A Non-Wrestling Fan’s Guide To Why CM Punk, One Of The Sport’s Biggest Stars, Just Quit Abruptly

Well, he may have quit. More on that in a sec.

Hello, non-wrestling fan. I’m Brandon Stroud, a guy who writes way too much about wrestling on the Internet, especially when he’s supposed to be running a legitimate, mainstream sports comedy blog. This week you’ve probably heard things like, “CM Punk quit WWE!” and seen it reported on TMZ, or maybe you follow some folks on Twitter who’ve typed :((((( a bunch and quoted AFI’s ‘Miseria Cantare’ in mournful tones. What I’m aiming to do here is give you the gist about what’s going on with Punk and WWE so you can stay on top of the pop culture sports-ish news, and maybe become interested enough in it to delve a little deeper and help the rest of us figure out exactly what the hell is going on.

If you’re a wrestling fan and you’re reading this, fist-bumpies. I’ll make sure to throw in some jokes you’ll get.


Who Is CM Punk?: First of all, he’s a pro wrestler. Most wrestling fans get that it’s not on the level and is more TV show than combat sports, so don’t worry about that. Second of all, picture “pro wrestler” in your head. You probably pictured a big, muscular, oiled up and burnt sienna type like Hulk Hogan, shouting about steel cage matches or whatever. Maybe a guy like Ultimate Warrior, snorting and wearing face paint. Punk is sorta … the opposite of that. He’s an average-sized guy. He’s in average shape. He’s great at public speaking. Think of it this way: he’s sorta the Jim Halpert of pro wrestling. An average guy who is probably way too cool and talented to be in such a weird job. He’s easy to identify with, because he’s someone you could be. If you were cooler, though. He’s got a lot of tattoos and knows about obscure old punk bands.

Why Is His Name CM Punk? What Does The CM Stand For?: I’m not gonna do a full FAQ on the life of CM Punk, but he was originally in a team called the “Chick Magnets” (hence the “CM” abbreviation) and he liked punk music so he was CM Punk. He just kept it, and ended up being a popular millionaire. Now the CM stands for a bunch of different stuff. It’s not important.

What Happened?: For whatever reason, CM Punk, a former WWE Champion and one of the most popular performers in the company, unexpectedly left it. As the (unconfirmed) story goes, Punk approached WWE chairman Vince McMahon before Monday’s episode of WWE Raw, their flagship weekly television show, the night after their Royal Rumble pay-per-view event and announced that he was “going home.” He left, was not included in Monday’s show, and was subsequently pulled from many of his previously announced upcoming dates. He’s still under contract until July, but as of now, he’s not an active part of WWE.

Did He Quit Because He Got Beaten Up By A Midget In A Bull Costume?:

No. How do you know about that?

Why Is CM Punk Leaving WWE Important?: A few reasons, including:

1. He’s popular. Really popular. Do you know anybody who likes Doctor Who? You know how people who like that show seem really irrational about how much they love it, and if you mention anything bad about it they get crazy-faced and mad at you? You know, as opposed to somebody who likes, say, Friends? Those are CM Punk fans. Rabid. Defensive. (And for the record, the WWE fan equivalent of Friends fans is fans people who like Rey Mysterio. They just go “Rey Rey!” and that’s pretty much it.)

2. WWE’s about to launch the WWE Network, a 24/7 “way over the top” live streaming and archived content network full of new and old wrestling shows, on February 24th. Losing one of their biggest and most marketable stars, especially one from a more recent generation and not a callback to wrestling’s more popular days in the 1980s or 1990s, is huge.

3. WWE’s biggest show of the year — and possibly their biggest show ever — is slated for April 6th. WrestleMania XXX. Yep, they’ve had thirty of them. Not having one of its biggest and most marketable stars for its biggest and most marketed show is also huge.

4. He was involved in a lot of on-screen stories and reportedly slated for a match at WrestleMania. Now, if he’s gone, those are all off and everything has to be reshuffled. So it’s disappointing to fans, and a pain in the ass to the company.

WHY Did He Leave?: Good question. Nobody’s totally sure about this.

You’ll read a different, probably-updated report about this every day on what wrestling fans know as “dirt sheets.” The dirt sheets are a vague, endless group of pro wrestling news websites that all copy and paste in news from the two or three wrestling sites that legitimately report it. No perspective, nothing to add, no jokes or commentary. They don’t even change the words. They just copy and paste it onto a page with about 40 ads on it and (I’m assuming) sleep on piles of money.

The general consensus is that Punk was burned out. Tired of being on the road. WWE types travel 300 days a year, sometimes more, and the act of hurting yourself for someone’s entertainment over and over and over around the world with only 60 or so days off a year can be agonizing. Punk was visibly tired, and didn’t seem motivated.

