On Monday, January 28th CM Punk took his ball and went home. The longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era is no longer with the company he wanted to make “cool” again just 3 years prior. While there has be no official confirmation as to why Punk quit, the main reasons making the dirtsheet rounds have been the injuries he’s been dealing with , that he’s burnt out from the road, and his placement on the upcoming Wrestlemania 30 card where he would have squared off against Triple H. TMZ is going as far as reporting that Punk is specifically upset with the fact Batista (who just returned to the WWE two weeks ago after a four year hiatus) won the Royal Rumble and is already going on to main event Wrestlemania despite not being in wrestling shape.
Below is an excerpt from a 2011 interview CM Punk gave to WWE Magazine just a few short months after he almost left the company the first time:
This anger with your job has been festering for a while. Was there one moment backstage when you felt you’d had enough?
“I can name one off the top of my head. How about main-eventing a pay-per-view as the World Heavyweight Champion against Undertaker and then, a few months later, being in a dark match against R-Truth at WWE TLC? That’s pretty ignorant in my mind. This is the problem. We do this too many times to too many Superstars. It’s a startstop kind of thing. The company likes to spotlight certain people. Like, “This week, Kofi’s cool,” and then, the next week, “We changed our minds we like Dolph this week.” It flip-flops back and forth ad nauseam, and the next thing you know, the people couldn’t give a crap about either guy.”
Given the current state of WWE where the company refuses to push its biggest organically made superstar Daniel Bryan; where the “starstop kind of thing” mentioned above still has not changed; and where the man who was WWE Champion for 434 days was passed over in consecutive years so we could see the twice in a lifetime match-up between The Rock and John Cena, it’s difficult to argue against Punk choosing to part ways with his employer.
In fact this situation bares some similarities to the infamous incident in 2002 when Stone Cold Steve Austin walked out on WWE due to creative differences. Specifically, Austin was opposed to the idea of losing cleanly to then newcomer Brock Lesnar on a free and unadvertised edition of Monday Night Raw. Austin felt that after all he had given to the company and his main event status at the time that it was a bad business decision. And so Austin told Vince McMahon on the telephone that if that was the plan he would not be showing up to Raw. When McMahon didn’t budge Austin flew back home to San Antonio.
12 years later, however, Austin stated on Chris Jericho’s podcast that that incident remains his biggest regret in his Hall of Fame career. In retrospect, Austin says that he would have flown to Raw that night and spoken to McMahon face to face to deal with the issues at hand. Furthermore Austin stated, “It was stupid, Chris, because you have to own up to some responsibility and accountability and show up. Honor your deal. You’re packed with the boys and your job. So I should have showed up like a man, come up with a solution. Could have been a different solution, could have been just don’t even do the match, but show up and talk to Vince face to face, solve the problem in some way or fashion, and get through it like a grown man.”
This brings us back to the current situation with CM Punk. Whether you agree with what Punk did or not, the man is contractually obligated to remain in WWE until July of this year. Instead he told his boss he was “going home” just 2 months before the biggest show of the year. He is disappointing his peers and, more importantly, his fans with this decision. Personally speaking, I was genuinely looking forward to seeing WWE live in 2 weeks because it was my first chance to see him wrestle since the Match of the Year contest he had against Brock Lesnar last year at Summerslam.
Overall, I too am frustrated with the current WWE product. And I’ve certainly been frustrated with Punk’s placement on the card since losing the WWE Championship to The Rock one year ago. And while he hasn’t necessarily been “buried”, I don’t believe he’s been given the main event opportunities he deserves. I truly feel no one in wrestling is as good as Punk as he is collectively on the mic and in the ring.
However, unless there’s a legitimate health reason for walking out, the fact of the matter is that Punk quit on his employer, he quit on the men and women in the locker room, and he quit on the WWE Universe. Nonetheless, here’s hoping that the “Best in the World” returns sooner rather than later to do his job and to prove why he’s earned that moniker.