How HE Made Me Love Wrestling Again | Blake’s Take

Well, hello there! I bet you’re just as surprised as I am seeing me here! It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? Over the course of this Take, you’ll read just exactly where I’ve been and where my head was at. It’s been a time of introspection for me, to be honest. I hope you all understand. But this is how he made me love wrestling again.

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So let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You all last saw me here in January of this year. It’s now September. Where have I been? To be honest, this began for me in April of last year. The very beginning of Speaking Out.

I’m sure I don’t have to jog your mind too hard on what Speaking Out was/is? Much like every single person, I was disgusted and appalled by what I was hearing and reading. Every single day for what felt like months, more and more brave people from across the globe spoke up about what had happened to them by individuals that were entrusted with their care in the wrestling industry. I was getting notifications from Twitter every hour.

And in all honesty, I dreaded opening the app.

Who would be outed as a disgusting human being this time, I often thought? Why is this happening in the sport that I have loved for over 35 years?  And to take things to the next level, there were people that I personally knew that was being outed as those same disgusting human beings. People that I had developed relationships with. People that I loved and respected.

Like many others around the world, the accusations and fallout killed my love for professional wrestling. Everything I thought I knew about the sport was wiped clean in a matter of months. And with that, I didn’t want to talk about, let alone watch and write about wrestling. For months it felt like I was treading water. Writing about the next big WWE storyline. The next big AEW signing. I literally wrote about the story, and that was it. No heart or soul in the piece. Just the facts. I was done with wrestling as I felt that it had failed me and millions more across the world.

Over the following months, though, I found solace in watching wrestling from yesteryear. Finding classic wrestling on the WWE Network (literally one of the best things that the company has ever done, BTW). Anything to get my mind from what I was reading and seeing. At Marc’s (PWP’s Editor in Chief) bequest, I began watching and writing about ECW. And going back to 1995 was a blast.

ECW Sunday Night Pay Per RetroView with Mark Blake
Photo/Pro Wrestling Post/@imkingroach
Matches that I had never seen before mixed with classics gave me the wrestling fix that I needed but away from the current hard times.

But as is life, sh*t happened. My day job made it impossible to keep the balance that I had desperately tried so hard to keep. With the numerous lockdowns we have had over here in the UK, my day job was made so much harder. You see, I work as a delivery driver for a national supermarket. And the demand for their shopping/groceries being delivered went up exponentially. Some days I was working between 12-16 hour shifts. With myself working more hours, it meant I saw my family less. Add in that I was still putting as many hours as I could on writing and editing for PWP….I was working for around 21 hours a day. In the end, something had to give.

It made sense for me to walk away from wrestling. My love had died, and I wasn’t giving 100% to Pro Wrestling Post with my work. And just like that, on January 11th of this year, I took my ball and went home (please tell me you get the reference). I deleted all my social media, carried on with my life, and left the world of professional wrestling in my rear-view mirror. No longer was I hearing about the next wrong-un in that world. No longer was I hearing that Uncle Vince had buried yet another well-established NXT talent.

I was done…and I was happy.

This is where we fast forward a few months. To April of this year, to be exact. I was in my self-imposed exile of professional wrestling, but I was still supporting a select few people in the industry. My good buddies Tax and Rich over at the World of Wrestling Podcast kind of kept me up to date. I say kind of as their pod consists of them talking about past classic wrestling events. At this moment in time, they’re covering Daniel Bryan’s run to his WrestleMania XXX win in a 10 part series. But interspersed within their recording are nuggets of information about the current product. So yeah… I kind of kept up to date.

Rich also works for WrestleTalk and consumes wrestling like it’s going out of fashion. With that in mind, he kept talking about how AEW had really upped their game from late January onwards. Pretty much the time I walked away from it all. Both he and Tax were gushing about a particular episode of Dynamite. The April 28th  show. The one where Miro turned on Kip Sabian. I could hear in their voices how much they loved the show. The passion and excitement coming from them just reached out to me (I’ve never told them this either), and I felt compelled to watch it to see if it was as good as they said or just hyperbole.

CM Punks wins WWE Intercontinental Title
Photo / WWE
I found the episode and sat back. Waiting to be let down once again. But I was wrong. So so wrong.

The two hours of Dynamite flew by at a breakneck speed. And at the end of it, I was sat there on my sofa, feeling like a little kid again. Sure, there were parts of the show that I shook my head at. But there was so much right with it that I ignored the bad parts. They are still finding their feet for such a young promotion and throw in this Covid era we’re in…..I thought it was a great job. I walked away from it, thinking that maybe I would watch occasionally. Dip in and out as I don’t want to get sucked back in again and be heartbroken like before.

My thinking didn’t last long as I watched the very next week’s AEW’s Blood and Guts live. I walked away from that PPV quality tv show as a fan. A very low-key fan, but a fan again. I didn’t tell a soul I was watching pro wrestling again apart from my dude Dan Conroy (his close friends call him Cold Blooded, you know 😉 ). It was my secret as I was still wary of being burnt once more.

