Marc Alan Fishman: WWE, Marvel & Fairness

CM Punk ThorFans of this column (minus my mom, that leaves what, ten of you?) will no doubt recall my dirty love of professional wrestling. Oy, that came out wrong. That’s what she said! Sorry. Over Thanksgiving weekend, C.M. Punk – the Chicago-Made indie wrestling darling turned WWE Superstar turned turncoat whiny quitter (if Twitter is meant to be believed) – took to the airwaves of his friend’s podcast to pontificate over the sordid details of his departure from under the hooks and claws of Vince McMahon.

It broke the Internet (for smark marks like myself), and did exactly what it was meant to do: give an honest recounting of the multiple reasons why Punk made the bold choice to walk away from the only game in town. Amongst the cadre of reasons presented, they all boiled down to fairness.

Punk was hurt physically, burnt out mentally, and denied creativity by the powers-that-be at the WWE. Ultimately, it sounded like Vinnie Mac’s corporate brainchild was operating like… a corporation. Punk was merely a cog in the wheel, and for whatever reasons those above his pay-grade felt, he wasn’t given the opportunities he sought out professionally. With nothing left in his tank, he took his ball and went home.

In the year since his walkout, Punk healed his body and mind. Local Chicagoans saw him at Blackhawks games. Geeks nationwide saw him on the Talking Dead. And Jason Aaron and Marvel Comics saw him when he inked a quick deal to co-write an upcoming Thor annual as well as “some other books in 2015.” Anyone who was on the Internet at any point last week no doubt saw Punk everywhere, as he announced that he’s also now signed a deal with Dana White and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Punk fans like myself were elated over all of these sightings and announcements. But there’s also been a groundswell of haters assembling as well. Why? Because to throw back in his face what he himself complained about… all of these opportunities come across as being unfair.

OK, take away the good seats at Blackhawks games. Punk is no doubt well-off enough that he was able to purchase his tickets like anyone else. And if you listened the podcast, you’d also note he paid United Center prices for hotdogs and beer. This means he’s friggen’ rich. Nothing unfair there. And let’s even dismiss any whining over his Talking Dead appearances. Punk is a friend of Chris Hardwick, and I’m 99% certain that the casting of the panels for that show aren’t earned over merit. That leaves the UFC and Marvel Comics.

C.M. Punk is a great at many things. But professional writer… well, I didn’t see it on his LinkedIn profile. It’s not a secret that he’s an avid reader of comics, and has even dabbled in writing scripts and promos and storylines for himself when he was wrestling. But never over those years did I see bylines in the dirt-sheets declaring “Punk submits new ideas in to Dan DiDio” or “C.M. Punk taking meetings with Axel Alonso”. But to paraphrase the man himself, Punk was clear to denote in one documentary (“The Best in the World” as put out by the WWE, in case you’re interested) that he would “bother the guys in the Marvel booth at every chance” in an effort to score a deal, when he would do signings at Wizard World conventions. Well, consider the perseverance (and the litany of fans outside of mainstream comic book aficionados) noted and accepted. Put a pin in that.

The UFC is by it’s own definition the “world’s leading MMA promoter,” offering bouts “where hybrid athletes are required to know various disciplines in order to compete at an elite level.” C.M. Punk has some experience with Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kenpo karate. And while I’d never wish to befoul him in a darkened alleyway… to the best of my googling abilities, Punk isn’t exactly cited anywhere as being elite in either of those forms of combat. Suffice to say, much like his deal to write comics, Punk’s biggest talent (by way solely of available data) is his passion, his commitment, and his fan-base.

This all converges on the point of fairness. Is it fair that a man be given opportunities others are competing for by leveraging popularity over proven talent? Is it fair without a comic book credit to his name otherwise, Punk be given a shingle with one of the most powerful publishers in the industry –while guys like me, and the hundreds (if not thousands) of independent creators who would break our thumbs for the chance – simply because he asked perpetually? Is it fair that he also be given a deal to fight for a promotion that has hundreds of other known fighters with professional experience, when he himself hasn’t even a single bout to his name? Well, no. It’s not fair.

But really, this was never about fairness. Punk’s contract with Marvel and the UFC is about business.

Marvel Comics and Dana White provided C.M. Punk with the writing and fighting gigs because he is a known draw. Jason Aaron is an acclaimed writer on his own, no doubt, but slap Punky Brewster on that Thor annual and you might just move more copies. And the UFC is the premier fight promotion with 181 pay-per-views under it’s belt to date. Adding Punk to a card probably means Dana White and company will be able to fund 181 more of them based on the increase in buys. Haters will purchase it to see Punk turned into an ink stain. Punkateers and first-time MMA fans will too, to see their darling beat the odds. For all parties concerned? It’s win-win.

And for those that will call Punk out for the hypocrisy that he’d complain he was treated unfairly at the WWE where part-time stars were given preferential treatment only to do the same thing now in two new industries? Well, you can cash that check at the bank anytime you’d like. C.M. Punk isn’t a babyface hero, here to live by a honor-bound code of justice. He’s an entrepreneur, a passionate fan, and lucky son-of-a-bitch. It’s not fair…

… and it never had to be.