Should CM Punk Just Hang It Up? | Smark Out Moment

Should CM Punk Just Hang It Up?

Posted by Joshua Jones Monday, February 5, 2024

You know, it dreads me having to write up this article. Since 2006, I've been a fan of the Straight Edge Superstar CM Punk despite all of his flaws(yes, there are plenty). While the era of Punk hasn't been perfect by any stretch, for me, CM Punk has always represented a new kind of successful wrestler. He was a wrestler who climbed into the upper echelon of WWE despite not having the typical WWE muscular physique. CM Punk proved that no matter the size, anyone can become a WWE superstar if they have the talent, promo ability, and sheer will to back it up. That's something I'll always be fond of him for.

So it completely saddened me to know he suffered another injury, the third major one since his blockbuster return in 2021. Don't get me wrong, I know any wrestler, no matter how experienced and talented they are can end up on the injury shelf at any point. Heck, Punk suffered a foot injury during his time in AEW while attempting a stage dive. There is no planning for injuries, especially the ones that seem to come out of the blue.

And yet, there is this feeling of inevitability whenever I think about Punk's recent tricep tear injury. It's like the universe is throwing truth bombs onto every fan of the Straight Edge Superstar, and we're forced to finally take notice. These truths may not meant to destroy us but rather to challenge us to put our sometimes blind fandom aside for a second and embrace reality.

The first truth: CM Punk can't last forever. At 45 years old and already a 7-year layoff away from the ring, this man's body is likely just breaking down. Punk even mentioned during the now infamous All Out media scrum back in 2022 that no matter how many surgeries he gets, he'll always be at a new 100%. Although doctors have fixed his foot, it will never be the same foot from 10 years prior.

This is just the reality most fans just need to accept when it comes to wrestling. While we like to see these men and women as larger-than-life superhumans who can withstand the blast of a steel chair any given Sunday, they pay more of a price than any of us ever will. Punk has paid the price several times throughout his career, and perhaps these injuries have finally made it to where his physical well-being has hit bankruptcy.

The second truth: the game needs to change but won't. For years, fans have discussed whether wrestlers deserve to have an off-season. WWE superstars are on the road 300-plus days a year and taking just a handful of days off a month. Before leaving wrestling for seven years, Punk was one of those guys who toured the world, strengthening his craft and trying to prove why he proclaimed himself to be the "best in the world." While being part of this game at such a high level, it's understandable that Punk developed a never-say-never attitude about his career prospects. He wanted to be the main event of WrestleMania, and he wouldn't let anyone or anything stop him.

Although this never-say-never attitude is admirable, part of it comes with the knowledge that it can sometimes lead to a very destructive lifestyle. One of the guys I often point to whenever this discussion comes up is the late great Eddie Guerrero. This man became the WWE Champion during a time when the top brass in the company were often those of a particular body type. It's believed that Guerrero wanted to keep his spot on the card and wanted to be perceived by management as having the same body type as many of the top guys in the company. Unfortunately, this led to Guerrero's untimely death, which was linked to a lengthy history of anabolic steroid usage and narcotic medication.

There's no denying that part of this vicious game of perception versus reality has changed since Guerrero's death. Steroid usage in WWE is non-existent, and there isn't this pressure to have the same body type as Hulk Hogan during his heyday. And yet, the fear of losing out on the main event of WrestleMania and the WWE Championship being handed to someone else still haunts many wrestlers who enter this game today. Despite having been at the mountaintop before, CM Punk still has these fears of losing out on what he thinks is obviously his.

Maybe this second return of Punk in WWE could be a chance for him to do things a bit differently. He has enough credibility and history behind him to request fewer dates while still performing against the top guys in the company. Before his sudden injury, Punk wasn't showing up on every episode of Raw and SmackDown. This could be the run in which Punk takes a step back from being the working man's underdog champion and becoming more of a part-time legend looking for one last chance at glory.

It would be nice to think all of this is true; however, Punk appeared to be after a goalpost he'd been chasing for much of his WWE career: to be in the main event of WrestleMania. Perhaps this vicious game of perception versus reality only exists inside the head of someone like Punk. If that's the case, then this is a game that needs to change. The sad truth is there will always be another goalpost for guys like Punk.

The final truth: no one's truly the "best in the world." There have been many different wrestlers who proclaim themselves to be the best, only to then find themselves upstaged by someone who came after them. Again, wrestling is a game of perception versus reality. If CM Punk, at 45 years old, can still make people believe he's better than 95% of the roster in WWE today, then he's proven he can manipulate people's perceptions. However, the reality is that probably 95% of the roster believes themselves to be the "best in the world." The reality is that no matter how many times you say it, there is another person on the opposite end of the globe who thinks they can take your spot and be better at it. The reality is even for someone like Punk, proving you're the best can't always be the reason to stay in the game longer than you probably should.

And this all goes back to the very start of this article. Punk has proven that you don't have to be 6 foot, 290 plus, with muscle to be a WWE Champion. He also proved that not being that means you're often on track to chasing being the best wrestler for a very long time. Punk has chased the moniker of being the "best in the world" for a very long time, and it has caused him more trouble than it's worth. He's made his money, he made his fans, he even made history on a couple of occasions, so why can't he make himself stop chasing the "best in the world"?

In reality, Punk will stop wrestling on his own terms. He left WWE on his own terms, so I have no doubt that he'll hang it up whenever he feels it is the right time. Still, I worry that maybe the days of Punk painting the world of WWE black are long gone, and the man is just chasing something that doesn't need to be chased. The main event of WrestleMania is a dream, but even the best dreams can turn into nightmares.

And no, that's not a Cody Rhodes pun.


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