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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why Does Wrestling Need Farewell Speeches?

Mike Coppola/Getty Images
One of the side effects of CM Punk's walkout a year ago, in terms of fan feedback, came on the negative side of the fence. There were actually fans that were mad at Punk for not going on Raw and giving a farewell speech.

Obviously, that's laughable in hindsight, given his walkout stemmed from what he claims is a combination of many ill factors, chief among them medical negligence. But had Punk stuck around, worked WrestleMania without complaint win or lose, and then told Vince the next day that he was just simply retiring, there still would have been a noticeable segment of social media railing him for not giving a sendoff speech on Raw.

When did this become standard? I realize Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, and Edge all gave speeches in recent years, but when did we get so far up the wrestlers' asses that we can't have closure without some heartfelt words?

If you know me, you know I'm a Punk fan through and through. As a WWE viewer, when I heard he'd walked out, I was disappointed in the sense that the show would be a bit worse off without him, but I quickly rationalized that Bryan, The Shield, Cesaro, and others could make up for his absence. I was a massive Michaels fan through my life, and I wasn't sad when he lost to Undertaker. I enjoy his matches as much as anyone, but that was an even faster rationalization: he's 44, has bad knees and a bad back, and probably wants to spend more time at home. If Shawn didn't give a speech and just vanished, would that entitled fan anger have been there? I feel there would've been an outcry at the very least, maybe not directed at Shawn but instead WWE.

In other words, I knew full well by the March 3, 2014 Raw in Chicago when Punk no-showed (despite the rumors of a big return) that Kane chokeslamming Punk through the commentary desk at the Rumble was the end of Phil Brooks in front of a WWE camera. It didn't even bother me. I'm just trying to understand why worker silence is an issue.

If it's because I'm in my thirties and I'm less sentimental about the characters in wrestling, let's dispel that. In 1992, when I was eight years old, my WWF zealotry knew no bounds, and I watched as Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, and Sid Justice all left within the span of seemingly a week after WrestleMania VIII. That's some serious star-power in one fell swoop. And you know what? I wasn't even sad. Rationalization kicked in: I still had Bret, Shawn, Savage, Flair, Undertaker, and others. Jesus, even as a kid, I knew talent when I saw it. None of the departed names got anything resembling a speech, save for Hogan's 'maybe I'll leave, maybe not' interview with Vince on the March to WrestleMania special the week before. As a wrestling fan, I generally only give a shit about who's there in that moment. I don't look at it as, "we're all one happy family." That's the Duggar mindset, and it's kinda twisted.

I can't tell people how to think and feel, but it's a wee bit disturbing to gaze through Twitter at the fans demanding that AJ get a farewell segment on Raw Monday. It's not necessary. Wrestling at its finest has never been sentimental about even its recent past. The machine rolls on with the roster that's there, and spots are filled by a newer generation. That's how it's been up until about 2005, when sentimentality became wrestling's alpha and omega, and we get four or five reunion Raws a year.

You know what would be a good tribute to AJ? Letting Paige, Naomi, Emma, and others fill the void without missing a beat. Hell, call up Bayley or Charlotte. Lose someone of value? Show them that the machine rolls on. You don't need an AJ interview. Bayley arriving and kicking some Bella ass is far more effective.

To my way of thinking, we spend waaaay too much time thinking about yesterday. Hell, I do it too - I review old WrestleManias, and post tweets that unfold the mind of someone that has watched entirely too much wrestling for ten lives, let alone one. And even I think it's a bit too much to waste time on someone that quite clearly doesn't want to work for WWE anymore. She's 28, appears mostly healthy, is married to a multi-millionaire that has a beef with the company (he's still being sued by the company doctor, mind you), and can do whatever she wants for the rest of her life. Wrestling isn't in those cards for her.

Jesse Ventura once said, "You get into wrestling to get out of wrestling." April Brooks appears wholly unsentimental about wrestling, namely her place in WWE. For the sake of rationality, I wish fans could look at it the same way.

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