I think enough time has passed and I’m finally ready to talk with calm emotions about a subject that rocked the world of sports entertainment and is still a sore spot with some people. In some ways it actually turned out to be less of a big deal than it originally felt like. Now it’s just a wave of what will become nostalgia for one of my favorite performers of all time. Of course, I am talking about the departure of CM Punk from the WWE. At the time, it was more of a blow but now I’m pretty chill about it.
In January 27, 2014 Phillip Brooks aka CM Punk walked out of the WWE, declining to perform as a sports entertainer from that point on. The word was that he was tired and burned out and displeased with his position in the company. There’s no real way to know the truth as CM Punk has remained mostly silent on the matter. At first, I celebrated the move because who among us has not wanted to quit a job we were no longer happy with? I always loved his character and of course I sided with him. I wanted a better position for him in the company.
As the days stretched into weeks and then months I started to think he was selfish for violating his contract and taking his ball and going home. I wondered if he was ever coming back and then he finally announced that he had retired from the business. I felt oddly good about it. Sure, I was disappointed that his last match was the Royal Rumble. However, finally getting some solid news provided closure. Over time I realized that he didn’t owe anyone an explanation. On top of that, he was able to retire on his own terms without a life-threatening or career-ending injury being the reason. Months later he started to make appearances outside of the WWE and I found I was just as much a fan of Phil Brooks as I was CM Punk. I still am.
That said, I will always love and respect CM Punk for the contributions he made to the WWE and the world of sports entertainment at large. From life in Ring of Honor to Total Nonstop Action to the top of the heap of the WWE, CM Punk was larger than life.
You could read a rundown of his career all day from various sources so I’ll just talk about my personal fandom. I first saw Punk when he showed up on the “ECW on SyFy” show and I was instantly curious about him. He came out to ring to some of the coolest punk/metal music and was covered in tattoos. Most prominent of those tattoos was the symbol for Cobra. You know Cobra, they fought GI Joe all throughout the eighties and a bit in the nineties. The other major tattoos were the Pepsi logo and his straightedge tattoos.
I have never indulged much in drugs. The barely interested me and I always had other things to do. I have dabbled here and there with alcohol but I was always worried about its effect on me. I was always worried that alcohol would help my anxiety too much but also I was worried how it would mix with my depression. Eventually my reluctance left me with a very low resistance to alcohol and made me a “lightweight” or “cheap drunk”. At one point, since I wasn’t really indulging much anyway I thought about just going straightedge like my hero CM Punk. I decided against it but I still think about it from time to time.
Punk was always a great performer both in the ring and out. He innovated both his character and his in-ring style depending on whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. He was one of the few performers where I did not care if he was a good guy or a bad guy. I was always happy to see him out and performing. I was always glad to hear his <entrance music> which was instantly recognizable. He became a welcome sight even when the rest of the show was mediocre. He elevated everyone around him and seemed to be a wrestling luminary even at a young age.
He also was able to highlight a lot of the inequities in sports entertainment, an opportunity that management actually afforded him. From the Straightedge Superstar to the Straightedge Savior to the Voice of the Voiceless to finally being Best in the World. To me he really was The Best in the World with very little sarcasm. I’m glad that I got to see his great career but I’m also glad that I got to see him retire while he was still relatively healthy. At least we will always have our memories of his great career and, hell, he’s really funny outside of the business too.