The return of CM Punk on WWE Backstage on Tuesday has got a lot of wrestling fans feeling nostalgic for good reason. CM Punk was one of the best wrestlers in WWE in the last 15 years. I have written a lot of content about CM Punk during his WWE run from 2006 until the day after Royal Rumble 2014, so I thought it would be cool to dig into my writing archive a bit to share some of that content now that Punk is back in WWE…at least a part of the Fox Sports 1 show WWE Backstage. He’s getting paid by Fox, not by WWE as far as we know. As of this writing, it doesn’t mean Punk is going to be back in a WWE ring or making an appearance on Raw or Smackdown, but at least that’s a possibility now.
For this look back on CM Punk’s career, I decided to share my review of the WWE produced “CM Punk: Best in the World” DVD. This was posted on the old TJRWrestling site, which doesn’t exist anymore, so a lot of you have never read this. The documentary is available on WWE Network if you want to check it out.
This was originally written on October 19, 2012. I’ll add some updated 2019 thoughts in red font as well.
TJR: “CM Punk: Best in the World” DVD Review
“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.” – CM Punk. June 27, 2011 in Las Vegas on Monday Night Raw.
Earlier this month, WWE released the highly anticipated “CM Punk – Best in the World” DVD. I picked it up on its October 9th release date at Best Buy Canada for $22. It’s a good value for something that is over seven hours in length. Unlike the current WWE product that has a TVPG rating, this DVD has a TV14 label on it. I bet somebody fought hard to make that happen.
The documentary portion of the DVD clocks in at one hour and fifty minutes, which is plenty of time to tell the full CM Punk story. It’s one of those things where if it was only one hour it would be too short, but at just under two hours it really covered everything well.
You learn a lot of things during the documentary. His reasoning for being straight edge makes a lot of sense. The stories about his childhood also make you realize how he learned to be so mentally strong throughout his life because without that strength who knows where he would have ended up? It’s not always about who your blood family is. Sometimes it’s about who is really there for you and who really cares about you the most.
When he talked about getting started in wrestling it was a similar story to a lot of wrestlers in that all he ever wanted was to be a wrestler and there was nothing else in his life that was going to give him that kind of happiness. Punk’s story is not that of a guy who wrestled because he failed at football or was a collegiate wrestler that ended up in wrestling. He got into the business because he loved it. Once he started he worked as hard as anybody and he earned everything.
It was great to hear from Punk’s best friend, Colt Cabana, throughout the DVD. The two trained together, worked the indies together and had hundreds of matches against one another over the years as well as forming the entertaining Second City Saints team in Ring of Honor. Cabana’s comments on the DVD focus on Punk’s early days in the business all the way up to the present day. Seeing footage from their early years is really cool and makes you appreciate how far they’ve come. It’s a shame that Cabana hasn’t had a fair chance in WWE yet. Scotty Goldman? That wasn’t good. Hopefully he can land in WWE one day as Colt Cabana because if he does I think he could really connect with the audience.
(That did not happen. We also know that the CM Punk friendship with Cabana fell apart after the controversial podcast they did in November 2014, which led to a lawsuit from a WWE doctor and then Punk/Cabana had issues regarding money. Sorry Colt.)
Throughout the documentary, Punk mentioned the places he worked with a lot of talk about IWA Mid-South Wrestling, Ring of Honor and of course WWE as well. He even mentioned TNA briefly although not by name. He simply said that he “worked in Nashville on Wednesdays” and that was it. In case you didn’t know, TNA had Wednesday PPVs in Nashville in their early years.
His most memorable feuds pre-WWE are touched on (Chris Hero and Raven to name two) with plenty of attention on the battle with Samoa Joe in Ring of Honor. They had a lot of classic matchups in ROH namely the 60 minute draws in 2004. I remember those days fondly because I had a group of friends that went to a lot of ROH shows. It was cool that they were able to show some clips from those matches because it allowed an amazing talent like Samoa Joe to appear on a WWE DVD. Over the years there’s been a good working relationship between ROH and WWE. Did WWE pay them for it? Probably. Easy money for ROH. Plus it was a good way to promote the brand because they spent a lot of time talking about it on the documentary.
(This was written a few years before Samoa Joe signed his deal with WWE. Back in 2012, we really had no idea if Joe would ever be in WWE.)
