Punk takes his ball and goes home.
What does WWE do now?
It was inevitable. Just as it was three years ago. CM Punk had one foot out the door. His contract was up in July and he was creatively frustrated and mentally and physically burnt out. The only difference then was he was handed a microphone and changed the WWE depth chart with a truth laced diatribe. However, change was temporary and three years later he found himself right back where he was before the pipebomb and his astounding 434 day WWE title reign. On Monday, he decided it was time to go home.
Many people have been looking for answers as to why Punk left, but the answers are pretty obvious if you have seen any of his recent interviews on youtube or read a couple of recent tweets. He seemed very unhappy and disgruntled with not only his position in the company, but the lifestyle in general. Traveling has always caused him grief, he always seems to be injured or beat up, and of course he’s not being used the way he feels he should. If you’re looking for an answer, the latter is probably the best bet. The bottom line is Punk has never been a fan of the WWE grind, but was more willing to overlook it in recent times because he was being pushed. However, things seemed to have regressed since his epic title reign due to the onslaught of former employees returning for the big WrestleMania payday that Punk and his full time peers are supposed to receive. He wants to be THE guy, but that will never happen as long as John Cena, Randy Orton, and whatever main eventer from the past WWE decides to drudge up for a ratings boost are around. That answers that question. The bigger question is where does WWE go from here? They have a huge network launch in less than a month, WrestleMania is nine weeks away and they seemed to have pissed off a good chunk of the fan base. Not to mention the current and former wrestlers who also expressed their displeasure. Well here are a few options:
- They do nothing: They treat Punk like another “spoke on the wheel” and just keep on chugging along like nothing is wrong. This is probably the immediate course of action as they can take advantage of the fact Punk was badly beat up by Kane so storyline wise it seems like everything is fine. However, this probably won’t work long term as even the casual and younger fans will start to search for answers. Plus if Punk’s departure does affect the network numbers drastically, their investors will certainly want answers.
- They talk Punk into finishing his contract and maybe even re-signing in July: This seems like it wouldn’t take much. Punk knows he’s not going to headline Mania so that’s out of the question this year. However, maybe a pay raise, some time off and maybe one final title run after Mania may entice Punk back not only for the next six months, but for the long term.
- They slam Punk publicly to get the fans back on their side: WWE has become very corporate so no matter what some kind of “spin” is forthcoming. However, you have to remember who is ultimately running things and that’s Vince McMahon. Vince has at times been very vindictive of performers who leave especially those who force him into a corner. Warrior, Jeff Jarrett, Steve Austin, and Brock Lesnar are just a few of the names who left on very bad terms. In Warrior’s case it happened three times. Jarrett was the I.C. champion the last night of his contract and held Vince up for money to go out and lose it to Chyna. Jarrett hasn’t been back since and Warrior is just coming back after eighteen years. Lesnar was gone for eight. Austin was the only one who came back relatively quickly, but that was because he was the most popular superstar of all time. Punk, as popular as he is, is no where near where Austin was in 2002 when he walked so don’t think for a second WWE is going to go out of their way to get him back or treat this situation with kid gloves.
- They give his spot of Mania against HHH to Bryan: This is an easy fix if they can’t bring Punk back. Bryan should be in a higher profile match and he has been a target of the Authority on and off for months so it fits. The problem is people still want Bryan involved in the title match. If WWE gives in and makes the title match at Mania Bryan Vs Orton Vs Batista, HHH is left without an opponent (not that I care). If they don’t give in, fans may really begin to revolt and hurt WWE’s bottom line.
The history says this may be a long term thing and fans are just going to have to find a way to deal with Punk being gone or just stop watching and show the company how they feel. Punk seems like a very loyal guy, but someone who is difficult to do business with. He believes he is the best and deserves to be promoted and paid as such. However, WWE can’t just give into him at this point. Taking a hard stance may be their only way to go. I can only assume the speculation will end this Monday when the situation has to be addressed. Things should become more clear at that time. For now, we as fans can only hope for cooler heads to prevail.