After the recent news of a particular individual being given the boot out of a certain company, I had to write about not only that situation, but also what I think is the cause. It wasn’t just an organizational problem, but also a personal one. I’ve wanted to write about ego and how it can affect a person’s judgment and their ability to work well with others. The greatest trick your ego can pull is to convince you that you’re one and the same and that you need that ego to be who you are. That’s a path of self-destruction, and many never learn to get out of their own way.
Checking one’s ego is not just about making sure to not look like an ass, but also to get out of one’s own way. Your dismal response to your own short-term success can lead to your long-term failure in turn. I’m not saying that you can’t be proud of your own work and you can’t celebrate your wins, but that must be done with empathy towards your colleagues, friends, and family. A win now won’t matter much years from now without the humility to maintain the consistency to keep it going. Ultimately, your ego wants to see you fall on your face.
People Who Got in Their Own Way
Here are three case studies whose mistakes are to be examined and not followed. While I’m ultimately a nobody writing about the mistakes of successful people, you have to be a blind fool to not see the importance of doing so, especially when said successful people end up squandering their success at their own volition.
CM Punk: AEW’s Greatest Boon and Bust
This is the man whose return to pro wrestling I cared about enough to write a blog post on exactly two years ago. I still stand with most things I said in it because it wasn’t really about him, but the fans’ reaction to his return. Therefore, I see no hypocrisy in what I’m about to say about CM Punk the pro wrestler and Phil Brooks the man.
Perhaps the greatest signs of his eventual fall from grace weren’t only the Pipe Bomb and his walking out of WWE, which showed that he has always been brazen enough to go off-script and do whatever he pleases. For me, it was his betrayal of his long-time friend Colt Cabana, which he doubled down on when he ranted in the media scrum just before the Brawl Out incident about how Colt shared a bank account with his mother.
That fact came out because Punk ended up dumping his legal fees onto him after Colt chose to stand by his now-former best friend.
Let’s then take a look at that time he embarked on a stint as a UFC fighter, which I hesitate to consider ill-advised since he did make bank with it. It may not seem relevant to the current situation, but I think it says quite a bit about the man after being publicly humbled like that. I followed that development at first since it was interesting to see how a willing individual goes through the process of becoming a fighter as an adult.
However, Phil Brooks was at the age I am now as of this writing (at 37) when he was first taught how to throw a jab. I started throwing it in 2006 when I was 20, and that would already be considered too late to be viable for professional competition. When I saw that on the first episode of UFC 203 Embedded which was supposed to follow that progress, I immediately closed it and lost interest because there was just no way.
I’m not that good at fighting myself, but that’s just how deep that rabbit hole goes. You can’t just take a crash course and expect to hang with someone who does it for a living.
It was like a wolf child trying to learn how to speak past the critical period. There’s nothing wrong about it if he were a hobbyist. But to enter professional fighting, he had to have started way earlier. After taking two hard losses in the cage, his fighting aspirations were done. He was also middling as a comic book writer, in my opinion, but that’s a different topic.
I know that attitude of wanting to fight and be recognized as a strong man. But over time, that youthful desire has to be replaced with an understanding brought on by emotional maturity that it’s not mindless violence, but calm competence that truly makes a strong man. Unfortunately, Phil Brooks didn’t seem to have even a shred of that maturity.
The most important part of professional wrestling is that first word — professional. It’s a collaborative artform first and foremost, which sets it apart from combat sports. The last thing you’d want to do is to burn bridges.
CM Punk embarked on one of the greatest scorched earth campaigns upon one’s own professional career and personal reputation ever in the history of the entertainment industry. After Brawl Out, I completely lost interest in AEW and CM Punk. I was no longer a fan of either and I viewed Tony Khan as a weakling for a while. This firing has somewhat redeemed TK in my eyes.
Tony held out for as long as he could. He seems like a genuinely good guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. But when he said he felt threatened in the workplace due to what his now-former employee did, he undeservedly got clowned for it.
Whether Phil Brooks really is just an asshole who can’t stop being terrible or he has legitimate mental health problems that makes him continually aggressive towards others, the certain thing is that he just can’t get out of his own way. Perhaps it won’t matter much to him in the end since he had made his fortune throughout it all with big contracts meant to capitalize on his popularity.
That popularity will likely persist in some way unless he does something way more unforgivable and irredeemable. I don’t think Phil Brooks the man is tyrant levels of reprehensible, but he certainly doesn’t seem pleasant either.
He’s unable to keep being able to help those he said he wanted to help two years ago. The very company that brought him back to prominence has been damaged as a result of employing him with an exorbitant salary and a VIP treatment, even giving him his own weekly show to accommodate his increasingly erratic behavior. The fans he gave free ice cream to and continue to fill his pockets with merch sales are no longer his priority, or perhaps they never were in the first place.
People bent over backwards and turned themselves inside out for him, and it was still not enough.
And the most damning part of it all is that he didn’t need any chemical substance to do any of that. He’s straight edge, as he has always boasted throughout his public life. That means whatever he does is not due to any form of intoxication. All of it is 100% ego-driven and anger-fueled.
Everyone looked forward to working with him, then they found out how he was as both a colleague and a person. It’s just too bad.
Ronda Rousey: Judo Supernova
This is where I’m going to take things further with my examples. Ronda Rousey has made her exit from WWE after a somewhat mediocre run. While she had all the hype in the world behind her at first, her limitations became evident over time.
She only knows how to throw bodies around, her mic work is not very good, and her ability to tell a story in the ring with her body was stunted. You’d think an Olympic medalist in judo would do well in pro wrestling, but it takes more than athletic prowess to do well in this field. You have to get good at ‘looking bad’ on command.
