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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - Will AJ Lee Convince CM Punk to Return to WWE?
By Mr. Tito
Jul 5, 2014 - 3:02:38 PM
Happy 4th of July weekend, everyone! I hope that all of my readers have a safe and enjoyable holiday. It's one of those few holidays that almost everyone celebrates without fear of how politically correct the holiday is or not. Who doesn't love eating hamburgers or hotdogs while watching fireworks in the sky? Plus, you get the Nathan's Hotdog Eating contest...
Anyway - I keep getting requests to comment on AJ Lee's RAW return and how she might be able to lure her real life husband, CM Punk, back to the WWE. After writing an actual Money in the Bank review, I wanted to go "off the grid" and write something different for my regular weekly column. As you noticed, I discussed the tragedy of 5 former WWE World Champions and how the WWE has made them practically worthless on the WWE roster right now in my last column. But my readers are persistent. I keep getting asked about AJ Lee and CM Punk.
Fine... I'll write that column. Why? Because I like you...
First of all, I thought that it was pretty shocking for AJ Lee to appear unannounced and then instantly win the Divas Title against Paige. Didn't expect to see it especially in light of the pregnancy rumors that were spreading throughout the internet. In addition, she was married to CM Punk and many thought that she might "retire" too from the WWE. That's not the case... She returned in ripped shape (those abs!) and beat Paige on her first night back AND in her first match as Mrs. CM Punk. Many thought that AJ Lee would be punished for CM Punk's issues with the WWE, but that was not the case. WWE has had a few married couples in the past where one of the spouses had heat with the WWE while the WWE worked with the other just fine (my old memory is harming me from giving an example and I don't want to guess wrong).
Maybe the WWE is pushing AJ Lee to SPITE CM Punk? That could be...
But at the end of the day, WWE actually needs AJ Lee in the Divas Division. As poorly as AJ Lee was used as Divas Champion for her year long reign, the Divas Division was lacking without her. They gave Paige the WWE title and then made her the underdog in every match and that includes many with Alicia Fox. Alicia's crazy act hasn't done much for fans and neither have the Funkadelics who had their chance before Wrestlemania 30 but Naomi's eye injury stopped that. Meanwhile, the WWE hasn't do much else with the Divas Division. I'm sure that Emma was so bored with her role since her NXT call-up that she recently bought an iPod. And of course, you'll need a case for that iPod.
I'm pretty sure that if you innocently walk away from a self-serve checkout, they won't haul you away to a police station and take mugshots. That was pocketed and the cameras caught it. Like it or not, the incident gave Emma some national publicity... For some reason, I keep envisioning a female version of the Repo Man and I don't know why. An easy feud for AJ Lee would be to have Emma "steal" her Divas Title to set up a Battleground or SummerSlam match. Piece of cake booking.
Back to the subject. Whether the WWE is actually having good relations with AJ Lee or doing it to spite CM Punk, the fact is that she's working with the WWE. That has to be an open door for CM Punk to at least talk to WWE management. After all, WWE is a corporation and there will be many corporate events where spouses can attend. It could get weird for AJ Lee to attend those alone. Somehow, Triple H/Vince McMahon will have to run into CM Punk somewhere as long as AJ Lee remains employed with the WWE. It's bound to happen!
To understand whether or not CM Punk will return to the WWE, you have to understand his exit first. As you may recall, CM Punk last wrestled on the Royal Rumble 2014 show. At about 6:00pm before Monday Night RAW on January 27th, 2014, he reportedly met with Vince McMahon to describe how upset he was at not being able to headline Wrestlemania. In interviews leading up to Rumble/RAW, Punk expressed frustration about how Daniel Bryan was being used and how Batista was instantly pushed over everyone after his 3 year absence. Punk's reported goal was to headline a Wrestlemania show and obviously by Batista winning the 2014 Royal Rumble, it wasn't happening at Wrestlemania 30, the last Wrestlemania on Punk's 3 year deal signed during 2011.
