It was on June 27, 2011 when CM Punk delivered one of the most memorable promos in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment. It has come to be known as the “Pipebomb” promo and while he did many other great promos in his career, that’s the one that people will associate with him the most.
At the time of the promo, we really had no idea if he was going to stay in WWE or leave the company. He was booked to face John Cena for the WWE Title at Money in the Bank in Chicago a few weeks later, so it seemed like a good idea for him to stay. People were optimistic because it’s the biggest wrestling company in the world and going somewhere else likely wouldn’t make him a bigger star because WWE is so big. In today’s wrestling environment ten years later, maybe CM Punk would have entertained an offer from AEW and jumped ship, but back then companies like TNA, ROH and even New Japan weren’t that big.
I figured that since it’s the ten-year anniversary of the promo, I would re-post an article I did the day after. I actually re-posted this at the five year anniversary as well because it’s one of my favorite things that ever happened on Raw, so I think it should be celebrated.
As a side note, June 27, 2002 is also 19 years since Cena debuted in WWE. He’s kind of a big deal.
The column covers the whole thing in great depth. It’s funny re-reading it because there’s a point in there where I mentioned that I didn’t think Brock Lesnar would ever be on good terms with WWE again. Oops! At the time he was a huge draw in UFC and it didn’t seem like he would wrestle in WWE again. Glad I was wrong about that! Anyway, here’s the whole thing including the video, and then I even wrote the whole promo out at the end of it. I’m going to add some 2011 thoughts in blue font where needed as well. Enjoy this trip down promo memory lane.
The John Report: My Thoughts on CM Punk’s Promo from Raw (Originally Written June 28, 2011)
Last night on WWE Monday Night Raw I heard one of the best wrestling promos in the history of the business. Thank you CM Punk for giving us a speech that we’ll be talking about for years to come.
“The only thing that’s real is me. And the fact that day in and day out for almost six years I have proved to everybody in the world that I am the best on this microphone, in that ring – even on commentary. Nobody can touch me.” – CM Punk on WWE Monday Night Raw, June 27, 2011.
Wow. What a promo. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, the end of this week’s Raw featured a five-minute CM Punk promo that has the wrestling world buzzing. Immediately after Punk’s promo where he ripped management in a way that you don’t see on WWE TV, he was “suspended” by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
It should be noted that next week’s Raw was immediately taped after this week’s Raw due to WWE’s long tour of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks. I read the spoilers. I’m not going to talk about them. Let’s keep the focus on last night.
The basic synopsis of the promo is that Punk’s mad about his place within the WWE. Was it a real promo? Yes in some ways, but no in other ways. It was real in the sense that a lot of what he said was likely what he truly feels about certain things in WWE. He’s mad about his spot in the company. He’s mad that he’s not perceived as a true top guy despite the talents he obviously possesses. My guess is he went over the promo with Vince, Triple H, Johnny Ace and whoever else he felt needed to be in on it, told them the basic idea of what he was saying and they gave him the green light for it because they know how gifted a talker he is. He was likely told that he had five minutes to say what he wanted to, but when he said “let me tell you a personal story about Vince McMahon” the microphone would be cut off. Then the show would go off the air.
(My guess was a bit off. We found out later that Punk was basically told to air his grievances for the final five minutes of the show and say what he wants. He had to deliver the line about the anti-bullying campaign and then he would be cut off, so that’s how it ended.)
The fact that people are even asking if it’s real or not is great. The truth is that if anybody ever “went into business for themselves” then they would be cut off immediately. Security would come out. Trust me, it would look very real. Of course, WWE tried to make it look very real, but as I pointed out in the Raw Deal they also put their WWE copyright logo on-screen about seven minutes before the show ended. Usually, it’s at the very end. I realize that’s not something everybody will notice. It is something worth mentioning, though.
(It was real, but WWE allowed him to be real and that’s why it wasn’t cut off. It just felt so different and cool.)
It’s not like this was the first worked shoot promo in WWE. It’s just that it is the most recent one. They work as long as you don’t do them all the time. The Joey Styles one was great and people thought he legitimately quit WWE. Nope. He heads up the WWE.com team. There was also the great Paul Heyman worked shoot on Vince McMahon from about a decade ago. A lot of people saw that and they couldn’t believe Vince would let him say that stuff. He ended up working for Vince for another five years after that. There are others, but those are two that are still talked about to this day.
(Both of those promos are pretty legendary if you’ve never seen them. Styles left WWE several years ago and is out of the business, for what it’s worth.)
The interesting thing about the Heyman promo and the Punk one is that Heyman wore a Steve Austin hat during the speech. What shirt was CM Punk wearing? A Steve Austin shirt. I guess you could say Austin was a bit of a promo inspiration to both guys because his epic Austin 3:16 speech is considered one of the best promos ever. He was given a minute to talk. It was the beginning of the very successful Attitude Era. Why was Punk wearing an Austin shirt? It’s probably because Austin wasn’t an ass kisser like the guys talked about: Hogan, Rock or Cena. I think it was an awesome tribute to Austin whether fans paid attention to it or not. It’s weird for a guy to wear the shirt of another guy, but in this sense, it really worked and built up the realness of this angle even though it was obviously what we call a worked shoot.
