I haven’t had much sleep. I took myself off to bed at 9:10pm last night with the hope of sleeping until Money in the Bank started at 1am. This didn’t happen and was largely down to the fact that I was too excited about the show to drift off. By my calculations, I had about 90 minutes of uninterrupted sleep beforehand and didn’t fare too well afterwards either. The ending was so thrilling that when I returned to bed at 4:20am with the sun starting to rise and a stupid smile on my face, I found it impossible to sleep. It seems there is no natural antidote to adrenaline. Lord knows when I finally dropped off, but I know I was awake again not long after 8am. And now, in the early evening, I look and feel like death warmed up in the microwave, incurring the physical consequences of spending the night on North American time. I don’t regret a thing. What I experienced watching Money in the Bank was worth its weight in insomnia related nausea and under-eye luggage. It must be love!
I spent the first hour I was ‘awake’ trying to think about how I might express just how incredible last night was; writing whole paragraphs in my head and forgetting them the second I dotted them with a full-stop. I then turned to music and asked again….how do you explain something that’s bigger than a feeling and so much more important than a few wrestling matches? This was proceeded by 30 minutes of me playing Boston’s More than a Feeling on a loop, while treating the neighbours to my own unique, croaky brand of power ballad vibrato. “I closed mah eyes an’ ah slipped er-way-y-y-y-y-y-y.”
The show as a whole was the best of the year – better than the Rumble and definitely better than style-over-substance Wrestlemania. Every single match was booked to make the fans happy, which is almost unheard of. Both Money in the Bank matches were outstanding and, being the born-again indie kid that I am, seeing Daniel Bryan win the Smackdown briefcase was a massive surprise and a win I reacted to with…..
But if we’re all honest, we were only truly interested in one match – CM Punk vs John Cena. I had mixed feelings about this match. I never want anyone to become ill or burnt out just for the sake of my entertainment. I don’t expect wrestlers to be circus animals, jumping every time someone cracks a whip because they have no other choice than to keep going. But I have to admit that the idea of Punk leaving left my heart a little heavy. Over the past few years I’ve fallen in love with Punk in the most wonderfully organic way. He was ‘just there’ for a long time, then I liked him, then I loved him…unconditionally. And despite what our blog archives will tell you, it really has nothing to do with the fact that he filled those tiny lavender trunks so impressively. The fact that I fancied the pants off him was a lovely bonus. He was just special. When Killswitch Engage’s crunching guitar rang out around countless arenas, I stopped what I was doing and paid attention – partly to swoon and sigh with my chin in my hands like a 1950s teeny-bopper, and partly because I knew that whatever was about to happen would indubitably be good.
Myself and Andrew had dipped in and out of Twitter throughout the show. In the early hours of the morning, feeling like you’re at a PPV party can be the stimulus you need to stay awake, but it can also be a distraction. There’s nothing more annoying than missing a brilliant, bone-crushing move because you were refreshing your Twitter feed at the time. As the promo video for the main event began, we decided to turn Twitter off and concentrate on what had the potential to be one of the most historic hours of wrestling in years. And so began a little experiment we’ll call ‘How many times can Ray’s stomach flip over in an hour.’
It began with the entrance. With that first rabid eruption of appreciation from the hometown crowd, synching perfectly with the initial scream in the entrance music, it felt like my tummy was being stirred with a giant spoon, spinning back the other way and sending a shiver up my spine when Punk reached to the ground, looked at his imaginary watch and declared it was most definitely clobbering time. I can’t remember the last time a single wrestler caused that kind of crowd reaction, and as he marched down the ramp to the ring I started getting a little emotional. I promised myself I’d stay dry-eyed until the end, but as Punk plonked himself cross-legged in the middle of the ring, my bottom lip started to tremble and I declared out loud that “I love wrestling so much!” There have been so many moments where I’ve exclaimed the exact opposite (even as recently as a few weeks ago) but here I was brushing real tears away from the corners of my eyes, pressing my lips together tightly and more in love than I ever knew I could be – with Punk and with wrestling. It became even more intense when he jumped back to his feet, flew over to give him mum a kiss and whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy.