Instead, CM Punk was scheduled to wrestle Triple H. Now, this didn't happen instantly. This match had been talked about during late 2013 and CM Punk was beginning to aggressively go after the Authority after he finished his Wyatt Family feud. Some of his promos were captivating as he was ripping Triple H hard for avoiding him and even laying into Stephanie McMahon somewhat. It was clear that the storylines were building towards a Triple H vs. CM Punk match at Wrestlemania 30. All backstage insider reports were discussing this regularly. While Punk wasn't wrestling for the WWE Title and headlining Wrestlemania, having a match with Triple H was still an honor. Say what you will about HHH, he's one of the best WWE performers ever and is still capable of putting on a great match.
In my opinion, I believe that CM Punk was fine with this match at first. When Batista made his WWE return and was instantly pushed, that's where the real problems began. What CM Punk did was take a stand not just at the injustice towards his career, but also Daniel Bryan's. Punk has spoken out several times on how Bryan has received a RAW deal despite being clearly over with the fans. When he saw the strong push for Batista's return and the probability of Wrestlemania 30 actually being headlined by Batista vs. Randy Orton, Punk was furious. Then, he probably saw the booking of Royal Rumble 2014 where Daniel Bryan was scheduled to LOSE to Bray Wyatt and then NOT be in the actual Rumble match. It's a simple matter of addition by subtraction... If CM Punk were to leave, that creates a star power void that has to be filled. Conveniently, Daniel Bryan took CM Punk's spot against Triple H. Originally, and 2 insider sources have reported it by now (Pro Wrestling Insider and Observer), Bryan was supposed to wrestle Sheamus at Wrestlemania 30.
Punk did Bryan a major favor...
But still, getting a match against Triple H is a big deal. It makes me wonder that if CM Punk's 3 year deal was expiring during June/July 2014 if the WWE nixed any chance of Punk beating Triple H at Wrestlemania 30. To me, that might be the case as CM Punk appeared willingly to go along with the Triple H match during late 2013. Something changed or otherwise, he'd just keep wrestling until his contract expired and he would be free to escape the WWE machine.
The previous 2 years were frustrating for CM Punk... WWE didn't do much with him as WWE Champion during 2012. Just review RAW and Pay Per View shows and you would be convinced that John Cena was actually the WWE Champion and not Punk. Punk barely headlined shows as WWE Champion and that's not only insulting to Punk, but to the WWE Title as well. Then, you had 2013... CM Punk put over the Rock twice, and there was no trying by the Rock in either of those brutal matches. Then, Punk gave the Undertaker one of his best matches of all time at Wrestlemania 29. Speaking of best matches, just before Wrestlemania 29, John Cena avenged his 2011-2012 losses against CM Punk in a spectacular RAW match. And then, CM Punk gave Brock Lesnar his match match ever, period, at SummerSlam 2014. I could understand that Punk wanted some measure of respect...
The injuries were mounting, too, and with Punk being a "straight edge" guy, he was really feeling the pain by the start of 2014. Burned out and injured... The perfect storm to add to Batista's return and push, Daniel Bryan's depushing, and possibly losing to Triple H at Wrestlemania 30. Punk probably said "fuck this". In doing so, CM Punk breached his WWE contract which was set to expire during June/July of 2014. As you may have witnessed during the 5+ years of legal battles that Brock Lesnar endured after he left the WWE in 2004, CM Punk may legitimately struggle to find work for any wrestling or sports organizations in the near future. WWE employs a no-compete clause, usually 3-9 months, after contracts expire anyway. WWE's Legal Team, which has more than proven itself in the courtroom, will probably be all over CM Punk if he tries to work for another organization in the near future.
But I think the bigger issue of CM Punk was WHO he walked out on... He was penciled in to wrestle Triple H at Wrestlemania 30. Whether you like HHH or not, he is the #2 Executive in the WWE right now behind Vince McMahon. HHH has gone from a member of the Creative Team to #1 advisor to Vince McMahon to overseeing the entire Creative Team, Live Events, and Developmental Talent. Behind the scenes, he's taking on lots of responsibility and is married to another top executive named Stephanie McMahon. CM Punk quit after a major Pay Per View event and just before RAW aired while giving WWE executives zero flexibility to work something out. Many wrestlers are frustrated with their roles and can at least talk their issues through. CM Punk did not... He told Vince McMahon he was done and went home.
That's the bigger problem... The complete disrespect of the next WWE CEO, Triple H.
