Why a CM Punk return could lead to another wrestling boom period
On the 13th July 2018, New Japan and Ring of Honor announced they will host a joint event at Madison Square Garden on the 6th April 2019. The event will take place on WWE’s Wrestlemania weekend opposite WWE’s NXT Takeover event.
MSG is WWE’s spiritual home and has not played host to a wrestling event for any company other than WWE for decades.
This is a bold and aggressive move. It is the first time WWE has been wounded by an opposing wrestling company in over 20 years.
The question now is, just how far can New Japan and Ring of Honor would the premier wrestling company in the world on the 6th April 2019? One name could make all the difference. One man could cause the show to progress from a mild inconvenience to a full-blown body blow.
The wrestler in question is Chicago’s own CM Punk.
Whether Punk has any interest in returning to wrestling is debatable, however, one thing that would surely interest Punk is getting one over on his former employer; given the treatment they have subjected him to since his final appearance for the company at the Royal Rumble event back in 2014.
On the post-Royal Rumble Raw on the 27th January 2014, Punk requested a meeting with WWE owner, Vince McMahon. Punk complained about his position in the company and the standard of the healthcare he was receiving by WWE’s medical team due to a large abscess at the bottom of his back that the doctors had refused to remove.
McMahon’s response so displeased Punk that he walked out of the company, never to return.
The feeling within wrestling was that after months away from the daily grind of WWE’s heavy travel schedule and politics that a refreshed Punk would build bridges and return to the company. However, this did not happen. The reason? An act of malicious pettiness on WWE’s part.
On the 13th June 2014, CM Punk’s wedding day, he was served with his termination papers from WWE. He was fired. Given his contract expired just a few short weeks later, it was a firing that needn’t have taken place. Also, considering Punk had walked out of the company five months earlier, the general consensus was if WWE had planned to sack him, why wait till June?
When questioned on this in an interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin, McMahon alleged that Punk being served his termination papers on the day of his wedding was “an unfortunate coincidence.”
In November 2014, Punk finally broke his silence on his final months in WWE, in particular, his issues with an undiagnosed staph infection, the abscess on his lower back, which he said had very nearly killed him. Punk stated due to this and the wedding episode, he would never return to WWE.
Weeks later, Punk inked a lucrative deal with the UFC and began training for an MMA career. At 38 years old, Punk’s chances of success in the world of legitimate fighting seemed slim at best. Punk had no prior experience in amateur wrestling or martial arts and would have to learn the sport from scratch. Considering he would be fighting far more experienced and much younger opponents in the world’s largest MMA organization, this was an endeavor that could only ever be a short-term arrangement.
Despite his limited prospects. Punk threw himself into his new career, training with the legendary Gracie family. However, his debut fight against the younger, stronger Mickey Gall ended in humiliating fashion. Punk was overwhelmed and submitted in just over two minutes.
Nevertheless, Punk persevered and earned the opportunity for a second fight. His opponent this time was a man also humiliated by Gall in his previous MMA fight, Mike Jackson.
So, at UFC 225 which hailed from Chicago, Punk had an opportunity against a man who also held an MMA record of 0-1. Despite a decent first round showing, Punk was battered at will in the second and third rounds. Punk displayed no ground defense or offense skills and really should have been finished off by his opponent.
Jackson appeared to take great pleasure in mocking Punk’s inabilities to combat his offense and displayed no urgency in ending the fight which he won by unanimous decision. UFC president, Dana White was so enraged by Jackson’s conduct that he vowed never to book him on a UFC card again.
The bad feeling between Punk and WWE is at an all-time low. Despite his failure in the Octagon, Punk’s respected reputation remains in wrestling where many yearn for his return. Although a WWE return is completely off the cards, there are other exciting opportunities for Punk should he choose to make a wrestling comeback. Despite Punk’s failure, in truth he was heavily distracted in the run-up to his bout by Jackson in the latest display of WWE pettiness towards him. Following the November 2014 podcast with Cabana in which Punk referenced WWE’s medical team, although he never mentioned anyone by name, it so enraged WWE doctor, Chris Amann (the man who misdiagnosed Punk’s abscess), that he filed a frivolous lawsuit against both Punk and Cabana seeking an incredibly optimistic $4 million in damages.
It is incredible that Amann’s lawsuit even reached court. That it was financed by WWE, displays what the likely motivation was that for it being filed in the first place. Amann claimed that his reputation had been irrevocably damaged by the podcast, but given the fact he had never been mentioned by name, what Punk had stated regarding his health was accurate and the fact that Amann was still employed by WWE and testified to the fact that he had not been treated differently by anyone following the podcast, this argument did not hold water. Amann’s motivation by his own admission was that his feelings were hurt. Punk and Cabana, unsurprisingly were not held liable in the defamation lawsuit, for upsetting the WWE doctor.
On the 1st September 2018, former WWE superstar, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks have sold out the Sears Center in Illinois, for their “All In” event, just 25 miles away from Punk’s hometown of Chicago, which will be the biggest independent show of all time. Punk is already confirmed to be at a meet and greet autograph signing nearby the previous day.
Could Punk make his first appearance at a wrestling show since January 2014 there? It is a possibility. Might he deliver a promo or participate in an angle leading to further wrestling appearances? Again, it is eminently possible, however, it is difficult to gauge Punk’s current interest in pro-wrestling, however, perhaps Punk’s lack of interest in wrestling currently is due entirely to WWE. Maybe the opportunity to be a major player for the opposition would appeal to the former WWE Champion.
The most exciting prospect though is the small matter of the joint Ring of Honor/New Japan event from MSG. Without question, a CM Punk main event on that card would be massive for the industry. New Japan and Ring of Honor have made strides in America in recent months and a major star like Punk spearheading that charge could lead to a wrestling boom period not seen in two decades.
Make no mistake that would be competition WWE has not experienced since WCW’s heyday. No question, Punk would like to be the Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage of the modern era. The former WWE Superstar who provides them their greatest competition. Here’s hoping Punk will be “all in” and the industry as a whole will benefit.
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