It's difficult to remember a week in the past few months in which there was more controversy inside and outside the ring than what the WWE has experienced over the last seven days.
The biggest thing that everyone is talking about, of course, is a potential partnership between CM Punk and Paul Heyman, as Punk got into a car that Heyman was driving on RAW. That would seem to point to the outspoken duo doing business together, but you never quite know the motives of either man.
Also, a promising superstar who has been out of action for the past six months made his triumphant return on SmackDown. While the returning superstar may be a huge part of the WWE's future, fans will get a blast from the past when a Hall of Famer appears on RAW this coming Monday.
On top of that, a long-haired star debuted a new look and a high-profile WWE project appears to have been shelved for the time being, so there is certainly a lot worth talking about.
Here's all the latest WWE news and rumors for the week beginning Sept. 2.
WWE Champion CM Punk certainly shined Monday in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago, cutting a couple of great promos and walking out on his scheduled match against Sheamus.
But Punk made his presence felt by the end of the night, as John Cena and Alberto Del Rio battled into the backstage area during their Falls-Count-Anywhere match only for Punk to ambush his Night of Champions challenger.
Punk then got into a car and Paul Heyman revealed himself to be the driver. With Brock Lesnar kayfabe quitting the WWE, it seemed like we wouldn't see Heyman until Lesnar returned. But clearly, he is still in the picture. Exactly what his role will be remains to be seen, however.
As a fan of both Punk and Heyman, saying that I'm excited about a potential partnership would be a major understatement. It wouldn't be unfair to call Punk and Heyman the two best promo cutters in the business today, so they are almost certain to work some magic.
Despite Punk's heel turn, he has still been getting cheers, so I feel like putting Heyman with him does him a great service since Heyman is universally hated by the fans.
I would either like to see Punk and Heyman eventually tart a stable with the likes of Lesnar and Big Show, or perhaps a feud between Punk and Lesnar when he returns. Lesnar is definitely better as a monster heel, but I could see him coming back and starting an angle with Punk
Lesnar can claim that Heyman abandoned him. I would prefer the stable, but Punk is the only top guy Lesnar has yet to tangle with so far.
There are certain things that you identify with certain superstars. For Triple H, one of those things would have to be his signature long hair. With The Game making changes in his professional life as he is wrestling with the idea of retiring from the ring from a storyline perspective, he also appears to be making personal changes as well.
According to WWE.com, The Cerebral Assassin decided to shave his identifiable locks as first seen Wednesday outside WWE's headquarters. There hasn't been any explanation given for Triple H's new 'do, but there is no question that it is a drastically different look that will take some getting used to.
I generally don't get bent out of shape over hair styles and beards like many fans seem to, but Triple H has essentially had the same hair since his WWE debut. So seeing his close-cropped look is definitely a shock to the system. My best guess is that it was done as a way to further the perception that Triple H is retiring.
Obviously, he isn't actually going to retire, but the WWE is trying to create doubt and I believe this new haircut aids in that.
Of course, it is possible that Triple H just wanted to change things up and decided to get his hair cut on a whim. There's no real way of knowing, but it's interesting nonetheless.
I get the feeling that he is going for more of a corporate look, but Lesnar will ultimately goad him into having another match anyway. It's Triple H's hair and he can do whatever he wants with it, but I can understand why some fans might be taken aback by all of this.
Wade Barrett suffered a dislocated elbow roughly six months ago and has been out of action ever since. But he finally made his highly anticipated return on this week's episode of SmackDown.
Barrett came back with a new theme song, a new shirt, a new beard and what seems like a new attitude as he made quick work of Yoshi Tatsu.
The real magic happened after the match, however, as Barrett took the mic and truly shined. He said what every fan was thinking as he called his match with Tatsu insignificant and said that he fully expected to be placed in the world title picture immediately.
Whether that comes to fruition is anyone's guess, but with the Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio feud seemingly winding down, it's a distinct possibility.
From the moment I first saw Barrett compete on NXT, I felt like he was a special talent and I certainly still believe that to be true. If not for the elbow injury that has kept him out of action, I have little doubt that he would have been a world champion by now.
That hasn't happened yet, but he has all the tools necessary to be the company's top heel. I think it is only a matter of time until he ascends to the top of the ladder.
Sheamus desperately needs a credible opponent in order to legitimize himself and the World Heavyweight Championship, and Barrett is the perfect choice. His new persona seems to portray him as a no-nonsense fighter who is willing to take on anyone and everyone.
Similarly, Sheamus has never backed down from a fight during his time as champion, so that feud is just begging to happen. There aren't many heels who look like they can actually beat Sheamus, but Barrett is one guy who can.
He needs to be the next contender for the belt.
SmackDown Results (via WrestlingNewsWorld.com)
He may not be the same as he once was, but any time WWE Hall of Famer Bret "Hitman" Hart steps into a WWE ring, it is a very special occasion.
According to Hart on Twitter, that is precisely what will happen this coming Monday in Montreal as he was asked by the WWE brass to appear on RAW and has agreed to do so.
Hart hasn't been seen since he served as a ring announcer on the 1,000th episode of RAW, but I fully expect him to have a much bigger role this time around. Hart is an absolute hero in Canada and Montreal, in particular, especially do to his history there, namely the Montreal Screw Job.
I don't anticipate there being many references to that on Monday, but Hart will be pivotal in the development of a current superstar.
One particular wrestler who Hart has expressed great admiration and respect for is WWE Champion CM Punk. That feeling is mutual.
Punk's pink and black attire is a clear nod to the Hitman. Punk has adopted a heel persona, however, and walked out on a match last week, so I expect Hart to bring that up on Monday.
He'll likely say that he respects Punk as a wrestler, but what he did on Monday was unbecoming of a champion and that he should carry himself with more class.
Punk will then spew some insults Hart's way in order to create some nuclear heat with the Canadian crowd. Ultimately, at some point during the night, Punk is probably going to attack Hart and the show will end with Punk standing tall over the WWE legend in front of his home-country fans.
That will ensure that Punk is a hated villain in Canada, and it will probably help him get some heat in the United States as well.
The WWE Network was originally set to launch in November 2012. It was postponed until February 2013, and now it appears as though plans have been put on hold. According to WrestleZone.com, a WWE Network would be nearly impossible to set up in the next six-to-12 months because the WWE lacks a television deal and isn't willing to make it a subscription channel such as HBO.
WWE senior vice president of marketing and communications Brian Flinn has since said that WrestleZone's claims are a "complete fabrication and totally inaccurate." It is impossible to know who to believe at this point, but there certainly seems to have been an inordinate amount of delays when it comes to the network at this point.
As somebody who was very excited when the news of a WWE Network first came to light, I am hoping that WrestleZone's report is inaccurate, but I tend to believe it's true. Common sense would tell you that the WWE is having issues with the network since there hasn't been any new information regarding it in a very long time and there is no longer a tentative launch date.
With that said, WWE Network seems to be very much in jeopardy.
The WWE has so much incredible archival footage. The WWE Network would give the company a great platform to televise that as well as original shows and things such as NXT and Superstars.
I'm not willing to say that the WWE Network concept is officially dead since Vince McMahon has been known to pull a rabbit or two out of his hat. But unless there is some progress in the near future, it will probably be a long time before we see the station come to fruition.
WWE Network Plans Put On Hold, Hiring Frozen (via WrestleZone.com)