Before becoming a multi-time world champion and first ballot WWE Hall of Famer, CM Punk was just another "local athlete" on an episode of Sunday Night Heat in May 2005. However, he actually stood out more than most local athletes do, likely because the company was aware of his potential and his buzz on the independent scene. If they weren't, the commentators wouldn't have said as such on commentary, so it was clear he was being groomed for greatness.
Interestingly enough, Punk wasn't signed to a developmental deal by WWE until that September, so this was merely a tryout for him (except in a televised setting) to see if he had what the company was looking for. I've never been the biggest Val Venis fan, but he was probably the perfect person for Punk to face in his unofficial WWE debut, as Venis had plenty of experience and could typically be counted on for a quality performance.
I fully expected Venis to beat him with ease and in a matter of minutes, but this was way more competitive than that. Rather, Punk was made to look extremely credible in defeat by dominating a majority of the match, which is rare for what was supposed to be a squash. Punk targeted Venis' left knee early on and worked over it for the remainder of the bout. That came after he apparently impressed Venis by proving he could hang with the former Intercontinental Champion in the opening minute and shaking his hand, only to turn on him moments later.
Punk mocking Venis' signature hip twirl (is that what it's called?) was pretty hilarious and he scored genuine heat from the crowd for it. Again, you'd think Punk was already a member of the roster based off how he came across here and how easy it was for him to get under the skin of fans. Of course, the outcome was never in doubt, but I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining this was and how Venis went above and beyond in putting Punk over without having him win.
It should come as no surprise why WWE eventually signed CM Punk to a contract, leading to nearly a decade of unforgettable matches and moments featuring The Second City Saint. Thanks, Big Valbowski.
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