I’ve had high expectations for a DVD looking back at the career of CM Punk since it was announced. Once we learned how much input Punk would have on the DVD, my expectations went even higher. And when we learned that they would reaching out to stars and companies from his pre-WWE days, my expectations basically peaked. I first saw CM Punk live back in 2004 (at ROH’s first Survival of the Fittest event), and I’ve been a fan of his ever since. He’s been a part of some of the greatest wrestling storylines of the last 10 years (both ROH and WWE’s version of the “Summer of Punk” come to mind), and has had some classic matches. Clearly, this DVD has some high expectations attached.
Fortunately, this DVD almost completely lives up to those expectations. The documentary feels authentic, and serves as a great overview of the highlights of Punk’s career (including his pre-WWE career in a surprising amount of detail). The match selection was top notch, and although a lot of the matches will be familiar, they were the right choices. Disc 1 runs about 2 hours, 20 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes for the documentary and about 35 minutes for bonus features), Disc 2 runs 1 hour, 45 minutes, and Disc 3 runs about 3 hours. The DVD is rated TV-14. As a nice bonus, all TV matches are complete, and include the portions of the match that took place during commercials.
“Straight edge Means I’m Better than You”: The Documentary
When we first heard that CM Punk was going to have a lot of involvement in this documentary, I wasn’t sure how much the doc would differ from those on other DVD releases. As it turns out, the documentary follows a very similar “life story” format to those other documentaries, but because of those interviewed, it has a slightly different feel. The opening of the documentary, featuring a quote from CM Punk with no background music, was a very strong start. From here, we learn a bit about his childhood and adolescence (which has definitely shaped the way he is). I was surprised how open Punk was about this stuff. I don’t think it’s any secret that Punk is usually a pretty private guy, so how open he was on this documentary could have gone either way. By bringing in other people from his childhood, we were able to get a good picture of how Punk came into the world of wrestling. This reminded me a lot of the Edge documentary from earlier in the year; they picked the right people to interview to give us a complete picture of Punk’s life.
After this, we move into Punk’s early career as a “backyard wrestler” before being properly trained. I wasn’t aware of this part of Punk’s career, and it’s fun to watch. The WWE was able to get their hands on a lot of the old footage. After this, we move into what was probably the highlight of the documentary: a look at Punk’s “indy wrestling” career. This isn’t simply a look at some footage from his indy days along with general comments about it. They actually go in depth about what are probably his greatest indy career moments: his friendship and matches with Colt Cabana, his feud with Chris Hero in IWA-MS, his feud with Raven, the matches with Samoa Joe, and the “Summer of Punk” storyline in ROH. In total, this portion of the documentary ends up running about 25 minutes, which is a good amount of time for all of this footage. We get to see pieces of a lot of his classic promos from ROH, and lots of highlights from the Joe-Punk trilogy and his infamous Tables & Ladders match with Chris Hero. Hero, Cabana, Ace Steel, and Daniel Bryan are among those interviewed.
If you are at all a fan of indy wrestling, you will love this portion of the DVD. It was great to see just how much time was given to this part of Punk’s career. At one point, Punk is talking about the different cities that he was working throughout this era of his career, and he mentions wrestling “Wednesdays in Nashville”. So, yes, there is one very small and very indirect reference to Punk’s run in NWA-TNA.
The next portion, talking about Punk’s days in OVW and on the ECW brand, might have been my favorite part of the documentary. There were two chief reasons for this. First, I didn’t know much about what was going on backstage during this time in Punk’s career, so a lot of the information was new. Second, Paul Heyman was involved, and he is great at these interviews. It suddenly became clear to me why the ECW documentary is so damn good. A big part of it is because of Heyman. He has a gift for telling stories about what was going on backstage and you are hanging on every word he says. I’m not going to go into much detail about any of the stories told, but you get a good sense of the frustration Punk and Heyman were both feeling.
After this, we move into his Money in the Bank victories and runs with the World Heavyweight Title. I was very curious about this part of the DVD, and they were as open as I was hoping in regards to these title runs. His first title run in 2008 was pretty meaningless, and you can tell how upset Punk was about this. The way his run ended also was very disappointing, and this is discussed as well. The second run in 2009 is given a bit more time, especially to go into detail about his feud with Hardy. I think this was where Punk became a WWE superstar, and it sounds that way on the documentary as well. Unfortunately, after this feud, creative struggled to come up with anything else for Punk to do, and this almost caused him to leave the company.