(The reason for the Austin shirt is that Punk claims he was looking for one of his shirts, couldn’t find it and then ended up choosing an Austin shirt instead.)
There were a lot of things that Punk said that got people talking. Let’s break them down a bit starting from the beginning:
Kissing Vince’s Ass – He mentioned Cena being great at it just like Hogan and Rock. That’s not something you’re going to regularly hear. It immediately grabbed people’s attention by making it seem more “real” because it wasn’t like a typical wrestling promo. Mentioning Hogan likely surprised a lot of people too. It set the promo off on the right foot. Even referring to Rock as “Dwayne” a few times was unique. I loved it.
Brock Lesnar – He brought him up when he mentioned being a Paul Heyman guy like Lesnar. Despite Vince sending Undertaker to try to set up an angle with Brock Lesnar, I don’t think he’ll ever be on good terms with Lesnar again. Brock was built up to be the company’s future superstar and he left after being pushed as a top guy. To mention him in a promo crosses a line not usually crossed in WWE. Again, it made it feel real.
(There were rumors of Brock coming back all the time, but he left in 2004 and we had no idea if he was going to come back. For Punk to mention Lesnar here was a pretty big deal. Lesnar would end up returning to WWE in April 2012, so it was less than a year after this promo.)
Not on a crappy USA Network show – During his rant about not being promoted right, he brought up not being a guest on a USA Network show like other WWE talent often is. I wonder if WWE had to clear that one with the network or if they had to call them after to explain that it was just a bad guy doing a wrestling promo. Burying the network that your show is on is silly, but as long as you don’t do it often it can work by saying it was simply part of the show.
(I’m sure USA Network wasn’t that happy about it, but Punk’s promo did lead to a more interesting product, so in the long run I doubt USA Network was that upset about it.)
New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor – It’s rare for WWE to mention other companies on their show. Very rare. However, WWE has signed a lot of talents from ROH through the years (including CM Punk) and I think it’s a good thing that they were mentioned. Punk also saying “hi” to Colt Cabana, one of his best friends, which was also a nice touch. As for NJPW, they’ve been in existence for decades. I’m sure they appreciated the plug.
(Punk and Cabana *were* best friends. Not anymore. The controversial Cabana podcast with Punk in 2014 led to lawsuits against them and the friendship fractured after that.)
John Laurinaitis – Also known as Johnny Ace, he’s been in charge of talent relations for much of the last decade. He is a Vince McMahon “yes man” in a lot of ways. That’s his job. To bring his name up in a promo also made the entire thing that much more surreal. The average fan has no idea who that is. The smart fan does.
(This would lead to Laurinaitis being an on-screen character over the next year and more.)
His (Vince McMahon) Idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law – That’s Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. I marked out for doofus personally. So did Doofy from Scary Movie. Anyway, it’s rare for somebody to insult Stephanie & HHH in that way or to reference the fact that they’d be running the company. It was another thing that added to the “Oh My God” feel of the promo.
(I thought this line was amazing. For him to address Stephanie and Hunter that way was so off limits it would seem, but it was fitting for this promo. A lot of us that follow the backstage news about the business knew that Triple H was not a huge fan of Punk, for Punk to say that on TV was a pretty big deal at the time.)
Here are some tweets from people within the wrestling business commenting on CM Punk’s promo to end Raw.
Steve Austin: @CMPunk just melted my 52 inch TV with a scorching hot promo…delivery, content, and attitude…one of the best promos I’ve ever seen…
Chris Jericho: Congrats to @cmpunk and Vince McMahon for doing something tonight that hasn’t been done in awhile…make history.
Shawn Michaels: 2 words 4 @CMPunk – thata boy. Felt like old times.
Mick Foley: I have no idea where this @cmpunk thing might go, but I know I’ll be watching. Captivating stuff.
John Bradshaw Layfield: CM Punk’s promo-shoot or work? Who cares? When you are so good that you can put that doubt in viewers minds you have done your job very well.
Daniel Bryan: With revolution dripping off his lips with every word, @CMPunk was a god last night.
MVP: My verdict after watching the @CMPunk promo, he just had his Austin 3:16 moment. Don’t f*** this one up WWE.
Colt Cabana: Love Ya @CMPUNK. Just watching you make HISTORY!!! This is soooo f**king amazing…AMAZING!!! #IWantWrestling Colt Cabana’s Trending but @CMPunk should legit trend FOREVER. Coolest thing on wrestling since 1998. Can’t believe theyre gonna let’m walk
— player/coach (@CMPunk) June 27, 2021
(There’s a lot of love there from different people that knew Punk well and others that were pretty big in the business.)
There are probably more out there, but that’s a good sampling that shows that people within the business, whether they work for WWE currently or not, are applauding this angle because they know how rare it is for a wrestler to cut such a promo. The best part of this whole “worked shoot” by CM Punk is that interest in WWE is higher right now than it has been likely since The Rock was on Raw.