I’ve said before on social media that Ronda Rousey has the acting ability of an MMA glove — quite stiff, a bit uncomfortable, and with little to no padding.
But even before all those other weaknesses of hers were made bare, the events leading to her initial fall from grace already exposed her. The year 2015 had been her annus mirabilis — the year she became a superstar. No one could beat her, she was everywhere in mainstream media, and her old Pokemon forum moderator account gave her online nerd cred.
There was no need for her to talk shit about Holly Holm before their fight.
Perhaps she did it to give herself motivation before the fight, but it revealed something about the person that felt like a splash of cold water. This was after she was praised for talking about not being a ‘do-nothing bitch’ — a message that still holds water despite her current reputation.
At the peak of her MMA career, her main rival was Miesha Tate, who later became the first opponent to survive past the first round against her during her historic streak. That rivalry predated their UFC debuts, so they had prior history. The UFC then paired them against each other for a season of The Ultimate Fighter, and that was when the cracks started to show.
Disdain gets played up for the cameras to sell the fight. That’s standard practice in combat sports since time immemorial. However, genuine hatred has a tendency to make professional fighters act unbecoming of themselves, especially after adrenaline dump.
Every episode showed Ronda Rousey seemingly jumping through mental hoops to hate Miesha Tate. Perhaps you can say Miesha wasn’t entirely innocent either, but that just comes with the territory of professional fighting. However, when your opponent offers to shake your hand after you convincingly beat them in a highly anticipated fight, you should shake that hand.
It’s not just for the cameras. It’s for you as well.
Even if it could be seen as a gimmick for her to continue holding a grudge against someone she already defeated twice, something had to be fundamentally wrong there. It then got even weirder when she justified the lack of magnanimity in victory by bringing up her family’s honor.
It’s professional fighting, not an Albanian blood feud.
I hold the belief that genuine hatred between fighters usually makes for the worst fights because they tend to not fight to win, but to not lose to ‘that asshole’. There are exceptions to that rule, including this matchup, but even they tend to still involve some weirdness that leaves a bad taste. Over the years, I’ve grown to dislike it when fighters can’t keep things sport.
So, when Ronda was finally exposed, not once but twice after she got her clock cleaned by Amanda Nunes after a year-long hiatus, she ended up quitting the sport. Once she lost her mojo, she just left. It didn’t help that her coach turned out to be a charlatan, which explained her below-average striking. Even uneducated brawlers have a puncher’s chance, but that chance goes to zero when they fight someone who’s ‘educated’.
Also, if that below-average striker is put on the cover of boxing’s preeminent magazine, then that athlete gets knocked out by a superior striker, the reputation of that publication rightfully takes a hit.
And now, she’s doing the same with pro wrestling. Perhaps it’s time for her to truly retire from everything and be a full-time mother. Maybe she can then continue the family tradition of waking her daughter up with an armbar.
Conor McGregor: Rich Weirdo
Let’s now take a look at Ronda’s replacement in the Road House remake.
This is an ongoing story that bears mentioning because this individual keeps digging himself a hole as we speak. I talked about him in this blog post from a long time ago. He really wasn’t the same after that bus attack or even before that. As I said in that post, Jon Jones made mistakes; Conor McGregor engaged in terrorism.
But nowadays, he has become more of a terrorist to himself.
He now has a family, business ventures, immense popularity among men who want to be like him, incredible highlights that get constantly replayed in the UFC, and a whiskey that gives him a leg up over fellow alcoholic beverage shill Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Before all of this fell onto his lap, he had been struggling to make ends meet while moonlighting as a plumber.
A big part of that story is how his wife Dee Devlin stayed by his side through thick and thin, and her loyalty has been rewarded by becoming a first lady of MMA. She is now rumored to be cheated on by the very man she stuck with.
But my point of contention with Mr. McGregor isn’t how he’s starting to turn fans into detractors, his face is inflating like a balloon, or even that he’d punch an old man who just wanted to have a drink in his pub. After that boxing match against Floyd Mayweather added nine digits to his net worth, it’s like he suddenly forgot how to fight.
The very style that has made him an icon in mixed martial arts and allowed him to spectacularly knock out the likes of Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez has now been abandoned like an unwanted stepchild. He now fights like how a boxer would fight in mixed martial arts.
After years of sporadic fights with questionable performances and mixed results, he has now been paired with Bellator legend Michael Chandler in The Ultimate Fighter. Much like how it exposed the idiosyncrasies in Ronda Rousey’s personality, it’s also showing off Conor McGregor at his weirdest and cringiest.
Remember that video of him pacing back and forth in front of his television at home? It’s that, but times a thousand in front of other people.
But nothing yet has trumped his impression of a Provisional IRA fighter in that bus attack that he later tried to excuse as “It’s only business.” It’s no longer just about competition. It’s about that fathead Dana White continuing to bend over backwards and make concessions for that Irish fuckup because he somehow makes the UFC money.
I can add more examples here like Elon Musk, but I shall end it here for now. Even if I don’t write one about Elon, I can still get a whiff of the apologists who tend to cling to figures like these. It’s absolutely bewildering how people can keep tonguing such assholes.
It doesn’t matter how much trouble CM Punk causes in the AEW locker room, how many curse words Ronda Rousey flings at reporters, how many bar patrons Conor McGregor punches, and how many businesses Elon Musk hijacks and sabotages.
Unless they do a heinous crime, they will remain popular for being good at what they do, even if they’re equally bad as human beings. However, perhaps it’s fine to leave things be. As another great man who fell victim to his own hubris once said,
Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have in the comment section below.
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