Welcome to another edition of The Main Event. I am your host, Don Franc, back with another column that you will all hopefully enjoy. I’ve just started a new job so time is very limited. Therefore, there won’t be an Undercard and Dark Match section this time around. With that being said, let’s get right to…
THE MAIN EVENT
As we should all know by now, CM Punk is a host on WWE Backstage. According to various sources, CM Punk is employed by Fox, not WWE. So at this very moment, he is not under contract with WWE, as far as we know. However, because he is appearing on a show that covers WWE content, one has to assume that some of the bad blood that CM Punk has with Vince and co. has subsided. If there were still major animosity between Punk and WWE, there would be no way Punk would want to appear on anything related to WWE. So clearly the heat between the two camps has died down a bit. And because of that, everybody and their dog is asking the same question: Will CM Punk return to a WWE ring as a wrestler?
Over the years CM Punk has made it a point to assure us that he would never step into a WWE ring ever again. But for a lot of us – as is arguably the case with Jon Moxley – a return to WWE for Punk just seemed inevitable somewhere down the line. Despite how things went down when CM Punk left the employ of WWE, nearly six years later things seemed to have been marginally smoothed over. Like I mentioned above, if the animosity between the two parties were as considerable as it was in 2014, there’s no way Punk would have agreed to be on a WWE show of any kind. So with that in mind, one would have to assume that the worst of the heat between CM Punk and WWE has cooled off. And I think it’s safe to say that the ball is now in Punk’s court where a return to a WWE ring is concerned.
However, would a CM Punk return as an in-ring competitor for WWE be worthwhile?
As hardcore wrestling fans the answer to that question would be a resounding yes. Punk has a fanbase akin to a cult following. Because of that, most hardcore fans would lose their shit if they were to hear the opening riff of “Cult of Personality” on WWE television, myself included. Punk has diehard fans who believe that he is the embodiment of what hardcore wrestling fans (i.e. the IWC) want. I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, but I do believe at times he stood for most of our ideals. For that reason, his name has echoed across many arenas long after he took his ball and went home. I don’t consider myself a diehard CM Punk fan, but I’m a fan of his nonetheless. So, of course, I’d be excited if he were to wrestle again.
Surely a return would create a buzz in the wrestling world as a whole. The buzz would be especially significant considering CM Punk’s history with WWE. Their history alone, coupled with a return to the place that caused Punk’s disenchantment with the pro-wrestling world would be a newsworthy story. Everybody likes a juicy story and what story would be juicier than CM Punk returning to WWE? Imagine fans who were clamoring for Punk for years finally get their wish. He would probably be trending on Twitter as soon as he showed up on the screen. A buzz is just what the wrestling world needs right now to inject some interest in a declining industry. AEW had that momentum but it fizzled out. Therefore it goes without saying that CM Punk could be the shot in the arm that the business needs. It should go without saying that the interest from the general wrestling population would peak.
Hardcore fans, casual fans and old fans alike would flock to their television screens to hear exactly what Punk has to say. After unceremoniously leaving WWE then trashing them for years afterward, ears would peak and the first words CM Punk speaks have the potential to be a game-changer. Questions like “Will Vince try to bury him because of their past?” and statements like “I hope WWE books him properly this time” will appear all over message boards and podcasts. Everybody will want to know what is going to happen next and that would definitely see an upswing in ratings.
With different types of fans all flocking in to see what CM Punk does on WWE television, this would undoubtedly result in an immediate increase in ratings. There is one problem, though. Short-term WWE would see a rating spike, but as I mentioned, with the wrestling industry being on a decline in recent years causing fans to lose interest quickly, that momentum could die down fairly quickly. The same thing that happened with AEW could happen to Punk. All the hype and momentum in the world, but after a few weeks, it goes back to the usual apathy toward the wrestling product as a whole. With that being said, this would be the ultimate test for CM Punk to prove that he is a legitimate draw. And I’m not referring to the initial excitement phase of Punk returning where ratings are sure to get a boost. I’m referring to when the momentum dies down, would CM Punk keep the fans that came back to see him?
