C.M. Punk: Best in the World
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of pro-wrestling in general, and independent pro-wrestling in particular. The 900 pound gorilla of the pro-wrestling world is, of course, World Wrestling Entertainment; the near billion dollar entertainment enterprise is famous, or infamous, for cranking out new merchandise and ancillary products around their “superstars”. But honestly, even at the peak of my fandom, these weren’t generally my thing.
However, among the latest of these products was a dvd release featuring C.M. Punk, this first caught my attention when I heard that the dvd set’s feature-length documentary was getting an extremely limited theatrical release, (which is far from the rule these “films”). What’s more, word has it that the documentary is actually really good. So I decided to give C.M. Punk: Best in the World a chance.
The film, (and yes, I think it is worthy of the term,) chroniclers the rise of Chicago pro-wrestler C.M. Punk from humble beginnings, wrestling in a friend’s backyard, to limited stardom as the straight edge “King of the Indys”, to joining the WWE, to eventually becoming a top star for the company. As a WWE video release it’s clearly a good step up from what they typically produce, and I don’t dispute the reviews that I saw calling it the best WWE documentary ever. However, the real question is; does it stand up as a film in its own right?
I think the answer is, yes, it does. That said, when judged by that standard, the film falls from “best ever” to “pretty middling”. I liked it. Of course, as an Indy wrestling fan I have something of a soft spot for Punk. He is one of “our guys” who’s made it to the highest level of the corporate behemoth, and, as the film makes clear, he’s done so without changing who he is or what he’s about. (In fact, Punk still uses the same ring-name that he’s maintained since he was wrestling on shows in a homemade ring behind a friend’s house.)
This film is noteworthy for how it deviates from the normal WWE product. Vince McMahon’s company is notorious for making every product a commercial for other products, and the brand as a whole, leading most of their profile documentaries to feel a bit sanitized and hew closely to the company line. Best in the World avoids that fate far more than most. The film goes the extra mile and provides a significant amount of footage from outside the WWE’s extensive but not exhaustive film library, to showcase Punk’s pre-WWE career in far more depth than I would have expected.
I really did enjoy the film, but even for me it bogged down a bit. The film is divided about evenly between what Punk did before the WWE, and his six-year run with the company. Unfortunately, this latter part really seems to get a little long in the middle. It becomes something of a succession of “this thing happened, then this other thing happened.” The narrative thread gets lost a little bit, but I’m wiling to grant them a partial pass on this because if they’d omitted some of these things, this paragraph would probably be devoted to complaining about factual omissions that had been made to suit the storyline.
At the end of the day, I’d say that the film is certainly going to be interesting to most any fan of the art of professional wrestling. As for the general movie-viewing audience, I do believe that this documentary is just good enough to be worth seeing.