LaBar: CM Punk has responsibility to WWE
It's been almost a week of “CM Punk Watch 2014.” The best in the world is acting like a child.
Punk walked out on WWE last week after reportedly a list of things he's been unhappy about pushed him over the edge.
The final straw was Batista's return to WWE after a four-year absence. No problem with Batista personally, but Punk wasn't happy Batista was booked to win the Royal Rumble, which will put him in the main event of WrestleMania for the WWE Championship. This incident reportedly was the final one in a long list of complaints Punk's had regarding creative decisions by WWE.
I've always applauded Punk's love for wrestling and care for it to be presented correctly. That same love, though, has become a downfall.
Punk got mad, so he took his toys and went home. The guy has made millions of dollars. Reality is he can do what he wants. He's earned the financial security.
However, financial security doesn't make him immune to doing the right thing.
Punk has worked a lot of shows, taken a lot of bumps and worked hurt. Thing is, so have a lot of other guys. Punk is one of the best I'll ever see in my lifetime. This isn't a question of talent. This is a question of character.
How many other guys on the WWE roster do you think have been frustrated with their booking or the overall creative direction? I'm sure everyone at some point or another. We don't hear about them walking out on the company.
We're talking about a large portion of a roster that has guaranteed money in their yearly contracts, and those contracts aren't worth as much as Punk's royalty checks. Think about that for a second.
Many fans seem to not want to accept Punk's departure as legitimate. Fans either think this is a big storyline angle or that he will be back on television this week after a few days to calm down. I don't think so. If this is a work, only Punk knows it.
Punk's a huge commodity for WWE. He could gain leverage out of this entire situation. He might be acting like a child, but he's not dumb. He knows his stock is going up at the moment with all of the buzz surrounding him.
I wonder what it will take to get him back to WWE and when.
I've been writing and saying since October 2012 that Punk will be retired from wrestling by some point in 2015. He's not the type to be still working at the age of 50 or attending every convention possible to sell a few pictures from his glory days. He's earned that career freedom.
The one goal he's wanted to accomplish is main event WrestleMania. He's gone to the event as the WWE Champion, but wasn't the headline as The Rock versus John Cena took precedent. He's gone to the event as the challenger for The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak. Once again, The Rock and John Cena, that time with the WWE title, took precedent that year.
If he hasn't headlined the event yet, what will it take? A dream match against his dream opponent in Stone Cold Steve Austin is about the only thing I can think of worthy to trump WWE's other WrestleMania attractions.
Ironically, Austin walked out on WWE in 2002 over a creative dispute. In addition to being unhappy with the overall creative direction of his character, Austin didn't want to lose to Brock Lesnar in an unadvertised King of the Ring qualifying match. He would return for the next year and take part in his final WrestleMania match.
Again, if this is all a big elaborate plan, only Punk knows.
WWE is mad and rightfully so. It's three weeks away from the launch of its long-awaited network. It's WrestleMania season and the company already is dealing with public backlash of Daniel Bryan's booking. This couldn't have come at a more chaotic time.
Supposedly, WWE wanted to try to keep this an internal matter, but Punk's walking out got leaked in a matter of a day. The best move WWE can make is address the situation publicly. It did the same with Austin in 2002. Until it acknowledges it, the situation will remain a story.
Some fans will remain loyal to Punk. They'll feel WWE creative is bad and he had every right to do what he did. If you think that, you're wrong.
We can all think WWE creative is bad at times, but it doesn't justify walking out in the middle of your contract. A contract and company which has gotten you a life better than most others will ever get out of wrestling.
Those most others might not be as talented as Punk, but at least they know how to do the right thing.
If not wrestling anymore is what makes Punk the happiest at this point, good for him. He just should have waited until July when his deal expired. Give the company the proper notice. Give your fans the proper send off.
WWE should make a public statement on Punk's actions. Make a statement and once Punk doesn't come out in typical wrestling storyline fashion, people might get the point.
It will help people move on from this and accept it's a real situation. WWE can either take some of Punk's leverage away if some people don't respond well to hearing of his walking out, or it sets up a backstory for WWE to use down the line if this ever gets capitalized into a television storyline.
If Punk ever returns, how could this not be used?
I doubt we've seen the last of Punk. He will eventually return. WWE's mended worst broken bridges over troubled water before.
How he's viewed by his peers once he returns, that's a different conversation.
Justin LaBar's pro wrestling column appears Monday and Friday on triblive.com.