For CM Punk being ‘the voice of the voiceless’ was not just some gimmick to sell a few t-shirts, he legitimately saw himself as a man who had the balls to stand up to the system on behalf of the fans. A man who would openly question his bosses where others were afraid to, who would sacrifice his own spot by speaking up for talent he believed were being held back or unjustly treated. Even this time last year when he was given the honor of challenging the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, he showed up at the press conference sporting a Antonio Cesaro t-shirt in protest of Cesaro’s relegation from the card.
Apparently the day after the Royal Rumble pay-per-view Punk unexpectedly quit WWE. The straw that broke the camel’s back appears to have been the manner in which Batista just walked back into the company after a 4 year absence and handed the treasured main event spot at WrestleMania.
Once it became clear that Dwayne Johnson would not be willing to wrestle on the super show for a third year running, there was hope that Vince McMahon would get back to doing what for years he claimed to do, listen to his audience. If he really is listening to his audience, one has to question the chairman’s hearing, unless he thinks those ‘Yes’ chants are intended for someone else. While Daniel Bryan became a two time WWE champion in 2013 and is now a consistent face in main events on Raw and Smackdown he has yet to have the last laugh over The Authority like all good babyfaces should. Many felt that WrestleMania was the perfect place for that to happen with Punk being a tempting opponent. A match between those two would please those diehard fans who have been left unsatisfied the last few Manias. WWE could still have gone ahead with Batista vs Orton, due to their Evolution history the Animal is a natural fit into the Authority storyline. It doesn’t need the title to sell it. Evidently though Batista’s friendship with HHH, his growing movie career and the body building physique his bosses are obsessed with saw him jump to the front of the queue. Certainly no one can say that Batista has shown more passion for the industry then the likes of Punk or Daniel Bryan in the last 4 years.
Not that Bryan and Punk were going to be neglected at Mania. Both were heavily tipped to face HHH and even Shawn Michaels if HBK could be talked out of retirement. Whoever they faced, it’s safe to say they were guaranteed a marquee match which would have earnt a huge pay off.
However even when facing Undertaker 12 months ago Punk spoke of not being satisfied until he was chosen to main event the biggest show of the year, it was one of his last career objectives. Considering just how over Punk and Bryan have been, if they still can’t reach the final match on the card, it begs the question, can it ever happen?
Of course there is still the Elimination Chamber where WWE can right a few wrongs. Bryan will again be the people’s choice to be champion but him defending the title at WrestleMania would not have the power of him chasing his dream. Brock Lesnar has insisted since his return that he is the unofficial number one contender, where does he fit into the title picture? One things for sure if WWE does not tweak its original plans then they could have the embarrassment of their babyface being booed on the 30th anniversary of their show or worse, overshadowed by CM Punk and Daniel Bryan chants. If hardcore fans at the Royal Rumble are willing to overshadow Batista and Orton’s wins then why wouldn’t they when traditionally the smart fans turn out in their droves for Mania.
At least the powers that be have been given time to change direction although they may have to swallow their egos and admit they got a few things wrong, a big one being Batista was not wanted back as much as they imagined or hoped.
Punk of course has done this before, in 2011 he was smart enough to realize that he was so over that he held all the cards in his negotiations over a new contract. Both on TV and in reality Punk demanded change and to be fair to WWE they went out of their way to make the Straight Edge Superstar feel valued. Punk was handed a famous year long WWE title reign, a highly successful DVD, greater creative licence and freedom to say what he wanted. His view on all of these part timers coming out of semi-retirement seemed to fade away when it meant that he benefited financially. Punk willingly lost twice to the Rock, Undertaker and Brock Lesnar on pay-per-view, in the process earning more money than he ever thought was possible.
Never dressing, acting or looking like Vince McMahon’s idealistic face of the WWE you have to believe that the boss and those around him personally did not appreciate the way Punk had them over a barrel in 2011. Professionally they had no choice but to do business with ‘the best in the word’. While McMahon and HHH will no doubt do everything in their power to seek a change of heart they may feel that Punk doesn’t hold all the cards like he once did.
The irony is that while one of the reasons for Punk leaving might have been in protest for his friend Bryan, an argument could be made that Bryan has replaced him as the company’s number one babyface. The McMahons will want Punk to stay and you can bet that audiences will be reminding them of Punk’s absense but they won’t be blackmailed like last time and may take the opportunity to teach him a lesson. Better wrestlers have chosen to take on the boss and although some earnt a small gain, Mr McMahon always gets the last laugh. And in this writers opinion there lies half the problem.
Punk has been very good, just not as good as he thinks he is. For all of Punk’s criticism of John Cena over the years, whether cheered or booed Cena can argue that he is a name that fans pay to watch. Ask yourself, in Punk’s matches with Taker, The Rock and Lesnar was Punk the man selling the tickets or his opponent. Punk is no Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold or Shawn Michaels. If Mr McMahon wasn’t willing to be held to ransom by them he won’t be by someone who in truth he has never seen the appeal in. For the last few years Punk has been the modern day Bret Hart. Very good but in danger of being remembered for becoming bitter and suffering from a sense of self entitlement.
Maybe it’s as simple as a man who is no longer happy going to work. For a man who has been a main eventer for the last few years he has clearly been unhappy recently. He has the money to if legitimately depressed, take his ball and go home, not needing to wait around for the WrestleMania pay off.
Whether this is a work as some are saying or another statement being made by ‘the voice of the voiceless’ Punk may finally find out that no one is bigger than WWE.