As we headed into the first Raw following the Royal Rumble, all focus was on the previous night’s talking points; Batista’s win, the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Daniel Bryan not being in the Rumble match, and the crowd virtually hijacking anything not involving Daniel Bryan. 24 hours after the show was over, there was only one thing the wrestling world was talking about.
Before Raw went on the air CM Punk held a meeting with WWE owner Vince McMahon and told him he was going home and not coming back. Since the news broke the always-crazy world of professional wrestling has been buzzing with speculation as to the reasons behind Punk’s decison and what is going to happen going forward. What we do know is that Punk had been frustrated for some time over the direction of his character and the company in general. He had spoken before of his disagreement that returning or ‘part-time’ wrestlers were brought in for the WrestleMania period, taking prominent positions on TV and PPV. Back in 2011 when The Rock made his return to host WrestleMania 27 Punk expressed displeasure that he was not in the main event of the show, instead having to settle for a midcard loss to Randy Orton while The Miz battled John Cena against the backdrop of the returning movie star. And then the following year, when Punk was actually WWE World champion, he saw his title defence against Chris Jericho relegated to semi-main position as The Rock and John Cena’s ‘Once in a Lifetime‘ bout took top billing.
But those frustrations must have paled in comparison to how he felt in 2013. After spending 434 consecutive days as WWE champion – a modern-day record – yet rarely main eventing pay-per-view events (John Cena’s rivalries usually took that position) he found himself dropping the title in a routine match against The Rock at Royal Rumble, then losing a better, though no less predictable, rematch the following month at Elimination Chamber. Now out of the title picture heading into WrestleMania 29 many wondered what the ‘Best in the World’ would be doing. Following a lacklustre buildup, he ended up as the latest wrestler to fail to beat Undertaker’s Streak. While it was acknowledged by most as the match of the night, it was clear that Punk was out of the title picture.
Following ‘Mania, Punk took a break from WWE. After working non-stop for the last several years – even through injury – a break was much-needed and long-overdue. And with his title reign over and no immediate creative plans on the horizon, it was the perfect time. Judging from his Twitter, Punk took advantage of the time off, taking in baseball games and music concerts, and generally enjoying his first break from his gruelling schedule in a long time. All good things come to an end though, and Punk returned at Payback to beat Chris Jericho. Many expected him to be thrust back into the title picture following his return, but instead he became embroiled in a personal feud with former manager Paul Heyman. Matches with ‘Heyman Guys’ Brock Lesnar and Ryback occupied Punk’s time for most of the the remainder of 2013, while the WWE Championship was passed around between John Cena, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton.
Going into 2014, rumours started that Punk’s contract was due to expire in July and with June’s Payback PPV due to take place in his home state of Illinois, as well as several previous comments regarding his future, it was thought by many that Punk may be getting ready to call it a day. A rivalry with Triple H – reportedly set to culminate in a match at WrestleMania 30 – began with the story that Punk would be entered into the Royal Rumble match at number 1. At the Rumble show itself, Punk lasted around 50 minutes before being eliminated by Kane, with the two seemingly set to clash at Elimination Chamber as part of the buildup to the Triple H match at WM 30. Heading into the Raw following Royal Rumble, the next part of that tale was seemingly set to take place…
Except Punk didn’t appear. We later found out that less than two hours before the show started, Punk had a meeting with McMahon where he told him he was leaving. Since the news broke reports have emerged of Punk being burned out with the tough WWE schedule, as well as dissatisfied with the direction of his character and the company in general. Some have suggested that Batista’s return, and subsequent Rumble win and WrestleMania main event position, angered Punk, echoing previous feelings towards The Rock. Whatever the case, or the real reason behind his decision, clearly CM Punk has had enough. Reportedly he has saved his money well and no longer needs to work, leading to the belief that Punk now feels that if he isn’t totally happy in WWE, then he will leave whatever the repercussions.
It is being claimed that one of Punk’s lasting objectives is to main event a WrestleMania, and it is likely that after several years of seeing that taken away from him, and a likely match with Triple H coming this year, it was to be an objective that would never be fulfilled. When you have etched your name in the record books for holding the WWE Championship for the longest time in over 25 years, when you have earned fans and other wrestlers’ respect, when you have won everything there is to win, and when you have earned and saved more money than you can know what to do with, many will wonder if there is anything left for Punk to achieve. If main eventing WrestleMania was that one remaining wish, and it gets more and more unlikely with every passing year, maybe it is time to call it a day. If you are unhappy at work – wherever you call work – and you have the balls to tell your boss you’re walking out, maybe it is the right thing to do.
Naturally, there is of course more to come of this story. Maybe a story that will end in CM Punk returning to WWE. Or maybe, just maybe, a story that spells out the end of an always controversial, always entertaining, successful WWE career for CM Punk.