Found May 21, 2012 on Sons of Old Massachusetts:
(Note: This is my blog and with that freedom I get to write about anything I want. I formed this site to talk about something near and dear to my heart, UMass athletics, but there are other things that I love...including professional wrestling and recently I've been watching a ton of pro wrestling because my almost three month old son is fascinated by it. So with all of that in mind, here is some pro wrestling from Sons of Old Massachusetts)

I have a confession to make. I love professional wrestling.

I won't run down my credentials as a wrestling fan but I've got them. Recently my love of professional wrestling has deepend as I recognized my two month old son sitting transfixed watching Chikara Pro on my computer screen. If you're a parent of an infant you may realize the power of a calm wrestling gives me that and you can't put a price tag on calm.

On Sunday night the WWE put on their 3rd pay per view in 7 weeks, and it was headlined (ok it was only marginally headlined) by the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. The match was notable not for it's build, which was non-existent at best but for what it represented.

From the mid 1990's through the early 2000's professional wrestling went through a boom period thanks in large part to the Monday Night Wars, the nWo, Austin/McMahon and The Rock. One of the results of that boom period was a growth of independent wrestling promotions, two notable promotions Chikara Pro and Ring of Honor were both born in 2002 and celebrated (or will celebrate) their 10 year anniversary this year. Two of the biggest independent wrestling stars in the post boom, independent wrestling expansion were CM Punk and Bryan Danielson (now Daniel Bryan).

Punk and Bryan were in Ring of Honor in 2002. Their independent career trajectories are very similar and they were both darlings of the independent scene. When Punk signed a developmental deal with the WWE in 2005 he dropped the ROH World Championship to James Gibson (himself a former WWE talent) who quickly dropped the belt to Daniel Bryan. It was a strange passing the torch moment where the top indy wrestling talent (Punk) handed the ball so to speak to Daniel Bryan, though the hand off occurred through the person of James Gibson (who's one month reign as ROH champion is the shortest reign in the companies 10 year history).

Punk has never been considered the prototypical WWE superstar, he's about 6'2, 218 pounds. That's a a pretty good sized person for a regular human, but in the comic book world of the WWE it's what would have been considered a cruiserweight in the 1990s. To have CM Punk enter Sunday night as the holder of the most prestigious title in sports entertainment was shocking to say the least.

But it's not the most shocking thing that happened -- because Daniel Bryan signed a developmental deal with the WWE in 2009, going on a classic farewell tour that was thankfully captured by a documentary crew for "Wrestling Road Diaries" which I highly recommend. Compared to Bryan, CM Punk is a genetic freak. Bryan isn't 6 feet tall, and he doesn't weight 200 pounds unless he stepped on a scale with five pound weights in each hand. If Punk isn't a prototypical superstar, Bryan defies explanation. When Bryan won the 2011 Money in the Bank, cashed it in and became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion everyone was stunned. Punk succeeded seemed possible, Bryan succeeding never seemed plausible.

At Wrestlemania you got a glimpse of how the WWE valued Daniel Bryan, he lost his title in 18 seconds in the opening bout of the evening. But a funny thing happened...Bryan's "YES! YES! YES!" chant became infectious and started to be heard all over the venue both at Wrestlemania, at RAW the next night and to some degree in every WWE arena since. Bryan went from internet darling to iconoclast due to an 18 second squash match that has only helped Bryan while having a strange almost indifferent effect on his Wrestlemania opponent Sheamus. The Bryan "YES" chant can be heard at basketball games and at every independent wrestling show since Wrestlemania. It has become the new "WHAT" and because the audience has been so vocal, Daniel Bryan went from 18 second loser at Wrestlemania to wrestling his old friend CM Punk at NC State in an almost 25 minute independent wrestling showcase on Sunday night.

And that's the point to all of this -- CM Punk and Daniel Bryan fought within the confiens of the WWE "system" but they put on an independent wrestling clinic. It was hard hitting, there were stiff kicks and crisp chops, there were european uppercuts and suplex's. But even more fitting than the 25 minute back and forth affair that included some vicious submission holds and a white hot crowd (after the North Carolina crowd sat on their hands for the first two hours of the show), there were tributes to wrestling past.

For the past year CM Punk has been using the ugliest top rope elbow drop in history as a tribute to Randy Savage, his execution of the move on Sunday night elicited a "RANDY SAVAGE" chant from the North Carolina crowd. Punk also locked Daniel Bryan in a figure four leg lock which is like throwing meat to a rabid dog in North Carolina and then there was the curb stomp.

Punk and Bryan knew that their match was an independent wrestling fans wet dream, the two most popular indy wrestling stars of the past 10 years meeting for the biggest prize in the WWE, yeah we were all very excited. So CM Punk broke out something that (so long as you discount Paul Birchall) is never seen in a WWE ring...the curb stomp. If you're not an indy wrestling fan the curb stomp doesn't have much appeal to you (I guess unless you're a Paul Birchall fan), but for indy wrestling fans the curb stomp signifies the third pillar of independent wrestling over the past 10 years. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan reached the mountain top, and in doing so they paid tribute to Super Dragon. If Punk and Bryan made indy wrestling on the east coast cool, Super Dragon birthed indy wrestling on the west coast, and when Punk gave Bryan the curb stomp, it may have been nothing more than a cool move to do in a match -- but to me it was a hat tip from those two to a guy who didn't get to the WWE, but who had a major impact on the indy crowd that Punk and Bryan both knew would be watching.

I don't know what the WWE brass thinks about CM Punk and/or Daniel Bryan, but I know this -- Triple H talks about "THIS BUSINESS" every week when he appears, and he once told CM Punk that you give "THESE PEOPLE" what they want, that's how you get over in the WWE. Last night for 25 minutes an arena full of WWE fans chanted "THIS IS WRESTLING," "THIS IS AWESOME" and dueling "DANIEL BRYAN" "CM PUNK" chants. The WWE depends on growing new fans, it's why you see so many children in the audience with John Cena headbands, but those kids had to come from somewhere -- and as the father of an infant myself I will happily watch wrestling with my son if the quality is like the 25 minutes of the WWE Championship match at Over the Limit. The next generation of wrestling fan comes from the current generation of wrestling fan -- and as a member of that class, I'd like to formally thank the WWE for letting my two favorite wrestlers do what they do best last night, because when indy wrestling goes mainstream I'll happily throw down 60 bucks to support the product.

I'm going to talk about pro wrestling more on this site during the summer when the UMass news is slow, but I wanted to pass along a few sites that you should absolutely be following for wrestling news:

WithLeather -- home of @MrBrandonStroud and the Best and Worst of RAW (and assorted pay per views)

The Wrestling Blog -- TH is a great supporter of independent wrestling and got me back watching Chikara for Season 11

TJR Wrestling -- Solid wrestling site that didn't credit Punk with a "curb stomp" for shame


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