On Wrestling: Why WWE needs to bring CM Punk back

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The WWE needs to sit down with CM Punk and figure out a way to bring the wrestler back to the company.

His abrupt departure does not appear to be a storyline. What that means is that the ones who lose immediately are the fans who cheer for CM Punk and who enjoy a sense of authenticity in professional wrestling. Over the long-term, if it doesn’t bring Punk back, the WWE will be the biggest loser.

How did the WWE let the most popular wrestler in the company over the last three years not named John Cena or The Rock walk away a little more than two months before the biggest show of the year?

Punk’s departure is emblematic of a broader, bigger problem. The WWE is not listening to its audience. We saw what happened when WCW didn’t listen to its audience. The WWE is not in any danger of going out of business, but if it continues to alienate its fans and most dedicated wrestlers, the company will set itself up for major problems over the next few years.

The fans want guys like Punk to be in the main event. They want Daniel Bryan to be a champion. They want to see Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow, and Antonio Cesaro get pushed consistently in the main event storylines.

Guys like Punk, Bryan, and Ziggler get huge pops at live events, but for some reason the WWE insists on waging internal war against them and getting off on holding them down. The WWE seems reflexively adversarial to any wrestler who makes it big unexpectedly and outside of the vision of the WWE brass.

Who knows what Punk wanted before he went home. Maybe, like most level-headed, reasonable wrestling fans, wanted Bryan to win the title at Wrestlemania. Perhaps Punk wanted to main event the show doing something other than play stooge to Triple H. Maybe Punk was tired, injured and no longer motivated to perform when he wasn’t happy with the storylines around him.

Punk’s departure, however, does accomplish something that is desperately needed: It holds the WWE accountable. The company can’t keep doing this and expect its fans to just take it like a jobber. At some point the WWE has to listen to what the fans are saying. Bryan needs to be champion.

Batista, a guy who no longer looks like a physical freak, who looked terribly bland and unintimidating in his only MMA match, should not be in the main event of the biggest show of the year. Punk should not be forced to wrestle Triple H at Wrestlemania. Punk is not Bobby Lashley and shouldn’t be in a gimmick match against a guy who isn’t even a full-time wrestler anymore.

When the WWE listened to its audience in 1997, the attitude era began and with that momentum the WWE killed WCW and then emerged as the No. 1 wrestling company in the world. The WWE needs to listen again.  Instead, the fans are getting guys like Batista, the returns of the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan, and Triple H and Stephanie back in the main event storylines.

Punk may be a jerk or not the friendliest guy backstage. But he is a good wrestler, a great performer and wildly popular among the fans. For the WWE’s he’s worth fighting for. If the WWE plays nonchalant with his departure it would send a bad message to everyone else on the roster and the fans. If Punk goes, who goes next? When does Bryan walk away? When does Ziggler say enough is enough?

Most importantly, how many fans does the WWE lose by letting Punk go? The WWE may not feel the impact immediately, but it will soon. As the WWE launches its new network, shouldn’t it have arguably its second- or third-most popular performer there to promote the launch?

Does the WWE really want all of its live shows filled with back-and-forth chants of “Daniel Bryan” and “CM Punk,” while Randy Orton is applying a lazy side headlock? If the Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar Wrestlemania match was a disaster a decade ago, wait until New Orleans if Bryan is not winning the title in the main event.

Some wrestler hissy fits aren’t worth fighting over. In Punk’s case, the WWE needs to fight for him and bring him back.

Punk is one of the last remaining good things about professional wrestling, and if the WWE lets him walk away, other wrestlers will follow, and the fans will leave after that, and we’ll all be stuck with some version of Triple H vs. John Cena vs. Randy Orton with Shawn Michaels as guest referee headlining 2015’s Wrestlemania.

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