By declaring outright his intentions of screwing CM Punk out of his WWE Championship at the 25th annual Royal Rumble event, John Laurinaitis revealed himself to be a man of deep resentment. That’s according to the one person who has known the Interim General Manager of Raw and EVP of Talent Relations longer than anybody else: his older brother, WWE Hall of Famer Road Warrior Animal. (Road Warrior PHOTOS | VIDEO)
In an exclusive interview, Animal told WWE.com that his brother’s vendetta against The Second City Saint is relatively easy to explain. Whereas Punk has reached the uppermost echelon in sports entertainment – the WWE Championship – Laurinaitis, an accomplished grappler in his own right, was never able to parlay his success overseas into a main event slot in the U.S.
“It’s one thing to be popular in Japan, and it’s another to make it in the U.S.,” Animal said. “That’s one thing that eats John from the inside, deep in his gut. I think he carries animosity over that, because he never got to be ‘the guy’ in the U.S. the way that CM Punk is today. I think he’s getting on Punk’s case because Punk is living the dream that John wishes he could have accomplished.”
Although the WWE Universe knows Laurinaitis primarily for his role on Raw SuperShow and, perhaps, for his time as one half of the oft-ridiculed Dynamic Dudes, (WATCH) less familiar to the WWE Universe is Laurinaitis’ impressive legacy inside Japanese squared circles. Competing under the All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) banner for much of the ’90s, Laurinaitis was a legitimate in-ring threat to be taken seriously. Creator of the Ace Crusher – a jaw-shaking predecessor to Randy Orton’s RKO – he enjoyed the adulation of the Japanese fans and media alike. He also forged successful teams, some of them world championship-winning, with the likes of Stan Hansen, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and AJPW legend Kenta Kobashi.
It was Animal’s ties with AJPW owner Giant Baba that opened the door to the East for Laurinaitis, but the Road Warrior made clear his brother would have never become the star he did had it not been for a strong work ethic and his natural athleticism.
“I’ve got to give it to him, he became one of the top American entities in Japan,” said Animal, who, alongside tag partner Hawk, was also among the most popular U.S.-born talents to ever compete in Japan. “I might have opened the door, but he walked through it.”
Yet, to the WWE Universe, John Laurinaitis is little more than a front-office suit pushing a decidedly anti-Punk agenda. Conceding that Laurinaitis has overstepped his authority in targeting Punk, Animal nonetheless lauded his brother’s performance since taking over as the Interim GM of Raw.
Leaving behind a career between the ropes for a job in upper management is not always a smooth transition, Animal explained.
“He’s doing a good job of it,” he said. “It’s a tough position to be in, and it’s a fine line to walk, especially when you’ve spent your entire career in the ring. In making that switch over to the front office, sometimes you forget where you came from, and that might be what’s happening to John now.”
Still, Animal is not one to excuse his brother’s actions, and he refuses to let Laurinaitis off the hook for his barefaced grudge against Punk. Earlier this week, Laurinaitis tersely told WWE.com that he plans to do “what’s right for business” at the 25th annual Royal Rumble event.
Speaking of the WWE Champion and fellow Chicagoan with the utmost respect, Animal said Punk should be allowed to carry on with his championship affairs unimpeded.
“Let the guy be a champion; let him have his reign, let him do what he’s going to do,” Animal advised his brother, adding, “Just leave Punk alone.”
However, with Laurinaitis appointing himself special guest referee for the hotly anticipated Punk-Dolph Ziggler match, it appears rather unlikely that Raw’s Interim GM will, in fact, leave Punk alone. The bad blood between Laurinaitis and The Second City Saint shows absolutely no sign of easing, and the WWE Universe anxiously awaits the day when Punk gets his true opportunity to revolt against the oppressive authority figure known as Mr. Laurinaitis.
But how does Mr. Laurinaitis’ brother feel about it? Should a Punk-Laurinaitis matchup ever take place, would Animal put his money on the WWE Champion?
“I think Punk would tear him apart,” Animal said, speculating that his brother may have lost his edge since leaving active competition. “I’m not saying that John can’t handle himself, because he can. He was a world champion over in Japan, and he knows what it takes to get there. But once you spend five, six years in the front office, you’re bound to get soft, and you can’t expect to compete with a thoroughbred like Punk.”