Another reason that’s been reported is that he’d either suffered a concussion and was mad about it, or HADN’T suffered one but was being pestered about the possibility that he had. According to Casey Kulas of ESPN Cleveland and The Q, Punk and others close to him got into a heated argument backstage at Raw about it, yelling and cursing about how he’d passed their “f*cking concussion tests” and didn’t want to “go out there and tell the fans this shit.”

Another rumor (there are many) was that Punk was dissatisfied with the quality of stories he’d been in lately, and in the fact that his match at WrestleMania XXX, projected to be against WWE COO and part-time wrestler Triple H, wouldn’t be a main-event. Punk has been extremely vocal about his dissatisfaction in the past, so much so that it was once turned into a popular, onscreen story that made Jim Rome question whether or not wrestling was real. Spoiler alert: it still isn’t.

So If Wrestling Isn’t Real And They’ve Turned Punk’s Dissatisfaction Into A Story Before, Is THIS Real?: Ah, there’s the rub.

According to a lot of folks (including yours truly) it isn’t. It’s almost impossible to know in pro wrestling, especially now that WWE is working so hard to use social media and sites like TMZ as tools to further blur the lines between fiction and reality, sorta reverting wrestling fandom back to those halcyon days when the only people watching were shouting rednecks who’d punch you if you said it was fake.

Well Why Wouldn’t It Be Real?: Let’s recap the explanations for why he left, and think about them constructively.

Punk was burned out. Yeah, but he’s always been burned out. He was burned out on the independent wrestling circuit. He was burned out a few years ago when his real-life frustrations were turned into an onscreen story. Every year or two he gives an interview about how he’s “probably going to retire” in a few years. He’s just that type of dude. He loves what he does, but a lot of it frustrated and tires him. It’s one of those things that makes him easy to identify with, but is also probably really maddening for him.

Another important thing to remember is that his contract is up in July. Would you work for several years without fail and then quit abruptly only six months from the end of your contract? And on that note, why would you quit the day after a pay-per-view that is colloquially known as the “first stop on the road to WrestleMania,” the time when WWE is most obvious and purposeful in its storytelling? Doesn’t it seem like a popular wrestler who is routinely in-character unhappy with how management runs the show have a great story if he decided to walk out and quit right before their biggest show ever? Especially a show where the primary story is “the bosses are weird and mean to people at the expense of the fans and the show.”

As for the concussion, that’s just not true. WWE denies all of it. But is WWE telling the truth? Was it a red herring? Is it just somebody making something up and people believing it because they never hear the follow-up? You’re starting to understand how difficult it is to confirm or believe anything in pro wrestling, right?

Punk’s dissatisfaction with his current character and storyline is the most telling thing of all. That’s almost exclusively the story WWE tells right now. There’s an incredibly popular wrestler named Daniel Bryan (he’s the one who’s great, and has a beard … okay, the small one who is great and bearded and makes everybody yell YES. You’ve seen it.), and his onscreen story is that he’s trying hard and is loved by the crowd, but “management” doesn’t want him to succeed because he doesn’t fit their mold of how a WWE Superstar should look. TMZ recently reported a Raw storyline as news in regard to Bryan, saying WWE “didn’t want him” in the Royal Rumble match. Dissatisfaction with management. Wanting to give up. Oh, and Bryan recently teamed with Punk to try to solve this problem.

My Head Hurts. Why Do You Watch This?: Wrestling is a stupid show for dumb idiot babies, but talking and worrying about it constructively are the most fun things in the world. You get into the fake histories and lives of these fictional character as they travel the world, getting into fights that could easily be solved with some reason and sanity but always end in chair fights and broken tables. It’s weird. It rarely makes sense.

So Did Punk Quit, Or Is He Sticking Around? Is It Real, Or Story?: It’s both, honestly. No matter what the outcome, it’s both. If he really quit, it’ll be used in somebody’s story, somewhere. Punk’s, even, if he really quit but ever wants to come back. If it’s part of the story, it’s real enough to people that they’ll believe it, and carry their belief that it was real for years and years. Wrestling storytelling is evolutionary, with no real ending. It just continues and changes and morphs and moves on. Fake is real and real is fake and honestly? It doesn’t matter.

It Doesn’t Matter?: Nope. Not unless you’re Punk. The idea that Punk is “totally finished” with wrestling is pretty absurd. Nobody’s totally finished with wrestling once they start doing it. If the building or the name on the marquee changes so be it, but c’mon.

Can’t We Just Ask Punk?: Punk has thanked fans for their support and done some light complaining about WWE management and how unhappy he was/is/plans to be, but we haven’t gotten anything major. Big albino Irish guy Sheamus is replacing him on all future WWE shows (for now), but Punk’s got an announced mid-February appearance on @midnight. Maybe we’ll know what’s going on by then.

Or maybe we won’t. Again with the talking and worrying about it.

I’m Gonna Go Watch Shark Tank Now, Enjoy Your Weird Hobby: All right, talk to you later.