One of the biggest stories in wrestling has been developing since the beginning of the week. CM Punk’s departure from WWE has been met with grumblings that it was in fact a work by the company to give heat to Punk’s upcoming WrestleMania match with Triple H. There are also many who believe that Punk’s departure is the real deal, and that in fact the superstar had finally had enough with the company’s ‘vision’ of where his character fit into their program.
In my mind, there is no way that Punk’s leaving WWE is a work. WWE would have to be crazy to stage a falling out with a superstar of Punk’s stature. Let’s face it, Punk’s leaving the company is not good for business and has made the company look bad. But on the other hand, Punk, himself, has done severe damage to his persona in the business. The rumors are swirling that Punk, real name Phil Brooks, was not happy with the WWE’s idea of how to use his character. He apparently wanted to main event WrestleMania. There are also rumors that Punk is just burnt out, his body is broken down from the punishment he takes in the ring night in and night out. Then there are those who believe that Punk was upset over the payout for future pay per view’s due to the company’s new network that will be starting Feb. 24. Regardless of the situation that you choose to believe, we may never know the exact truth behind the superstar’s departure from the WWE.
So, where does Punk go now? What does the WWE do to replace one of their top stars? I don’t think this will be that big of a deal for the company. Think about this; WWE survived losing Hulk Hogan in the 90s to WCW and Ted Turner. Hogan was wrestling at that time. There was no one close to having a bigger name than the Hulkster. Yes, WWE struggled, but they ultimately rose from the ashes and bought out Turner’s struggling company. The loss of Punk is nowhere near that status for Vince McMahon’s company. Yes, Punk was a huge draw. Yes, Punk held the title longer than any other superstar in the past 20 years, but so what. That was all a year ago. The wrestling business is a business of what have you done for me lately, and Punk hadn’t done much. Not that it’s his fault, I blame the WWE writers’ more than anything. They allowed Punk’s character to become boring and dull. I no longer cared if he was on Raw. However, the recent storyline of him against The Authority was becoming an intriguing one, and I noticed his absence from Raw on Monday night. I wondered if he was just given the night off or did he get injured in the Royal Rumble? Then, the story broke the next morning. I can’t say I was very surprised.
Over the past few months, Punk looked physically beaten down. He didn’t move as well in the ring, he looked tired, he had horrible bags under his eyes. It was clear the star was exhausted. I have no doubt that this played into his decision to leave the company. But, will he return? His contract was due to expire in July. I was pretty sure he would leave the company after that, but did not expect his exit this soon, especially around WrestleMania time. This definitely threw a wrench into the WWE storylines, but I can’t say I blame him for leaving if his health was an issue. However, if it’s a money issue, I will be disappointed in the former champion. Punk’s merchandise is among the top-sellers in the business and his contract that was set to expire in July was surely a lucrative deal. The rumors were swirling that he was upset about taking a pay cut on pay per view’s due to the new WWE Network deal, but again, those are just rumors.
In the end, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is fiction, which is what makes professional wrestling so great. But, in this instance, millions of fans are shocked and upset that their favorite wrestler, CM Punk has decided to go the Steve Austin route and take his ball and go home. Only time will tell if hurt feelings will heal and Punk and the WWE can resolve their differences. I, for one, am hoping they do, because a WWE without Punk, in the ring or out, just isn’t the same.