(My urge to call this post ‘The Cult of PR-sonality’ was strong)
I wanted to address the story that has been flying around the wrestling news sites about CM Punk being offered $1 million to return to wrestling by 5-Star Wrestling, a Scottish promotion who are running a 30-day tour starting June 10th featuring a 128-man tournament.
And no, that’s not a typo.
Sites like Cageside Seats and WrestleTalk TV have picked up on this as well as mainstream media publications, and I must give a hat tip to @BritWresReview for the link to the story on Wrestling News Source. Having had plenty of time to digest this and read reactions, I figure it’s time to break it down.
First, let’s address the likelihood of Punk actually accepting this offer; slim-to-none.
Regardless of me being a huge CM Punk fan, I just can’t see any scenario in which Punk wakes up one morning and decides this is a worthwhile endeavour. For one thing, do you get the impression Punk is motivated by cold hard cash? Between his successful wrestling career, a cool half-a-million dollar purse for UFC 203, his comic-book work, and his wife also being a successful wrestler and a bestselling author, it’s not like the Brooks household is short on money. Any return to the wrestling ring will be done on his own terms regardless of paycheck – I personally like podcaster Jason Solomon’s idea of him showing up at a random Ring of Honor or indie show. And besides, wasn’t former big stars coming out of retirement to collect big paychecks something he railed against strongly in WWE?
Speaking of UFC, Punk signed a multi-fight deal with them, and as things stand he is still under contract. As much as people have speculated, he hasn’t yet been cut by Dana White, and that would surely be the only way out of his contract. And even if the stars did somehow align and Punk met with Dana, agreed to be released from his contract and signed on with 5-Star, the fact of the matter is this; the tour starts June 10th, Punk has not wrestled a match in over three years, and has trained exclusively in MMA since then. His body has been through the wars, and he is severely ring rusty. Is that really the Punk you want to see back in the ring?
So CM Punk entering the upcoming 5-Star Wrestling tournament is about as likely as Donald Trump forming a coherent sentence. But you probably knew that already, right? I can hear you already saying ‘but AJ, this was a publicity stunt, and it worked – fair play to them!’
While you aren’t entirely wrong (hence the title), I do have some big problems with this as a way of selling tickets.
I can’t say I’d heard much about 5-Star Wrestling until now, aside from a big one-off show they did live on Channel 5 earlier this year in Dundee. I’m going to assume that if you have heard of them, it’s because Brian Zane did a review of their lame videogame on Wrestling With Wregret. Having done some digging on the company, what strikes me is how little we know about them in spite of their seemingly large resources. This is a company that got a live television deal in the UK and have previously booked guys like John Morrison, Rey Mysterio and AJ Styles on their shows, as well as a host of other well-known names. Additionally, they are running shows on the upcoming tour in some of the same arenas NXT will be performing at in a few weeks. And yet, in an era where names like PROGRESS, Revolution Pro, WCPW and ICW are swelling in hype and popularity, why is this the first most people have heard about 5-Star?
Having found some red flags in my research, the reasons as to why they are pulling such a bold move become clearer.
Firstly, their website is completely uninformative – just a list of upcoming tour dates and links to buy tickets. No roster page and crucially, absolutely no announcements as to who will be appearing on the tour. Kinda surprising given they have 128 spots to fill and the tour is under a month away. An article on VultureHound.co.uk gives an indicator of at least some of the names – 16 confirmed so far according to the article, including Morrison, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, Moose and Grado – but that still leaves 112 slots to be filled in just over three weeks. The likes of PROGRESS can sell out shows in advance without any confirmed wrestlers or matches, but that’s off the back of an amazing reputation built up over many years as well as running shows in much smaller buildings.
Secondly, via a neat segue; ticket prices. Not only are 5-Star running WWE-size venues on this tour, they’re charging similar prices for tickets – in some cases even more than WWE. Take for example the AECC GE Oil & Gas Arena in Aberdeen; on Ticketmaster, the best floor seat tickets for the NXT Live show on 5th June are priced at £113 ($147), versus £169.50 ($221) for floor seat tickets at 5-Star Wrestling’s show in the same building on 15th July. The idea that any wrestling promotion could charge more than WWE for tickets, let alone tickets for shows without a confirmed card or wrestlers scheduled to appear, is wildly optimistic.
Taking all this into consideration, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where under a month out from the tour starting, panic is setting in about ticket sales. And their bold pitch for CM Punk smells as much of desperation as anything else. 5-Star owner and promoter Daniel Hinkles is quoted on WrestlingNewsSource.com as saying: “We’ve been trying to contact CM Punk on and off for well over a year. We wanted him on the first show we did in Edinburgh in 2015. I’ve tried going through friends in the industry, I’ve gone through his website and sent dozens of emails but the opportunity has never been this big. It’s a genuine offer.”
By the sounds of it, Hinkles has been attempting to reach out to Punk for nearly two years, but Punk hasn’t been returning his calls. Does that not sound a bit desperate to you? It wouldn’t surprise me if Hinkles didn’t even have the $1m to spend on this venture, which would make for interesting scenes should Punk call his bluff. But regardless, many of you will say that if this sells more tickets for the upcoming tour, mission accomplished. Arguably the fact it has garnered so much attention in the first place means it may already be mission accomplished. And the way the company have posted newspaper cuttings of the story alongside links to buy tickets mean they are marketing this hard as a thing that actually might happen, which to me is borderline false advertising.
Let me say this; I would never tell wrestling fans how to spend their money. But if this is persuading you to buy arguably overpriced tickets, to a wrestling show with no confirmed card, on the slim-to-none chance one guy MIGHT show up? I would advise you save your money. You’ll only encourage more gross promotional tactics like this.
Then again, if somehow the stars align, pigs fly past my window and CM Punk DOES sign a deal to join 5-Star Wrestling, I’ll happily retract all of this if you give me a match between him and Will Ospreay.