I just finished binge watching 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother. After 9 seasons, the show signed off the air with a finale that most of its viewers hated (more on this soon). In January, CM Punk left the WWE with no notice and again, most of the fans hated this. WWE lost one of its most popular wrestlers and had to rearrange storylines on the fly to make the Road to WrestleMania XXX work. Other than my appearance on The HBS, I’ve been silent publicly on this matter.
WrestleMania XXX was on Sunday. The Raw after WrestleMania was on Monday. Still no CM Punk. He appeared on an episode of The Walking Dead‘s after show Talking Dead. He made no mention of wrestling and was referred to with his birth name of Phil Brooks. Since January, there has been no other words said by Punk in relation to his leaving and WWE has been silent as well. The most exciting news (other than a false report that he was returning at the Chicago Raw) is the fact that he’s now engaged to AJ Lee. I guess since he no longer has access to all the Divas, he decided to choose one and settle down.
I don’t think CM Punk will ever wrestle in a WWE ring again, at least not in his prime. He’s going to turn into the thing he hates: a part-timer who comes back during WrestleMania season, does limited appearances, wrestles at Mania, and then disappears again for a year. He’ll get into the Hall of Fame eventually, probably inducted by Kofi Kingston (the wrestler that he’s closest to on the current roster). And the WWE Universe will laugh about the time CM Punk walked out on the company.
I first met CM Punk in 2008. It was the summer and I wasn’t watching wrestling regularly. Normally, I’d peek in at Raw and if there wasn’t something interesting going on, I was out. My friend Johnathan used to DVR Raw every week and watch it at his leisure since he worked nights at the time. On the June 30th Raw, Punk cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase on a fallen Edge to win his first World Heavyweight Championship.
And I didn’t understand why he was the World Champion at all. Scraggly hair, tiny, horrible soul patch, a Pepsi tattoo?! No thank you.
With our first meeting out of the way, and in honor of How I Met Your Mother, and using my seasons idea I used for my Year End Awards, I can paint this picture clearer. Punk made his official ECW debut on June 24, 2006.
- Season 1: June 24, 2006 – WrestleMania 23
- Season 2: April 2, 2007 – WrestleMania XXIV
- Season 2: March 31, 2008 – WrestleMania XXV (the season where I saw Punk win his first World Title)
- Season 3: April 6, 2009 – WrestleMania XXVI
- Season 4: March 29, 2010 – WrestleMania XXVII
- Season 5: April 4, 2011 – WrestleMania XXVIII
- Season 6: April 2, 2012 – WrestleMania NY/NJ (29! 29! 29!)
- Season 7: April 8, 2013 – January 26, 2014
I didn’t start really getting back into wrestling until I started buying the three PPVs that comprised WrestleMania season with Thomas, Moose, and Anthony (WM XXVI). Sadly, the Punk/Rey Mysterio match wasn’t memorable, or I wasn’t paying enough attention. So I missed the entire Straight Edge Society faction (which I now think is some of Punk’s most underrated work).
I don’t recall much from his match with Randy Orton at Mania XXVII, mostly because Randy was my guy back then and I was just happy with him coming out with the win.
I truly didn’t notice Punk until November of 2010, when a hip (h/t to Al Michaels and also Marv Albert in Just Wright. Don’t ask me why I watching Just Wright.) forced him out of the ring. Punk was placed on the commentary team and SHINED. He was funny, he called moves out, and he was a heel commentator who cheered for more than one heel (see Michael Cole and The Miz). I really hope that one day, Punk gets to be a full time commentator. He’s that damn good. This was the first time I noticed how efficient he was with a microphone.
He moved from commentary back into the ring when he usurped control of the Nexus from Wade Barrett, and that led to him and Randy’s match at Mania XXVII.
I didn’t mind Punk as leader of the New Nexus but once they created The Corre to go against them, I quickly lost interest.
Until June 27, 2011. I, like so many others, was shocked when CM Punk dropped his infamous shoot pipebomb promo that “rocked” the company. Twitter blew up, ESPN picked up the story, and talk show hosts were having discussions about whether it was a real promo or not.