Each week the pair of us would discuss the upcoming (and now past) NFL fantasy football draft and AEW. And each week, I would dip my toes into the wrestling water a bit more by discussing things outside of AEW. How WWE was doing, the NWA Empowerrr PPV, and more. My love was coming back.

But I still needed that spark to reignite that flame, that burning passion for professional wrestling.

The rumors had been swirling since the day AEW aired on TNT – CM Punk is returning to wrestling. I laughed it off. He was done. He would never consider getting back into the ring again. And yes, before you all start, I know he did WWE Backstage. But he worked as an analyst, really. And he was goofing off the majority of the time too. He didn’t have that fire in his eyes. It looked like it was just a job. That he was going through the motions. Well, to me anyway.

With the announcement of AEW Rampage and, more importantly, their second episode emanating from the United Center in Chicago, the Punk coming back rumors went into overdrive. You know this; you don’t need me to tell you. But what I will tell you, though, is that my interest was piqued like it hadn’t in many, many years. Was he really coming back to the ring, or would it be a commentator/behind-the-scenes role? If he did come back to the ring, who would he feud with? Would he join a faction or be the loner he’s always been? The questions flying between myself and Conroy were unimaginable seven months earlier. But we both agreed that we would watch the episode live.

CM Punk
Photo / Wrestling-Edge.com
I have followed CM Punk’s career ever since his RoH days.

I was a bit of a tape trader back in the early ’00s and got most of my information from internet message boards (remember them?) and Powerslam magazine, a UK publication & I remember the buzz of Punk in RoH and his initial feud against Raven. Punk was remarkedly different from your typical wrestler, as you all know, and that garnered my interest. Add to the fact that the feud and action were amazing. I became a fan instantly. I’m one that never really follows the norm. I like the outsiders. The Mick Foley’s, the CM Punk’s, the Daniel Bryan’s, the Kevin Steen/Owens of the wrestling landscape. They speak to me more than your Hogan’s, Cena’s, Reigns. If they can succeed when the deck is stacked against them, then why can’t I?

Friday, August 20th (well, technically 21st for us Brits) will go down as one of those moments in my life that I will never forget. I will honestly rank that up there with Hogan vs. Warrior from Mania VI, The Rock vs. Hogan at Mania 18, and Brock breaking the streak at Mania XXX. And not just because of what happened at the United Centre. But also because I was sat in my living room at 2.30 AM with not only my amazing (and long-suffering wife) but my soon-to-be 10-year-old wingman! Yes, my family had decided to watch the show with me.

How HE Made Me Love Wrestling Again
They wanted to experience this with me, and I can’t thank them enough.

They’ve been beside me through my falling out of love with wrestling. They’ve seen how I cut out wrestling from my life entirely. Bare in mind that in the 13+ years of my relationship with my wife, I have watched/talked/written about wrestling every single day. She knew how difficult it was to just cut it out of my life cold turkey. So yes, experiencing that moment with my family is one that I will cherish forever.

CM Punk AEW Debut Behind The Scenes Details - Wrestling Inc. How HE Made Me Love Wrestling Again
Photo / Wrestling Inc / AEW

The moment Punk’s Cult of Personality hit over the United Centre’s PA system, I legit lost my proverbial shit! I jumped up from my sofa (nearly knocking myself out on our glass lampshade in the process) and screamed as loud as I had ever screamed in my life. Yes, I knew that he was there and would be making an appearance of some kind, but it wasn’t really real until that music hit, and he came out.

3.15 am Friday 21st August 2021. That is the moment that my love for wrestling came back. That the rekindling of the flame for pro wrestling began again. The moment Punk had finished his promo, I knew; I just knew that the landscape had changed. That the needle had moved (hey Roman, how you doing over there?!). In my eyes, the landscape had shifted. Punk had come into a still relatively new national promotion and did what he did best. Ruffle some feathers.

Put all eyes on him and where he was.
CM Punk Calls His AEW Debut The Greatest Night Of His Career
Photo / Mandatory

He had a sly dig here and there at Uncle Vince during that promo, and I’m sure more will escape from his lips over the coming months about his time there. Punk put over the fact that he had missed us fans, and more importantly, he had heard us. He just never had the platform to express what he wanted to say. Now? Now is the time and place to speak freely. Not just about WWE. But about everything that has happened. The pandemic, Speaking Out, Uncle Vince and Triple H. And he will, for sure.

How HE Made Me Love Wrestling Again

AEW had given me a product that was a marked alternative to what WWE has given me for so long. A product that actually listens to its fans and not its shareholders. That emphasizes storyline and wrestling. That does it the way it should be done. Over the course of four months, AEW had gotten me out of my funk and showed me that wrestling can still be fun and, when done properly, be bloody brilliant. They brought me back to wrestling.

CM Punk returning, his words, and his future matchups? That has made me LOVE wrestling again.

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