Unless you have been disconnected from the internet for the past week, you’ve heard the biggest wrestling news story in some time: CM Punk has walked out on WWE and has been pulled from all future bookings.
It’s not like 2013 was a bad year for him. He finished up the longest WWE Championship reign since mid 1980s by feuding with none other than The Rock. He then went on to have the coveted spot with Undertaker at WrestleMania 29. He spent the rest of the year feuding with his mentor and former manager Paul Heyman. 2014 was starting out fine too, as he had a memorable showing in The Royal Rumble.
Now why would CM Punk, one of WWE’s biggest stars, walk out on a company that still had him in a high profile position? The answer is not obvious, since we as fans only know the CM Punk as he appears on camera. As Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez broke CM Punk told Vince McMahon that he was “going home”.
Remember that while Punk held the WWE Title for the entire calendar year of 2012 (a feat not seen since The Hulkster himself did it in 1987), he was clearly still taking a backseat to The John Cena Show. On the podcast we even joked how the main event of a 2012 PPV entitled “Elimination Chamber” was not an Elimination Chamber match, but John Cena vs. Kane in an “Ambulance Match”. This was par for the course for the first half of the year.
Fast forward to July of 2012 and CM Punk, onscreen disgruntled over taking a back seat to The Rock’s return, turned on The Rock and began his transformation into a true top spot. The #2 hero became the #1 villain. Punk rode the top heel wave until Royal Rumble 2013 where he finally dropped the title to The Rock, and had his Wrestlemania match with Undertaker. All during this time, it’s worth mentioning that Punk was still drawing cheers from parts of the crowd.
Then as the second half of 2013 settled in, Punk slowly returned to the babyface hero role. While his feud with former manager Paul Heyman was entertaining, he was once again playing second fiddle to the bigger hero John Cena. During this time we also saw the rise of another internet favorite, Daniel Bryan, to the upper tier of the card.
Which brings us to present day, and the return of both Batista and Sheamus at this year’s Royal Rumble, while CM Punk is feuding with Kane. Thus the former #1 heel in 2014 is now looking to be perhaps as far down as the #5 hero below John Cena, Batista, Daniel Bryan, and Sheamus. For a guy whose goal was to be the top spot in the promotion, this seems to be losing ground.
Allegedly, according to people who know Punk backstage, his departure is not a surprising move. In fact There were some clues that are noticed in hindsight.
A Punk interview with MMA Reporter Ariel Helwani shows a Punk that isn’t very excited about his WWE job heading into one of the biggest PPVs of the year. It looks very much like Punk is down on his current run in WWE.
Add to that the report from a Q&A session where Punk also seemed unhappy talking about his work.
An article from last year mentions Punk’s growing list of injuries.
And finally, Gossip site TMZ (who admittedly take certain elements out of proportion and ignore others) had a video report saying that Punk was upset over Batista’s return and the sudden thrust of him into the spotlight.
Naturally, as with just about any news in wrestling, there are people who automatically think that this is some sort of work. While I can never truly write something off as a 100% shoot, given the carny nature of the sport, I fail to see any logic or payoff to an internet dirtsheet work.
Think about it, if CM Punk walking out on WWE is a work, then the story being told is that the company is intentionally gearing up for an unappealing main event in their biggest show of the year. Would WWE of all people want to tell the story that they are out of touch with what their fanbase wants? Isn’t that the reputation TNA already has? Why would they want to emulate that?
I personally believe that, even in The Year Of Our Lord 2014, the number of people that actively read wrestling news sites is fairly small. Granted they are more likely to attend house shows and PPVs, but the “average fan” at home hears a chant or a reference they don’t understand, it’s forgotten. You don’t hear of people traveling cross-country to go to The Royal Rumble, you hear that for WrestleMania. Thus it can logically be concluded that the backlash Batista was getting was not from the super smark fans.
The bottom line is, if this is a work, where is the money to be made? In order for an angle to truly get over, it has to be put in front of a lot of eyeballs. People went nuts over the infamous CM Punk 2011 “Pipe Bomb”. Even hardcore fans thought it might have been a complete shoot, completely forgetting that you’re not going to get a live microphone on the main event of WWE’s flagship show unless Vince McMahon knows what you are going to say. Yet it was done so well that we were all easily able to suspend disbelief.
It is just my opinion, but I think a similar “shoot styled” promo cutting into The Authority, how neither Punk nor Bryan are allowed anywhere near the title, and Punk is forced into #1… followed by a walkout on the show, would generate far more mainstream interest than a TMZ article.
The situation is more complex than Punk being selfish, or WWE being clueless. However the fact that Punk walked out right before the biggest moneymaking part of the year speaks for the strength of his view.
This will be the lead story on Episode 166 of The A1 Podcast, which should be available by Tuesday evening.