Despite The Rock/John Cena I being a few months away, Phil Brooks had just made the WWE super relevant again.
I’m not ashamed to admit it; I jumped on the CM Punk bandwagon immediately and realized I had been missing out on one of the greatest wrestlers of the last decade.
Quick synopsis: Punk got fired then reinstated so he could have a WWE Title match with Cena at Money In The Bank 2011, which he won and then left the company with the Belt for a little over week… he returned and challenged Cena to a WWE Championship unification match at Money In The Bank… Punk won when Triple H didn’t see Cena’s foot on the rope but Alberto Del Rio cashed in his MITB briefcase following the match and beat him… he feuded with Kevin Nash and Triple H until Vengeance… won the WWE Title back from ADR at Survivor Series…held the Belt for 434 days, turned from face to heel at Raw 1000… lost the Belt to The Rock at the Royal Rumble 2013 and failed to win it back at the following Elimination Chamber… challenged The Streak at WrestleMania NY/NJ but fell to The Undertaker… took a sabbatical until Payback when he defeated Chris Jericho… turned face after splitting with Paul Heyman, who he feuded with until Hell In A Cell (Ryback and Curtis Axel were involved by association)… teamed with Daniel Bryan to beat Luke Harper and Erick Rowan at Survivor Series… defeated the entire Shield at TLC… entered the Royal Rumble as the #1 entry, lasted until the final four with Roman Reigns, Sheamus, and Batista, but was then eliminated and put through the Spanish announce table by Kane… last heard yelling, “I passed all your fucking concussion tests!” backstage, and then told Vince and Triple H that he was going home.
Going back to the HIMYM comparisons, I don’t remember the first time I saw the show but I thought it was decent. Eventually, I sat down at watched a mini-marathon on FX, and I realized how everything was interconnected. As a comic book head, this appealed to me greatly, so I settled into season 1 with Netflix some months ago. I read somewhere that this would be the final season, so I thought I’d be able to catch up in time to watch the last few episodes live. I got sick the day after going to the Rumble, so I spent two days laid up knocking out episodes. Went to dinner with my friend Gary later that week and he told me the series finale of March 31st. I challenged myself to catch up on all the episodes and watch the finale live.
Spent a weekend watching 22 episodes of season 9, finishing them up Monday morning before work. Watched the finale that night and was left with a feeling of, “that’s it?!”
I’ve come to grips with the HIMYM finale (more on that soon I promise, no spoilers) and after months of waiting for him to show his face again, I’ve made my peace with Punk as well. Having only seen most HIMYM episodes once at this point, and picking a favorite season on the fly, I’m going to go with Season 6. Oh, and is it a coincidence that Punk’s sixth season was during his 434 days as champion? Probably so, but just go with it.
From season 6 for both HIMYM and Punk, they still maintained a high quality in their work. They both threatened to leave at times (Season 9 almost didn’t happen with Jason Segel deciding at the last minute to return to the show; Punk’s leaving back in 2011 was a real thing until Creative gave him the ball and let him run it into a work, he took a month off after NY/NJ). They both struggled to find an audience upon their debuts. Every time that a faithful viewer or fan thought that HIMYM or Punk could potentially jump the shark, they would deliver a performance worthy of a standing ovation.
The main difference: like it or not, we got a How I Met Your Mother sendoff. Phil Brooks left us with a walkoff (and not the good kind). Thomas already ran down the rumors months ago, here’s what I saw from Punk’s appearance on Talking Dead.
- He’s healthy – Punk looks like he could step into a ring and not miss a beat. He also looks younger than his 35 years for the first time since before he came back after Mania last year. The time off is serving him well it seems.
- He seems perfectly okay with how he left the WWE – Punk canceled an appearance on Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick’s Comedy Central show @Midnight shortly after he left, probably because he was supposed to appear as Punk and he wanted as much distance from that name as possible. Otherwise, he’s just been enjoying life as he’s been absolutely quiet about his departure, at least around anyone who could report any disparaging remarks he may have said.
