Whether CM Punk lost the World Heavyweight Championship title at the “Hell in a Cell” pay-per-view earlier this month over a dress code issue really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the widespread public perception that it did happen, the common belief that such an action would be typical of WWE, and the apparent willingness of major wrestling companies to throw away huge amounts of money, increased pay-per-view buys, and higher tv ratings for the sake of teaching a lesson to talent who don’t seem to know their places. This should matter to wrestling fans because as long as wrestling companies continue to operate in such a way, they’re only cutting their own throats, and no one with the power to change this seems to recognize it.

Any successful business, entertainment or otherwise, operates on one simple principle: Find something specific that people want, and sell it to them. In a capitalist system, where the means of production are owned by private individuals and corporations, demand drives supply, or at least, it should. To phrase it in wrestling company terms, money is made and shows are sold by giving the fans the wrestlers and matches that they want to see. It’s a complete no-brainer. However, management of both WWE and TNA seem to be unable to grasp this concept at times, and allow the chest-thumping and politicking to interfere with what should be their bottom line: making the largest possible profit.

Let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that Punk did lose the title because someone higher up got mad that he wasn’t wearing a suit in public, and that he dared compare himself to John Cena in terms of star level. Just pretend it’s true. In terms of storytelling, the decision was extremely ill-timed. Punk had cheated Taker out of a win at the Montreal pay-per-view. That’s Big Match #1. Punk beating Taker in Taker’s own specialty match, “Hell in a Cell,” particularly through nefarious means, would have been Big Match #2, and would have been absolutely huge in terms of giving Punk something about which to be even more smug and sanctimonious. If the fans hated him after Screwjob 2.0, imagine the reaction after he won a “Hell in a Cell” match against Taker! Tremendous. The third Big Match would be the place for Taker to finally defeat Punk and take the title.

Whether Taker as the legend that he is really needs or should have the title isn’t really the point. People would have tuned in and paid money to see Taker finally take Punk down in that third match. We’ll never know because that’s not how things played out. Taker didn’t need the win so soon, and Punk came off looking the worse. Whatever reasons were actually behind the ending of that match, the decision was not a sound business decision.

TNA has a parallel with the Motor City Machine Guns. Leaving my well-known and intense personal bias out of the equation (and yes, I can actually do that), the amount of profit in terms of money, buyrates, and ratings that TNA has flushed down the proverbial toilet here has to be staggering. Once Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley teamed up, they were some of the most popular guys on the roster. No matter where they went (not just at the Impact Zone), they were cheered more than almost anyone else. Their t-shirts were seen on more people than any other, and the entire audience would make the “Point to your Hand!” gesture when they entered. The crowd response to the MCMG was the stuff of which wrestling companies dream, and the sort of thing that can’t be forced or faked. TNA had “a license to print money,” and tore it up for the most asinine of reasons.   

The MCMG have never recovered from the complete and utter burial they suffered after the 2008 “Against All Odds” pay-per-view. For those who don’t remember, the story was that Chris Sabin and (in particular) Alex Shelley did not want to bleed during a match against Team 3D that took place on “Impact.” Supposedly, they weren’t comfortable with it in general, but specifically thought that bleeding would be wasted in that tv match. The pay-per-view match was a six-man street fight with the MCMG and Jay Lethal against Team 3D and Johnny Devine. The MCMG vanish from the match very early on, and not even through a major move or spot. They just disappear. Jay Lethal fights the match almost entirely on his own, and gets the win by himself. For months after that, the MCMG were barely on tv at all, and when they were, they were squashed in two minutes. None of the squashes were ever part of an angle, or followed up with anything. How does that help the show? How does that accomplish anything positive?

When popular wrestlers, either faces or heels, are jobbed out or removed from the show entirely, the fans are the ones punished. Punishing the fans who spend money on the product is completely counterproductive to good business. There are ways to keep talent in line without ruining the show, such as fines. Hitting someone in his wallet has a pretty serious effect on redirecting his behavior. Wrestling companies and the higher-ups who run them need to reassess their methods and look at the big picture of business rather than personal power and ego trips. When people don’t have a lot of money to spend, they get much more selective about how they spend it. Keep taking away what we want, and it won’t be spent on you.


  1. Firstly, MCMGs are able to still steal the show in this smark's eyes even with their limited TV time. More matches would be nice, but nonetheless are the best at promos on the show for a while. If comedy is part of wrestling, they score 10/10 every time. And this is something to be said on a show with Foley, Nash, Angle, Bubba, and yes, Steiner (who can cut a brilliant shoot promo in the right circumstance).

    Secondly, if the "suit" issue IS the issue, isn't this a funny 180 degree spin. Think about kayfabe of days past where breaking character in public and some of the most vigilant supporters of this old school tenet. Who comes to mind? Well lots of guys, but the Undertaker is certainly on that list. Is it not fucked up that the exact opposite of that mindset is in play here? Why would the character of CM Punk be wearing a suit? Inverted kayfabe anyone?

  2. However, if an employee – or independently contracted performer – is not following company policy, there has to be some form of punishment. That's not to say that you take the title off of a guy who people pay to see beaten up, or scale back the presence of a team that people pay to see, but you have to do something.

    Of course, if the story is true about Punk, Cena should also be punished. If you're going to make an exception for the guy who is arguably the biggest draw of the company, why should guys lower on the totem pole not be able to get the same exception? If I recall correctly, Cena was given the ok to violate that particular policy because it didn't fit his character – which is why Punk should be able to get away with it if Cena can.

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