The voting season for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Hall of Fame is coming up. One of the most intriguing candidates for this round of balloting is CM Punk.
Punk has been on the ballot since 2014, and has bounced between 12% and 24% of the vote in that time. 60% of the vote of a wrestler’s region is required for induction.
I fully expect that Punk’s vote total will be boosted by his time in AEW – reportedly selling hundreds of thousands of t-shirts while being the centerpiece of the PPV that doubled the company record for buys are very strong indications of his success at the box office, and should shift some views on his candidacy in that regard.
It’s my opinion that by the time he walked away from WWE in 2014, Punk’s candidacy was already strong enough that it should have secured him induction into the Hall of Fame.
I’m going to start by comparing Award Shares for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards. I’ve written about them in some detail on VOW here.
The following chart is for wrestlers whose careers have primarily been spent in the United States over the past 15 years or so, and are either in the Hall of Fame already or are currently on the ballot. “NR” indicates that the wrestler has not finished with a significant number of votes in that category.
|Wrestler||In HoF?||Flair/Thesz||Outstanding||Box Office||MOTY||Interviews||Charismatic|
A quick note on the above table: I’m excluding AJ Styles because I think that his candidacy was strongly defined by his time in New Japan.
A couple of things jump out to me regarding Punk’s candidacy: he’s the second-highest candidate in Flair/Thesz, basically the MVP award, of these eight. That includes three people who are already in the Hall. He’s also second highest in Most Outstanding Wrestler, the in-ring only award, and fourth in Match of the Year voting. He’s fourth in Best Box Office – admittedly, a distant one, but it should be remembered that Lesnar’s high finish in this category was strongly buoyed by his UFC success and Moxley’s ranking is based largely on his AEW run.
Finally, Punk places first in Best on Interviews and third in Most Charismatic among this group.
The following is listed at the top of the ballot:
“The criteria for the Hall of Fame is a combination of drawing power, being a great in-ring performer or excelling in one’s field in pro wrestling, as well as having historical significance in a positive manner. A candidate should either have something to offer in all three categories, or be someone so outstanding in one or two of those categories that they deserve inclusion.”
This would indicate to me that Punk, during his career and while active in WWE, was considered one of the best wrestlers of his generation in America, a decent box office draw, and one of the best promos ever. Of this group of candidates, he is arguably the most balanced of any of these candidates behind Daniel Bryan.
Punk’s candidacy should also be pushed forward by his historical significance. Punk’s actual run in WWE featured multiple era-defining moments. If you’re going to define a portion of WWE “The Reality Era,” it’s hard to not point towards Punk’s Straight Edge Society and Pipebomb promo as at least setting the stage for that, if not outright starting that era. His feud with John Cena centering around the 2011 Money in the Bank event was one of the best WWE feuds of that time period.
CM Punk was also one of the earliest stars in Ring of Honor that helped establish that company, and was in the first five-star match in the company’s history. The DVD of that match, his second of his famed trilogy against Samoa Joe, was reportedly the top-selling at that point in the history of the company. The “Summer of Punk” storyline was one of the biggest in the history of the company.
He even had historical significance while sitting out of wrestling. Even if he didn’t sign with the company until a couple of years into its existence, the formation of AEW cannot be separated from the popularity of Punk in spite of Vince McMahon’s booking biases. AEW was formed as an alternative to what WWE has been over the past five years. While Punk was part of WWE, he always felt like an outlier, someone who was pushed in spite of what he was rather than because of it. Once he left the company, chanting his name became a sort of rebellion against the more mediocre aspects of WWE. There’s an argument that there isn’t a wrestler who is more central to the idea of AEW than CM Punk.
CM Punk checks every box for a Hall of Famer – in-ring ability, drawing power, and historical significance. He’s deserving of induction sooner than later, and hopefully it’ll be this year.