- He’s happy – I’ve never seen Punk this happy. He was happy after the pipebomb and Money In The Bank Chicago in 2011, and during the first part of his face run until Chris Jericho came back. But not THIS happy.
I was convinced Punk wasn’t coming back though. Knowing what I know of him since I became a fan, coming back just didn’t seem within his character. His contract is up in July as well, so what’s a few months early to him? I had started this column last week but decided to hold off on finishing it until Mania and Raw played out.
My favorite wrestler, CM Punk, wrote his own series finale.
What were his options? Had he stayed, he was sure to face Kane at Elimination Chamber after his Rumble elimination. Instead, we had Kane screwing Bryan out of the Elimination Chamber win, which Orton ultimately won. He was scripted to face Triple H at Mania. Instead, Bryan beat Trips at Mania and was entered into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, which he won.
Does Punk get that shot at the Title that Bryan got? Before Punk left, Bryan was tentatively scheduled to face Sheamus at Mania. Did Punk walk away from his goal of main eventing WrestleMania?!
Think about it, with Punk on the roster, the crowd still boos Batista relentlessly, killing any chance at him being a face. Creative would still realize they couldn’t sell Mania XXX with Orton/Batista in the main event by themselves. Does the Title match become a Fatal 4-Way with Punk and Bryan both needing to notch victories earlier in the night to get into the main event? Could WrestleMania have closed with Bryan tapping to an Anaconda Vice instead of Batista tapping to the Yes Lock?
No. But it would’ve been Punk submitting to the Yes Lock, not Batista.
Did The Streak have anything to do with his departure? He got shoehorned into a feud with The Undertaker at NY/NJ, and if Paul Bearer didn’t unfortunately pass away, they would’ve had no legs to go on. Remember, he won a Fatal 4-Way for the right to face Undertaker. That’s all Creative had.
“Well, The Rock beat CM Punk again and we have Rock/Cena II coming up. Who does The Undertaker face?”
“I think it be a good idea for Punk/Taker to face off. Just have Punk call him out saying that he wants The Streak since the WWE Universe cost him his WWE Title.”
“I got it! Let’s have Punk cut a promo about wanting to face Taker but still make him wrestle in a Fatal 4-Way! And let’s include 2 guys The Undertaker has already beaten at Mania! That’ll really get the feud started right!”
We know how the rest went down. Punk got to really show how great of a heel he is again (his previous heel run included all his matches having some kind of dusty finish where he would retain the WWE Title), he and Taker stole the show at Mania, and then he disappeared for a month.
While reports claim that only a few knew that Brock Lesnar would beat Taker this year, did Punk happen to find out? While it’s also been reported that Undertaker wanted Brock to end the Streak as far back as 2010, how would you react?
Here’s Punk who’s been busting his ass at Raw, house shows, Main Event, Superstars, SmackDown, monthly PPVs, not to mention the constant media appearances. Here’s Punk who carried the biggest Title in the company, the WWE Championship for 434 days, and main evented PPVs with it 4 times (2 of those times Cena was in the match. Cena wasn’t involved in the PPV at all the other two times). Here’s Punk who dropped the Belt to The Rock and carried him through not 1, but 2 PPV bouts as Rock had considerable ring rust upon his return (Creative actually let him main event these matches but only because of The Rock). Here’s Punk who spent the summer and fall of 2013 putting over everyone, including Brock Lesnar, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Ryback, Curtis Axel, and The Shield.
And you’re telling me that Brock gets to end the Streak? Not Punk last year? Not Punk this year? Regardless of Taker having the final choice, I’m sure Punk didn’t take this news well if he did hear of it ahead of the actual match taking place.
No. Punk probably didn’t care that Brock was ending the Streak. He and The Undertaker had an amazing chemistry for the short build they had going to NY/NJ, and I think it ranks up there as one of The Deadman’s best at WrestleMania. It doesn’t hurt that he had been able to carry Brock to one of his two watchable matches since his return (the other was Cena at Extreme Rules 2011) at SummerSlam in August as well, so he was probably okay with how this all went down.
