By Arda Ocal
8:19 AM EDT, October 4, 2012
Before sitting down to watch CM Punk: Best in the World, I had already heard a lot about it. Most people unanimously praised it, going so far as to say it was the greatest WWE DVD documentaryever created. The words “honest,” “open” and “real” were often used.
I can confirm these sentiments. The DVD is honest, open and real. But what I found most intriguing about the DVD is how much I found myself relating to CM Punk, and how likely it is that many working-class people watching the DVD will also relate to CM Punk's trials and tribulations, even if you don't have much in common with him.
The DVD follows a logical life timeline, with sprinkles of Punk's interests and happenings in between chapters. WWE DVDs have upped the quality in terms of access and how “open” the subject matter is, including certain conversation topics that in the past would have been universally taboo on an official WWE release (for example, in this DVD there is a story about a conversation between CM Punk and Vince McMahon where Punk suggested a finish to a match and McMahon didn't accept it).
Punk experiences a major struggle in every part of his life story – his upbringing didn't include a white picket fence in an upper-middle class suburb. He ran away from home. His father was an alcoholic. He began his pro wrestling career the way many top WWE Superstars do not – as a backyard wrestler, who gained notoriety in his native Chicago. He doesn't look like the prototype WWE Superstar – he's not as tall, not as built, he has tattoos all over him. He became the “King of the Indies” in pro wrestling, which some would see as a detriment. Yet somehow, he persevered and made it to WWE, where his struggles truly began.
If you want to know what kind of politics and mental anguish a WWE Superstar goes through while trying to get noticed and make a name for himself in WWE, this is a great DVD to pick up. You will particularly enjoy the differing opinions on CM Punk the character -- from his supporters and detractors in WWE.
Particularly when talking about his struggles, CM Punk is humanized in a way – it's as if we are introduced to Phil Brooks, the man his closest friends and family see. Despite the fact that you certainly get the impression that he is not the nicest guy in the world to many people (or as Michael Hayes calls him on the DVD, “a real moody prick”), you feel the urge to support him and want him to win.
In contrast, one man who may receive the opposite impression from the DVD is John Cena. On WWE TV, Cena is the ultimate good guy, currently the face of of WWE's partnership with Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. On CM Punk's DVD, at times, between compliments, Cena almost comes across as arrogant and dismissive, particularly about Punk's early years with WWE.
Perhaps the subject people will relate to most is the topic of WrestleMania 27. Punk talks about his utter disdain for the fact that The Miz was placed in the main event at WrestleMania instead of him, as he feels there was no bigger bad guy in the company than him. Anybody watching it will think of a time they were passed up for a promotion and how much it bothered them and how much they wished they had either the forum or guts to deliver a pipe bomb like Punk did months after WrestleMania 27 on Raw.
It seems like CM Punk's career, especially in WWE, can be charted by major milestones and leaps in status – his first world title; the pipe bomb; buying a tour bus to prolong his career; a title match at WrestleMania. While his ascension wasn't quick, it was steady, and every year blocks were built.
Hardcore wrestling fans may be disappointed in the lack of his matches from Ring of Honor in the DVD extras. The documentary portion does spend a considerable amount of time on Punk's time in ROH, with Punk speaking from an ROH facility.
Overall, I give the DVD the same number of stars as on the flag of Chicago and on his attire – 4 stars. It might be worth picking up the Blu Ray version just for the amount of extra stories you receive that were cut from the documentary. On a random side note, I can also almost guarantee that one of the alternative wrestling tee shops (like Barber Shop Window or Turnbuckle Tees) will come out with a “Lunatic Wrestling Federation” T-shirt.
CM Punk: Best In The World hits shelves on October 9. You can purchase it here.
Arda Ocal is an on-air personality with theScore Television Network. Follow him on Twitter here.
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