CM Punk was one of the best overall performers in World Wrestling Entertainment when he decided that he was finished working for the company for a variety of reasons early on in 2014. Punk then waited until Thanksgiving weekend of last year to explain why he made that choice, and he in turn made the Art of Wrestling podcast the hottest thing in the business for a period of time. The “Straightedge Superstar” has since stated on numerous occasions that he is retired as a pro wrestler, and he has also put pen to paper on a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Punk is scheduled to make his UFC debut at some point in 2015.
Retirements in the wrestling world are about as concrete as are verbal agreements with a political official. History has shown that performers cannot, for one reason or another, help but make dramatic returns to the ring for at least a single match. Ric Flair was back at it not too long after he lost what was supposed to be a retirement match to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV. Terry Funk having retirement contests has become somewhat of a running joke, and Funk is still technically a semi-active wrestler despite the fact that he will turn 71 years old in June of this year.
Punk is unlike many noteworthy cases in the wrestling business in that he has, by all accounts, done well to save up his money and also make wise business decisions. He should not, moving forward, need to sign one final massive contract with the WWE to make returning to the industry worth his while. That does not, however, mean that Punk could not be convinced to once again perform for the company were the right deal to come along. Truth be told, it seems just about inevitable that we will see Punk inside of a WWE ring at some point over the next couple of years.
10 Everybody Goes Back
There is an argument to be made that the list could end with this tidbit. Bruno Sammartino feuded with Vince McMahon for decades, but that beef has been squashed and Sammartino is now in the WWE Hall of Fame. Bret Hart went through the debacle that was the “Montreal Screwjob” and he then suffered the tragic loss of his brother Owen, a death that occurred because the WWE staged a needless and idiotic stunt, and yet the “Hitman” eventually went back to the company. Punk would merely be the latest case of a wrestler going back to the WWE after vowing that he would never again return to the organization.
9 No Fight Camps
Fight camps, the time during which train and prepare for upcoming battles, are not fun. They involve strenuous daily workouts, grappling and sparring, a different type of preparation than what pro wrestlers go through during weekdays. Punk got himself some much-needed rest and recovery after walking away from the WWE in 2014, but he is now back at the grind as he attempts to get ready for the first UFC fight of his career. The possibility exists that Punk could, after completing his first camp and his first in-cage battle, decide that maybe this life is not right for him.
8 No Fights
Brock Lesnar would, if somehow forced to tell the truth on the subject, probably be the first person to admit that being a UFC competitor is all fun and games until you get rocked by a powerful punch in the face that first time. While the UFC will, assuming that those making such decisions will be smart, likely go out of the way to protect Punk, the reality of the matter is that the former wrestler will be an underdog against just about any fighter inside of a cage. Punk making a return to the WWE were he to get dominated in a couple of actual fights should not be a surprise to anybody.
7 UFC Defections
Brock Lesnar intentionally or not announced to the world in the week leading up to WrestleMania 31 that working for the WWE was more desirable than was returning to the UFC at this stage of his life. There continue to be whispers that Ronda Rousey, the best female fighter in the industry, could be eying a switch from the UFC to the WWE at some point over the next couple of years. There are real reasons why these individuals who could make millions of dollars fighting are instead choosing to play pro wrestler, and Punk could be intrigued by those reasons in the near future.
Punk turned 36 years old last October, and he is essentially just now beginning his mixed martial arts career. It would be quite an understatement to suggest that he is an underdog in the industry who was likely brought in by Dana White more so to sell tickets and generate buzz than compete with the best of the best in his weight division. Punk could realistically have at least a decade left in the tank as a pro wrestler so long as he avoids serious injuries. His MMA career may, however, only last a fraction of that amount of time regardless of his overall health.
A.J. Brooks, the real-life spouse of Punk, surprised many in the industry when she “retired” from the WWE following WrestleMania 31. It is widely believed that the 28-year-old called time on her career when she did more so because of the legal battle that stemmed from comments Punk made during that infamous podcast episode than because she was finished as a performer. AJ returning to the WWE at any point could be dependent on what Punk decides to do with his career. Just sayin', being able to work and travel with your wife on a weekly basis is not a bad way to make a living.
Punk certainly had his fair share of memorable feuds while he was an active WWE performer, but it would be inaccurate to say that he did it all while working with the company. The WWE could book a feud involving Punk and Daniel Bryan that included more than a throwaway television match. Punk could also complete programs with up-and-coming WWE stars such as Finn Balor and/or Kevin Owens. Punk being presented with the feuds of his choice could make a big difference in any future contract negotiations that he may have with the WWE in the future.
Punk, to steal a phrase from legend of the squared-circle Shawn Michaels, lost his smile as it pertains to his wrestling career during the winter of 2014. Michaels eventually relocated his happiness with the industry, and the same could occur for Punk after he spends some time out of pro wrestling. There was legitimately a time when being a pro wrestler was a career dream for Punk, and that type of passion and love does not just disappear for good. Punk was a dedicated pro wrestler for, to date, the majority of his adult life, and the thought of having even one more match could be enough to entice him to return to the WWE.
Those contemplating whether or not Punk will return to the WWE at any point need to remember that he does not need to be a weekly television figure ever again. Punk could work a schedule similar to those had by the likes of Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho, one that would allow Punk to take significant time off and that would give him opportunities to pursue interests outside of the ring. While Punk would not be able to take part in legitimate fights if he was under the WWE umbrella, such a light schedule could be appealing to somebody who is closer to retirement than the prime of his wrestling career.
The WWE showed during the spring of 2015 that the company is willing to go toe-to-toe with the UFC as it pertains to contract negotiations when the wrestling federation locked Brock Lesnar up to a deal that ended Lesnar's mixed martial arts career. Punk likely would not make as much money as Lesnar would upon returning to the WWE, but it is not out of the question that the WWE would make it financially worth his while were Punk to give it one more go in wrestling. Punk may be financially secure, but another seven figures in his name would certainly be nice to have.