“I’m even lethal when I’m un-armed
‘Cause I’m louder than a bomb
Cause the D is for dangerous, you can come and get some of this
I teach and speak, so when it’s spoke, it’s no joke
The voice of choice, the place shakes with bass
And when I say it, they get alarmed
‘Cause I’m louder than a bomb”
Here we stand, 10 years after the infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo by CM Punk.
A promo that we all hoped would change the wrestling world. And while it didn’t do that exactly the way we hoped, the aftershocks of its explosiveness continue to reverberate through the fandom and passion of the most ardent followers of professional wrestling – in many different ways.
However, today I am not here to talk about the aftershocks of the Pipe Bomb promo itself. In fact, what I am here to talk about is the immediate aftermath of the Pipe Bomb, the oft-forgotten, and maybe even superior follow-up segment: the Public Contract Negotiation.
The Pipe Bomb was the opening salvo that was needed to start the battle. It made an impact like no other before it and will forever be remembered for that, as well its unique (at least at the time) work-shoot nature. The Public Contract Negotiation, however, was the next bomb to be dropped by CM Punk.
One that was longer, more intricate, more complicated, and still just as utterly amazing all these years later.
Starting off the segment, it’s at first now impossible not to hear Michael Cole over-emphasize “DOUBLE-U DOUBLE-U E” on commentary. I would like to thank Brandon Thurston from Wrestlenomics for that one. Mr. McMahon is first to come out and does a very interesting entrance where he keeps going to the back and coming out again to try and get a bigger response from the crowd—but the crowd isn’t really buying it. However, by playing this up it becomes pretty clear, at least to me, that they are really trying to position Mr. McMahon as the heel here—not CM Punk. McMahon really hams it up with this part and with his “billionaire walk” as well—actions that are soon mocked in glorious fashion by CM Punk making his own entrance.
The first part of the segment begins and the contract negotiation is all about the fantastic interplay between McMahon and Punk. It’s not done in the same old Austin vs. McMahon fashion where the fiery bad-ass baby face hates his boss. Here Punk is his smarmy at the very highest level (prime example: the way he says “my lawyer”) and is taking as much joy as he can needling Vince. He mocks his catchphrases—“what a maneuver!”, “WWE Universe”, etc. Throughout it all, Vince does a great job of appearing uncomfortable and making it obvious that he has disdain for Punk, but is just trying to “do what’s best for business.” Remember this wasn’t a term that had gotten repeated ad-nauseum by HHH and the authority. Vince appears constantly on the edge of snapping and yelling “screw you!” to Punk, but holds back as best he can because he doesn’t want Punk to walk out with the title.
The segment leads into a list of more and more ridiculous demands by Punk (the famous ice cream bars, CM Punk – the movie!), but really kicks into high gear when he asks Vince for an apology. But this isn’t just any pro wrestling apology that Punk wants Vince to give him for kayfabe slights, it starts to get real as he talks about Colt Cabana and Luke Gallows being “unceremoniously fired.” Vince snaps back “they deserved it!” and Punk’s response – in an echo of a complaint that we still hear now, even louder, 10 years later—“why? Because you don’t know what makes a superstar in 2011? You don’t know what these people want?” You want to punish people for actually liking professional wrestling?” He demands McMahon apologize to him for people like Cabana and Gallows, and then immediately christens himself “the Voice of the Voiceless” as he is speaking for these wrestlers who can’t speak for themselves.
Imagine calling yourself that.
In this short part of the promo, some of my key frustrations with the WWE were laid bare. It’s incredible watching it back all these years later, and honestly quite sad. Punk was saying it right to McMahon’s face what the problem was, but McMahon didn’t listen. 10 years later, those problems still exist and because of them, I stopped watching WWE completely in 2018. Now, do McMahon and WWE care? Probably not. Look at what this segment was—a contract negotiation. It was all about business, and in the business department, WWE has never been better. Their audience is now corporate executives of TV companies and streaming services, not the voiceless wrestling fans CM Punk was trying to speak for. Even if we have a voice, Vince and company choose not to listen.
