CM Punk’s win over Edge for the world heavyweight title Monday has sparked a debate over whether he truly is world championship material. The situation reminded me of another guy who won the big gold belt and was deemed unworthy by a number of critics and fans – Ronnie Garvin.
He defeated Ric Flair for the NWA world title in 1987 – a match that coincidentally has been available recently on WWE 24/7. I have seen Garvin referred to as one of – if not the worst – world champions of all time. Many consider it a travesty that a guy who was a mid-card attraction for a large part of his career was booked to defeat perhaps the greatest wrestler ever.
I watched the match for the first time in years, and my thoughts on Garvin beating Flair for the belt are the same as they were 21 years ago: Garvin’s title win was believable and appropriate considering the story line and the matches they had together leading up to the title change. Flair and Garvin had some classic, hard-hitting matches in which they would chop the heck out of each other, sometimes for 60 minutes. Fans knew that Garvin wasn’t as big a star as Flair, but in the ring, it certainly appeared that Garvin was a lot tougher than the “Nature Boy" and basically had his number.
The title change occurred in a steel cage match at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit that September. As the two were battling on the top rope, Garvin rammed Flair’s head into the cage twice, which led to Flair slipping and landing crotch-first on the rope. As a dazed Flair got back to his feet, Garvin, who was perched on the top rope like Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, hit a sunset flip for the victory. There was a huge pop for Garvin’s win.
The actual reason for Garvin’s victory was that promoter Jim Crockett wanted Flair to regain the title at November’s Starrcade, the NWA’s biggest show of the year. He needed someone to be an interim champ for two months, and Garvin was the choice. As it turned out, Garvin slid right back to the mid-card after dropping the belt back to Flair.
As for Punk, the jury is still out. He has gradually grown on me since coming to WWE, but I see him as more of an upper mid-card guy than a world champion. With that being said, however, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to give him a title run at this point. WWE needs to elevate some guys to freshen up the top tier, and Punk is a fine choice.
One major difference between Punk and Garvin, however, is that Punk’s win was basically presented as a fluke (beating a guy in seconds who already was beaten down by someone else), while Garvin chased Flair for a while and came close numerous times before finally pulling the upset.