Following the dueling chants that broke out during his last appearance on Monday Night Raw, CM Punk should return to the WWE as a babyface. Channel his anger correctly and he could be a brand new version of Steve Austin.
His latest run as a heel painted him as an angry coward, mad at everything the WWE and the fans were doing. Instead, he should be mad at the WWE and its reliance on part-time wrestlers.
When Punk first turned heel he had a purpose behind it. The turn was fueled, storyline-wise, by a lack of respect toward the then-WWE champion. Instead of ending shows with his matches, he opened them or was thrust into the middle of the card.
When The Rock announced that he was returning to the WWE at the 2013 Royal Rumble with a title shot in hand it took all of the wind out of his sails. Instead of talking about his lengthy run as champion, the talk was all about the return of The Great One and how he was going to beat Punk.
Turning against The Rock and the WWE fans was the right move at the time. He was still strong, willing to defend the title he had earned against what he perceived as an injustice. A bad guy with a motive makes for great television.
But for whatever reason, once he became a heel he was no longer a fighter. The WWE turned Punk into the standard coward heel. He cheated to win. He relied on men like Brad Maddox to help him defeat opponents. Heel Punk became a shell of his former self.
What the WWE needs to do is flip Punk back around as a face and channel that anger not at the WWE fans, but at the WWE itself.
Punk simply works better as a face. Plus, his face character would fit into the mold of former multi-time WWE champion Steve Austin. During Austin's height of fame during the Attitude Era he routinely challenged both the rules and authority. His feud with Vince McMahon helped change how the WWE did business.
Austin transformed the role of babyface. He gave the good guy more of an edge. A tweener face, if you will. Willing to get rough and break a few rules, but still fighting the good fight.
Punk is at his best when he's doing the same thing.
Look no further than his "last" match in the WWE in 2011 with John Cena at Money in the Bank. While his contract had already been renewed, the WWE Universe only knew was he was leaving, hoping to take the WWE title with him.
He was cheered in the match, especially when McMahon tried to get John Laurinaitis to ring the bell and stop the bout.
Yes, Cena was the one who stopped Johnny Ace, but it was Punk who won the match and the cheers. Even McMahon calling on Alberto Del Rio to cash in on Punk failed.
He pulled a simple Austin move—he flipped a finger at both McMahon and the WWE and won. Like Austin, he got to tell his boss to shove it and the fans ate up every minute.
Today's WWE needs a face like Punk. The current champion, Cena, is booed now more than ever. Former face Ryback has officially switched sides and embraced his more violent tendencies. Randy Orton, who could be an Austin-type of face, instead looks bored in the ring. If reports are true, he's just waiting for his chance to become heel as well.
Faces like Sheamus and Del Rio also lack that "anything goes" edge. The Celtic Warrior is rough and tough in the ring, but he doesn't air any dirty laundry to the public or show any disdain for the company. The same goes for Del Rio.
Should CM Punk return as a babyface?
Hating one's job is still a hot topic. According to a 2012 poll by CNBC, more than half of Americans dislike their job. If Punk returned from his time off ready to fight the WWE for pushing part-timers over full-timers, it could ignite a fire in his character.
When Punk is healed up and ready to return he should step back in the ring as a babyface and fight for all the guys who want to be there. He could feud with McMahon himself, a corporate Triple H or maybe even Johnny Ace.
Somebody should stand up for the WWE locker room and Punk could be that guy.