Photo: MMA Fighting
In the month or so since the news broke that CM Punk had walked out of Raw, most people have expressed an opinion on it. Some have said it’s his ego getting out of control, others say he did it to inspire change, but there are some, a minority in the pool of opinionated voices, which say something that sparks concern, the camp that I belong to, that believe Punk did it for Punk, but not in the way you would think.
Most reading this will be fans of Punk or, even if you’re not a fan of his, you will at least be able to respect and appreciate the level of talent the guy has and understand how he became so popular. In the WWE he was a rebel, he was the ‘voice of the voiceless’ and he was instrumental in the sometimes called ‘reality era’ in blurring the lines between the drama that played out in the ring and the drama backstage.
I have been a fan of Punks for a very long time, going back to his days in Ring of Honor, his series of matches against Samoa Joe still rank as some of my favourite all-time matches. His drive and determination, his commitment to the wrestling business are what landed him in such a prominent position in the world’s biggest wrestling promotion which will ultimately cement his legacy as being one of the best to ever step in a WWE ring, up there with the likes of HBK, Bret Hart and Randy Savage.
You may ask yourself then, if someone with such a lot going for them, with such a huge legacy, why would they risk throwing all of that away by just walking out? There have been some comparisons made between Punk’s walking out and the infamous ‘taking his ball and going home’ of Stone Cold Steve Austin. We discovered later the reasons behind Austin walking out, which revolved around him not wanting to job to Brock Lesnar who he felt at the time was being pushed too quickly. For Punk I think it’s a bit more complex than his ego getting out of control or him just becoming ‘tired’ as some have claimed as a possibility. My view on why Punk walked out relates to something I struggle with myself and is also a struggle millions of others around the world struggle with: Depression.
Of course, this is purely speculation and, until Punk himself is willing to openly comment on it (whenever that may be), it would explain a hell of a lot. We all know of Punk’s personal struggles with his family members, he’s an individual who can’t exactly be said to have had an easy life. Wrestling was an escape to him. It was his passion and something that allowed him to forget about his demons, as he got involved with something he loved. On the independent circuit, he was always able to go at his own pace, do his own thing and ultimately, be the master of his own destiny. The WWE is an entirely different kettle of fish. The schedule is more gruelling and he no longer has ultimate control over what he both gets to do in the ring and gets to say on the mic, or in the storylines he is able to play out.
Those who have depression tend to internalise a lot of things (I know I do) and those who have been fans of Punk for years may find this hard to believe, but my view is that, over time, Punk will have internalised a lot of things to the point where it simply boiled over. Some have used the phrase ‘burned out’ to describe Punk’s departure rather than the dreaded ‘D’ word. But depression would explain not only the radio silence by Punk and his closest friends (as I believe they will be wanting to help him through the difficult patch and won’t want to make things worse by talking about it publicly), but also the lack of public comment by the WWE on the matter.
Again, there have been comparisons to the SCSA walk out wondering why Punk has been effectively ignored on-screen since his walk out. Punk not being buried on screen has been attributed to him being close to Vince McMahon and being one of the E’s biggest names. That may be one reason, but I think it has more to do with internal knowledge about Punk’s real reasons for walking out and not wanting to make things worse, or even be known as the company that publicly bashed a guy who may be dealing with very serious depression.
For some who have followed Punk for the entirety of his career, the lack of comment by him on the WWE and why he departed will undoubtedly seem strange, his final Tweet on 30th January left us with a final eerie message:
“Thanks for all the support. Keep being you guys, it’s pretty cool.”
For a guy who regularly comments on Twitter about his opinion of his matches or the WWE, the lack of public comment since his final Tweet speaks volumes to me. This isn’t the move of a guy whose ego is out of control, someone who wants to encourage change or is simply ‘tired’. This to me is the move of a guy who has snapped, broken down and simply could no longer cope with what was going on in his head. The contract, the money, the fans, if it is depression, will do nothing to encourage him to return. As a fan of Punk, I hope I’m wrong, but until we know for sure, all we can do is pray that he gets well soon
– By Steven Stewart