CM Punk has legitimately quit the WWE, per TMZ, in a surprise move lacking professionalism, yet demonstrating the very rebellious spirit that has come to define him.
Several backstage reports have surfaced stemming from Punk's dramatic exit, with the consensus being Punk's displeasure with WWE storylines, namely the fact that he was to go another year without being booked in the WrestleMania main event. According to PWInsider (via WrestlingInc):
One source told PWInsider that they believed that since Punk's last goal was to work a WrestleMania main event, it may be a situation where he realized it wasn't going to happen this year and with his WWE deal expiring in July, that may have weighed down upon him because he was so goal driven and this was one he couldn't accomplish because of elements that were outside of his control.
A professional athlete walking out on his or her contract is often an inexcusable sin worthy of getting its sinner blacklisted. But in pro wrestling, blacklists simply do not exist. It's only a matter of time before cooler heads prevail.
Punk was described as "burnt out" in the aforementioned report, so time away will allow his body to recover as the two sides continue to negotiate.
Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez of F4WOnline (via Wrestlezone) report "it's being said that Vince McMahon wants Punk back, while Triple H has mixed feelings on the idea," indicating there is still a window for Punk to return in the future.
When will CM Punk return to WWE?
WWE is no stranger to hostile exits. A similar situation of "forgive and forget" will play out this year at WWE's Hall of Fame.
According to WrestlingInc, the Ultimate Warrior reportedly held Vince McMahon up for money in 1991 and was suspended as a result depending on who you talk to.
After a relationship that went from rocky to nonexistent, the Ultimate Warrior has been welcomed back to the WWE as the charter member of its 2014 Hall of Fame class.
Steve Austin's unplanned walkout of 2002 (via Wade Keller of PWTorch) was strikingly similar to that of CM Punk's. Frustrated with WWE storylines, Austin reportedly went home on a day where he was tentatively booked to lose to Brock Lesnar on Raw.
The following year, Austin would return to WWE at WWE No Way Out to finish up his storied career.
Once a wrestler's star becomes a certain size, there is next to nothing they can do to that will ban them from working with WWE.
Jeff Hardy's chronic struggles with substance abuse, Hulk Hogan's decision to compete against WWE alongside WCW, the Montreal Screwjob. All forgiven, all water under a flame-retardant bridge.
Even Chris Benoit will be featured on content for the WWE Network (via WrestlingInc).
More likely than not, we have not seen the last of CM Punk. His star is too big to fade. As has been the case since his near exit of 2011, he'll be back on his own terms.