As WWE celebrates the return of WrestleMania to the New York-Jersey area in 2019, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon talks about the glorious past of The Showcase of the Immortals.03/16/2018 - 14:00
Dueling Diary: CM Punk and Chris Jericho, Day 4
SOUND AND FURY, 11:40 a.m.
A treadmill hum and generic lobby music is infiltrated by muffled yet audible riffs of metal punk music. These sounds reverberate louder as WWE Champion CM Punk steps further into the hotel gym for a workout.
Hoodie and all, he gets rolling immediately on the elliptical while the sounds of This is Hell pound through his Beats headphones. It’s the morning before his match against Chris Jericho and Punk’s focus will not sway. The zipped up Straight Edge Superstar warms up and gets his heart rate moving for a more intensive training to follow.
TIME TO BOUNCE, 12:12 p.m.
The gym starts to crowd up with some of CM Punk’s fellow Superstars by the time The Second City Savior has already worked up a sweat. The sweatshirt’s come off and the music has cycled into some Metallica – specifically, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” shades of The Game’s WrestleMania entrance in Atlanta a year before.
Punk’s diet has varied over the past several months, including a three-month stint as a vegetarian, and his workout is equal in variety this morning. He moves quickly between chest presses and planks, incorporating a medicine ball workout in the set rotation. The WWE Champion takes the ball, holds it overhead and slam-bounces it to the floor with all his strength from a dozen to 16 times each. While serving as core training, Punk’s smile suggests he may also find a youth-like satisfaction at the ruckus of the 12-pound ball springing up to the ceiling to rattle the tiles. ( WATCH)
ENTER THE DRAGON, 3:22 p.m.
Awaiting his VIP signing on the WrestleMania Axxess floor, Chris Jericho strolls the waiting area at the Miami Beach Convention Center and is approached by WWE Hall of Famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
Just yesterday, Jericho expressed his admiration of Steamboat’s accomplishments as a technically gifted torchbearer for competitors of a non-hulking stature. Today, Chris emits respect to the venerable WWE Legend. For his part, The Dragon compliments Y2J and reveals his anticipation of the “Best in the World” showdown the next day at WrestleMania. They step aside and privately speak of parallels between Steamboat-Savage and Jericho-Punk in just 24 hours. Though Jericho may not express it, Steamboat’s acknowledgement is certainly a humbling honor for the first-ever Undisputed Champion in WWE history.
LIGHTENING THE MOOD, 3:43 p.m.
A snaked line of WWE fans is incredibly anxious for the arrival of Chris Jericho at the signing booth at Axxess. The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rollah marches forth with a swaggered strut and takes his position at the booth for individual encounters with the WWE Universe, estranged or not. One Jerichoholic hoists up a sign made in homage to Y2J’s illuminated jacket, which leads the WWE Title No. 1 contender to descend from his perch. He waves his wrist and leaves a signature on the wide poster board featuring his silhouette and the words, “Best in the World.”
In roughly 24 hours, he’ll have the opportunity to prove this sign true.
HAPPY WHEN IT RAINS, 5:04 p.m.
It’s hours prior to the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and back at the hotel, WWE’s Superstars, Divas, Legends, family and friends are slipping into suits and cocktail dresses for one of the most important nights of the year. About one mile from that same hotel, CM Punk and his friend Lita are sloshing through a Floridian downpour in sopping wet sneakers and clinging cotton tops. They couldn’t be happier.
Crossing over the Miami River Walk, the two unhurriedly pass through puddles toting veggie and fruit smoothies to be sucked down after this evening’s event. Their conversation thrives while people under umbrellas hustle past to find drier ground.
His Thor tee thoroughly drenched, Punk is probably more comfortable now than he will be in a snug necktie later tonight. In fact, The Voice of the Voiceless makes Gene Kelly look like a grump as he and the former Women’s Champion parade through the streets of Miami, enjoying the crash of the heavy raindrops on their skin.
The Straight Edge Superstar and Lita are all wrung out from their stroll through the rain and have dried in time for the prestigious WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony at the American Airlines Arena. Even though it’s not his ideal attire, CM Punk looks James Bond sharp in a suit. Still, he doesn’t quite top the former Women’s Champion, who turns heads in just about every room she enters.
Punk puts down some light fare to supplement the smoothie that made it from one side of Miami to the other in a rainstorm two hours earlier. On the flip side of the curtain behind them, a who’s who of sports-entertainment converges; Ric Flair talks “good olds” with Dusty Rhodes, while Rhyno, Tommy Dreamer and Lance Storm enjoy their reunion.
