It’s been an exhausting week of speculation surrounding the reasons as to why CM Punk walked out on the WWE just minutes before RAW took to the air on Monday night. Being professional wrestling, the accusation of this being a “work” was tossed around the internet rather gingerly. With each passing day, more and more information is being leaked about the circumstances surrounding Punk’s dramatic departure. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported that that Punk may have gotten into a heated argument backstage regarding a potential diagnosis of a concussion, and many other outlets have reported Punk’s growing frustration with the WWE’s creative direction.
Two interviews have recently been published with Punk that shed a lot of light on the motives of the former WWE Champion. The video embedded above was published to YouTube on the 29th, and features highlights of his appearance at the Portland ComiCon from the 24th. The other interview, conducted by MMA journalist Ariel Helwani and embedded below, presents a rather somber Punk as he comments on the inconclusive ways in which success is gauged in the business.
We here at DonnyBrookBoys.com will select a few quotes to expound upon in terms of both Punk and the business.
“I think this has been Daniel Bryan’s year and I’ve sort of been in the position where I thought it was my year and I watched other people get other opportunities…No slight on Dave (Batista)…I wish I could see Daniel Bryan main event at WrestleMania.”
“When I’m done, I’m done. I’m gonna buy a cabin in some remote, mountainous area, and no one will ever see me again.”
When asked about getting into acting, Punk replied, “I do it every Monday, man. I act like I want to be there.”
From the Helwani Interview:
“It’s strange also gauging your, not popularity, but your success rate in pro wrestling. What makes you successful? Is it the money you’ve earned? The money you’ve drawn? The match quality? It’s hard to do.”
“I’ve been on that WWE schedule for a decade now and I don’t think anybody else can boast that claim. I took a two month break at the beginning of last year, and I still don’t think that was enough.”
“Also a weird thing to gauge in pro wrestling, whether you ‘deserve’ something or not.”
Punk is clearly wearing his heart on his sleeve with many of these comments, disregarding the potential backlash for striking against WWE’s creative direction. Some have stated that CM Punk is wrong or foolish for walking away from the company, citing that his abilities are too good and he’s leaving money on the table. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin even appeared on The Arsenio Hall show and stated that Punk is likely to miss out on a lot of money, just as Austin did when he walked out in 2002. The reality of the situation is that Punk is clearly not the money mark that he “should” be.
These latest public statements from Punk read as part-exhaustion, part-mid-career crisis. Punk has certainly taken the WWE on his back and has maintained a hectic schedule that most on the roster can’t go shot-for-shot with. He’s run himself ragged to the point that the thing he’s most passionate for, that being the in-ring work itself, doesn’t excite him anymore. If Punk has earned the amount of money that he aspired to, or even exceeded it, then continuing the schedule for the sake of the paycheck becomes a rather daunting task.
Punk’s nod to Daniel Bryan in Portland and his statements to Ariel Helwani, regarding gauging a wrestler’s success and what a wrestler may or may not deserve, paint a picture of a performer who is facing the reality of effort versus receipt. To be as consistent of a performer as he is and constantly watch other workers be propelled ahead of him, just to generate short term business, is a demoralizing situation.
Instead of tallying up Match of the Year candidates and zeros on his paychecks, Punk is matching up contusions with workload and card positioning. He mentions in the interview with Helwani that he’s let go of trying to fight with the company like he did in the past, citing that it’s a lot less stressful if he lets things be. However, complacency doesn’t lend itself to productivity. If Punk is giving in to “The Machine,” what drive does he have to continue to work for it?
Apathy is far more dangerous than anger. If Punk is this exhausted, both physically and emotionally, then time off is certainly necessary to find the motivation he has lost. As much as we are led to believe that the “right” thing to do is to stick it out for the fans or just do it for the money, the fact is that CM Punk needs to figure out what’s best for CM Punk. If it isn’t the fame, money, fans, or the work itself, then perhaps Punk needs to build that cabin in the mountains, and return when he grows tired of eating rabbit and fish … if he ever does.