I would like to start off by saying that nobody truly knows the reason why CM Punk left WWE. Rumors and speculation have run rampant about what could possibly be the problem, but neither he nor WWE management have spoken up and provided a concrete reason as to why he’s gone. Which is problematic if you’re the type that likes to point the finger. From what I’ve heard and read, It could be a combination of many different factors. If you believe the sheets, it’s because Batista came back got catapulted to the main event of WM while Punk wasn’t given that. Or it’s because Punk wanted to be in the actual main event meaning the final match of the night, and possibly for a title. It could be something having to do with AJ and hugging at an airport. But, I don’t believe the sheets when it comes to CM Punk. It’s as simple as that.
WWE, in my opinion, acted irresponsibly by not announcing why CM Punk left. CM Punk the WWE employee can leave the business at any time as long as he can explain that to those in the know. It’s WWE’s responsibility as the employer of CM Punk to let the fans know what’s going on. Saying nothing is tantamount to shoving the entire situation in a closet and hoping it isn’t there in the morning. Emails to small pockets of fans telling them he won’t be certain events is not enough. Dancing around the issue and pretending it isn’t there isn’t enough. Is it a tough situation for WWE to try to wiggle out of? Sure. Was CM Punk’s leaving at the same time as the biggest show of the year and it sucks? Absolutely. But if a Raw or Smackdown can be rewritten to quell internet fans attempted uprisings of the product, the WWE can certainly be honest enough with it’s fan base to give us a yes or no on CM Punk. Any other form of entertainment would properly notify it’s fans if a big part of the show left. Wrestling should be no different.
As we’ve all seen in the past few weeks, leaving wrestling fans to speculate on the presence of one of WWE’s biggest stars is a dangerous move, but fan reaction to CM Punk leaving surpasses any other uprising in wrestling that I’ve seen to date. It’s simply shocking that one man has caused this much of an upset. I stand by the belief that some kind of announcement and honesty from WWE brass could’ve put the brakes on hijack Raw and other attempts and “fan takeovers” of shows before things got so out of hand. But, WWE’s main concern is making sure Batista can wrestle for more than 5 minutes without losing his breath. Which requires lots of energy, I’m sure.
The IWC’s response to CM Punk’s exit has been equal parts thought provoking and enraging. Some of us are angry that he left and demand that he explain himself. Some fans genuinely miss him and will not watch wrestling until he’s back. Some see his leaving as trying to help other wrestlers who may/may not be getting getting screwed in the future with the WWE Network and PPV money. A solid portion of what I’ve seen is people saying that CM Punk is selfish and they don’t miss him.
Time goes on. Punk does not materialize on any show. He’s pulled from events, including notable Wrestlemania type of events that are usually mandatory. As the situation metamorphosed into an actual WWE PR nightmare, I remembered something about wrestling and the business that I’d forgotten. Wrestling, as fun as it is for me to comfortably sit in my chair and analyze as a viewer, is one hell of a hard business to actually live in. As someone who can lean back in a recliner and turn off the TV when I’ve had enough of wrestling for a day, I realized that cannot happen in the life of a CM Punk. A performer has to deal with much more than the 20-30 minutes that we see on TV each week. There’s the travel, autograph signing’s, appearances, interviews, and possibly some sleep if they can manage it. It is simply not a possibility for, say, AJ Lee to sit down in a crowded park and have a Popsicle by herself. Knowing that everything you do in the ring will be filmed, uploaded to video sites and social media, and spoken about for years is one thing. But it’s an entirely different animal altogether to have pictures snapped of you while you pick up your girlfriend at an airport. Or to have people around the world study that one photo and decide that one thing they see is everything you are. Quite frankly, it’s fucking scary.
And then there’s the wrestling. Someone who goes out and gives their best every night has to hear the critiques of people like myself who’ve never stepped in a ring in their lives, but assume that they know everything about wrestling and how to do it. These same “fans” have no problem going online and give a 1 star rating to a match that doesn’t include at least 5 muscle busters. These “fans” demand that you WRESTLE GOOD ALWAYS and not make a single mistake or they’ll boo and mercilessly rip you apart. When I think of all these things and one human being having to deal with all of that pressure with no breaks, I want to bury my head in the sand and never come out. It’s an exhausting and lonely existence being a professional wrestler. I respect those that have a deep enough love for the business that they would stop their real life to live in this alter reality of parts show and other parts living up to unrealistic expectations. To say that all of this attention wouldn’t have an effect on any WWE performer is laughable. The best wrestlers in the world would certainly like to go to Bed Bath and Beyond and pick up some curtains in peace of they want, wouldn’t you think?
I think these pressures are something we should keep in mind when blasting someone like Punk. No matter how you slice it, the man has wrestled nonstop for over 12 years, and has delivered countless hours of entertainment for myself and other wrestling fans in multiple wrestling federations. He’s been in some of the biggest matches in the current age of wrestling, and has always over performed in everything he’s been apart of. That much I know. Outside of the ring? I take him or leave him. I’ve never met him, but from what I’ve read about him and know of him on Twitter, I’m not sure I would ever want to. But, I’m far from behaving like I’ve never been captivated by what he does in the ring and him leaving is no big deal. It IS a big deal, especially if his leaving had anything to do with the speculation that has run so rampant in the past few weeks. No amount of disgust that I have for this situation changes the fact that WWE clearly has backstage issues that needed addressing before CM Punk walked. CM Punk walking simply magnetized the problem that WWE has tried to hide.
CM Punk the man, not the wrestler, doesn’t deserve to be blasted for leaving if he has good reason. Like I said somewhere farther up, CM Punk the employee is allowed to take a walk if he wants to. The ball was dropped by WWE, and they alone deserve the criticism for the handling of Punk’s leaving. WWE could be having a much easier time right now if they were honest with themselves and fans as soon as the news broke on that pesky internet that Punk left.
Now, I say this. Am I incredibly disappointed that Punk couldn’t just keep wrestling despite whatever hardships he was having? Yes, I am. That’s a natural reaction when Punk on TV is all I know. Do I think that Punk is finished with WWE? Yes, I do. Or, the very least, I’m acting like he’s no longer part of the equation until he decides to put himself back in it.
On a closing note, it must be said again that CM Punk the man can walk out on wrestling, whether it’s right or wrong, at any time. For a man who has seemingly deleted himself from everything related to wrestling in the past few weeks, I look forward to seeing where the next chapter of CM Punk in the WWE leads us.
Shanna Harris has been watching wrestling for over 10 years. She loves women’s wrestling, NXT, and live tweeting wrestling shows. Her many wrestling commentaries can be found at Absolutesmark.wordpress.com, and her 140 character rants can be read at @AbsoluteSmark
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