The ‘BOO’ John Cena entered the arena to was so hostile I almost felt sorry for him, although it felt pretty awesome too. John’s not accustomed to being the bad guy, but for one night we entered an alternate universe where he felt the full brunt of an unappreciative crowd. John’s no stranger to hostility though. If he could survive a roasting from an old-school ECW crowd, he could cope with this. By this point I could feel my heart beating hard and fast in my chest. I didn’t even need to put my hand on it, I could just feel it pulsating far faster than it ever should be at gone 3am. I had no idea where all this was coming from, but had to concede that I loved wrestling even more than I had admitted to and was more than happy to roll with this glorious feeling.
The match was strange. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen. We had decided not to make any predictions for it because we wanted to just absorb whatever they had in store. The downside to this was that I had no clue what a good or bad outcome would feel like. All I knew was that every time John pinned Punk, I gasped loudly and held my hands to my face. Every time that pin was reversed I lifted my shoulders to my ears, sunk my nails into the leather of the couch and held my breath counting “1, 2..awww.” And it got worse. I watched the time ticking away, knowing that the further into this thing we got, the more chance there was of that three-count actually ending with the bell ringing.
The defining moment for me was late in the match when Punk dove through the middle of the ropes to land on a dizzy John and reached up to high-5 his mum. He had his two best friends and other family members whooping and hollering across the barrier and a crowd whose noise levels refused to quit. After that I was lost to the match, carried along entirely by the pacy back and forth between the two like a rip-tide I couldn’t and didn’t want to fight. STFs, failed attempts at making John Go to Sleep, duelling crowd chants, wobbly top rope leaps, raised shoulders and quivering hands trying desperately not to spank the mat and submit – I loved it all and responded to each with a new swear word of increasing obscenity. It seems I swear a lot when I’m that excited.
When Mr. McMahon and John Laurinaitis turned up, my mood changed. For all I praise the McMahons and the brand of wrestling they pump out every week, if they ruined this for me I would not be a happy bunny! I believe the expression I used was “DON’T FUCK THIS UP! PLEAAAAASE!” When Vince called for the bell, my “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” could have woken people three streets away, but they didn’t mess it up at all. John indicated that he wanted everything to be legit, the GTS did its job for the first time all match and the three-count finally hit the three with both John’s shoulders down.
I reached up and punched the air above my head repeatedly, pyjama sleeves flopping around in the downdraft. I think I just figured out what I wanted to happen. Even when Vince marched Alberto Del Rio out to cash in his MITB contract, I knew he wasn’t going to get it. They had given Punk the moment he deserved and there was no going back. I revelled in the euphoria of it all as Punk blew a vacant-faced Mr. McMahon a kiss and disappeared into the Chicago crowd, reaching their hands out to touch him as if some form of messiah was passing among them.
Then that little green logo appeared in the bottom left corner of my screen and it hit me that he was gone.
Remember that scene in Titanic where Rose is floating around in the freezing Atlantic and she has to blow a whistle and scream for the lifeboat to collect her? And remember how she barely had enough breath to make a sound? I felt like that. I don’t want him to go. I wanted to drag him back and force him to stay. I wanted to promise that everything would be OK if he just stuck around. At 4:00am I was exhausted and emotional enough that this all made perfect sense. It all seems a little ludicrous now. WHISTLE-WHISTLE-WHISTLE. COME BAHHHHCK! COME BAAAAAAHHHHHCK! WHISTLE-WHISTLE-WHISTLE. COME BAHHHHHHCK!
For the next 30 minutes I rested my head into the back of the chair with what can only be described as a gorgeous post-coital floatiness. I don’t really mind what you loved about it, as long as you did love it. Whether you loved it because Punk was sticking it to the man, or that John Cena proved his immeasurable worth, or that Vince allowed himself to be ridiculed in the name of narrative, or because of the cacophony of sound coming from the audience, that you saw an incredible wrestling match, or just (like me) that you felt moved seeing your favourite performer reach their full potential for the very first time – it all works. All I care about is that you felt that same tingle under your skin that I did. And if you didn’t, we need to talk. Sometimes you have to give yourself over to the story, even if you know the ending will make you sad.
I suppose now that Punk’s having a holiday I need a new person to direct my affections to towards, eh? Hey, Colt Cabana. How you doin’?