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No, CM Punk isn’t a Washingtonian. His wrestling attire, decorated with the stars of Chicago’s flag, are proof of his indelible association with that city.
But there’s no reason why we can’t adopt him as our own.
Even as a millennial resurgence fades her stigma of a transient population ever so slightly—-and with all due respect to the city’s homegrown cultural riches—-the District has never shied away from taking people born elsewhere and forging them into our own demigods. And Punk, who competes tonight at the Verizon Center as part of WWE Monday Night Raw, is as good a candidate for such adoption as anyone else.
For starters, he’s been wildly successful. Punk’s won nearly every major championship there is to win in the (mostly) scripted world of professional wrestling: He’s the fastest man to ever win all the top singles crowns in World Wrestling Entertainment, where he currently plies his trade and prompts some mighty impressive crowd reactions. But his independent bona fides are also impeccable. Punk forged his reputation on the blue-collar circuits of Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South and Ring of Honor, and his matches with Chris Hero and Samoa Joe (not to mention his profane verbal lashings of drunken hecklers) are akin to gold in wrestling’s tape-trading community.
While Punk’s cleaned up his act somewhat with age, his inclination towards brutal honestly remains, whether he’s in character, less guarded, or sparring with 6-year-olds on late night talk shows. He’s also undoubtedly a social media presence. Taking WWE’s obsession with Twitter and running with it in the past year, Punk both publicly offered to kick Chris Brown’s ass after the singer tweeted Punk to insult the size of his manhood, and tweeted a photo of the WWE championship belt—-the biggest prize in the business—-chilling in his refrigerator.
In short: despite the considerable hype involved in the grappling business, Punk seems like the perfect stranger, someone you almost can’t help but want to like.
If that wasn’t enough to satisfy the honorary Washingtonian litmus test, he’s also straight-edge and proud of it. CM Punk The Wrestler’s career-long gimmick, regardless of whether he was booked to play the face or the heel, has been CM Punk The Human’s pious abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Punk’s public history is littered with overwhelming self-awareness about his lifestyle of choice, from righteous LiveJournal rants about Maryland cops pulling him over and assuming he’s a user, to a love of soda that wouldn’t have been out of place at a Minor Threat show. (His fondness for Pepsi products even extends to a rather large tattoo of the company’s logo on his left arm.)
Of course, the demographics of straight-edge ethos and professional wrestling, with its roots in drunken, smoke-filled Americana, aren’t exactly compatible. But in an age where WWE—-an organization whose biggest star regularly boasted of 24-inch biceps once upon a time—-is actually suspending its performers for using banned substances, they probably should be. (To wit: One of the most popular wrestling writers in America today, David Shoemaker, rose to fame because of a series of tributes he penned to wrestlers who died far too young.) Health benefits aside, the contrast makes for some fascinating television; Punk’s character is preachy to the point where only his friends in the audience are in on the joke. And even when he does lean towards the militant, his apologies for reprehensible comments are genuine, a lesson that, sadly, some of the most prominent Washingtonians have yet to learn.
So, yes, Washington, go claim CM Punk as your own, tonight at the Verizon Center. And if Chicago doesn’t like it, well, as Ian MacKaye once succinctly put it, “boo fucking hoo.”