Why CM Punk Should NOT Return to WWE
The night after the Royal Rumble 2014, CM Punk rocked the WWE by walking out, much like one of his wrestling role models Stone Cold Steve Austin had done years before. Nobody knows exactly why he left, some have cited exhaustion, burn out, concussion, disillusionment with creative, the return of Batista, not being given a chance at the WrestleMania main event and all sorts of other reasons for Punk’s disappearance. Neither Punk nor WWE have gone public about his reasons and until one of them does that, everything else is speculation.
The main difference between CM Punk’s walkout and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s is this: WWE have yet to acknowledge Punk’s disappearance. When Austin left the company buried him immediately. The Rock went out on TV and said that Steve Austin can “take his ball and go home”. The company went out of their way to burn bridges with Steve Austin, but not this time. Not with CM Punk. Instead WWE are doing things quietly. They’ve removed CM Punk from the graphics at the opening of RAW and other shows, they’ve quietly downplayed any mention of Punk. They don’t acknowledge the CM Punk chants on TV but they will acknowledge ones for RVD or Y2J (see Elimination Chamber). They are acting as if CM Punk does not exist. They don’t want to burn those bridges just yet, presumably because they know that CM Punk is one of the few big names still able to work every week if he wants to.
Since his walkout, crowds have been chanting his name on RAW, SmackDown!, Elimination Chamber and even at NXT. Vince McMahon when asked about the situation in a conference called said that Punk was taking a “sabbatical”. The rumour mills have been running riot about if and when Punk will make his return to WWE. Writers, wrestlers and fans all over the world have given their opinions on why CM Punk will be back and things have gone into overdrive ahead of tonight’s RAW, in Punk’s home town of Chicago, where people are expecting Punk to make appear in front of an adoring crowd. But I want to talk about the other side of the coin: I think that CM Punk should not return to WWE.
Why should CM Punk not return to WWE? On his company-produced DVD, CM Punk talks about almost leaving the company before Money In The Bank 2011, when his contract was winding down and he hadn’t signed an extension yet. At that time he said that he wanted to leave because the company couldn’t see the talent that it had and refused to get behind that talent. In the end he decided to stay because he felt he could change things from within, not by sitting on his couch in Chicago. While the sentiment was noble, almost nothing has changed. Zack Ryder got a brief US title run before fading into obscurity. Dolph Ziggler is denied access to the main event and used as fodder to get others over to the point where the company dials down the “We Want Ziggler” chants in post-production for SmackDown!. Even Punk himself couldn’t change things. He held the title for an incredible 434 days but was still never considered to be the man, the main event during that run. That honour went to The Rock and John Cena instead. Even Daniel Bryan, the hottest star in the company right now and someone that Punk championed, has faced a really difficult run to the top and has constantly had the rug pulled from under him. Being with the company did not change things, the way to change them is at home.
If Punk returns to WWE, he cannot lead calls for the fans to rebel, to revolt, to hijack the shows and tell the company what they really want to see. He will be restricted in what he can say on TV and he will be put in positions where he will undermine the work he has done so far. If he stays at home, he can act as the great coordinator of the efforts to change WWE from the outside in. He can lead the charge and be the conductor for the orchestra of WWE fans dying to voice their opinions. He can do it through Twitter, through YouTube, through his TV show appearances. If he really wants to, Punk can become a leading advocate for change in WWE, but he can only do it from the outside where is unrestricted. No amount of appealing to Vince behind the scenes is going to change who he is, only be taking drastic action will Vince McMahon change his plans.
Furthermore, if CM Punk returns to WWE tonight as predicted by most and takes a slot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Randy Orton and Batista, he will become that which he has publicly slated. He will become one of those people who walks into the company and straight into a main event slot at the expense of someone else. Daniel Bryan deserves that role and he deserves to be the last man standing on the night of WrestleMania with his arms aloft in victory. If CM Punk walks back in to that role, while it will admittedly be different to Batista doing it after years away, Punk will essentially become a hypocrite.
Ok, I’ll level with you now. I am a huge CM Punk fan and have been ever since I saw his work for IWA Mid-South online back around the year 2000, so you’d think I’d be clamouring to have him back. I’d love to see Punk on TV, but I think he would be wrong to return now. Returning now sends all the wrong messages: it says he can be bought if given what he wants and that he is not the man of principle he claims to be; it says that if you hold the company to ransom they will buckle under your demands once you’re a big enough name; it says that CM Punk is bigger than Vince McMahon. These are things that either Punk won’t want, or Vince won’t want. They both need to stand back from this situation and let Punk go.
I do not think that Punk should return to WWE. At least not yet. Right now, if he comes back, what is there for him to do? He’d almost certainly come in as a babyface, so who are the heels he can work with? Randy Orton? Been there. Bray Wyatt? The Shield? Alberto Del Rio? He’s faced them all, and recently too. The best thing for Punk as a character right now is to stay away, for at least six months, if not longer. At that point, if he wants to come back, go for it, but not for a run at the top. If Punk is going to come back then, he needs to help facilitate change. He needs to help put over the younger stars, the next generation. It’s something he’s done before, but he’s almost always had to come out on top because he’s the big star. Now it would be his turn to put them over, to give them the spotlight, to groom them for a shot at superstardom.
But what would Punk do with all that time away? He’s an incredibly driven, creative and talented individual. He could do damn near anything he really wanted to do. Or he could go and live like a hermit somewhere as he has threatened to do in the past. Either way, CM Punk should not return to WWE any time soon.