The discussion of his time with the Straight Edge Society makes it clear just how good that faction was, especially when they were feuding with Rey Mysterio. We hear a very heartfelt story from Joey Mercury about Punk bringing him back to the WWE, something that I didn’t even know occurred. You could tell that Punk really enjoyed his time with the Straight Edge Society, and the WWE just didn’t really know how to use them. After this, Punk discusses his frustrations with not being used properly, and we quickly move to the infamous “Pipe Bomb”. His time as leader of the “New Nexus” is completely skipped, which I think says something about Punk’s thoughts on that gimmick.
The first “Pipe Bomb” speech is played in its entirety in the documentary, and it was awesome to hear about the mood backstage during both this promo and his title win at Money in the Bank. The documentary actually ends with Punk deciding to re-sign his contract with the WWE following Money in the Bank. I thought this was a great choice. It provides a very natural ending to the story, with Punk rejoining the company on his own terms. Although I would have enjoyed hearing about his feuds with Jericho or Bryan, it didn’t really fit in the overall story, so this was the right choice.
The names used for interviews over the course of this documentary was perfect. There is not a single person interviewed who is only being included because he is a big WWE name. Everyone used has a relationship with Punk, from his friends in the early days of his career to his friends and opponents in the WWE. This helps set the tone for the DVD very well. Everything feels very personal, and there is a lot of passion behind what everything is saying. We usually don’t see this on WWE DVD’s, so it helps the documentary stand out. It was great to see WWE reach out to so many outside names as well, from Punk’s childhood friends to an ex-girlfriend to wrestlers like Cabana and Ace Steel.
Overall, the documentary is definitely in the “upper echelon” for WWE documentary. While I was hoping for some unique film-making due to Punk’s involvement, it’s hard to complain because the documentary fits very well in WWE’s catalog. One of the biggest benefits (besides the great names being interviewed) is that the DVD is paced very well. As much as everyone loves the Austin documentary, there are parts of that documentary that definitely drag. You never feel that here. Everything moves at a nice speed. The discussion of Money in the Bank 2011 and re-signing with the WWE probably could have been given a bit more time in the documentary, but this is one of my only major complaints.
“One Nation, Under Punk”: The Bonus Features
The bonus features are all pretty interesting, and are definitely worth watching. In fact, after watching the bonus features, this led to my other major complaint about the documentary. A lot of the footage cut and put in the bonus features really should have been included in the documentary. Some of these include “in-ring style” (a discussion of his wrestling style, where, in an awesome moment, he gives KENTA credit for coming up with the Go 2 Sleep), “first impressions”, and “December to Dismember”. These are only a couple of the stories that I felt would have made the documentary more well-rounded. While some of the other bonus features are a bit more slight, they still are interesting, and you should certainly watch them.
“It’s Clobbering Time!” The Bonus Matches
OVW Heavyweight Championship Tournament Finals: CM Punk Vs. Brent Albright (OVW, 3/1/06) – ** 3/4
At this point, you can tell Punk is still wrestling an “ROH style”, and Albright was always best in that style as well. They have very good chemistry, but a strange injury angle hurts the overall flow of the match.
CM Punk Vs. Justin Credible (ECW, 8/1/06) – * 1/2
A typical TV match used to introduce a new wrestler. We do get Punk’s introductory promo before the match, which is a fun inclusion.
ECW Championship Last Chance Match: CM Punk Vs. John Morrison (ECW, 9/4/07) – *** 1/4
An above-average TV match. Punk and Morrison really clicked, and you can sense that they both are trying to impress the higher-ups backstage with their final contest.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: CM Punk Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. Shelton Benjamin Vs. John Morrison vs. Carlito Vs. MVP Vs. Mr. Kennedy (WrestleMania XXIV, 3/30/08) – ****
Money in the Bank is always a great spotfest, but I wish that this particular match could have had a bit more storylining in there as well. I did enjoy the ending of the match a lot, though.
World Tag Team Championship Match: CM Punk & Kofi Kingston Vs. Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase (Raw, 10/27/08) – ** 1/4
A typical TV tag team match. All four men are solid, but the match itself is nothing special.
