Yesterday, Geno asked if a CM Punk-less WWE was potentially costing subscribers to their new Network, set to launch a week from today on February 24th.
While it's undoubtedly true that some fans who might have been on the fence about plunking down $10 a month to join the over-the-top service will play wait-and-see on WWE Network without a guarantee that The Best in the World will be featured on the Sunday events like WrestleMania that come with a subscription, I wonder if keeping things mysterious about his departure might not be the smartest thing the company can do right now:
If staying mum on Punk's status might not be (ahem) best for business, if you will.
It's hard for me to judge whether or not the lack of new material featuring the Chicagoan will impact my decision to subscribe to WWE Network. As a guy who writes stuff about wrestling, I pretty much have to sign-up on day one. But as a self-confessed Punk super-fan, his absence might give me pause if I weren't sort of, kind of, in the industry.
Other than the fact that WWE Network will soon be the only place you can watch CM Punk wrestle for the world's largest wrestling company - a big part of the appeal of the Network is access to the company's archive of old shows, events and other releases - it seems like the longer there is no news, the bigger the news gets.
After the story broke that The Straight-Edge Superstar had left the company, I was among those who advocated for WWE to quickly address his absence lest it take over the show. I was wrong, or at least only part right. The man that I believed should address the lack of Punk has been an increased focus of Raw and Smackdown. And as long as Daniel Bryan is in the ring, there is little chance of anything other than YES or NO chants.
The mystique that is starting to develop around the disappearance of The Second City Saint is proving a couple of things, though. One is that old Eric Bischoff maxim - controversy equals cash. Whether you're completely on his side or pissed off that he took his ball and went home, CM Punk is keeping WWE in the greater pop culture conversation more than at any other time except for the summer of 2011.
Not knowing what's going on is also a major draw here, though. Uncertainty about the outcome of a situation has always been the holy grail of pro wrestling, and the rarity of it in the social media, dirt-sheets-on-the-internet 21st century makes it even more precious. That both parties have officially kept silent is mesmerizing to the same hardcore fans who are most likely to be pissed off by the issues that allegedly lead to Punk's exit.
So why would either the man or the company he's contracted to say anything? While we would certainly parse and analyze any statement to death, for a lot of more casual fans, addressing the situation would be the end of it. By not talking about it, everyone is more likely to tune in or at least keep an eye on WWE product to see if anything happens.
And if/when it does, the resultant pop will bring more and more focused attention to Raw, and the next pay-per-view (PPV), and the Network. The next time we hear Living Colour on a WWE-produced show will set off a whole new round of "work or shoot" debate to go along with nostalgia that comes with seeing any old favorite return.
Outside of a potential riot in Chicago on March 3rd (and, as long as it's non-violent, even that can be spun as free advertising. Are you telling me you don't want to watch the exclusive-to-WWE Network pre-show for that Raw?) there's no reason to do anything about the absence of one of their biggest stars than what they've done so far.
Which, as far as their audience knows for sure, is nothing at all.