Showtime creeps closer and CM Punk snaps a photo with his “road wife,” Kofi Kingston. This shot and a similar candid of him and The Iron Sheik is ideal fodder to be tweeted to Punk’s 782,000-and-strong followers. They’re instant retweets.
The mixed company of WWE Legends and current competitors keeps The Voice of the Voiceless busy until it’s time to take the floor of the American Airlines Arena. Suddenly, Punk slips away from the corralled throngs of suits, tuxes and Swarovski evening gowns as he barges into a private room where Mike Tyson’s inductors, Triple H and Shawn Michaels, rehearse their in-tandem speech. This isn’t the type of conversation that just anyone can walk into so gracefully, so nonchalantly, but CM Punk is far from your typical human being. The two top dogs preview some of their speech and engage in a brief talk with The Voice of the Voiceless.
The Straight Edge Champion’s first experience with the “Kliq” cohorts was at his first-ever WWE pay-per-view at Survivor Series 2006 as a member of Team DX. A half decade later, his presence among these iconic Superstars suggests that Punk – a rebel akin to anti-establishment antics much like the original D-Generates – has ascended to a spot very few will ever reach. Whether he wants to be or not, he’s in an elite club with membership that’s not easily extended just because someone holds the WWE Championship. It means that he’s made it and it means that he’s been acknowledged. It means respect, which is the greatest currency someone like CM Punk could ask for.
Refreshed after some “DDP Yoga” earlier this afternoon, Chris Jericho parts the curtains to step onto the main floor at the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, converting a temporary lull from the crowd into a raucous reception. He’s again rolling with “American Idol’s” James Durbin, who takes his seat beside Jericho for the event while an entire arena swaths the No. 1 contender with a “CM Punk!” chant all around him.
Jericho preserves his façade and focuses on a most meaningful evening that will include the celebration of several men from his colorful past – from The Four Horsemen, who reigned over one of Jericho’s earliest home, WCW, to Mike Tyson, who once knocked Y2J out cold on Raw.
And, of course, there’s Edge, whose similar ascent in sports-entertainment always seemed to either augment or jeopardize his kinship with Jericho, depending on whether or not The Rated-R Superstar held a championship Chris coveted.
This is a very special night for all WWE Superstars, including the rebellious likes of CM Punk, who one might think wouldn’t be into the red carpeting and pomp and circumstance that comes with it. But in the very front row, the WWE Champion gets an optimal view of the stage where some of the most influential names in squared circle history are honored.
Punk is flanked by Lita and Lars Frederiksen, which establishes theirs as, arguably, the most tattooed section in the building. The heavily inked triumvirate enjoys the candor of speeches and presentations from those who’ve unquestionably influenced the careers of The Second City Savior and, in many ways, Lita as well over the years. The WWE Champion finds particular pleasure in Christian’s live roast of Edge moments before The Rated-R Superstar takes the stage to the Foo Fighters’ “Walk.”
According to CM Punk, the same people who gave Edge a chance later gave The Second City Saint his, in part, because of what the 31-time titleholder made of his opportunity. It’s a sincere expression of gratitude from the “Best in the World,” who may be standing at this podium himself years from now. Perhaps Punk is envisioning such a moment when he will incite WWE officials one last time with a filter-free speech that’d make Edge’s tale of flatulence fights with WWE’s Chairman feel restrained by comparison.
He smiles and applauds but there’s something in Jericho’s leer that suggests envy in the closing moments of the Hall of Fame ceremony. Center stage has always been the place coveted most by Chris Jericho. Presently, the man who claims to be the “best in the world at what he does” looks on as Edge accepts the greatest accolade in all of sports-entertainment … and perhaps the spotlight has spent too much time not warming the shoulders of the No. 1 contender.
Jericho’s veil of adulation comes down for the moment as he gazes down row to his left to see his enemy, CM Punk, on the eve of WrestleMania XXVIII. The next time they’ll occupy the same building will be live at Sun Life Stadium where history will be made and the “best man” will leave with WWE Championship gold.
One would believe that the challenger can perhaps see it now; the stage five feet in front of him becomes The Grandest Stage of Them All in his mind’s eye and all of the things Jericho’s promised to do to Punk are played out before his eyes.
The show concludes and Jericho exits alone, stepping past groups of legendary performers who gather just beyond the curtain to reflect one last time before they disperse. This night’s a WWE family reunion but Jericho is solely focused on reuniting with the WWE Championship after so long, and he has final preparations to attend to before Saturday shifts into WrestleMania Sunday.