The big move for Punk happened in 2005 when Punk signed with WWE and then was assigned to Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville much like a lot of new talent was. That’s where his friendship with Paul Heyman began because Heyman was booking OVW at the time. This came at a time when Punk was regarded as one of the best indy wrestlers alive, so when Heyman met him he was shocked that Punk wasn’t put on the main roster immediately. I can remember a lot of online fans were surprised too. That was the WWE way, though. Talent had to start in developmental before being called up to the main roster. This is where the seeds were planted in the Heyman/Punk friendship that we see on WWE television in 2012.
For me, the best parts of the documentary were the details about his WWE career. That’s because those are the things we’ve all witnessed since he’s been on the roster. You learn about the first Money in the Bank title win, winning the World Title for the first time in 2008 and how losing the World Title the way he did (an Orton punt to the head backstage) really upset him. It should have upset him too.
One of my favorite stories was when he turned heel in the summer of 2009. Punk had been a babyface in his career on the main roster to that point, so when he talked about that heel turn you could see how happy it made him. I liked the story Punk told about how when he turned heel he told McMahon he would be the best in the business and he was absolutely right. That’s one of the things I like most about Punk – he always had that confidence about him.
There’s plenty of discussion on the Straight Edge Society group. You get a lot of insight into how it came about, how much influence Punk had and how upset he was that it ended so suddenly. He had a lot of praise for Luke Gallows, Serena and Joey Mercury. I share a lot of his frustration with the group ending as soon as it did. It really had incredible potential that was not met for a number of reasons. For what it’s worth, his run with the New Nexus wasn’t even mentioned. I guess that tells us what he thought about it.
That brings us to what happened in the summer of 2011 when Punk delivered his most famous speech ever in Las Vegas while sitting at the top of the ramp on Monday Night Raw. The entire seven-minute speech is aired in full. Even though we’ve seen that speech many times, the way it is built up within the story is masterfully done. By the time we get to the speech and learn about all the feelings Punk had going into it, you appreciate just how good it was. There was no script. He was simply given the chance to speak his mind. He did just that and he gave one of the greatest promos in the history of the wrestling business.
The documentary nears its conclusion with his WWE Title victory over at Money in the Bank 2011. It’s the culmination of this story where the hero reaches the mountaintop. It makes you want to cheer by the time we get there because here’s a guy that wanted to be the best, had a lot of things blocking his attempts to get there and when he finally got there all you feel is pure joy as you see him accomplish his dreams. Winning the World Title in 2008 and 2009 was cool. No doubt about it. But winning the WWE Championship from John Cena in Punk’s hometown of Chicago and then leaving with the title through the crowd is one of those special moments you don’t see too often.
As the documentary finishes, you can see Punk is in a happier place. Instead of being just one of the guys, he has emerged as a leader in the locker room and somebody that truly cares about his friends in the business.
The cast of characters talking about Punk ranged from ex-girlfriends to his best friend and sisters. There were also longtime friends in the business like Ace Steele, Colt Cabana and Chris Hero (now Kassius Ohno in WWE/NXT) to upper WWE management types like Michael Hayes and Triple H. You also hear from a lot of his peers such as Joey Mercury (his stories are very impactful), Lita, Curt Hawkins, Kofi Kingston, The Miz and WWE referee Scott Armstrong as well. Of course, Paul Heyman is there as well. There’s no Vince McMahon, but that’s okay because Hayes & Triple H provide a lot of the perspective from the “office” point of view. From what I understand, Punk chose who got to speak on the DVD. He picked the people that he thought would help tell his story the best. That’s what I liked about the cast of characters that are on here. It was his choice.
(Most of those names are known to WWE fans. Ace Steele just recently got a job working at the WWE Performance Center because he’s well regarded as a trainer.)
There are not many WWE produced videos that will be as inside as this. On a few different occasions, you’ll hear Punk or Hayes using words like “heel” and meetings backstage with Vince McMahon where ideas were pitched. That’s foreign to a lot of fans. I wonder how they react to those kinds of things. As a “smart fan” we love those kinds of things because it brings us closer to the inner workings of the company, but I wonder if those parts made some people feel lost a bit.
To sum up my thoughts on the nearly two-hour film portion of this DVD I’ll say this: This is the best documentary that WWE has ever done.
This is coming from a guy that has seen the majority of the best ones and prior to watching this one I always had the Bret Hart one at the top of my list. This tops it not because Punk is the best WWE performer ever. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying the way they tell this story, from when he was just starting out in the business to his triumphant win at Money in the Bank 2011, is as good as any story ever told under the WWE production banner.
DISC ONE – SPECIAL FEATURES
These are short clips covering a variety of different subjects. You learn about what the “CM” in his name stands for, when he put the WWE Title in his fridge, going from an extra at WrestleMania to a champion and other cool stories from his friends as well.
