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Was CM Punk 'half-assing' it before his WWE exit, or does the evidence provide a logical explanation?

Why do fans assume CM Punk is half-assing it when there is a better explanation available?

"I miss the CM Punk who gives 100%, not the current CM Punk who has been half-assing it."

I have been reading a ton of comments lately that are similar to the one above. Ever since CM Punk walked out on WWE, many wrestling fans are stating that they know for a fact that CM Punk has been half-assing it for months now. I hardly ever see qualifiers in there like he has "probably" been half-assing it or I "think" he has been half-assing it. Nope, these people are making full asses out of themselves by implying that they know with 100% certainty what is going on inside Punk's mind and body every time he steps into that ring, and there is no doubt at all that he has been half-assing it.

I am not here to say that CM Punk has been giving it 100% over these last few months. I have no idea if that is the case. I am here to remind you that there is a more obvious explanation as to why Punk's performance lately may seem below his normal standards. It is very possible that his body is devastated and only running at something like 50% in the tank. Here is a long list of the various injury stories related to CM Punk that have been posted here at Cageside Seats in the last calendar year.

March 12th: CM Punk is banged up heading into WrestleMania 29.

Punk's body has been banged up for years now, what with the rigors of his profession being what they are, but as of late he seems to be breaking down more and more. Late last year, he went through knee surgery to clean up some cartilage that forced him to miss the TLC pay-per-view (PPV) event in December but he returned from that injury just fine, or at least he seemed to. Hell, he worked hurt on that very injury for quite some time.

Now, it appears he may be working hurt again.

According to an on-scene report...

'It should be mentioned that about half way through the Punk/Kane match, Chioda threw the "X" sign to the trainer while checking on Punk, as he laid in the floor. The trainer ran over, out of camera view, and spoke to Punk. This happened about 3 times during the rest of the match, with Chioda subtly giving the "X" sign to the trainer at ringside each time. Before Punk stole the urn, he spent quite a bit of time with Chioda and the trainer directly in front of the announcer's table. It appears he was working with a legitimate injury.'

March 18th: Punk was pulled off of all house shows through WrestleMania 29.

April 7th: Punk admits to being burnt out.

Of course he's burnt out. Not only did he go on a run of 434 consecutive days as WWE champion, he was injured throughout various points in that run and never missed any time, even working through a knee injury that eventually required surgery late in the reign.

He still came limping out on Monday Night Raw, crutches and all.

April 15th: Punk is even more banged up following WrestleMania 29.

It's been reported that Punk has been suffering from knee and elbow injuries for some time and he aggravated both during his match with Undertaker on April 7 at WrestleMania. The spot where he came off the top rope for an elbow drop on the Spanish announce table was particularly problematic seeing as the table decided to finally fight back and didn't break despite the impact.

April 22nd: Rumor Roundup

The situation around CM Punk's injured knee continues to clear up. It is believed that he has a strained ACL in addition to several torn minor ligaments. Doctor's have recommended that he stay out of the ring for at least 6 weeks, putting a potential return off until around the end of June. It is also believed that TV ratings will play a part in his return. If ratings slide, he could be brought back sooner in a televised role without actually wrestling, while good ratings would mean his return could be pushed back further. It had previously been rumored that Punk could be out until as late as SummerSlam in August, which is still a possibility if Punk wants more time to recover from the mental fatigue and burnout.

April 29th: Punk is reportedly removed from all WWE event listings for nearly the next 4 months.

April 30th: Rumor Roundup: WWE could bring Punk back before he is ready

Rumors are supporting the idea that the extended absence is more due to mental fatigue than physical. It has previously been reported that doctor's recommended at least six weeks of rest for Punk in order to heal an ACL sprain and multiple torn minor ligaments in his knee. It is also believed that Punk was suffering from other minor injuries to his neck, arm, and other knee as well. It is also worth remembering that Punk's "vacation" could be ended early at any time if WWE decides it needs him in order to improve ratings and/or pay-per-view (PPV) buys.

September 19th: Rumor Roundup

CM Punk is currently off television nursing nagging injuries to his knee and ankle. He has reportedly been suffering from the injuries for several weeks now, which is why he has been wrestling less outside of pay per views. He was out this week and could miss next week as well as he continues to heal. Punk's contract is also up next summer, which has some WWE higher ups nervous about what he might do. While it would be extremely unlikely that Punk would wrestle for any other company, Punk has suggested in the past that he plans to retire at a younger age than many would expect.