Vince eventually screams at the chanting crowd “I don’t give a damn what you people want!” Punk responds, saying that is exactly the problem, that Vince doesn’t care, and that he cares too much. Looking back 10 years later, this comment is another one that hits a little hard, as in less than three years WWE would make this man that cared too much about wrestling walk away forever. Spoiler alert—this isn’t the last time that one of Punk’s comments will appear prescient and sad in hindsight.
The segment continues to escalate and the final part begins with the entrance of John Cena, who comes out to stop Vince McMahon from signing Punk’s contract full of ridiculous demands. Cena, who we all know can give terrible, corny, ham-fisted promos, is on point with his mic work here – with the exception of some comments about Mr. McMahon’s bad breath. He makes excellent points about Punk being a hypocrite since he’s threatening to walk out on the fans he claims to love so much. “The Marine” John Cena, then chastises McMahon for negotiating with a terrorist, which is just grade A incredible stuff. He then starts to talk about how much he hates Vince too, and since they are in Boston he just lets the accent go wild – real Ben Affleck from “Good Will Hunting” stuff here.
Cena is on one tonight.
Fantastic references are then made to WrestleMania 22 and CM Punk being a gangster extra for Cena’s entrance. Punk then turns on Cena’s Boston accent and the city of Boston and makes an excellent comparison. He says that while Cena pretends to be the underdog, just like the Boston sports teams, – they are all dynasties and bandwagon teams now. They have become the New York Yankees. An insult to a Red Sox fan that can only be met with a punch to the face. The Yankees mention in this promo is especially great, as it gets referenced over one year later when Cena and Punk face off at Night of Champions in September 2012. Now a heel and aligned with Paul Heyman, Punk takes advantage of this PPV happening in Boston and wears pin-stripe tights during his title match with the hometown Cena.
As mentioned at the beginning, the follow-up here to the Pipe Bomb is just phenomenal.
While the Pipe Bomb is great in CM Punk sitting alone and showing the world what he can do by himself with a microphone in a short period of time, this segment is 24 minutes of incredible pro wrestling interplay and storyline development with three of the greatest performers in modern wrestling history. It perfectly built anticipation for the Money in the Bank title match between Cena and Punk, and also did a great job of giving both wrestlers proper reasoning and motivation. Neither one was clearly heel or face. The segment also did a good job at planting the seeds of Vince McMahon’s desperation and heel character that would come into play during the match in Chicago.
The most disappointing thing about this segment though, is that we didn’t get many more like it after this.
This great CM Punk character and the way it interacted with Vince and Cena only really existed for the few weeks from the Pipe Bomb to Money in the Bank. If WWE had played their cards right and actually prolonged this storyline to have CM Punk be this rogue character without a contract, we may have had more excellent segments like this. I would have been thrilled to see another contract negotiation, but this time with Punk as WWE champion and having even more leverage.
Remember that John Cena was “fired” because he lost the MITB title match?
Imagine if that actually was followed in the storyline and could have been used by Punk to needle McMahon even more. Alas, no good things can last. As we all know, the Pipe Bomb was just a brief shining moment in wrestling fandom, a shooting star that burned too brightly and was snuffed out before we knew it with dual WWE championships, HHH guest referee spots, Kevin Nash text messages, Alberto del Rio, and Awesome Truth.
In a way, it ended up being analogous to the remainder of CM Punk’s WWE career.
Back to the contract negotiation segment though. After the punch in the face, Punk retreats up the ramp and takes the famous crossed-legged sitting pose from the pipe bomb. He then makes another comment, that with 2021 ears makes you really take notice:
“It hit me like a bolt of lightning, exactly why I don’t want to be here, why I want to leave. It’s because I’m tired of this. I’m tired of you. I’m just tired.”