I particularly liked the special feature titled: “The Most Insulting Thing You Could Say To Me.” It gives you more insight into the kind of guy Punk is and the people he surrounds himself with. He doesn’t hold back.
There are more special features on the Blu-Ray version of the release. I don’t have a Blu-Ray player (or Playstation 3), so I got the original DVD copy. If you have a Blu-Ray player, it’s worth it to get the Blu-Ray version because of the extra content.
For more on the Blu-Ray exclusives, visit this link on WWE.com. (That link still works!)
This is where the match selection begins. They picked matches from Punk’s WWE career only. It’s a shame they couldn’t include any Ring of Honor matches, but it’s understandable considering it’s a separate company. I doubt ROH would have had a problem getting some money from that, though.
Brent Albright vs. CM Punk – OVW 03/01/06
This was the finals of the OVW Heavyweight Championship tournament. It was a match that went nearly 20 minutes with Albright winning the Championship in the end. I’m not sure if Punk considers this his best OVW match, but it was well done with good psychology shown by both guys. If you’re wondering about Albright, he had a brief run on Smackdown as Gunner Scott following his time in OVW.
CM Punk’s WWE in Ring Debut vs. Justin Credible – ECW 08/01/06
It was the WWE in-ring debut for CM Punk. Yes, debuting on ECW counts. What was cool about this was that it was at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, which was one of the more historic ECW venues, so when Punk debuted he got a superstar reaction. A lot of the fans were aware of who he was because he was an “internet darling” so to speak. It’s a short match that went about four minutes, but it’s historic because it was his first televised match on the main roster.
ECW Championship Last Chance Match: CM Punk vs. John Morrison – ECW 09/04/07
In the documentary portion, Punk talked about how he had a series of matches with Morrison that summer that never really clicked. This one did. It was Punk’s last chance to win the ECW Title from the heel champion Morrison. They had an awesome back and forth match for 15 minutes that had the crowd on the edge of their seat. I think this was the best match under the WWE version of ECW.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: CM Punk, Ken Kennedy, John Morrison, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, MVP and Chris Jericho – WrestleMania 24 03/30/08
The thing I most remember about this Money in the Bank match was that I was not expecting a win from CM Punk. I thought it would be Jericho, MVP or Kennedy that was going to win. Punk was shocked by his win too. The match is pretty good. It’s not the best Money in the Bank match (I think the first one at WM21 holds that distinction), but it was still well done. Three months later, Punk cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase to win his first World Title. (Read my WrestleMania 24 review right here.)
World Tag Team Championship Match: CM Punk and Kofi Kingston vs. Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase – Raw 10/27/08
This is Punk’s first tag team title win. He got to team up with Kingston, who has become his travel partner and is one of his best friends in the business. There’s nothing special about the match although it is pretty good for the ten minutes they are given. Kingston gets worked over by the heels for the majority of it, Punk receives the hot tag and a GTS later they became the new tag champs. The tag title reign didn’t even last two months, but it was still an entertaining television matchup.
No DQ Match for IC Championship: CM Punk vs. William Regal – Raw 01/19/09
It took place in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, so the crowd was very into this match. This story was built over a few weeks with Regal finding ways to escape as the IC Champion during his matches with Punk. In this match, DQ’s were thrown out and they had a very physical matchup that Punk won after about ten minutes. I really liked the finish of the match as Punk had Regal up in the GTS and even though Regal was throwing elbows to the head, Punk was able to hit the move to win the IC Title for the first and only time. It was also cool to see that they included the three minutes of post-match celebration because you could tell this moment meant a lot to Punk. He had talked about how much he liked the feud with Regal, so it’s no shock that they chose to include this match on the DVD.
TLC Match for World Heavyweight Championship: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy – Summerslam 08/23/09
I’ve liked a lot of things that CM Punk has done in his WWE career, but I think he’s better as the bad guy. Prior to this match, Punk turned heel and he became the best villain in the business at the time. I’m not sure if the original plan was for this match to headline Summerslam, but it was the right business move because it was the match that people most wanted to see even with Randy Orton vs. John Cena also on the card. These two went all out for over 20 minutes in a memorable battle that saw Punk regain the World Title from Hardy, who left WWE after this feud was over. If it wasn’t for the legendary Undertaker/Michaels match at WrestleMania 25 this would have been the match of the year in 2009. (Read my SummerSlam 2009 review right here.)
