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Pictured: CM Punk had a similar story line in 2011, but this time around, it may not be just a story line.
Before I begin, I want to make something clear: I am a CM Punk fan, albeit an average one. I never watched him in Ring of Honor besides seeing old clips, nor did I have any idea he was at TNA for a cup of coffee. The first time I saw him was his debut in pseudo-ECW against Justin Credible, if memory serves. I saw him compete, I heard him talk, and I liked what I was seeing. Someday, maybe, he could be somewhere in the business. Lo and behold he got put into Elimination Chamber matches, Money in the Bank matches, World Title matches, main events, heel runs, anti-hero runs, delivered some of the best promos we've seen in ages, all capped with a 434-day title reign, which is said to be the longest in modern history. I loved every bit, and when it came to those moments, I thought he delivered greatly.
Now that we've got that all out of the way, let's begin the discussion of "Why did CM Punk leave?" Well, it's quite simple, and it's something he brought up back in his 2011 story: He got tired.
Well, what does that mean? People forget, he's not a kid anymore - he's 35-years-old, he's been competing since he was a teenager. Another thing people forget is, wrestling hurts. It takes a big toll on the body, just as much as, if not more than other professional sports. And before people get on me about "Oh, but it's not a sport, it's sports entertainment" - let me ask you, their slamming their bodies on mats (not mattresses, not trampolines, flat mats with minimal cushion and spring support) - is that not physical sports activity? Their bodies being hit with solid chairs, falling onto tables, being ran into/through matted-up barricades, slammed onto ramps, being thrown into stairs - none of that can be considered physical sport activity, because it's entertaining to people, right? Moving on.
Next, remember that whole bit leading up to his 434-day title reign? Well, look at the WWE and look at what they did with CM Punk. What did they do with CM Punk after that? He had a feud with The Undertaker capped by desecrating the death of Paul Bearer (something I actually felt my stomach turn about). He feuded with Brock Lesnar, which turned out to be a very good match. And then... What? Let's skip the Rybaxel feud because, really, that was dumb, and fast forward to right before he left, setting up yet another feud with him and [INSERT AUTHORITATIVE FIGURE HERE]. It was as if the company corporate structure and creative personnel did not care, or ran out of ideas for what to do with CM Punk, something you unfortunately see with a lot of top-tier talent (see Bret Hart, WCW). Maybe it was just me, but even in the last waning days before his walkout, you could see in his eyes, his face, and his body language that he just didn't care anymore; he didn't have the fire and the passion that he used to have.
And who could blame him? After losing to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, and then losing again at the Elimination Chamber, he never received another title shot. The creative team ran out of hot ideas for "the hottest property of the WWE", suffering with the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Curtis Axel. So that totally explains why they set up the return of a 45-year-old Batista to win the Royal Rumble, have a little feud with Alberto Del Rio (who, as much as I love his work, suffers from a horribly boring personality), and end it with a main event match against Randy Orton for the title. That totally explains why John Cena, who for a long while was not 100% due to injuries, will be in the Elimination Chamber title match because, well, he's JOHN FRIGGIN' CENA! And now Sheamus is booked for the Elimination Chamber match instead, although I'm not sure Punk would have been in that match, anyway, since he seemed destined to have a match with Kane after getting Royally screwed at the Rumble (see what I did there? Did ya?)
And so, with the "thousand empty suits" seemingly turning their backs on poor CM Punk, who has been one of their hardest workers in WWE while their ratings plummet, decided to go home in an unprofessional manner. And now, millions upon millions of fans are throwing in their two cents about Punk - how they always hated him, how he's a prima donna, how much of a whiner and crybaby he is, "Waah, waah, waah", "Boo hoo" - let's face it, folks, just a little while ago, you threw your praise at his feet nonstop. You loved how he threatened to "walk out" back in 2011, calling his promos "the best work in the WWE in recent memory". You loved how he made the WWE environment more realistic, a most welcome change to the cartoony and unfunny work that WWE has suffered from for so many years. And now that he actually has done something about it, showing his displeasure, he has altered opinions of fairweather fans in one fell swoop. And WWE? Well, it's back to its cartoony, phony, and unfunny ways. It's back to business as usual, and if you don't know what I'm talking about (Cena in another title match, having stupid dance competitions), please open your figuratively taped-shut eyes.
Please don't get me wrong, I still love the industry of professional wrestling. Like I say, I'm a fan before I'm a critic, and not just one that blindly says "HURR DURR, O YEA GUIZE, ATTITUDE ERA 4 LYFE MAN", no no no no no no no no. I am a fan of wrestling - the stories that were told by men like Bret and Owen Hart, Mr. Perfect, Ted Dibiase, Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Macho Man, Rick Rude. The Attitude Era was great for what it was, causing controversy and getting ratings to skyrocket because of how edgy and provocative it was, not by the quality of wrestling that was presented (not that it was all bad, but let's be real here, it was nothing like before). Are you really going to tell me "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was a great wrestler; that he drew sold-out crowds, countless chants, and is considered an all-time great because of his wrestling? But I digress.
The reason WWE has seen such a dive in ratings is because they're using an all-kinds-of-messed-up formula. They have the talent to tell good wrestling stories, guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, The Shield, The Rhodes Brothers. They have the guys who can fire up a crowd or get your skin to crawl, guys like Bryan, Punk, Ziggler, as well as The Wyatts and The New Age Outlaws. But they're doing it all wrong! They try Del Rio and Randy Orton as heel champions, but they're too boring. They have Bryan and Ziggler as top talent but put them in midcard matches and feuds. They have Cena as the same superman persona that he's been for the last eight some-odd years, but is too "good" to be a bad guy. And to top it all off, they try to bring edginess when they're still considered a PG program - one that lets fly "Kick your ass" and "Son of a bitch", but bleeps out "douchebag". That is what WWE has become.
And that, not the fanbase, is what CM Punk left behind.