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.
The seemingly impossible has happened and CM Punk, after making himself the hottest commodity in wrestling, did it.
Months ago, it was learned that World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar CM Punk’s contract was expiring later this year. Capitalizing on this, WWE integrated it into their storylines, with Punk confessing to the fans that his contract was almost up and swearing to win the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank on what would be perceived as his last night in the company, July 17th. And then, to subsequently walk out with the belt. The following weeks this was driven home by some absolutely brilliant mic work by Punk and both casual WWE fans and the diehards were caught up in wondering where this could lead. But recently Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer reported that Punk’s contract was not actually up until September of this year.
So now Punk has won the title on his “last night” just as he vowed to do, and after a thoroughly entertaining story, a new era could be on the horizon both for CM Punk and for WWE.
The last time WWE tried to signal a paradigm shift for the company was over a year ago with the formation of Nexus, with the former NXT contestants’ surprising attack on John Cena, the perrenial face of the company, as well as everyone at ringside. This caught many people off guard and there was a significant buzz about it leading into the next week, but the momentum was quickly lost on the ensuing programs as the group slowly became less of an unpredictable outside threat and fell into the typical booking rhythms as all other WWE programs, especially as they ran up against John Cena, whom the WWE has consistently refused to make look weak or disadvantaged for too long.
And now it comes back to the current situation, and John Cena is in the middle of another hot angle for the WWE that has fans truly guessing (with the exception of spoilers for a week) what the next twist or turn might be. Another opportunity to capitalize on the genuine curiosity from all areas of the fan spectrum. Cena and WWE have “lost” the championship title for one of their programs in an era where there have been double top-tier world champions for both Raw and Smackdown. Normal booking ideas would be to set up a tournament to crown the new champion, or set up a single match for the vacant belt. But this is a chance for WWE to do something different. A radical departure would be to settle for having one major world championship for both shows, but no rumblings to that end have appeared on any news sites and so I can’t see them going in that direction. If Punk’s contract is correctly reported as expiring two months from now, this could conceivably set up a chase to physically get the belt back in some fashion through vignettes or video appearances from home, as WWE is fond of trying to throw in that sort of entertainment aspect that was common during the Attitude era. But both of those things are pure speculation, and that’s the best part of it, right? We’re all still guessing, and in a time where overanalyzation and assured prediction are so common with wrestling fans, it’s a great feeling.
As for the direction of the man central to all of this, there’s no end to the conjecture about Punk’s immediate future. “Shoot” comments made during his infamous promos have mentioned destinations such as his previous home, Ring of Honor. However, given ROH’s rising profile with a new owner and distribution across a network of television stations, I can’t see this as any more of a wink and a nod toward Punk’s fans, no matter how much wishful thinking there is. The surest thing seems to be for him to take a sabbatical from wrestling, just like former WWE wrestler Chris Jericho has done before and is in the midst of again as we speak. Punk has just given an interview to men’s magazine GQ, and has made reference to a movie role he turned down according to another recent co-interview with his friend Colt Cabana. With press and options like this and the possibility of a free schedule ahead of him, Punk has myriad directions he could go in with his life.
All in all, the following Monday night after July 17th’s proves to be one of the most intriguing in a while, for CM Punk, for WWE, and for the fans. It’s been a great ride throughout this storyline, and if it’s the end of it, it still as the potential promise of another awesome beginning. But for now? After 5 years of being the one of the best in the ring, one of the best on the mic, and the oft-coveted title of being one of the Best in the World…go home, Punk, and rest on your laurels. You deserve it.