Welcome one and all to your Friday Update, straight from the news desk. I'm your humble correspondent, Randal Graves. Not sure if anyone has heard about this yet, but it appears that CM Punk may be done with WWE. I know, I know: breaking news! While details about the whys and whens were the subject of immediate and ceaseless speculation, we have now reached the stage of this story where figures around pro wrestling are chiming in with their opinions and observations on the matter.
WWE Hall of Famer and extreme icon Mick Foley (already in the news due to his very understandable reaction to the Royal Rumble last Sunday) chimed in on Twitter, saying: "I know that @CMPunk has been frustrated for quite some time. To his great credit, he never let that prevent him from giving less than 100%." Rumble participant (and scripted Punk foe) Kevin Nash also offered his thoughts, tweeting "Punk's beat up and burned out, works his ass off. Phil is a very smart guy he may just need to decompress."
As promised, Jim Ross updated his blog and gave his thoughts on the situation. JR found the situation not highly unexpected and did not believe it was a storyline, as some have suggested. As to whether Punk is done permanently with the WWE, Ross offered this: "I do not think that Punk has wrestled his last match in WWE. I do feel that it's best for all involved for Punk to take much needed time off even if it means that he misses a WrestleMania. CM Punk has been good for WWE. WWE has been good for CM Punk. I'm hopeful that they will resolve their issues and be good together once again in the future."
According to reports, the WWE Universe is obviously less than thrilled with how this has played out so far. At last night's NXT taping at Full Sail University, Punk signs were confiscated by officials and the chanting for him began early and often. Considering that a Monday Night Raw is scheduled to take place in Punk's Chicago hometown shortly (3/3), one can expect that this drama is far from its conclusion.
For its part, Friday Headlines is a huge fan of CM Punk. Here's a guy who already managed to turn potentially walking out on the company into an excellent storyline, and that was when he was its champion. Anyone who has such accuracy and power in their "pipe bombs" will certainly bring his share of controversy into a very real happening. To imagine that a strong-willed wrestler and head honcho Vince McMahon would be on opposite sides of the coin after a closed-door meeting is not surprising. There's a certain Hall of Famer being inducted this year who had a very similar situation himself many moons ago.
Perhaps the most revealing remarks came from another main eventer who did exactly the same thing, that being "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. On last night's Arsenio Hall show, Austin was asked about the Punk situation and said he was in a very similar place when he took his ball and went home in 2002. Austin admitted that he "lost out on a lot of money" but ultimately feels that one of two things will happen: Vince McMahon will meet with Punk to smooth things out or Punk will come back to the WWE when he's ready. Punk, who Austin described as a friend but a "hard-headed young man," is in his prime earning years but very stressed out. The bottom line, according to Steve: Punk will return.
And that, ultimately, is reason to have hope that this story will end in a positive way. Certainly the prospect of going through WrestleMania season without him is bleak. Even more so, perhaps, for the WWE, as they lose not just a unique character with massive fan appeal but also a big focal point of the fledgling Network. That's why it seems utterly inconceivable that things won't work themselves out. Whether you agree with Punk's decision or not, anybody stepping away from the grind of wrestling for a while can be understood. Punk not being happy with the direction of his character, if that was the rationale, is even more understandable. To think these two parties who both hope to collect their income while giving the fans some semblance of what they want won't patch things up is unnecessarily negative.
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have resolved their issues, at least in part. So have McMahon and The Ultimate Warrior. Nothing lasts forever in pro wrestling, especially when the right opportunity rolls along. It remains to be seen how this will play out, but I have to agree with JR: he's not done with WWE. Punk's single-mindedness is one of the things that makes him so very popular, and that means we have to accept his reasoning even if it's not preferred. There's too much mutual opportunity for this tale to be over.
FNU's advice in musical form:
And a tribute to the man of the hour (and week):
In other news, TNA has brought MVP on board, as was revealed last night at the Impact tapings in Scotland. He was mentioned as the "man to change Impact Wrestling" and came out in a suit with Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards to close the show. He is being referred to as the "mystery investor," which seems highly apropos since anyone investing in TNA's current product would be a mystery to us. Word has it that MVP will be able to use that moniker as it was his creation (smart move!) but will not have access to Montel Vontavious Porter, as that was WWE's creation (smarter move!)
MVP had tweeted that he was working on a "handshake deal," so his official status with the company is unknown. This will mark MVP's first foray back into North American pro wrestling since departing the WWE in 2010. And here you thought the mystery investor was Steve Lombardi. (INC)
Naturally, Friday News Update is finally in a position to reveal its own Mystery Investor:
Feel like you've been getting a very healthy dose of Brock Lesnar? Don't expect it to last. Reports indicate that Lesnar likely won't be involved at the Elimination Chamber PPV and won't be featured on WWE programming until the post-Chamber Raw on 2/24. That date, of course, is also the launch of the Network immediately following that program, so it should be no surprise to anyone. One could speculate that the build for Lesnar's much-rumored match with The Undertaker might begin that evening.
For what it's worth, Lesnar is booked on most Raw shows between the Chamber and WM XXX, so the absence will be brief. Lesnar's been booked a bit more strongly this time around, in my view, and with one of the best mouthpieces in the business in his corner, his presence is not always required to make an impact. Given some of the recent uncertainty about the top of the card, this match will be hotly anticipated and needs to deliver the goods on a completely new platform for the WWE. I'd give them a very good chance to do so. (Rajah)
If it's arrivals you're looking for on this wrestling weekend, WWE might have another in KENTA, a Japanese wrestler currently affiliated with Pro Wrestling Noah. He is expected to make an announcement regarding his future on Monday, and was at WWE's Performance Center this past week. KENTA is a former amateur kickboxer who has held a plethora of titles in Noah and would certainly bring a scintillating offense to the WWE should that come to pass. (INC)
If you're not familiar with KENTA, here's a NOAH event from 2008 pitting him against one Daniel Bryan:
As for FNU's latest round of Wrestler vs. Musician, we've got a doozy for you this time around. In this corner, the affable Bushwhackers, Butch and Luke. Known for herding sheep, eating sardines, and their unique walk, they can only be truly encapsulated with this:
In the other corner, '90s alternative rock powerhouse Bush. Known for greedy flies, everything zen, and Mr. Gwen Stefani, they promptly offer their rebuttal:
So who takes it down? Your call, dear readers, as always.
That clears the news desk for your wrestling weekend. As always, I'd like to thank you for taking time to read the dirt of the day. Feel free to chime into the conversation roiling in the depths below or fire off witty bon mots or ship manifests to me via Twitter @DharmanRockwell or via email at email@example.com. See you Tuesday!