Well, I suppose that would all depend on how WWE books Punk. Would WWE have the capability to book him correctly? It’s almost a certainty that fans would want him to address his exit and the ill-will he still has toward WWE. That story would need to be told to get the most out of a CM Punk return. WWE would need to get fans invested in the story revolving around CM Punk. From there it’s up to Punk to garner additional hype by his words and actions. And don’t forget, the act of a CM Punk return would impact the WWE as a whole. CM Punk would bring fans in, but the onus would then be on WWE and their booking team to give all those extra viewers something to come back for besides CM Punk. And that only comes with fantastic booking and WWE are more hit than miss in that regard.
With that being said, imagine all the mouth-watering opponents he has to face now. The likes of Seth Rollins, Ricochet, Andrade, AJ Styles and the like are all potentially great bouts. On paper, those matches seem great before the bell even rings. Although, how rusty is CM Punk in the squared circle? Sure, he trained as an MMA fighter but that was some time ago. I’m also sure as an athlete he continuously stayed in shape, but being in shape and being in-ring shape are two different things. There have been rumors that Punk wrestled under a mask here and there, but even if those rumors are true, you would still have to assume that Punk will show signs of ring rust. However, as great as Punk was in the ring, you’d think he’d be able to shake it off pretty quickly so I guess this is a moot point. Besides, the younger, more athletic guys can do the majority of the work anyway.
A burning question I have is if he were to return to the ring, would it be as a part-timer or a full-timer? I think this is the ultimate question. You see, if CM Punk returns as a full-timer, there are only so many years that he could still go. And because Punk has managed to stay out of the game this long, you’d have to think he wouldn’t want to be wrestling full-time. So, the only other option would be part-time. The problem is, if CM Punk were to come back as a part-time wrestler, that would then make him the ultimate hypocrite. One of the reasons he exiled himself from the wrestling industry is because of part-timers coming in and taking a wrestler’s spot, which is exactly what he would be doing if he comes back as anything but full-time. What kind of man would CM Punk be if he went down the part-time route? I will honestly see CM Punk as a hypocritical clown to put it frankly. Perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons a Punk return won’t happen. Phil Brooks comes across as a proud man, and to have him come back as a part-time wrestler after the stunt he pulled in 2014 would show him in a negative light.
One thing is for sure, a return to a WWE ring will definitely be worthwhile to CM Punk’s pocket. If Punk were to ever wrestle for WWE again it’s hard to imagine that the price wouldn’t be steep. CM Punk will ask out of this world money for a return to WWE and WWE will probably go for it; mainly because of the buzz that Punk will create. WWE knows they have no buzz now and they’ll surely pay millions to generate any form of significant buzz. CM Punk would probably be set for life after a WWE in-ring return. He will benefit the most out of a return. So if a return were to happen, CM Punk would be the biggest winner.
For all we know he is just trolling the fans and getting paid to do it. He would have to know that a return to WWE related content would have fans talking about an in-ring return. He could just be trolling us and WWE by giving out false hope. At the end of the day, a CM Punk return has the potential to be massive. However, I do believe that a CM Punk return will only be worthwhile in the short-term. Long-term the interest will fade as it always does in the wrestling industry (and much quicker at that!). WWE will experience a rating spike in the early weeks but based on WWE’s past inability to book anything hot, the fire that Punk would bring will die out sooner rather than later. It’s definitely worthwhile short-term, and I’m sure we will all be elated at the prospect of a Punk return. But before you know it, it will be business as usual in the WWE.
And that does it for this edition of The Main Event. I would love to know your thoughts on if you believe CM Punk will return to WWE in an in-ring capacity. And do you think a return for him would be worthwhile? Please leave a comment below. Alternatively, you can pop me an e-mail at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @donfranclop. Any and all feedback is always much appreciated. Next week we’ll take a look at why pro-wrestling needs WWE. But until then…
This is Don Franc signing out.