Intercontinental Championship No-Disqualification Match: CM Punk Vs. William Regal (Raw, 1/19/09) – *** 1/2
Like Punk Vs. Morrison, another above-average TV match. I would have loved to see a match between Punk & Regal where they are given a lot of time. The chemistry is fantastic, and they could have a great match if given a lot of time.
World Heavyweight Championship TLC Match: CM Punk Vs. Jeff Hardy (SummerSlam, 8/23/09) – **** 1/2
The perfect balance between being a spotfest and telling a great story. I was really impressed with just how strong the storytelling was here. I’ve always felt that this was the match that “made CM Punk”.
Rey Mysterio Joins SES Vs. CM Punk’s Hair: CM Punk Vs. Rey Mysterio (Over the Limit, 5/23/10) – *** 1/2
A solid match that is really slowed down in the beginning because Punk gets accidentally busted open. Once the match really starts off, it plays pretty well, even though the finish comes a bit out of nowhere. The entire post-match segment is included as well.
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk Vs. John Cena (Money in the Bank, 7/17/11) – *****
Truly one of the greatest matches of all time.
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk Vs. Chris Jericho (WrestleMania XXVIII, 4/1/12) – **** 1/4
A great WrestleMania title match. I really enjoyed the overall pacing to this match. The finish meant a whole lot more due to the slow, methodical start to the match.
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk Vs. Daniel Bryan (Over the Limit, 5/20/12) – **** 1/2
Punk & Bryan have known each other for a long time, and their chemistry is fantastic. They are able to have a great technical contest while still making the match work for WWE audiences. Of course, as a long time fan of both, I also enjoyed the little callbacks they included to their indy days.
“Best in the World”: Closing Thoughts
As I’ve said a few times now, the expectations for this DVD were pretty astronomical. Because of this, it’s hard to say just how well the DVD will live up to your expectations. Yes, the DVD is very, very good, and for me, it just lived up to my expectations. The documentary has a great feel to it, and I think a lot of this has to do with the choice of the names interviewed. They all have a close relationship with CM Punk, and it makes this documentary feel more personal than others that the WWE has released. As far as individual superstar documentaries go, this does just narrowly outrank the Austin DVD as my favorite, but I don’t know that it lives up to the greatness of the Four Horsemen or ECW docs.
The bonus features helped supplement the main feature really well. In fact, some of the bonus features felt like essential viewing to help the documentary come full circle. There are even more bonus stories on the Blu-Ray, and I would imagine that they will add a lot to the documentary as well. Even though Punk’s career has been relatively short, it’s interesting just how many stories there were for the documentary. I could have gone for even more bonus stories talking about his pre-WWE career.
For a lot of fans, the biggest selling point for this DVD will be the footage from IWA-MS and ROH, and this footage is used very well. I know some people were upset that there weren’t any complete matches included, but I don’t think this would have fit the flow of the bonus matches anyway. Most of his classic matches in IWA-MS or ROH were pretty long as well. If you are a fan of both the WWE and independent wrestling, then I think picking up this DVD for the documentary is a no brainer.
The bonus matches are, for the most part, fantastic, and you really see the evolution of Punk in the WWE over the course of the two discs. While Disc 2 doesn’t have any classic matches, you can see how he is adapting to the WWE style, and none of the matches are bad. On Disc 3, four of the five matches ranked in at **** 1/4 or higher. This is definitely an impressive disc, and is one that I could easily see myself going to a lot in the future. My biggest complaint about this DVD, though, is that there were no bonus promos to go along with the matches. This, quite frankly, is a huge mistake. Punk is so well known for this mic skills that they should be represented on here. Fortunately, the first “Pipe Bomb” is included in full as part of the documentary, but we should have had some other promos included as well. I would have been OK with sacrificing 1 or 2 bonus matches to allow room for this.
As expected, this is a no-brainer recommendation. As a complete package, there really is nothing disappointing on the set. My only disappointments had to do with there not being enough of a few things. I watched the entire set very quickly, which is always a good sign as well. Punk was surprisingly open throughout the documentary, and while you aren’t going to hear him talk about anything particularly private (like his love life) he still is pretty open about how his career has gone. I’m sure most of you were planning on it already, but you certainly should go out and pick up this DVD. It is the DVD of the year so far for 2012.