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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 427 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: October 29 2012
Before the Yes Movement elevated Daniel Bryan, diehard WWE fans were firmly behind CM Punk. The Chicago native brought an unconventional yet exciting in-ring and promo style, and a straight-edge character (no smoking, drinking or drugs, modelled on his real-life code of ethics), up through the indies and onto the main stage, which captured the imagination of those looking for a new hero, particularly someone who didn’t come across as a John Cena clone. But his road to the top was bumpy, and no matter what Punk did in the ring, it seemed his fate was sealed to be nothing more than an upper mid-carder. Then, he cut a famous promo which would become known as the “Pipe Bomb”, and Punk used the momentum off this to catapult himself to the WWE Title.
This 2012 DVD is largely based on a documentary which charts CM Punk’s life and times, from his challenging upbringing to his breakthrough in wrestling on the independent circuit. Of note during his early days, Punk shone in Ring Of Honor, particularly in a feud with Samoa Joe. We see clips of this rivalry and other scraps with the likes of Raven, and we also see Punk return to the ROH training centre, a surreal sight on a WWE DVD at the time. There is no mention of Punk’s time in TNA, but everywhere and almost everything else is covered, up until his signing with WWE in 2005.
Nowadays, many up-and-comers – even talent well-known by hardcore fans – start their WWE careers on NXT. In 2005, the developmental centre was Ohio Valley Wrestling, but OVW was not where Punk wanted to be; Paul Heyman reveals that Punk “was p—ed beyond belief” that he had to go to developmental. That this is highlighted is surprising, but had we been told that apparently Punk had originally signed a proper WWE wrestler contract, and would then be told why Punk had a WWE match meant for Heat which wasn’t broadcast and was then sent to OVW after harsh criticism from higher-ups, this chapter of the documentary would have been extremely compelling.
Still, Punk had an ally in then-OVW boss Heyman, and this led to Punk coming to the WWE-led ECW in summer 2006. He got over immediately as a straight edge babyface with striking combat skills, and was unbeaten for most of the year. The December To Dismember fiasco is touched upon, but more to show how Punk’s ECW direction soon suffered. Still, he became ECW Champ in 2007, and broke through in WWE proper by winning Money In The Bank at WrestleMania XXIV and cashing in on Edge to become World Heavyweight Champion on June 30 2008.
Punk’s first World Title run suffered from the way he was booked, particularly from him losing the crown after being deemed unable to compete following an attack by the future Legacy. Of greater note are his two 2009 runs as Champ, during which time Punk became a straight-edge preaching heel and became a proper main eventer. His title loss and slide down the card is alluded to, but the inside story is not entirely covered (apparently Punk rejected The Undertaker’s suggestion to wear suits outside the ring because then-WWE Champ John Cena didn’t; Punk soon lost the title to Taker himself, went off the main event radar, and eventually ended up losing a dark match before the first TLC PPV).
His revival as leader of the Straight Edge Society is covered in-depth (Punk admits the similarities between his 2010 role and Jesus were deliberate, and deliberately controversial), but another subsequent slump led to Punk eyeing up the WWE exit when his contract expired in 2011, especially since he admits to being offended that The Miz was pushed ahead of him as WWE Champ going into WrestleMania XXVII.
But then he began a feud with Cena for the title heading into Money In The Bank 2011, and he cut the aforementioned Pipe Bomb promo (shown here in full) which was ground-breakingly realistic for a wrestling show. The momentum from this and his reality-based character led him to the title at MITB despite his contract expiring. Clearly, though, he had resigned with the company and stayed with WWE, winning the title again at Survivor Series 2011 to begin a 434-day reign.
The documentary only covers up to Punk’s post-MITB 2011 reappearance, although some 2012 clips are scattered throughout. The DVD precedes the end of his long title run (it was in progress at the time, so it isn’t mentioned here), his memorable match with Taker at WM 29, and of course his notorious split from WWE after Royal Rumble 2014, which has now led him to sign with UFC (I was thinking how darkly comical it would be to re-release this with his November 2014 podcast explaining why he left WWE as a bonus feature).
The documentary is one of WWE’s greatest to date: it comprehensively covers most of Punk’s life and career; the main feature and extras include revelations and trivia notes (what the “CM” stands for, who originated the GTS etc); it has contributions from many relevant people; and, above anything, it is extremely honest, at times brutally so (Punk even admits to tearing up promo scripts during his 2009 headline run). The only downside is that one is left with the impression that Punk is not a very nice man outside the ring (Michael Hayes even calls him “a moody pr–k”), although some stories show that he does have a good side to him. His opinions are always very much his true feelings, but at times the bigger picture isn’t acknowledged: for instance, Miz had been slowly pushed to the top for over a year before WM 27, so whilst Punk is unquestionably better than Miz, one can understand why he was in the main event of that show before Punk.
Nevertheless, the documentary is utterly gripping for any wrestling fan. CM Punk as a person (rather than as a wrestler; there is a difference between the two) is someone you either love or hate. The main feature highlights his talent and positive traits, but does not ignore his flaws. So, whether you like him or you don’t, the documentary should give you a perfect reason to opt for one particular emotion towards him. It is one of the best wrestler documentaries ever.
The DVD includes bonus matches, many of a high quality. There unfortunately are no ROH matches, but an OVW bout is here. We see his ECW debut and his great ECW Title win over John Morrison. His breakthrough MITB win at WM 24 is a spectacular bout; his Tag Team and Intercontinental Title wins are nice inclusions; and his TLC match with Jeff Hardy at SummerSlam 2009 and Hair vs. SES membership clash with Rey Mysterio at Over The Limit 2010 are both very exciting for different reasons. His MITB 2011 showdown with John Cena is one of the most memorable matches of the last decade, and his lengthy WWE Title run is represented by a pretty good bout with Chris Jericho at WM 28 and a superb match with Daniel Bryan from Over The Limit 2012.
The selection of matches is very good, but they are overshadowed by the brutally honest documentary. The one negative of watching this DVD in 2015 is that Punk has since left under a black cloud, and if he ever does return to WWE, it won’t be for many years. Still, the man himself undoubtedly left behind a great in-ring legacy, and anybody who wants to know who CM Punk was and what he meant to people should definitely buy this, as it gives one a complete look at CM Punk, the wrestler, and Phil Brooks, the man. For wrestling fans, CM Punk: Best In The World is an essential purchase.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 – Classic