Should Punk's Exit Be Mine as Well?

Bloggified by Jake on Thursday, April 18, 2013

My daughter loves CM Punk. And as far as idols for an eleven-year-old girl go, I can think of a lot worse than a guy who has defied the odds and found success solely through hard work, who speaks up about the wrongs he sees, and who would rather walk away from something he loves to do than do it half-assed. Not to mention he maintains an alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle without coming off like those preachy, superficial "Just Say No" campaigns from when I was her age. She gets teased a lot at school because girls her age are supposed to like Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber--and they're not suppose to like wrestling--but CM Punk has taught her that being right is liable to get you booed by those who are wrong.

So the news that Punk would be out until August's Summerslam pay-per-view hit at our house a little harder than it probably did at yours. Punk tore some knee ligaments in his Wrestlemania match against Undertaker and though he won't need surgery, he will need rest and rehab. Furthermore, unlike football, basketball, or any other sport you can name, wrestling doesn't have an offseason. Punk and the rest of the regular WWE performers spend about 300 days a year away from home, so no one could fault him for wanting a little down time.

Rumors are buzzing, though, that Punk was unhappy backstage in the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania and wanted to leave the company altogether. Even though it sounds like a work (made up storyline) to me, it's believable enough to gain some traction. Punk's notorious "pipebomb" interview two years ago showed that a heavy dose of truth can be the best fiction of all, and these rumors play on many of the same themes: Punk is unhappy with the way WWE has handled his character. Punk was the company's top villain all year, yet at the top show of the year he was in the back watching John Cena and the Rock during the main event. Punk isn't getting the creative freedom he needs.

In light of Punk's 434 day reign as WWE champion and the promos he cut using the ashes of Undertaker's former manager and friend, the late Paul Bearer, as a prop leading up to Wrestlemania it's hard to argue the WWE doesn't respect him and/or isn't letting him push envelopes. Instead, the problem is everyone on the roster who isn't CM Punk or John Cena or a handful of other approved superstars. Punk's departure is worrisome not because the WWE doesn't have the talent to fill his spot, but because the WWE hasn't seemed willing to let that talent do so.

Tonight, my daughter suggested she might stop watching wrestling until August since CM Punk is currently the only reason she watches. I pointed out all the talent on the roster, including many other wrestlers she enjoys, but she was quick with a counterpoint.
Antonio Cesaro, quite possibly the most impressive wrestler in WWE over the last three months, has been made to lose time and again on TV to help legitimize others and build their storylines, then was left off the Wrestlemania card. Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes, who should be individual competitors in a stable, are, instead, stuck as tag team partners and were tossed into a who-cares, throw-a-bunch-of-names-in-a-hat, mixed gender, eight-person tag match at Wrestlemania that got scratched so Puff Daddy could do a medley of songs he sampled fifteen years ago. Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler, who should have been wrestling each other for the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania were, instead, competing for the Tag Team belts and undermining the entire tag team division by showing that two guys thrown together six months ago as a joke are better than any legitimate tag team, and, furthermore, the top contenders for the championship are two dudes, one of whom has never wrestled on WWE before.
Unfortunately, she's right. I continue to watch WWE because I love the performers and I love the potential, but more and more I hate their performances and wasted potential. Without CM Punk, will anyone be able to overcome the WWE's writing?

This season, I finally gave up on "Walking Dead." I learned my lesson with "Lost" and am not eager to repeat it. In both cases, rabid fan bases ignore the salient fact that the show they want ever so badly to use all the tools at its disposal and be great is not very good. Every decent episode of "Walking Dead" is considered proof that the producers have learned their lesson, are finally on the right track, and that everything is going to be perfect moving forward. Then the next three terrible episodes are written off as minor speed bumps that aren't too bad just because the characters are unlikeable and inconsistently written and the action makes no sense. Instead, they focus on the actors' performances elsewhere or the writers' skills on other shows or the comic book which would seem a perfect blueprint for the show if only they'd actually follow it.

Will CM Punk's departure finally serve as the exit I've been both looking for and simultaneously ignoring? Or will it prove the launching pad for the performers I named above and others to fill the gaps left by Punk both in the ring and on the microphone, finally giving us a show that uses its stars to their potential on a weekly basis and sends fans home satisfied?

I guess I'll give it a few more weeks to decide.

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