There was a huge buzz across social media sites yesterday when WWE superstar CM Punk wore an Antonio Cesaro shirt to meet journalists.
Cesaro, the current United States champion, is the most high-profile absentee from the WrestleMania 29 card. The apparent snub has not been popular with fans, and many believed that Punk’s wearing of his fellow wrestler’s t-shirt was an indication of his displeasure at the situation.
Punk was interviewed by Chad Duke’s 106.7 The Fan DC (transcribed by WrestlingInc.com) about the t-shirt.
It was a clean shirt that grabbed and I wore that day. It's not some sort of silent protest because he's not on Mania, although I will go on record right now that it's absolutely ridiculous that he doesn't have a match at WrestleMania. I will pimp that guy until the cows come home. He's awesome. He's everything that the WWE should want in their superstars. He's tremendous. He can wrestle, he's a brick house, he's looks the part, he acts the part, he walks and talks that part. He can speak seven different languages! You're missing the boat on this guy.What can be said for certain about Punk is that he is clearly a fan of Cesaro’s work.
Whether fans should believe that it wasn’t actually a silent protest is another question.
It would seem very coincidental for Punk to just happen across a Cesaro t-shirt that was in his bag at the time. On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that WWE officials would allow Punk to go into such an important press conference without vetting his outfit first.
This double improbability would suggest that this protest is a work. Possibly even an indication that the WWE plans to have Cesaro on the card in some way.
Whatever the circumstance, this act was a clever way to keep Punk connected with his core “smart” fans. Any silent nod that can be picked up by people looking for little indicators like this sends them into a frenzy. This, in turn, will get them even more excited about WrestleMania.
It could be argued that Cesaro is only getting his opportunity with the WWE due to the headway Punk, and Daniel Bryan, have succeeded in making for independent wrestlers over recent years.
There was a time when wrestlers from independent promotions found it extremely difficult to get a fair deal with the WWE. The emergence of Punk and Bryan convinced the WWE to change its policy, leading to the likes of Cesaro and Shield members Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins getting their chance.
Punk also had some other interesting subjects to discuss at the interview.
When asked about MMA, Punk replied “I don't think Vince would let me do that. Am I interested? I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. Doing what I do now, I would not be able to train how I would need to, but we'll see what happens."
He also commented on his relationship with legendary wrestler and much-rumored opponent “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, saying:
It's never been really acknowledged within the WWE. This isn't me trying to promote something that isn't there, but there was just this hilarious tension in the room when me and Steve were in there. It's funny to actually be in a room live, everybody else is uncomfortable except me and Steve. There's this weird magnetism. It's this unspoken thing. The only way I can describe it, and Paul Heyman completely 100% agrees, it's the Old West and there's the two gunfighters, and they're buddies, but everybody always goes, 'I wonder what would happen... what if?' And that's all it is. It's fun.Both implied scenarios would be fascinating for fans.
Austin and Punk are two rebels from their retrospective generations. An encounter between them would offer something that hasn’t been seen before, although it may be argued that the idea of Austin stepping into the ring once again would cause that excitement against anyone.
Punk wanting to try his hand at MMA is not an unsurprising development.
He was supposed to go to the ring with UFC fighter Chael Sonnen early last year, and his style is based around the highly acclaimed new sport.
At the age of 34, Punk is obviously rather old to start such a strenuous discipline. However, the likes of Randy Couture and former WWE star Dan Severn fighting well into their 40s could give him hope.
More likely, Punk is just showing his admiration for the sport. His love for professional wrestling has always been apparent, so walking away seems rather unlikely.
CM Punk has been on dazzling form over this pre-WrestleMania period. His interviews have captured many people’s imagination.
This bodes extremely well for his clash with The Undertaker on Sunday at WrestleMania.