In the summer of 2011, CM Punk caught the attention of the world after a series of emotionally charged, shocking promos. His opinions, accusations and pipe-bombs left a lasting impression on the WWE universe, and his status as a long-term main eventer was virtually guaranteed. The summer of Punk culminated in his first WWE Championship reign, as well as the titles of ‘Superstar of the Year’ and ‘Best in the World’.
Since then he has enjoyed a plethora of both material and non-material successes. A 434-day WWE Championship reign, multiple PPV main events and a reunion with the legendary Paul Heyman has seen Punk’s status rise in meteoric fashion. Quite literally, the sky was the limit for the Chicago-born wrestler named Phil Brooks.
That was, however, until the Royal Rumble PPV of 2013, where Punk lost his World Championship to The Rock, seemingly halting both his main-event push and his Wrestlemania aspirations. Behind the scenes, Punk was becoming increasingly verbal regarding his distaste towards the stealing of his spotlight, and the spotlight of his full-time peers and colleagues by mere, undeserving part-timers.
Fast-forward a year, then, and you will notice that the once blistering momentum of CM Punk has cooled down somewhat. A Wrestlemania bout with The Undertaker was, by far, his year highlight, but more recently he has been forced to take a back seat to talent like Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar & Batista.
2013 was the year of Daniel Bryan. The slammy awards, as well as millions of wrestling fans will tell you that. Daniel Bryan’s surge into stardom over the last 12 months has been incredible, but what are interesting to see are the parallels between him and Punk. Both came from Independent circuits like ROH, and both have similar in-ring styles and fan followings. Chances are, if you like Daniel Bryan, you will like CM Punk, and vice versa.
So can you imagine being CM Punk right now? In a recent interview he revealed that his health isn’t doing too well at the moment, and when you throw that in with the frustration of being creatively ‘leapfrogged’ by part timers, you can completely understand the actions of, and sympathise with, CM Punk. Frustration, burials, under-utilisation and ill-health are a lethal quartet, especially playing on the mind of a man known for his temper and controversial outbursts. Could CM Punk have handled the situation a little more professionally? Definitely, but this article centres around why he is right to be angry, not why he was right to go home.
Fans are now left whispering, murmuring and debating as to whether or not CM Punk will return to the WWE before Wrestlemania 30, a milestone and legendary event. Wrestlemania without CM Punk, for many fans, is something too strange to even begin to comprehend.
The current situation surrounding Punk is eerily reminiscent of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s famous walk out in 2002. Like Punk, Austin was a huge player and a fan favourite, and so his walk out was as shocking as it was damaging to the product and to the company. Austin took his ball and went home, and so the comparisons made between him and Punk continue to become all the more uncanny.
And so no pun intended, but the bottom line for WWE right now is that they have messed up big time. To lose a star like Punk in his prime just weeks before the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania is bad enough, but when consider that we may never see Punk wrestle in WWE again (his current contract runs out in June), you begin to feel the magnitude of this issue.
The WWE need to make a decision, and fast. Do they want to ensure the growth of Mania buy rates, or do they want to satisfy their biggest year-round draws? If the former is the answer, then expect the CM Punk saga to be followed by many more in the coming years.