continued making money as a pro wrestler, but most likely chose less money to pursue a new challenge. He is pushing himself out of his comfort zone and striving for something more. Similar to Daniel Bryan taking more than what WWE decision makers were willing to give him, CM Punk is taking more out of life than many of us wanted to see him take.

It’s an interesting thing being in the public eye. The public sees you as one thing and believes you owe it to them to continue being that thing they want you to be and nothing else. It’s why talented comedic performers like Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx got backlash for pursuing something other than comedy. As human beings, we should always strive to want more, to be more, to do more, to achieve more. Many of us don’t. Many of us settle for what life has given us, which can cause resentment when we see someone who IS reaching for the stars. Many of us are afraid to take a risk, which is where the culture of hate comes from toward people who put themselves out there. It comes with the territory, but at a certain point it’s time to worry about our own lives and not the life of some person we don’t even know. CM Punk owes us nothing else as wrestling fans, just like Daniel Bryan doesn’t. I’m aware that there are quite a few arenas that still chant “CM Punk!” during Raw, but I’m still shocked by some of the backlash he faces over a decision he made for his own life.

In reality, despite our religious or spiritual beliefs, we are only really certain of the fact that we have this one life we are leading right now. There is no guarantee of an afterlife. There is no known evidence of reincarnation or a do over. We are born, we live a life and we die. I am guilty of taking this life for granted at times. Most of us are. We get locked into the nonsense we’re forced to do like have jobs and pay bills. We often get stuck spending time with people we don’t like more often than with the people we love. CM Punk removed himself from a situation he felt stuck in. He is spending more time with his beautiful wife. He is investing his time in creative endeavors he probably never dreamt of when he was working for WWE. He is pursuing something that almost everyone doubts he can do. He is willing to face that challenge and fall flat on his face in front of one of the biggest UFC PPV buys of all time.

Basically, Phil Brooks is squeezing as much as he can out of this one life that he has been given and trying to make the most of it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and like or dislike whomever they choose. I choose to pull for Phil Brooks and support the decisions he’s made. I’d also like to take a page out of his book and do more than what’s expected of me, take more than what’s given to me and live what is left of my life to the fullest. Hopefully you will too.