On June 27 of this year, we will be seven years removed from CM Punk’s “Pipe Bomb” promo on WWE Raw from Las Vegas.
Punk was defeated Saturday night at UFC 225 in Chicago and almost instantly there was a clambering for his return to pro wrestling on Twitter.
I was at one point a huge Punk fan. I wanted to see him return after WrestleMania 30.
I loved his “shoot-style” promos with Vince McMahon, Triple H and Kevin Nash during the Summer and Fall of 2011. The fans got behind him because he was voicing their frustrations during that period. The main event of WrestleMania that year was John Cena challenging The Miz for the WWE Championship. The event was built around the return to the company of The Rock and was less about the title match.
One month later, WWE Extreme Rules was headlined by a triple threat match with Cena, the Miz and John Morrison. Eight days prior to Punk’s infamous promo, WWE Capital Punishment was headlined by Cena and R-Truth. The undercard featured a World Title match pitting Randy Orton versus Christian and Punk in a singles match versus Rey Mysterio. The rest of the card was littered with mid-level guys such as: Santino Marella, Vladimir Kozlov, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Alex Riley, Ezekiel Jackson, Wade Barrett, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger.
This was before the WWE Network, where these shows carried a $30-$40 price tag.
The roster was paper thin.
The fan base was frustrated with the product and Punk’s comments embodied everything they wanted to say. Punk was an independent darling and was rumored to face Triple H at WrestleMania 30 before he walked out the night after the Royal Rumble 2014.
WWE has since signed the likes of Kevin Owens and Finn Balor in 2014 and had Daniel Bryan already in house. Each was also an independent darling. WWE signed AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura in early 2016 to further deepen their talent pool and consequently satisfy the thirst of the indy crowd.
In 2011, Punk stood out. In 2018, he is just another guy.
Punk did hold the WWE Title for 434 days before he dropped it to the Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble. AJ Styles has held the title for over 350 days over two title runs and has been pushed as hard as anyone by the WWE over the past two years. This could have been where Punk would have eventually been positioned. If Punk returned today, I could not fathom him being positioned higher than Styles or even Owens or Balor for that matter.
They could immediately feud him with Triple H and yes it would create a good television moment and make for some interesting headlines, but I don’t know how sustainable it would be. Punk’s love for the industry has been gone for over four years and no matter how badly some fans may want to overlook it, it is a big deal. Positioning Punk over the top of the current card and even the majority of the mid-card would create terrible employee morale. You can discuss Brock Lesnar’s lack of appearances in a calendar year all you want, some risks are worth the reward. It is not worth it in Punk’s case.
I give him all the credit in the world for stepping into the octagon. When he signed with the UFC in December 2014, his name still carried a lot of weight. After two mismatches in the UFC, that is no longer the case. His feuds with The Undertaker, Lesnar and Cena were great to see and at the time the best angles of the show.
However, the roster is so much deeper now than it was in 2011 or even 2014. It is so deep that guys like Balor and Seth Rollins aren’t even in the main event consistently.
Punk could make some money on the indy scene, but I don’t think it is something he wants or needs quite frankly.
Chad Dixon (@Dixon23rtr)