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 1
The opening shot of WrestleMania week is fired from the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami, where WWE Champion CM Punk collects his thoughts in front of rows of unoccupied seats prior to a live press conference streamed around the globe on WWE.com, YouTube and Facebook. Just moments before media of all kinds converge upon the event, he stands before one of his signature weapons – a microphone – leading to perhaps some consternation by WWE officials on hand. Notwithstanding the concern of corporate types, Punk assures that there will be no censorship today.
“They know that if they tell me not to do something, I’ll do it,” the champion states, bold yet honest. “They just cross their fingers and hope for the best.”
Miles away from Miami (and his opposition), Chris Jericho poses in front of a mirror and snaps a picture in response to his bookish foe’s comic-related Twitter musings. While surfing through his latest batch of tweets, CM Punk absorbs the long distance insults.
“While you're reading comic books, I'm training and getting ready to own you.. @CMPunk,” reads The Straight Edge Superstar.
Jericho’s message to his 589,000-plus followers comes several hours before the press conference he was originally scheduled to attend. When you’re the first-ever Undisputed Champion in WWE history, your schedule can change, it seems. Thus, the WWE Title bout portion of the live streamed media event is left in the tattooed hands of Punk.
While The Voice of the Voiceless readies himself to be heard by the legions of WWE Universe members worldwide, his opponent is nowhere in sight. His nemesis is “at home, washing his tights,” as Punk suggests before offering a more substantial retort to an ab-flexing Chris Jericho’s tweet hours earlier.
“[Chris] does DDP Yoga and that’s not even real yoga,” Punk teases. “This isn’t a front on Diamond Dallas Page – nice guy and all that, but whatever. Jericho’s [not here because he's] got a voice coach so he can sing in his rotten band.”
The tattooed teetotaler winds narrow halls behind the scenes at the press conference, passing the likes of Santino Marella, Eve and Kofi Kingston – who Punk had earlier exposed as one of his more consistent conquests on Words with Friends.
The Straight Edge Superstar encounters The Great One and for a moment, it’s unclear as to what the intermingling will yield. It’s either mutual respect between CM Punk and The Rock or just their undivided attention on their respective WrestleMania opponents, but the private conversation is smooth, cordial. As Punk later explains, the topic is “wrestling,” simply stated. Both have a history with John Cena, with The Voice of the Voiceless actually getting the best of the Cenation leader on multiple occasions in 2011. Days after this conversation, the world will learn if The Brahma Bull can, too, do what Punk has been able to do: defeat Cena.
The entire WWE Universe is watching online when WWE Champion CM Punk cuts through the curtain to hit the stage for the WrestleMania press conference. He vows not to bore anyone in the heart of Miami and it’s no lie as the crowd applauds Punk’s frank message that he’s “going to kick Chris Jericho’s ass.”
Next, the titleholder incites an impromptu bidding war for him to remove his “Colt of Personality” shirt and mocks Michael Cole’s excessive makeup layering. Punk’s delivery is quick and punchy, as if he was standing in the center of the ring and tormenting his “clown-shoed” enemy, WWE EVP John Laurinaitis, or a tight-buttoned executive telling him what he “shalt or shalt not say.” His silver tongue seems even more brilliant in the bright daylight of the outdoor gathering.
The Voice of the Voiceless escapes droves of interviewers, photographers and producers in the post-presser media blitz. Punk goes from the shutter-snapping and hot southern Florida sun to a hushed, low-lit elevator descent. Leaned against the mirrored lift wall stands a much different man than the one who stood in front of the WrestleMania XXVII logo a year ago in Atlanta.
“The stakes are higher,” Punk remarks about this particular Show of Shows. “Last year, I had one foot out the door. I was counting the days. Now, I’m the face of the company, so to speak.
He continues, “I don’t even think I had banners [with my face on them around the city] last year. That was another slap in the face. That’s why I was leaving. I actually have a few banners now. What a difference a year makes.”
The kickoff day of WrestleMania week includes a major press event in Miami, but that’s just the beginning for The Straight Edge Superstar. Back at the epicenter of the WrestleMania bustle – the hotel occupied by WWE – the champion surveys a day-by-day schedule for all Superstars over the next several days. Perhaps picking out the best times to squeeze in some workouts and comic book thumbing, CM Punk studies the standing “bible” of WWE events for a busy week.
His review of appearances, signings and various elbow-rubbings with the WWE Universe spins a tale that this final leg on the Road to WrestleMania is more than vigorous. At the far right, stands a fifth and final cardboard poster representing the biggest day of the year when the time for talk gives way to a head-to-head clash with Chris Jericho.
Staring at a visible countdown of sorts, it is very apparent that The Grandest Stage of Them All lies just around the bend.