The Pipe Bomb: Was it Good or Bad for Business?

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: CM Punk attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: CM Punk attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images) /

The infamous “Pipe Bomb” in professional wrestling is in reference to a promo—some say a shoot—in which CM Punk took to the microphone and essentially broke the fourth wall in professional wrestling, attacking not only the establishment in his Pipe Bomb delivered to the WWE audience but the entirety of WWE and its chairman, Vince McMahon.

But whether it was good or bad for WWE and the professional wrestling industry, is still a question many ask themselves to this day and one we’re analyzing in this article.

It was on an episode of Raw back in June of 2011 where CM Punk would utter the words that would eventually be immortalized all these years later (and still for years to come), right after he interfered in a Tables Match between John Cena and R-Truth. His interference led to Cena losing the match, he being put through a table first.

He then walked up the ramp and sat down beneath the hovering presence of the WWE Titantron and thus began his tirade.

"“…Before I leave in three weeks with your WWE Championship, I have a lot of things I want to get off my chest…” –CM Punk"

Bold statements indeed

And get off his chest some things he definitely did. The words he spoke sounded like a litany directed at Vince and all he had created throughout the eighties. Punk took shots at Vince’s very own family, Hogan, Dwayne Johnson, and even John Cena who was gathering himself in the ring, being forced to listen to Punk’s words, who had essentially taken the show hostage.

"“…Oops…I’m breaking the fourth wall…” –CM Punk"

The event had certainly gotten a large portion of the audience excited…fans of a different era of wrestling were tuning in to watch quite suddenly—fans that had left the business after the Attitude Era had ended.

Here was this guy that had shades of Steve Austin, going against the establishment, and here he was like Austin, saying things that couldn’t be said by anyone else. He was even wearing a Stone Cold shirt on that night in June, of all the things to be wearing, and perhaps Punk knew the weightiness of the words he was about to deliver and how reminiscent they were to the types of promos that the legendary Steve Austin was very capable of delivering in his own heyday.

Perhaps this is why so many felt that the Pipe Bomb itself would have led to Punk having the type of career that Austin enjoyed after his rise in popularity.

But it was also why they were so upset when the Pipe Bomb went nowhere at all and essentially all the momentum fizzled out and dried up after it was all taken in a different direction.

Unfortunately, all they accomplished with the Pipe Bomb, was getting a portion of the audience excited for nothing, especially if the intent was to shut it down before the momentum even got started. But many believe that that was not the case. It seemed as if the decision to cut their losses came rather abruptly after the buzz had started.

"“…Hey Colt Cabana! How you doing…?” –CM Punk"

A word on the ratings

At the height of the business, which was during the Attitude Era—specifically in 1999—the ratings were something like: 6.5 million on November 29th of that year; in 2005, yet another good point for the business, which was during the Ruthless Aggression Era hit 4.5 on November 14th and after suffering quite a decrease in ratings over the years, the weeks which were centered around the CM Punk/John Cena lead-in towards the 2011 Money In The Bank, ratings stayed at a steady average of 3 to 3.5, or thereabouts.

The last Thunderdome episode of Raw clicked in at 1.6, according to f4wonline.

A large portion of the audience was upset after that and they were turned off for a long while (and perhaps they never came back, it would seem). It took a lot to forgive the WWE for what they felt they had been robbed of, which was a return to a time in which they heralded, because it had in a sense, for that episode and of course the few weeks that followed. The energy given off to the fans and back again was extremely similar to the energy which had been palpable in other eras, especially the aforementioned ones.

"“…and I’d like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon’s dead but the fact is it’s gonna get taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law…” –CM Punk"

Cutting him off at the knees

Before Punk could really get controversial, to say the least (I mean how much more controversial can you get?), somebody in the back turned the microphone off.

By turning the microphone off at the end of that promo, or rather before he could finish the promo, they helped him more than they hurt him and perhaps they realized that only later; perhaps we all have.

Punk’s Pipe Bomb promised loads in excitement for the future at that time. An analogy if you will:

It’s as if James Hetfield of Metallica is coming out on stage…thousands in attendance on their feet and cheering for him and the band. He hits the first few bars of “Master of Puppets” and then all of a sudden the lights go off and when they come back on, the stage is void of not only the band, but all the amps, drums, and equipment as well. Perhaps only a single tumbleweed can be seen on the stage…

This was how it felt after that storyline went nowhere.

Wrong place, wrong time?

Perhaps it was started at the wrong time. It happened after The Rock challenged Cena, so the build-up for Cena vs. Rock 1 was already underway and any storyline Cena got into during the course of that year was probably regarded as filler.

The timing for this was certainly off because by the time WrestleMania season hit, some portion of the WWE audience had been distracted by The Rock, and I get that, but to not pick this up where they left off at some point later on instead of abandoning it was a mistake.

Instead, Punk eventually turned heel and had an impressive 434-day title reign, when Rock defeated him for the belt…a belt that John Cena won back ultimately.

Now nothing at all against John Cena, as he is one of the greatest of all time and an excellent human being, but for wrestling, the abandoning of the angle is said to have been spawned by the Pipe Bomb and the events surrounding it, was a mistake overall.

After winning at Money In The Bank, 2011, Punk did in fact leave the company with the title and all the momentum in the world—specifically after the Pipe Bomb and the match itself—but when he returned, he ended up losing the title and in a chain of events that baffled most, he was thrown into a feud with a returning Kevin Nash, but it didn’t make sense. It was almost as if the momentum of the Pipe Bomb and the subsequent matches with John Cena, had all been for nothing.

Punk eventually quit the business

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, stated while being interviewed by Steve Austin, that he felt Punk was frustrated working with Triple H.

He was seriously injured by the end of his run and perhaps he was disillusioned with the business overall. The fact that he’s spent this long away from the business proves this extensively.

After all these years, we can see so many who have learned from CM Punk’s ability to work the microphone…we see it on NXT every week, and we see it at other promotions as well.

He still had a fantastic run, but perhaps had they stuck with it and given us more of what we got on that fateful night in June of 2011, maybe his run would have been even better. In the end, he could have had a run and perhaps a career equal to that of Steve Austin but maybe we’ll never know…

He’s gone on to fight in the UFC, unfortunately not performing too well, as he suffered two losses overall. He’s done some films, but the question if he’ll return to pro wrestling is still up in the air and around the business like a smell that lingers in the air after a long battle has been fought…the air is oppressive with aura and nothing else.

Maybe he should come back and finish what he started, and if WWE isn’t open to it, there’s always AEW.

dark. Next. NXT: Dakota Kai vs Raquel Gonzalez is the story that needs to be told

To answer the question…

I’ve put you through a lot before answering the question that the above title poses, but back story means everything in pro wrestling, so I’ll answer it now, as I conclude this piece on perhaps one of the greatest events in professional wrestling post the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras.

The Pipe Bomb was controversial; it hit a raw nerve for some and got people excited like a bunch of children in a Mcdonald’s play place, and it got people talking. So as Eric Bischoff once said: “controversy creates cash.”

I guess I’ll leave it at that, dear readers.