When CM Punk returns at WWE Payback this Sunday, Monday Night Raw will be getting a huge lift that it desperately needs.
Punk, of course, has been absent from TV for about two months, but it feels like it’s been so much longer.
Prior to being written off of TV, Punk had a huge presence. His 434-day reign as WWE champion and his alliance with Paul Heyman made him one of the most entertaining aspects of Raw for much of the last two years. Then he went away, and things went sour quickly.
Good news, though: When Punk comes back, he’s bound to breathe some life back into Monday Night Raw.
After all, Raw—though it’s had some highs as of late, most of which have involved Daniel Bryan—just hasn’t been the same without “The Best in the World.”
When Punk left TV, he didn’t just leave Raw. Perhaps more importantly, he left the WWE championship picture, which has been far from entertaining since his departure.
The title picture has revolved around Ryback, his heel turn and his quest to beat Cena for the WWE title. Unfortunately, this hasn’t exactly produced riveting TV, as Ryback has struggled as a heel, and creative has had a difficult time giving us a reason to care about this rivalry.
Another very noticeable problem with Raw since Punk was written off of TV is the overwhelming presence of Triple H.
Of course, it's no coincidence that Triple H has been a huge part of some of the WWE’s biggest storylines during Punk’s absence. It’s safe to say that Triple H wants to constantly put himself on the show as a way to “make up” for Punk being off of TV.
Unfortunately, Triple H hasn’t been able to give us a storyline that we should even bother caring about it. Ultimately, it’s just a way to keep him in the spotlight even though his time at the top has clearly passed.
Triple H is an all-time great, but Punk has surpassed him on the WWE’s pecking order (at least in the fans’ eyes), and Punk can breathe new life into the WWE that Triple H can’t.
Part of that has to do with Punk being arguably the best overall performer in the WWE. Although many associate Daniel Bryan with that title these days, it’s hard to argue against Punk being neck-and-neck with him in the race to crown the WWE’s top all-around performer.
When a guy as talented as Punk goes away, the WWE is going to miss him. You can’t just replace someone like Punk, who is the WWE’s second-biggest star and a performer who instantly improves the quality of the WWE product.
Will Punk instantly improve Raw upon his return?
It’s also worth mentioning that Punk will breathe some life back into the WWE simply because he’s been away for a while.
Whenever a major star is off of TV for an extended period—whether it be Undertaker, The Rock or Brock Lesnar—his return is going to provide the WWE with an instant jolt of energy, excitement and entertainment.
That’s exactly what Punk’s return will do for Raw, which—aside from anything involving Bryan or The Shield—has struggled while he’s been off of TV.
Without enough guys who are firmly entrenched as top stars and TV draws, the WWE has sorely missed Punk, who makes people watch Raw while simultaneously making that show better.
No, Punk isn’t going to “make or break” the WWE. No star ever will.
But you better believe that his return will instantly make Raw better. They don’t call him the “best in the world” for nothing, after all.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!