CM Punk is already the WWE’s second biggest star, so is it really even possible for him to become an even bigger star?
Absolutely, and it’s going to happen soon.
Granted, it’s hard to imagine Punk’s star power growing. After all, he’s been arguably the top name in all of pro wrestling over the last two-plus years.
But flashback to 2011, and just consider the very first thing that happened that year that turned Punk into the massive superstar that he is today: He went away for a while.
Many wrestling fans refer to the summer of 2011 as “The Summer of Punk” because so many remarkable things involving him took place that summer.
The catalyst of it all, however, was the real-life-situation-turned-storyline of Punk “leaving” the WWE. Of course, we all remember that Punk beat John Cena for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank that year (just like he said he would) and then, in storyline, bolted the company (just like he said he would).
Some knew that Punk’s departure was just part of a storyline. Some weren’t sure if it was legitimate or scripted. Others had no idea either way.
Regardless, Punk’s short absence from the WWE accomplished one major goal: It made him more popular than ever before.
There’s an old saying that “You never know what you have until it’s gone,” and it’s safe to say that the WWE fans didn’t realize how much they missed Punk until he was gone.
That was proven when Punk went away for a short absence, returned and almost immediately became the WWE’s hottest attraction and the closest thing to Cena that the company has seen since perhaps 2005.
He was ridiculously popular in the second half of 2011—cheered by younger fans who began to love him because he was now a babyface, and applauded by the older ones who know how to show their appreciation for such a great performer.
Now, it’s 2013, and the CM Punk cycle is repeating itself.
In 2011, he was a heel (or at least a tweener) who was written off of TV for a while, returned from his absence and emerged a much bigger star than he was beforehand.
In 2013, Punk left as a heel, is set to return at WWE Payback and will likely come back to an absurdly loud ovation in front of his raucous hometown crowd in Chicago.
Whether he’s a heel or face ultimately won’t matter. What will truly matter is that moment in time where Punk returns, the crowd goes nuts and the fans realize that they’re witnessing something incredibly special.
Yes, it’s going to be a really special moment when Punk returns because—just like in 2011—fans across the world are going to realize, “Hey, you know what? We really missed you, Punk. Please don’t go away again!”
That’s the exact same mindset that the fans had when Punk returned in 2011, and it’s not going to be any different whatsoever in 2013.
After all, it hasn’t mattered if he’s a villain or a hero. Punk is a star no matter what role he is playing.
Even if he comes back as a heel at Payback, the simple fact that we haven’t seen him in on TV in more than two months is enough to make his star power skyrocket through the roof.
Time truly can make you realize how great something once was, and both Monday Night Raw and the WWE in general were so much greater when CM Punk was around.
You’ll see that when he comes back—just like we’ve seen that with The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar.
The less often that major stars are around, the more that they are appreciated. The less frequent their appearances, the bigger stars they become.
The Rock left and returned a bigger star and a bigger draw than ever. So did Y2J, Undertaker and Lesnar.
Next in line? You guessed it: CM Punk.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!