Despite a reputation for being "fake", the complex and politically charged world of professional wrestling routinely blurs the line between fiction and reality, sometimes with spectacular consequences.
In June 2011 the talented but underutilized WWE wrestler CM Punk was weeks away from the expiration of his contract. Tired of his company's cartoonish presentation of wrestling, with a live microphone and nothing left to lose, Punk abandoned his script. He broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience, castigating WWE's creative direction, its management and even wishing death upon its CEO. A panicked production room cut his feed. Punk was suspended.
The event ignited a firestorm of support from fans who endorsed Punk's "real life" vision of wrestling, leaving WWE with a catch-22 -- stick to the "story" and alienate a large, vocal portion of their fan base or acknowledge the legitimacy of Punk's claims and spark a very real battle for the soul of the sport itself.
I delivered this public presentation at the event Ignite Baltimore on October 18, 2012.