On top of that, CM Punk's exit caused humiliation for the WWE. The backstage gossip spread quickly throughout the internet and now the WWE has to deal with "CM Punk" chants at many of their events. While we could argue that WWE's booking was unfavorable to CM Punk, the fact is that WWE did not terminate CM Punk. He quit. For fans to blame the WWE for quitting the company, especially with his 3 year deal expiring in 6 months at the time of his exit, is ludicrous. Fans are just trolling... WWE now has lots of unsold CM Punk merchandise to get rid of and now has to scrub many video production packages of his likeness as well. His little exit created an unplanned headache. Behind only John Cena and Daniel Bryan, CM Punk was the #3 draw of the company and the WWE lost the guy without any notice given.
For CM Punk to even merit a discussion of his return, he has to reach out to Triple H and Vince McMahon. This is like 2002 all over again. As you may recall, Steve Austin was frustrated with the company and instead of talking out his issues with Vince and even Triple H (whom he had heat with at the time), he flipped out and walked out of the company. First, he was upset at the Wrestlemania 18 booking when Hulk Hogan was willing to let himself lose to the Rock while Austin had to wrestle Scott Hall (Hogan and Austin were unable to work together over a finish) and then Austin was pissed when the writers randomly wanted Austin to lose to Brock Lesnar on an episode of RAW. Austin walked out of the company instead of voicing his concerns as a top WWE star. 10 years later on Austin's podcast, he expressed regret for handling that situation the way he did and recommended to CM Punk to rethink his actions.
It's been 5 months since CM Punk was last in the WWE. Meanwhile, around this time would have been when his 3 year extension of his 2011 contract was to expire. Now, his real life wife, AJ Lee, just returned to the scene of crime, WWE, to continue her in-ring career. Eventually, that big pile of money earned from his 2011 extension will run out... Additionally, WWE's lawyers will eat CM Punk alive in the courtroom if he dares to work elsewhere.
The bigger question is: Does WWE want CM Punk back?
Vince and Triple H probably look at 2012's stagnant numbers and believe that CM Punk wasn't much of a draw as WWE Champion during that year. Granted, Punk barely main evented Monday Night RAW episodes, let alone Pay Per Views. Aside from a brief feud with John Cena during 2012, WWE didn't try hard with Punk as champion. But the McMahon family would NEVER blame their own booking for failing to get wrestlers over. Oh no! Regardless, they look at the WWE financials that their CFO hands them and look for someone to blame. Remember, the search for someone to blame is always easy.
Additionally, CM Punk walked out once already... What guarantees that he won't walk out again in the future? Does WWE want his attitude in the locker room? Furthermore, if the WWE brings him back and gives him a decent push, what does that do to the morale of the WWE locker room? Just look at Batista. He abruptly left during 2010 out of frustration with creative and then returned during early 2014 to a mega push. Batista's return and mega push didn't exactly do great things for morale, especially since Batista was in horrible physical shape. It's as if WWE completely forgot that Batista just left the company abruptly in 2010 and the unsold merchandise he left behind. Maybe CM Punk should look into appearing in a Marvel Comics movie before he returns?
In my opinion, there are no guarantees of CM Punk's return. He seems to be pretty content with his WWE retirement. But that "wrestling itch" can return at random times, as seen with other wrestlers who have tried to walk away. With his wife AJ Lee back with the WWE, Punk will now hearing about WWE's day to day operations at the dinner table. No doubt that WWE officials will politely ask AJ Lee about CM Punk from time to time. And again, corporate events where wrestlers bring their spouses will occur and CM Punk will probably attend a few of those.
With time and injuries healed, he may be back. If the WWE treats his wife right and does better on her latest Divas Title reign, that's a big influence on his return. If the WWE continues to push new guys like Cesaro, Shield members, or the Wyatts, CM Punk might be curious enough to work with those guys. The WWE contract must be dealt with if he ever wants to work in the wrestling business again, however...
But I can see CM Punk opening up his own wrestling school and/or starting his own Indy wrestling promotion. If he's really angry about the WWE, that's the next step that I believe he takes.
He should have let his WWE contract expire during 2014, in my opinion. Just do your 6 months of time, earn a nice WWE paycheck, and then ride off into the sunset. Freedom is a nice thing to have...
SO JUST CHILL... 'TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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