CM Punk will be back.
If there’s anything that we can learn from WWE’s history with its disgruntled and/or estranged talent, it’s that they always come back eventually. Some take longer than others to come around, but return they ultimately do. Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Steve Austin, Bret Hart, and others – all at one time churned up major, real-life issues with Vince McMahon, and all of them found their way home to the promotion they made their name in at some point. For CM Punk, it’s now a question of when.
Before we go too far down the investigative rabbit role, we should first consider that Punk’s recent walkout could be a work though. After all, we did see Punk fictionally walkout on WWE on July 17, 2011, after besting John Cena for the WWE title in a match that fictionally played out Vince’s biggest real-life fears of Survivor Series 1997 – Bret Hart walking out of his company with the WWE title and showing it on a rival promotion’s show. But unlike Bret Hart, who headed to WCW without that belt, CM Punk “returned” to WWE only to return a week later. So a walkout isn’t a new angle for Punk. But there are still conspiracy theorists that contend the Survivor Series screw job was a long con plotted by Vince to sink WCW, though most of us know better.
But what brought the most attention to that now three year old situation were the lines Punk blurred between fiction and reality at the time. Punk cut promos laced with seemingly personal digs at Vince, Stephanie, and HHH. The most impactful of all came on June 26, saying WWE would be better if Vince were dead, calling Stephanie and idiot, HHH a doofus and referring to him by his real name, and making other remarks that were tough to confirm as scripted. And he did it all wearing a Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt – the man who himself walked out on WWE for real in June 2002, only to return nine months later in February of 2003. Austin’s frustrations at that time were with WWE’s creative direction for him, which was to put over Brock Lesnar, and speculatively Hulk Hogan. Creative frustrations are what some say are fueling Punk’s latest move. Perhaps a 434 day title reign and all the programming that came with it were not enough to quell these ongoing frustrations in the end.
Prior to Austin walking out, he also publicly aired his grievances with WWE on live TV, and made it official shortly after. Austin had been known to disagree with HHH regarding creative at that time, and CM Punk has made it rather clear that he is of that same feather as Austin on that matter, all these years later. But despite Bret Hart and Steve Austin making amends with everyone else involved in those controversial situations, HHH seemed to have an unresolved role in both. And because of this, you’ve got to wonder if Punk’s public displays of respect for, and friendship with, Hart and Austin have anything to do with his current relationship with HHH. Oh, and of course, being a Paul Heyman guy hasn’t won too many guys too many favors in the WWE boardroom either.
And as we now see the New Age Outlaws win the tag titles, Randy Orton walk around as WWE World Heavyweight Champion instead of Daniel Bryan, Batista win the Royal Rumble within two weeks of returning after a multi-year hiatus, and even Shawn Michaels coming out of retirement to screw Bryan out of the title, it’s not hard to see HHH’s influence of the creative landscape is affording some of his personal favorites the breaks that other talents are arguably more deserving of. But unless we’re seeing the beginnings of some sort of DX/Evolution super stable to meld with The Corporation 2.0 The Authority for complete control of the company that a stable of WWE good guys will have somehow overcome, this is all pretty transparent. It’s plain idiotic that Daniel Bryan is not champion by now, nor even in the title picture. And it’s equally as dumb that arguably Bryan’s best dance partner, CM Punk, the longest reigning champion of the modern era, has not had another title opportunity for nearly a year. Championship belts may just be props at the end of the day, but I’m a firm believer that the best wrestlers should be wrestling for their character’s right to bear them. And while many have privately grumbled about their frustrations with the man who married the boss’ daughter, Punk is in the minority of wrestlers willing and able to walk away from his job to stand by his principles and prove his point. But what is his point?
One speculation is that Punk wanted to headline Wrestlemania. Whether in his mind that requires him being the champion or challenger for the title is unclear. From the sounds of the rumors, the closest scenario he would have got to that is a match with HHH to finally confront the head of the Authority, likely via a feud with Kane prior. Some may argue a match with HHH would still be plenty meaningful, but after a phenomenal non-title singles match with the Undertaker last year, it would be hard for him to eclipse the non-championship department again. Perhaps HHH meant to springboard Punk back into the title picture after their final showdown. But maybe Punk doesn’t think it’s necessary for John Cena to win the title 13 times while he doesn’t have a sniff at the belt for a year, for Batista to do arguably more in two weeks storyline-wise than he has in a year, or for any part-time talent to get more accolade than him and/or the rest of the full-time roster. If this is for real, what Punk is doing is branding himself as unreliable, and surely nixing any chance he would have at a lengthy title run in the future. But that may have already been the case.
The other main speculative point is that Punk is injured, or never fully recovered from a previous injury. Depending on what you believe, this walkout could be anything from a preventative, injury healing move so he can return healthy later, or a full-blown early retirement due to nagging injuries. Wrestling isn’t known to do the body any favors.
But whatever the case, rest assured, Punk will return to WWE. Maybe it’ll be a week, months, or even years. Maybe he’ll make good on his threats to return to Ring of Honor or New Japan. Maybe he’ll just sit at home, or maybe he’ll just hide somewhere with Vince and Paul, laughing uncontrollably together at how badly they duped us all again. Whatever the truth is, there’s no way we have seen the last of CM Punk in WWE.
What do you think? Feel free to comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised. It would be great to hear from you.