Chris Jericho & CM Punk: Ready To Steal The Show At WrestleMania 28
As most everyone knows by now, the main event at Wrestlemania 28 will be John Cena vs. The Rock. This is supposed to be the marquee, end all/be all match on the card. However, I think the best match of the night will be the match to decide the WWE Championship – Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk. Both of these wrestlers personify what wrestling is all about – they rose up the industry ladder through hard work and sheer determination, they have wrestled in just about every promotion around the globe and they have continued to modify and hone their craft and characters to give their fans their full enjoyment and money’s worth. They are arguably the two most popular wrestlers in the industry today – loved and/or hated by the casual wrestling fans and respected by the hardcore wrestling insiders. This match has the potential to be a showstopper and an all-time great in the latest chapter of Wrestlemania.
One of the reasons this match could be fantastic is the in-ring ability of both of these performers. Both guys started off small and worked their way up the ladder to the bright lights of the WWE stage. Jericho wrestled in Canada, Mexico, Japan, ECW, WCW and WWE, while CM Punk performed in Mid-South Wrestling, Ring of Honor, TNA, Ohio Valley Wrestling, ECW and WWE. Both of these guys have worked with countless performers over the years and have maximized their in-ring abilities. Jericho helped popularize the cruiserweight and luchador style wrestling that featured a lot of high-flying and fast-paced wrestling styles. He also mixed in some mat-based and technical wrestling that made him unique. He is just as comfortable in a submission style match as he is coming off the top rope. Punk started out as more of a mat-based and technical wrestler that mixed in some of the high-risk and high-flying moves. Later in his career, he began employing a lot of the martial arts into his style so he is also comfortable in a variety of matches. These two could easily put on a 60 minute match and you wouldn’t see the same hold twice. Or they could go in and fly around the ring for 10 minutes and give a fast-paced performance that would wow the crowd with multiple high-risk spots and big time bumps. The possibilities of the matches they could put on are endless.
Another reason this could be an all-time great match is the microphone and promo ability of these two. Both guys have really learned to cut great promos – being both informative and highly entertaining. Jericho has run the gamut – he’s gone from being a funny, crowd-pleasing face to a whiny, overbearing and blatantly cheating champion to a suit-wearing, self-righteous character who chided the crowd for liking his Y2J persona and being “hypocritical, self-serving sycophants”. Now, in his latest return to WWE, he has labeled everyone in the WWE (and the crowd) as “wannabes” that copy everything that he has ever done. Jericho rarely is at a loss for words and he always seems calm and completely in control when he has a mike in his hand, which is a rare thing for most WWE superstars these days. Punk is cut from the same cloth as Jericho, although he became a great talker a little later in his career. After winning his second Money in the Bank match, he decided to cash it in against Jeff Hardy. Punk embraced the heel role and utilized his Straight Edge persona to vilify Hardy (based on Jeff’s previous troubles with drugs & alcohol) and completely run him down to the WWE fans. After beating Hardy and banishing him from WWE, the “Straight Edge Superstar” took off – first headlining the Straight Edge Society and then the New Nexus (with a stint as a commentator on Raw and Smackdown thrown in there while nursing an injury). The icing on the cake was his now legendary rant on Monday Night Raw when he sat on the entrance ramp and completely ripped apart the backstage politics of the wrestling industry, throwing everyone from Triple H to Vince McMahon under the bus. After winning the Championship and leaving the company, he became the hottest commodity in all of sports entertainment. These two entertainers know how to work a promo and keep a crowd riveted to every word they say. The microphone showdown alone could be worth the price of admission.
The third reason this could be a phenomenal match is the characters themselves. Both guys have proven that they can be popular as a face or a heel and can get crowd reactions no matter what side of the fence they fall on. Jericho really took off in WCW when he feuded with Dean “Stinko” Malenko (who can forget the Man of 1004 Holds with his “Personal Security” – the immortal Ralphus?). In WWE he has shined as the first Undisputed Champion, an enemy and later ally of Stephanie McMahon, a great opponent of Shawn Michaels and now as he claims to be the “Best in the World at everything I do”. Punk was a solid champion, 2-Time Money in the Bank winner, Straight Edge Superstar and New Nexus leader until he struck gold as the self-proclaimed “Champion of the People” and “The Best Wrestler in the World”. It can be argued that Punk had one of the greatest storylines of all time when he left the WWE with the belt, made numerous TV, podcast and Internet appearances and even showed up at Comic Con to heckle Triple H during a Q&A session. These guys know how to build a feud and they know how to get the maximum affect out of whatever character they choose to play. I really look forward to seeing how these guys develop over the next month until the showdown on April 1st.
The only drawback that I have for this match is that the WWE should have started this feud earlier and continued to build it until Wrestlemania. I would have loved to see what these guys could have done with 3 months to build up a great rivalry and continue to go after and one-up each other. Hopefully, this feud won’t end at Wrestlemania – it would be phenomenal if they could continue to go after one another through the spring and summer and maybe culminate in a final showdown at SummerSlam. However, that is a minor, nit-picky point. The bottom line is that at Wrestlemania we are going to see a match between 2 of the best in the business today. When you combine in-ring ability, microphone skill, character development and crowd interaction, these are arguably the two best wrestlers in the world. These guys have fought and clawed their way up the ladder without the benefit of backstage politics. Neither of them was “grandfathered in”. Neither of them fits the “wrestling mold” of giant physical specimens who strike fear into others. They are simply highly-skilled performers who know how to read a crowd and give them exactly the show they are looking for. Personally, I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us at Wrestlemania.