A Slice of Something Different – A CM Punk: Best in the World Review
As a wrestling fan, I’d been hotly anticipating the release of CM Punk: Best in the World for some time now. It’s actually the only wrestling Blu-Ray/DVD to come down the pipe in a few years that has merited purchase, as opposed to rental or library checkout.
The big draw here is that CM Punk’s story, much like the real-life Phil Brooks himself, promises to be decidedly different from anything else WWE has produced in recent years. Even if you don’t factor in the punk rock theme to it all, Punk’s penchant for brutal honesty and defiance in an era where almost everything in WWE is safe and PG, a video based around him easily stands out. Even if you’re not a “smark,” it simply begs to be viewed.
Best in the World starts with Brooks’ early years as a straight edge teenager in Chicago who was into punk rock and wrestling, and takes us all the way to his now famous WWE Championship match with John Cena in July 2011. We see him grow from a backyard wrestler, to an indy darling, to a frustrated WWE up and comer, to one of the hottest commodities in the business today. In addition to hearing Punk talks about some of his frustrations with WWE over the years, we also get to know the man himself, as we look at his love for music, comic books and tattoos.
The documentary has a good arc to it. The story is about Punk’s constant effort to grow as a performer, and to gain respect and acceptance along the way. Thus, it ends with WWE finally accepting him as a top tier talent, despite how different he is from what many see as their typical “mold.” WWE loves to tell stories about guys who scrape, scratch and claw their way to the top despite everyone telling them they can’t do it. This is one of those stories, but given how different Punk is from your average WWE wrestler, it has an added dimension to it that most of these stories don’t. Punk’s story required WWE to take a look into the punk rock and straight edge scenes, which they rarely (if ever) do. Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen is even interviewed. It’s refreshing, in that sense.
One thing that really surprised me about the chronicling of Punk’s early years was that we got to hear extensively about his work on the indy scene, including his time with Ring of Honor. We hear from Colt Cabana, and in a move that completely shocked me, we hear about Punk’s matches with Samoa Joe, who is now a TNA star. Punk’s story required WWE to venture outside their “bubble,” quite a bit. To their credit, they did that.
In terms of what the documentary is lacking, one person that is conspicuous by his absence is Vince McMahon. I’d have loved to have heard Vince’s thoughts on Punk’s early days in the company, and particularly how he felt about the promo leading up to Money in the Bank that changed the course of WWE. I also would have enjoyed hearing from John Laurinaitis, WWE’s former executive vice president of talent relations. At a few points in the documentary, when someone is talking about one of Punk’s pitfalls in WWE, they seem to allude to Laurinaitis having a hand in them, but they never say his name outright. It would be interesting to hear his take on some of those situations.
The way the filmmakers alternate between segments that progress the story and segments that highlight a portion of Punk’s life, i.e. his training, his tattoos, etc., is awkward at times. You’ll be into the story, and then suddenly they’ll dive into Punk’s personal life. It’s interesting information, but it makes the flow of the presentation a bit frustrating at times.
The matches are the ones you’d expect to see on a CM Punk collection put out by WWE. His Money in the Bank match with Cena is obviously a highlight. Punk’s matches with Rey Mysterio Jr. and Jeff Hardy are also fun to watch. Wrestling purists will likely appreciate the inclusion of matches with William Regal and Daniel Bryan. We even get an Ohio Valley Wrestling match with Brent Albright thrown in there. This DVD has most of the must-see WWE stuff, but obviously you want to look at some of the Ring of Honor DVDs if you want a more complete picture of Punk’s career.
Is this the best DVD WWE has ever put out? No. But its uniqueness compared to the others makes it a very worthy purchase. Much like the man himself, it easily stands out from the crowd.
Front page image from bleacherreport.com. Images 1 and 2 from adamswrestling.blogspot.com.