I don’t believe he cared about how wrestlers would be paid for the WWE Network either. If Punk wants to wrestle, he’ll wrestle. And he’s close enough to Vince and Triple H that he would be properly compensated regardless.
Any other rumors I’m forgetting? Oh yeah, Alexander Rusev may have hurt him during the actual Rumble match. Nothing has come out that he was going to be held off of television due to a possible concussion. And maybe, Punk thought he had a concussion but the tests came back and said he didn’t. Maybe the infamous quote we heard was him protesting the results of the tests. Maybe they were trying to force Punk into action despite the fact that he wasn’t in any shape to go. After the awful reception the Rumble had gotten in Pittsburgh, maybe Creative were asking a lot out of Punk for the January 27th Raw…and he knew he wasn’t able to deliver the way he wanted to.
April 26 will mark three months since CM Punk was last seen in a WWE ring. So why do I think Punk decided to take his ball and go home?
He’s done with wrestling.
On his Best In The World DVD, he said that he didn’t sign his contract extension until during the Money In The Bank 2011 PPV. He walked into that PPV with all intentions of doing whatever the finish was and being done. I’m sure Creative came at him with the idea of his coming back for a WWE Title unification match and dropping the Belt and eventually regaining it. Seeing his chance, Punk probably negotiated a longer (I doubt 434 was in the contract) Title reign, and maybe even a (possible) match with The Undertaker. I bet “Cult Of Personality” was in there as well.
What I’m getting at is, when it came down to it, WWE offered him a deal that was too good to resist. His contract extension upped his profile and made him a ton of more money. He got to hold the WWE Title, something he had barely sniffed before the pipebomb. He wrestled the best the WWE had to offer. The only thing he didn’t get to do was main event WrestleMania.
When Punk walked out of the WWE that was the day he decided he was okay with not main eventing Mania and ending his WWE career. If he fulfilled the rest of his contract, who’s to say he would be able to walk away from the next deal WWE offered him? He wants to rent a car and drive across the country. He may want to try some MMA (I HIGHLY doubt we’ll see Punk in the UFC). We know now that he wants to actually give marriage a shot.
CM Punk left WWE so that he could live a normal life again. As a wrestler since he’s teens, he hasn’t had much of chance to lead one. By leaving when he did, he left Creative with plenty of time to figure out a backup plan of Mania (which worked out masterfully). By leaving when he did, he put the Belt on Daniel Bryan (because all signs did not point to Bryan getting the Belt yet immediately after the Royal Rumble. By leaving when he did, it helped give Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns more screen time to show just how good they are. By leaving when he did, he gave Triple H the chance to be one of the main reasons WrestleMania XXX worked as well as it did (more on this later too). Hell, by leaving when he did, he left the door open for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, won by Cesaro (someone who Punk supported since he joined the main roster).
Raw was filled with familiar faces but also, a huge influx of new stars either had promos or wrestled. Bad News Barrett actually wrestled his first match since being repackaged. Alexander Rusev came out and impressed. The Shield stood tall with Daniel Bryan as Raw went off the air. Paige beat AJ for her Divas Title is her very first WWE match. Paul Heyman introduced Cesaro as the newest Paul Heyman Guy. It was a very “future forward” Raw.
By leaving when he did, Punk freed up those segments for new talent. And he always has said he’s a fan of younger talent being given a legitimate shot.
Despite leaving the company in January, Phil Brooks has just made the WWE super relevant again.
People are/were upset with the How I Met Your Mother finale, mostly because the creators stuck to the ending they wanted and didn’t cave to what the fans were demanding. People are/were upset (I was/still am one of them) when CM Punk walked out of the WWE. But as far as I can tell, he wanted to write his own ending. Didn’t want to be the guy who hung around too long and couldn’t stand in his later years. Wanted to have the Jordanesque final shot in 1998 but decided what rings he had was enough and called it a day.
Someday, he may return. More than likely, only to go into the Hall Of Fame (if he’s not blackballed). And I don’t see him wrestling anywhere else either.
The Best In The World has signed off for the last time. And all of us in the studio audience should give him a standing ovation.