CM Punk’s Hair vs. Rey Mysterio Joining SES: CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio – Over the Limit 05/23/10
They had a long feud in the spring of 2010 with matches at WrestleMania 26 (Mysterio won), Extreme Rules (Punk won) and then their third PPV match was here. If Punk lost he would have had his head shaved. If Mysterio lost he had to join Punk’s awesome Straight Edge Society group. I remember having really high hopes for the match, but it wasn’t as awesome as I was expecting. It was still good and I enjoyed it for the most part. They just didn’t have as much chemistry as you would have thought. It didn’t help early that Punk got cut open and the doctor had to go into the ring to stop the match for a couple of minutes. The pace picked up, but I had higher expectations for it. I understand why it’s on the DVD. It was the culmination of one of Punk’s best feuds, so in that sense it deserves to be here.
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank 07/17/11
Simply put, it’s one of the greatest matches in WWE history. To date, it’s the biggest match of CM Punk’s career and I’m not sure if it could ever be topped. It was the match that followed the infamous Vegas “shoot” promo, it was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago where he received one of the biggest ovations you will ever hear and the fans watching the match thought that he was legitimately leaving the company. No pressure right? That’s sarcasm. There was plenty of pressure, of course. They went out there for 30 minutes, delivered an entertaining match and Punk beat the unquestioned top star in clean fashion (mostly clean). The ovation when he won the match was ridiculously loud. Everybody in the building will remember that moment. Those of us watching at home won’t soon forget it either. This is a five star match that will never get old with me. (Read my Money in the Bank 2011 review right here. Love this PPV!)
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho – WrestleMania 28 04/01/12
It’s the only match selected that I saw in person. I can understand why this was included because it was a match where CM Punk walked in to WrestleMania as the WWE Champion. That was a big thing for him. However, I don’t think this was their best match. The match at Extreme Rules 2012 with the Street Fight stipulation was better. While it wasn’t the match that went on last (Rock/Cena), it was still important for him to be able to do that. They worked a match just over 20 minutes with a slow pace early on, but then it got going and they showed us just how good they are. Punk ended up retaining his Championship with the Anaconda Vice submission. (Read my WrestleMania 28 review right here.)
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan – Over the Limit 05/20/12
I’m so glad this match was included on the DVD. It’s 25 minutes of pure wrestling. These are the two wrestlers that I feel are a level above everybody else in WWE right now. Their chemistry was fantastic in this match. I didn’t know how the match might end, so the way they did it with the controversial finish (Bryan’s shoulders down just before Punk tapped out) was certainly different. Not like I’m complaining, though. The crowd was hot for most of it, chanting “this is awesome” many times and they weren’t really against either guy. Even though Bryan was a heel, the “yes” chants are very popular and continue to remain that way. This was the kind of wrestling match that fans like me want to see all the time. Punk and Bryan have the ability to have classic matches. It’s important that they are given that kind of opportunity once in a while because wrestling is what a lot of fans still want. (I love this match. I wrote a review back in the day, but it’s on the old site that is no longer around. I believe I rated this ****1/2 out of five. It’s excellent.)
What I like most about CM Punk is his confidence. I saw him wrestle in the indies for the first time in 2003 in Michigan and I thought there was something special about him. You will never see another wrestler that believes in himself more than him. I think that’s a common trait of all the great wrestlers over the years. You have to believe that you’re the best and work your ass off to get there or else you’re going to live the rest of your life with no regrets.
When CM Punk walks away from the business, whether that’s in a few years or ten years, he can hold his head high knowing he gave it his all. On behalf of his fans around the world, I thank him for that. That’s what we want to see out of the performers we pay to see entertain us in that ring.
There’s one line that Punk said in the indies and in WWE that he really lives by: “Straight edge means I’m better than you.” He doesn’t just say those words as part of the show. He believes them.
I don’t have any number, letter grade or ranking system for this. All I’m here to do is to tell you to get this DVD or Blu-Ray if you haven’t done so already. Every wrestling fan should see it, at least the documentary portion. If you want to know more about the man behind the performer, watch this. You will learn a lot.
I’m not here to tell you Punk is the nicest wrestler in the business. He’s not that. He would likely admit that. What he is, though, is one of the most honest and candid wrestlers you will ever see. He says he’s the best. What does he do? He proves it. You have to respect that.
CM Punk has earned the right to call himself the “Best in the World.” Everybody involved in this project deserves the same kind of praise for their exemplary work. It is masterfully done.
Thoughts? Comments? My contact info is below.
Until next time, thanks for reading.
John Canton – [email protected]