Although you may not have known it beforehand, today was yet another big day in WWE because the company held its conference call with investors to report on fourth quarter and final year earnings for 2013, as well as any future plans. That meant Vince McMahon was on the line and able to answer hard questions.
Even if there were only a few folks able to get a question in.
Naturally, the situation surrounding CM Punk was addressed, albeit briefly. In fact, McMahon made it clear he would make one statement and one statement alone, as my partner Sean Rueter revealed earlier.
"As far as CM Punk is concerned, one of our performers is taking a sabbatical, let's just put it that way."
On the surface, that's not saying much. Really, you could argue that's simply a throwaway line, an easy fix to questions regarding a top star for the promotion having disappeared with nary a word from anyone.
The reality, however, is that this makes clear McMahon and, in turn, WWE, is still hoping to bring Punk back before his contract expires in July. He has not been released, despite earlier rumors to the contrary, and while he has yet to publicly comment on his own hiatus, this puts to bed any talk, silly as it may have been, of his showing up in other promotions.
As for WWE, well, this is a hugely important time. McMahon would, quite obviously, prefer to have all hands on deck while the company is attempting to negotiate a lucrative new TV rights deal, get its WWE Network off the ground (the hope is it will get 1 million subscribers before the year is out), and build to the historic WrestleMania 30 show in April.
We are now just over one week away from Monday Night Raw rolling into Chicago, Punk's hometown and a smart crowd that will absolutely revolt in the event he is not there. The potential for disaster is high, at least for that one night, and the fallout could be felt via domino effect. If that crowd takes the show off the rails, the chances of ensuing crowds doing the same goes up.
That said, McMahon could be hoping to bring Punk back for that show. If that happens, that could be one of the most memorable episodes of Raw in history and would create huge buzz for the company during a time when it needs all the help it can get.
This is a delicate situation and that night could change everything.