On January 27, 2014, the day after the Royal Rumble, CM Punk quit the WWE. Annoyed at the creative direction heading into WrestleMania season and having a body racked with injuries made for a perfect storm of reasons for Punk to just walk out on the company that helped make him a globally known name (whether that was something he wanted or not only he knows), and a very wealthy man (which of course he enjoys).
After almost six years away, he has inked a deal with Fox to be a part of their FS1 series, WWE Backstage. He will intermittently turn up to offer his analysis on the product. So he’s back, but as of this writing, not really. Here are 10 questions we have after CM Punk's surprise return to FOX.
10 Will His Contract Allow Him To Wrestle?
In the wake of him walking out, CM Punk chants rang across every arena in the world. Just like the “What?” chants, they still haven’t gone away. Punk is back in the wrestling world now and the obvious question is, will he seek a return to the ring? If he does, will it be full-time or just on a part-time basis? Does his new Fox contract actually allow him to compete?
Plenty of talent contracts have clauses about competing and getting hurt, so until if and when we know the details of his contract, it’s not even apparent that he would be allowed to perform.
9 Will He Fight In UFC Again?
After he walked out on his WWE contract, Punk laid dormant for several months before declaring that he had signed a deal with UFC. It would take a lot of training for nearly two years, but Punk finally debuted and subsequently got “punked” out by Mickey Gall.
He would also lose his second bout fairly quickly. At 41 years old, he feels he might actually have one more fight in him and recently stated that he thought Dana White would actually still want to promote it.
8 What Are His Feelings Towards WWE?
Imagine getting “fired” on your wedding day. “Fired” because CM Punk quit the WWE by walking out on them. So which came first: the Straightedge Chicken or the Corporate Egg? He lambasted the company (or at least gave his account of working there) and had successfully won his lawsuit against their doctor.
Vince McMahon offered what Punk believed was the most half-hearted of apologies on a Stone Cold podcast. Time can heal all wounds, but these are severe (physical and emotional) wounds we're talking about. It will be interesting to see how he feels about the company and those who run it moving forward.
7 Can He Work For Any Promotion?
It's only been a few months since CM Punk was the talk of the wrestling community again. He was slated to and had made an appearance at Starrcast in his hometown of Chicago, as part of AEW’s All Out weekend.
Speculation was rampant that he would sign with the new promotion, until it didn’t happen. But depending on what his contract status is with Fox, Tony Kahn might make a really hard play to nab the Straightedge Superstar.
6 What Will Happen To AJ Lee?
On June 13, 2014 AJ Lee and CM Punk got married and CM Punk got his official firing notice from the WWE. Lee felt caught in the middle of a bad situation. Between that and her wrestling-related injuries, she retired as well.
Even if her husband doesn’t jump back in the ring, AJ Lee could theoretically make a comeback as well if she wanted. After all, she'd have an easy story angle to justify her return and she started the Women's Evolution. If any female WWE star deserves another shot, it's AJ Lee.
5 How Does The WWE Brass Feel?
Openly, the WWE has done nothing but bless and praise the idea of Punk working on Backstage. But to be honest, what else were they going to do? Condemn their brand new and lucrative partnership just because the guy who (justifiably) bit the hand that fed him is back on the air with them?
Like it or not, the WWE is in a no-win spot. If Punk helps draw viewers to what is essentially a slick production of “This Week In WWE,” everyone’s a winner. If he does nothing to help ratings, WWE can take a “told you so”’attitude but it runs the risk of losing fans again. Based on all the turmoil surrounding the situation, it’s easy to imagine a few people in corporate being a little more than non-plussed about the news.
4 Who’s Next?
For the first time in a long time - if ever, if we're being honest - the WWE has found itself in a unique position. Someone with some form of product knowledge and not contracted to the company will be discussing the product on a fairly consistent basis, moreso than before.
If this surprise move proves to be successful, perhaps Fox might start thinking who else with ties to wrestling but not contracted to any company could be part of a wrestling show? Who knows?
3 Will He Become A Smackdown Guy?
WWE Backstage is on FS1, Smackdown is on Fox. Should Punk seek an in-ring return, he’s clearly going to be a part of Smackdown to protect the network’s investment.
Does that mean we won’t be seeing Punk on Raw at all, no reunion with Paul Heyman to make more wonderful music together? Perhaps the Firefly Fun House will show up on Backstage. Only time will tell.
2 Will His Return Affect Ratings?
CM Punk has been gone five years and almost eleven months. Even before that, crowds would chant his name. Once he left, the chants still rang throughout arenas. As far as his fans were concerned, he's been gone forever.
Now that the Cult Of Personality is back, it will be interesting to see how many more people watch either (or both) Raw and Smackdown, hoping that he shows up on either show. How will his return affect the ratings of these wrestling shows and more importantly, his own show?
1 How Will He Actually Do?
It goes without saying that CM Punk is one of the best men on the microphone in the past 30 years or so. He was also pretty good in the ring and charismatic enough to capture the hearts and minds of plenty of fans. But how will CM Punk The Host actually do?
That all remains to be seen. All signs point to a memorable run, but if for some reason he stinks, we’ll see Fox can him sooner than later.