The night after the Royal Rumble in 2014 will go down in infamy as news broke of CM Punk’s departure from WWE, an abrupt conclusion to the former WWE Champions’ 8-year tenure with the company. The news sent shockwaves throughout the WWE Universe as fans speculated why he decided to up and leave. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, plans had to begin to change for the Road to WrestleMania as WWE had to shift already scheduled matches and storylines leading up to the WWE’s biggest show.
As time went on, more questions than answers continued to surface as WWE removed CM Punk from almost everywhere, making him their resident Voldemort. On the March 3rd, 2014 edition of Monday Night Raw, however, all of that changed in a masterfully delivered promo via Punk’s former manager Paul Heyman in front of a raucous Chicago crowd, CM Punk’s hometown.
‘Cult of Personality’ rang through the Allstate Arena as the Chicago crowd erupted with cheers, soon turning into a chorus of boo’s as Paul Heyman emerged instead. Heyman reeled in the fans in attendance, getting them to chant CM Punk’s name, Heyman would proceed to sit in the middle of the ring as Punk has before to deliver a message to the WWE Universe. He began to tell us a story of “a Paul Heyman guy that was never supposed to be in WWE, a Paul Heyman Guy that was too small to main event WrestleMania… A Paul Heyman guy that didn’t have the cooperate look. They didn’t want him in WWE on day one and they don’t want him in WWE right now.” “So what really happened?” Paul asks. “Why isn’t CM Punk here tonight? Why won’t anyone talk about CM Punk anymore? Because there is a finger to point around here. There is someone to blame. There is someone to hold accountable why CM Punk just wouldn’t put up with it anymore.” Heyman then exclaimed that he points the blame, “for the fact that CM Punk is not here tonight-I point that finger at each and every single one of you.”
Heyman elaborated that the downwards spiral began at WrestleMania when Punk couldn’t beat the streak, as the fans decided to make Punk their hero. Revenge was the next step, as Heyman masterfully interwove an already scheduled match with Undertaker at WrestleMania with the real-life frustrations and departure of CM Punk. The WWE would go on to book an incredibly strong edition of their flagship show, as the Uso’s claimed the tag team championships from The New Age Outlaws, The Shield and The Wyatt Family had an absolutely well-fought rematch in six-man tag team action. Daniel Bryan made his presence felt as well, later on, that night, as he addressed that he’d hijack Raw, another instance of WWE being self-aware in front of a vivacious crown and implemented real-life elements into their stories.
It’s easy for many fans to get wrapped up with the going-on’s of pro-wrestling (sometimes reaching toxic levels if we’re being honest), the #HijackRAW attempt in Chicago was organized by fans misconstrued by delusions of self importance, whereas television programs most individuals tune in to use as an escape from our daily routines. While the phrase “the more things change the more they stay the same” may ring true in certain instances, not everyone is interested in getting wrapped up in the politics of it all, but there were those leading up to WrestleMania 30 who demanded change, both in reasonable and extreme fashion. As hard of a pill as it was to swallow for the portion of fans who attempted said orchestration, it did not measure up to the show given to us by the WWE. This was compelling television at its finest, to see real life blending with the world of professional wrestling is always interesting to see play out on our screens.
In the aftermath of WrestleMania 30, Paul Heyman enacted his revenge as Brock Lesnar defeated Undertaker and Daniel Bryan would go on to secure his place in the main event and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. What was originally supposed to be another WrestleMania clash against the leader of the Yes Movement and the ‘Celtic Warrior’ Sheamus, fans would have definitely rebelled against it if #HijackRaw would not have happened. Fans would have lamented at the fact the red hot Daniel Bryan was going up against the man who once defeated him in 28 seconds, and the WWE Universe would have jeered at the fact that a part-timer in Batista was squaring up with Randy Orton for WWE’s top prize. The success in #HijackRaw forced WWE to take drastic measures and change the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’ to something much more grandiose for its 30th anniversary, while the failure was that the attempt at hijacking an entire episode of one of the longest-running weekly episodic shows in television history went awry. When the WWE listens, they listen, and when their back is against the wall (ala WrestleMania 36), they’ve proved time and time again that they’re able to adapt and overcome. We must take the time to acknowledge that the #HijackRaw movement was necessary for giving us the WrestleMania we deserved, as well as aiding to change the landscape of the WWE for had these events not transpired, it is very possible that the product we see on our tv’s today might not have come to fruition.