If the very first WrestleMania taught us anything, it's that celebrities will always have a place in the WWEUniverse. For years, WWE fans have been used to seeing actors, musicians, athletes, billionaires, reality stars and pretty much any other form of celebrity journey through WWE TV, with many treating it like a stop on a media tour (Leno, Letterman, WWE, Conan, etc...).
Today, the most interesting WWE celebrity involvement may not even have an official agreement in place between parties. It's happening on Twitter, and it's turning heads.
As the old saying goes -- coincidentally, it's also the title of Eric Bischoff's WWE-released book -- “Controversy Creates Cash.” Modifying the saying just a little bit, “Controversy creates Interest.” The latest interaction between a WWE Superstar and a celebrity is a Twitter back-and-forth between WWE Champion CM Punk and singer Chris Brown. You can see the full beef unfold here.
Despite being a successful recording artist, Brown may be best known for viciously assaulting his then-girlfriend and fellow recording artist Rihanna in 2009, a day before the Grammy awards. The singer has more than 8 million followers on Twitter, and that simple logic should tell you that CM Punk and WWE benefitted from this situation. According to Twitter Counter, CM Punk averages 2,398 new followers per day. On Feb. 20, when the Twitter interaction with Chris Brown began, he gained 5,193 followers. On Feb 21, he beat his average by 800 percent (19,592 new followers). On that same day, WWE's official Twitter account doubled the amount of average followers it adds daily as well. This is not counting all the mainstream press that has been generated from this story.
There are a subset of fans that will say, “this beef is fabricated ... it has to be a work.” I don't blame these people, as pro wrestling fans are conditioned to believe nothing of what they hear and half of what they see. However, I believe the interaction to be genuine because Chris Brown doesn't have much to gain from this interaction, other than his own amusement, which seems to be the case. Based on his tweets, he clearly is a former pro wrestling fan and may find it interesting to tweet with the current WWE Champion, despite it being born out of disgust at his past actions. CM Punk's Twitvid on the subject was from the heart and very well delivered. In the end if it is revealed to be a fabrication, then well done. CM Punk doesn't seem like the type of guy that will care much about any of the above statistics, rather simply being happy to be able to speak his mind, in this case to Chris Brown and reminding people why he doesn't like him.
The lost beauty in all this is the placement of Punk's very first tweet to Brown. he used a WWE-related storyline to express his disdain for Brown's past assault. The tweet immediately before the one that started it all had to do with Sheamus picking Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania and Punk left without an opponent. In the tweet after, he continues his tongue-in-cheek approach, proposing that he face his close friend Cliff Compton (former WWE Superstar Domino). If Chris Brown never responded, the tweet wouldn't have seemed out of place.
This is not the first time a WWE superstar vs. celebrity Twitter beef has surfaced. Beth Phoenix went back and forth with Talk show host Chelsea Handler, who addressed Phoenix's tweets on her talk show. Zack Ryder has always had a beef with Jersey Shore castmate Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino over his “gimmick” and the Twitter hash tag #areyouseriousbro. I had a chance to interview “Sitch” and catch him in a little white Twitter lie about the subject (side note: this clip made it in to Episode 46 of Z! True Long Island Story – thanks, broski!)
So what does this all mean? To me, it means we are embarking on an era where WWE Superstars can take matters into their own hands. If controversy creates interest, what is stopping other WWE Superstars from sending similar tweets out to celebrities or those in the public eye that they have strong opinions about? At the end of the day, pro wrestlers, like any performer in any genre, have to generate interest in themselves, and this is a very cost-effective way to do it. If I was a WWE Superstar (which I'm clearly not), I would find the right moment and take full advantage. From an outsider's point of view, it seems as though Twitter is still a grey area in which there may be some usage guidelines and common sense restrictions, but beyond that Superstars are able to tweet freely. Positioned correctly and with the right passion and tone, a tweet will seem more “I hope this person responds” to followers than “this seems like a lame grab for attention.”
On top of that, a precedent has been set in terms of WWE's interest in these sorts of “celebrity beefs.” On Tuesday's live Super Smackdown episode, the CM Punk/Chris Brown interaction became a focal point on a portion of the broadcast and as well on WWE.com. In a company where rivalries are presented to stimulate maximum interest from the audience, of course they would be happy to flaunt a genuine public grievance between one of their WWE Superstars and a celebrity. Now you may be thinking, “I can't see someone like Tyler Reks tweet an issue he has with Ashton Kutcher and Kutcher responding.” I bet you didn't think Zack Ryder would ever revitalize his career through Twitter either.
This doesn't necessarily stop at celebrities. Using The Rock and John Cena as an example, there are some great interactions on Twitter from Superstar to Superstar that are also highly entertaining and add a sprinkle of genuine animosity to a rivalry, when done in a convincing fashion.
On Twitter there has been some backlash concerning Chris Brown and WWE being mentioned in the same sentence, mostly surrounding his 2009 assault of Rihanna. Others are upset Brown is ill-informed about the person he is beefing with (claiming Punk has used steroids, admitting he doesn't know anything about CM Punk in a tweet). To me, that's Brown's fault, and in that case he's silly to have replied in the fashion he has in the first place.
Personally, I hope this leads to more – much like when CM Punk left the WWE with the championship and tweeted the whereabouts of the title (in his fridge, at a Cubs game, etc.). I will keep an eye on both CM Punk and Chris Brown's Twitter accounts, and so will many others who especially have nothing better to do at work or at school than to check their Twitter timeline (in both cases when they probably shouldn't be).
Bottom line: WrestleMania is just weeks away, with a main event of The Rock vs John Cena, plus The Undertaker vs. HHH in a Hell in a Cell. And the WWE Universe is talking about CM Punk.