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Back in October 2005, Japanese wrestling legend Kenta Kobashi was coming to Ring of Honor for a doubleshot weekend. ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky booked the no-brainer money match for the first night in New York City: Kobashi vs. ROH Ace Samoa Joe. There was intrigue behind what Sapolsky would book for the second night in Philadelphia. The match that Gabe eventually came up with was Kobashi teaming up with Homicide to face Samoa Joe and his partner, Low Ki. On the surface, the match looked promising. Joe and Kobashi would go at it again, plus you'd also get the heavyweight Kobashi interacting with ROH's best junior at the time, Low Ki. Plus, ROH fans were looking forward to having Low Ki face Homicide since 2003, when the two were about to butt heads before Ki departed the company.
The only problem? In ROH's universe, the match made no goddamn sense!!!
Where to begin? First off, Samoa Joe and Low Ki have hated each other since Joe's first match in ROH in 2002, and Ki had recently turned his back on Joe and the ROH fans to join up with Homicide's Rottweilers stable (remember, Homicide is his opponent in this match, not his partner). And Kobashi, who would be the most cheered man in the match given he's a legend making a rare American wrestling appearance, was teaming with Homicide, the biggest heel in the company who was knee-deep in a blood feud with beloved Colt Cabana at the time.
After ROH fans' heads stopped spinning, Sapolsky felt obligated to offer an explanation:
Gabe tried his best to keep this match within ROH's universe by explaining that Joe, Ki, and Homicide were willing to settle their differences for one night for Kobashi's and pro wrestling's sake, but that went against everything the characters of Homicide and Low Ki stood for at the time. They gave not one fuck about wrestling or honor. But it didn't matter. It was the best heavyweight/junior tag team match that ROH could put on. And the match was extremely good, with all four men's interaction adding a unique dynamic to the match. They even tried to bring us all back to reality by having a miscommunication between Low Ki and Joe lead to their team's downfall. But it didn't matter. This match existed in its own universe, mutually exclusive from everything else ROH had going on at the time. And after that night, it was business as usual. Ki and Cide continued to team, Joe continued to hate them, and Kobashi went back to Japan. But the match happened because, essentially, c'mon man, it's Kobashi.
Why do I bring up this match at the now-ironically titled Unforgettable show (ironic considering barely anybody remembers this show because the Joe/Kobashi singles match the night before was so legendary)? Because WWE essentially pulled the same stunt last night with CM Punk.
When Punk vs. Jericho was initially booked, I was skeptical that the match was even going to take place. It was unfathomable to me that Punk, the biggest heel in WWE over the past year, would wrestle Jericho, a babyface, in his hometown of Chicago and not be given a hero's reception. So if the match was going to take place, then Punk would have to turn babyface, right? He'd have to kick Paul Heyman to the curb, right? Punk himself added intrigue to this question by refusing to make a single comment on the match, instead choosing to mass-tweet about his beloved Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup.
In the build to the match, where Heyman had to take Punk's role in building the match, they essentially built on TV what Gabe Sapolsky had done nearly eight years ago in an ROH Newswire: they focused more on how great the match and the atmosphere was going to be and less on how it fit within WWE's structured universe.
When Punk finally showed up, he was decked out in Blackhawk's colors for his gear. He bounced around the ring like he used to when he was a babyface. He played to the crowd. Punk even broke the fourth wall a couple of times during the match, smiling and yelling "Vintage Punk!" after hitting his knee in the corner, and yelling "Blackhawks in 7" before attempting to hit a GTS. There was not a trace of any of the mannerisms Punk had used over the past year since turning heel. It was 2011 all over again, and in a kayfabe sense, the past year seemed like a bad dream for Punk fans.
The only factor in this match that could factor into future WWE storylines was Heyman, and specifically Punk's relationship with him during the match. Would Heyman factor into the decision? Would he turn on Punk and align himself with Jericho? As it turned out, Punk won cleanly, and the only time Heyman was a factor was when he stayed on the apron too long, appearing to irk Punk (Punk also vented his frustration with Heyman calling him his "client" in a post-match interview exclusive on WWE.com). I'm writing this 10 minutes before the start of Raw, but this little wrinkle could go somewhere (with Punk eventually dropping Heyman and officially turning babyface) or nowhere (with Punk turning back heel and staying with Heyman). If it's the latter, then the Punk/Jericho match, excellent as it was, would stand on its own as an anomaly, existing only because, essentially, c'mon man, it's Punk in Chicago.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.