We’ve seen big name athletes leave in their prime for what seems to be no particular reason. Michael Jordan, after winning his third straight title, retires from the NBA to go play baseball for two seasons. Could the Bulls have won eight straight titles with Jordan there? Would Jordan be the all time scoring leader with those two extra seasons? Another superstar athlete, Barry Sanders, in what seemed to be the best years of his NFL career, hung up his cleats after 10 seasons in Detroit. Despite playing six less seasons then Emmitt Smith, Sanders is less then 3,000 yards away from being the all time leading rusher. If Sanders played the same amount of seasons as Smith did and had kept up his 1,500 yards a season average, he would have the rushing record by nearly 6,000 yards.
And now, nearly six months after he unexpectedly left WWE, those same type of questions linger with CM Punk. Punk, who seemed to be in the prime of his career, all the sudden walked out of the company the night after the Royal Rumble pay-per-view event. The storyline he seemed to be working on was going to lead to a WrestleMania match against Triple H, who is one of the biggest stars in wrestling history. Yet, Punk left, and there really hasn’t been a clear answer as to why he did indeed leave. So why would a top-level guy, who is still in the prime of his wrestling career, all the sudden leave the company?
Some people say he was just frustrated with the direction the company was going, which is understandable. In Punk’s final match before leaving, Batista, who hadn’t been in WWE in 4 years, won the Royal Rumble match, giving him a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania. Fans were upset at this, as it has seemed to become a trend of recent years that part-timers have been winning bigger matches (The Rock ended Punk’s 434 day title reign, Brock Lesnar ending the Undertaker’s streak, etc.). Meanwhile, after holding the title for 434 days, it seemed as if Punk had lost some momentum. After a string of matches against Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, Chris Jericho at Payback, and Brock Lesnar at Summerslam, Punk had some meaningless and forgettable feuds with Curtis Axel, Ryback, the Wyatt family, and the Shield. The Shield, at least, were working for the Authority, HHH and Stephanie McMahon, so to feud with the Shield was the first step to the Punk-HHH match that was suppose to happen at WrestleMania 30.
Another reason why Punk might of left is because he was burned out from the schedule. Being the WWE champion for as long as he was put a toll on his body, which is why guys usually don’t make runs like that. Punk’s reign of 434 days is the longest of the past 25 years, which is a feat we may never see again. Guys like John Cena, HHH, and Randy Orton haven’t had as long as reigns as Punk did. Cena had a 380-day reign from 2006-2007. HHH held the title for only nine months from December 2002-September 2003. Orton’s longest title reign? 203 days. Punk doubled Orton’s reign from late 2007-early 2008. You just don’t see reigns like Punk had. And he changed from a face to a heel mid-way through his run as champion. How many guys do that?
The insane schedule of being the WWE champion, having to wrestle at least 20 minutes at every house show and having big PPV matches every month, just caught up to Punk. Things like that happen to guys. Look how many times Chris Jericho has left and then come back. Few guys can really stick it out for long stretches, and the guys who can are what make them the greatest in the industry.
Finally, the injuries started piling up on Punk. He actually missed the TLC event in 2012 because he tore his meniscus. Despite not wrestling for over a month, Punk was able to hold on to his title, which he lost to the Rock as I mentioned. But Punk’s body, all the sudden, started giving way a little. Reports said that every time he would do the flying elbow off the top rope, it would hurt him a little more then the last one. Rumors also speculated that Punk suffered a concussion at the Royal Rumble in January, which has become more of a serious problem in not just WWE, but sports in general over the past ten years or so. His body just started aching, and he finally reached his breaking point.
So now, as every passing week goes by, the hope that CM Punk is coming back starts to dwindle. The last two shows in Chicago, Raw in March and Payback in June, seemed like two potential days for Punk to return. Once he didn’t, though, the fans that so desperately wanted him back started losing even more hope. In his time off, Punk married AJ Lee, who is currently the Divas champion in WWE after she came back from a nearly three-month hiatus this past week on Raw. Now that AJ is back, the Punk returning rumors are swirling again. A lot of people, including myself, thought this was an indicator that maybe, just maybe, we were in for one more surprise on Raw and Punk was going to walk out. He didn’t, of course, and once again, hope was lost.
Which brings me to this question: why are so many people, myself included, so obsessed about the return of CM Punk? Instead of being mad that he isn’t coming back, we should thank him for everything he’s done. For the better part of nine years, Punk proved himself not only inside the ring, but outside the ring as well. He was a five time World Champion, a tag team champion, and an Intercontinental champion. He’s only the 19th man in WWE history to achieve that feat, the Triple Crown, and he did it in a record 203 days. He went from an ECW wrestler, to Mr. Money in the Bank (twice), to a World Champion within two months. He then had the Straight Edge Society and eventually became apart of the new Nexus, both of which were successful. Then the infamous pipe bomb occurred, which led to arguably the match of the year against Cena at Money in the Bank 2011. Then came his record title reign and him joining forces with Paul Heyman, putting two of the best talkers in pro wrestling together. It was almost unfair for opponents to try and deliver a better promo then either of them because both are so gifted on the microphone. Over nine years, we saw the growth and evolution of a guy who went from being just a straight edge wrestler to the “Best in the World.”
So yes, be disappointed that we may never get to see Punk in wrestling again. But celebrate all the good he did for not only WWE, but all the fans as well. Hopefully he can come back and get a proper send-off, but as for now, cherish the nine years we were able to see Punk on our TV screens.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the other blogs I’ve posted, and stay tuned as I go more in-depth on all the things going on in the sports world. This is Game of Sports.