It's been almost three full weeks since CM Punk, the one of the biggest stars in the industry, walked out on WWE just before a live episode of Monday Night Raw. His decision was reportedly driven by a combination of fatigue, injury, burnout, and lack of enthusiasm for the creative direction of his character.
Now, fans are left with a decision of their own. Is WWE still worth keeping up on?
At a glance, that question might seem silly, at least to the fan who has stuck it out for years and years, working through all the ups and downs of WWE programming. But consider this: John Cena has been at the top of the card since 2005, alongside wrestlers like Randy Orton and Batista. All three were born and bred for the WWE style.
Punk was different. He was a scrappy kid who relentlessly worked the independent circuit to become a man who would offer something fresh in the main event scene. In a barren WWE landscape full of bland promos and stock workrate, he was unique. He was so unique, in fact, that quite a few fans have outright stated he was the only reason they have continued watching pro wrestling.
The WWE Network is just one week away from launching. Its success is integral to the future of the company providing it, and CM Punk was going to be a big part of helping get it off the ground. He was to have a featured role at WrestleMania 30, the first pay-per-view (PPV) to be offered on the streaming service, and would be heavily pushed on television.
Now he's gone and some of his fans are thinking of leaving with him.
When I brought up my own excitement at the prospect of the Network launch on Twitter, some were quick to bring up a lack of interest thanks to the absence of Punk, like this:
@cagesideseats I was but without Punk I'm losing interest— Clifton Smalls (@BOGUYMERRILL) February 16, 2014
@cagesideseats lost interest in wwe shortly after invasion due to creative direction.CM Punk brought me back, but Orton/Batista is losing me— Walter White (@TheOneWhoKnocks) February 16, 2014
There's plenty more where that came from too.
This is likely at least one of the reasons Vince McMahon, despite Triple H reportedly being upset over the situation, is still trying to bring Punk back into the fold. He has value beyond strong merchandise sales and prominent placement on major cards.
He's literally the only WWE thread some fans are hanging on to.
With television rights deals currently being negotiated, every bit counts. And with Monday Night Raw coming to Chicago on March 3, and the company apparently worried fans will hijack the show if their beloved hometown star isn't in the building, this situation is gradually reaching its breaking point.