I have to give massive props to CM Punk, Vince McMahon, Triple H, Johnny Ace, John Cena and whoever else might be involved in this. I don’t have any inside information. I have no idea where it’s going. I’m completely fine with that. I just want it to stay hot, to keep going and to keep my interest in the product high. That’s what matters to me. The end of last night’s Raw was an example of great storytelling because it was different from what we normally see. It made you stand up and take notice. That’s why we’re fans.
I’m excited. It leaves me asking a question: What’s next?
To wrap this up, here’s the promo transcribed for you.
(Punk sits down at the top of the ramp)
John Cena, while you lay there, hopefully as uncomfortable as you possibly can be, I want you to listen to me. I want you to digest this, because before I leave in three weeks with your WWE Championship, I have a lot of things I wanna get off my chest.
I don’t hate you, John. I don’t even dislike you. I like you a hell of a lot more than I like most people in the back. I hate… this idea… that you’re the best… because you’re not. I’m the best. I’m the best in the world. There’s one thing you’re better at than I am, and that’s kissing Vince McMahon’s ass. You’re as good at kissing Vince’s ass as Hulk Hogan was. I don’t know if you’re as good as Dwayne… he’s a pretty good ass-kisser… always was and still is. Oops… I’m breaking the fourth wall. [Punk waves to the camera.] I am the best… wrestler… in the world. I’ve been the best ever since Day One when I walked into this company, and I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy. You know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar… and he split, just like I’m splittin’, but the biggest difference between me and Brock is that I’m going to leave with the WWE Championship.
I’ve grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon’s imaginary brass rings that it’s finally dawned on me that they’re just that. They’re completely imaginary. The only thing that’s real is me, and the fact that day in and day out, for almost six years, I’ve proved to everybody in the world that I am the best on this microphone, in that ring, and even on commentary. Nobody can touch me. And yet, no matter how many times I prove it, I’m not on your lovely little collectors’ cups, I’m not on the cover of the program, I’m barely promoted, I don’t get to be in movies, I’m not on any crappy show on the USA Network, I’m not on the poster of WrestleMania, I’m not on the signature that’s produced at the start of the show. I’m not on Conan O’Brien, I’m not on Jimmy Fallon, but the fact of the matter is I should be, and trust me, this isn’t sour grapes, but the fact that “Dwayne” is in the main event of WrestleMania next year and I’m not makes me sick!
Oh hey, let me get something straight, those of you who are cheering me right now… you are just as big a part of me leaving as anyone else, because you’re the ones sipping out of those collector cups right now, you’re the ones that buy those programs that my face isn’t on the cover of, and then at five in the morning at the airport, you try to shove it in my face so you can get an autograph and sell it on eBay because you’re too lazy to get a real job.
I’m leaving with the WWE championship on July 17 and hell, who knows, maybe I’ll go defend it in New Japan Pro Wrestling… maybe I’ll go back to Ring of Honor… [Punk waves to the camera again] hey, Colt Cabana, how you doing? The reason I’m leaving is you people because after I’m gone you’re still going to pour money into this company — I’m just a spoke on the wheel — the wheel’s gonna keep turning. And I understand that… that Vince McMahon’s gonna make money despite himself… he’s a millionaire who should be a billionaire… you know why he’s not a billionaire? It’s because he surrounds himself with glad-handing nonsensical [censored] yes-men like John Lauranitis, who’s gonna tell him everything he wants to hear… and I’d like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon is dead, but the fact is it’s gonna get taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family.
Let me tell you a personal story about Vince McMahon. You know we do this whole bully campaign…
(Microphone is cut off. Punk hits the mic a few times, says something inaudible, yells “I’ve been silenced”, and we fade to black.)
Punk would go on to sign a new multi-year contract at Money in the Bank, which is an awesome show where Punk won the WWE Title from John Cena in Chicago, which is Punk’s hometown. Punk went home and put the WWE Title in his refrigerator. That was a classic moment.
It was definitely a fun time to be a WWE fan because the product had become so stale in that period in 2009, 2010 and the first six months in 2011. At least the “Summer of Punk” as it became known made people interested again. It also helped that Daniel Bryan received a push on Smackdown around that time as well.
If you want more coverage about this speech, I recommend the DVD documentary about CM Punk’s career. The documentary is on WWE Network (and maybe Peacock too).
I don’t want to go over everything that happened after. There was a lot of good (like CM Punk having a 434 day WWE Title reign) and some bad, but I think CM Punk proved himself as the best overall performer in WWE in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately, Punk’s frustrations reached a point where he just didn’t want to wrestle for WWE anymore and he left following Royal Rumble 2014. Since then, there will always be rumors of Punk coming back or going to AEW, but it hasn’t happened and who knows if it will? That’s up to Punk, who is now 42 years old.
Thanks for reading this look back from ten years ago on WWE Monday Night Raw. Thank you CM Punk for giving us a moment we’ll never forget.
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