September 25th: Rumor Roundup

Also, in expanding Punk's list of nagging injuries, he is reportedly dealing with an elbow injury in addition to knee and ankle injuries, both of which were taped for Monday's Raw.

December 5th: Rumor Roundup

CM Punk is reportedly dealing with back and rib injuries, and has been working a lighter schedule of late in order to allow him some time to heal up.

December 9th: Rumor Roundup

There is some concern within WWE in regards to CM Punk's long-term future in the business. Right now, it would be easier to list the joints on Punk's body that aren't injured, and now you can add a back injury and, per Punk himself, "busted" ribs to that list. In addition, there are concerns that Punk has been hiding or downplaying possible concussions that he has suffered in the ring. Furthering concerns for WWE in regard to Punk is that his contract will be up next summer, likely around the time of Money in the Bank (the contract he famously signed following his "pipe bomb" promo in 2011 was a 3 year deal). While there would be little fear that any other company in the world could afford to pay Punk what WWE could, Punk has always said he plans to retire early, and an expiring contract would give him a chance to do so. The 35-year-old wants to leave on his own terms with his body still intact, and given the rumors about all of the injuries he is dealing with, his body is far from intact. While the expiration of his contract is still more than six months off, it is a situation worth watching.

December 30th: Rumor Roundup

On the other end of the spectrum, in terms of someone who might not be around as long as we think, is CM Punk. Following an event in Detroit, MI over the weekend, Punk thanked the fans of the city on Twitter and said "I don't have many of these left in me." Punk's current contract with WWE is said to expire next summer, and he has long suggested that he plans to retire young while he is still relatively healthy.

These writings build a pretty convincing case that CM Punk's body has been ravaged to varying degrees for over a year now. There is also a decent chance that WWE brought him back at Payback while Punk was still in a state of mental and physical burnout. It is also obvious that his main motivation for leaving the business at a young age is to preserve his body.

When some of you look at CM Punk, you see a guy who has been half-assing it for months. When I look at CM Punk, I don't see that. What I see is a guy who has perhaps been wrestling for a long time now on a broken body that is probably closer to 50% than 100%. It is very possible that this man has been giving you max effort within that severe physical constraint. Mick Foley said it himself in his video message to CM Punk that he can see how banged up Punk is right now and how that is negatively affecting the mechanics of Punk's top rope elbow drop.

I understand the temptation to say that Punk is half-assing it. He admittedly doesn't give a shit about his clothes or his hair. He sometimes comes off like a snarky asshole in many of his tweets. He rudely makes a cup of coffee in the middle of an interview. He tells fans that he purposely makes his elbow drop look ugly just to piss them off.

But please don't confuse the likelihood that Punk doesn't care what people think of him with the idea that this man doesn't care about his effort in the ring. I don't understand why anybody has to resort to stating speculative guesses like "CM Punk is half-assing it" as a fact when there is much more evidence pointing to the probability that physical limitations are what is hindering his performance, just as Foley suggested. And hey maybe he isn't giving 100% effort on top of that, but the point is that we really don't know.

As for those who point out that Punk is no different from all of the other wrestlers who perform every night with cranky bodies, keep in mind that you have no idea to what extent Punk's body is more or less ravaged than any other wrestler. All of the details included above paint a picture of a man who is ready to retire because his body is crushed.

Cody Rhodes is dealing with a knee injury right now. Go back and watch his match on Raw this week and maybe you'll agree with Dave Meltzer when he summarized that Cody's physical abilities were obviously limited in that match and so Goldust had to carry the lion's share of the ring work. If this were to continue for the next month or two, will anybody accuse Cody of half-assing it? I really doubt it. I think it is much more likely that people will objectively understand that there is only so much a body can do when it is physically impaired. This is a common theme I see in sports all the time when it comes to fan perception of an athlete battling through adversity. The nice role players that people want to root for (in this hypothetical case, Cody Rhodes) are not vilified for their limitations while the douchebag superstar (CM Punk) is accused of half-assing it. It always seems like a ridiculously unfair conclusion to me.

So if you still want to say that CM Punk has been half-assing, go ahead. You may be right. But please don't assume it is fact. You really have no idea.

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