Phil Brooks is a quiet unassuming guy with a bunch of tattoos who likes hardcore/punk music, has an affinity for comic books and loves his hometown of Chicago. When Brooks enters the professional wrestling ring and assumes the moniker of CM Punk, he...well, he is basically the same guy, right down to his proclivity of telling the truth about a person or a situation, he just has a microphone and a much wider stage for it. And over the course of the last 16 months, he has been the focus of one of the better angles the World Wrestling Entertainment group has come up with, and one of the easiest for him. Capitalizing on this popularity is Best in the World, a three-disc set of matches and interviews with Punk and his friends in and out of the locker room as they talk about his qualities, merits and the like.
The feature is almost an hour and fifty minutes and is quite extensive, with Punk discussing his ties to family and friends, from his roots in independent wrestling organizations in the Midwest to the more visible Ring of Honor promotion, until Paul Heyman brought him into the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), the WWE's developmental organization. Punk already had a good reputation in the indie circuits for his work in the ring, but with Heyman he improved on this and on his work outside the ring. His already compelling 'promos' when he talked to the audience were made more so, and he learned more about the production of an arena show and television broadcast that others in the OVW did not feel strongly enough to care about. When he finally got to the WWE his track seemingly floundered, though there were flashes of popularity here and there with various programs he was involved with, including the Straight Edge Society. Ironically, it was when he almost found himself out of contract where he struck the iron best.
It was at that point in June of 2011 when Punk was given the chance to speak to a television crowd, openly and freely about his desires for increased relevance on the roster, and compared to the reality and politics of what was occurring backstage with various wrestlers and their respective pushes in popularity. The result was an overnight hit, with interviews on sports stations to discuss the piece, and in a match the following month with John Cena to determine the WWE Champion, Punk won the title on the last day of his contract, in front of his hometown fans no less, and disappeared into the crowd. Punk recalls those final days and more in the first disc feature, which runs a couple of strides short of two hours.
Like other WWE sets that focus on one wrestler, there is a bevy of matches on a second and third disc, and the match lineup is as follows:
Brent Albright vs. CM Punk (OVW Heavyweight Championship Match - March 1, 2006)
CM Punk vs. Justin Credible (ECW, August 1, 2006)
CM Punk vs. John Morrison (Last Chance for the ECW Championship, September 4, 2007)
Chris Jericho vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison vs. Carlito vs. CM Punk vs. MVP vs. Mr. Kennedy (Money in the Bank Ladder Match - WrestleMania XXIV, March 30, 2008)
CM Punk & Kofi Kingston vs. Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase (World Tag Team Championship - RAW, October 27, 2008)
CM Punk vs. William Regal (No Disqualification for Intercontinental Championship - Raw, January 19, 2009)
Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk (TLC Match For World Heavyweight Championship - Summerslam, August 23, 2009)
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk (SES vs. Hair - Over the Limit, May 23, 2010)
John Cena vs. CM Punk (WWE Championship Match - Money in the Bank, July 17, 2011)
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (WWE Heavyweight Championship Match WrestleMania XXVII, April 1, 2012)
CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan ( WWE Heavyweight Championship Match Over The Limit, May 20, 2012)
One of the takeaways when it comes to the interviews is that there is no big switch that Punk seemingly flips when it comes to his in-ring persona and his downtime one. Both are relatively soft spoken, it is just when Punk cuts a promo, he knows what to say and how to say it without foaming at the mouth like some predecessors have done. There is an economy in movement with that aspect of his work that is quite admirable. Inside the ring and wrestling, Punk is an amalgam of styles, be it submission holds, karate kicks, high-flying moonsaults and suplexes or flat out brawling. He can do it for six minutes or sixty, because he has done it before and is sure to have the resources when called upon.
Outside of the ring, Punk seems to be the type of person where his loyalty is earned, one where if you have 'proven' yourself to him then he will go to bat for you however he can. By no means is this a bad thing as I tend to practice the same type of behavior, and perhaps he has been burned by some familiar surroundings more than he tends to let on, but his interviews prove to be fascinating on the disc and the personal anecdotes of those close to him are poignant in some places (such as buying a friend's house to prevent its foreclosure) and resonant in others.
Honestly, I think there is a little bit for everyone in Best in the World. You have a variety of matches, and the feature on CM Punk is one of the more engaging ones I can recall seeing. My wife was doing something else when I had it on and found herself watching the television on more than one occasion, and found Punk to be a really likable guy who she wishes nothing but the best for. I hope that translates over to Phil Brooks' life as well.
1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen ruling the day on the set, with some of the older footage being in full-frame as appropriate. The interview footage is solid, reproduced nicely (I can assume the Blu-ray release looks just as good, if not better) showing off Punk's ink nicely and distortion-free. All of the interview subjects look fine on disc as well, though what did surprise me was the video quality of the matches. Overall there was a slight lack of pixilation or image noise from all of the LED lights and various pyrotechnics that was a pleasant change. Perhaps there were more issues that I was missing, but I liked what I saw.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and a relatively immersion-less track, which honestly was about what I was expecting for the set. Dialogue is clear-sounding and consistent through the feature, and as far as the in-ring matches go, crowd sound is fine in the rear channels, with little to no channel panning or directional effects over any of the discs. Additionally, the lack of a subwoofer to fire was no surprise either. Everyone sounds the way it is supposed to, and is free of anything that would deter from it otherwise.
Along with the matches, Disc One includes additional deleted footage (35:43) that covers how CM Punk is named such, along with past injuries and pushes in old federations, and his appearance in WrestleMania XXII as an extra for John Cena's ring entrance. His ring style is also covered, and a music video rounds things out.
CM Punk Best in the World is three discs full of Chi-town love and affection from the WWE's most engaging and colorful characters of the moment, yet there is enough substance to go with the style which make it one of the better WWE packages recently and takes its place among some really good sets from Ric Flair among others. A must-buy for fans of the WWE and of Punk, and a definite rental for those who even have preconceived notions about professional wrestling, as I think Punk's story goes beyond the squared circle in and of itself.