As you can imagine, speculation immediately began as to why he would actually leave the company, while others wondered if it was just an extravagant storyline formulated by the masterminds (I use that term loosely) behind WWE's script.
Punk gave further evidence of his departure from professional wrestling when he tweeted this out to his followers on January 27th:
Thanks for all the support. Keep being you guys, it's pretty cool.— Coach (@CMPunk) January 27, 2014
He hasn't tweeted since.
It appears as though the former champion will eventually be a free agent, leaving his next career move a mystery to those watching.
After building a rather strong reputation and following from his years in the WWE and their associated brands, CM Punk will have a ton of leverage if he decides to join another wrestling or martial arts franchise.
The crowd and attention he would bring would be unrivaled, and would pretty much mean he could call the shots in most situations. There's a slew of ways he could go from here, but only a couple really make sense.
Back to TNA?
Punk had a short stint in TNA near the beginning of his professional wrestling career. There he was a part of many storylines with Raven and then-counterpart Julio Dinero. Punk and Dinero later turned on Raven, and were subsequently put on hold by TNA officials after failing to connect with the crowd.
Now, almost a decade later, Punk could return to the brand and immediately make a positive impact on their ratings.
Basically, Punk would be a big fish in a small pond, and could maintain the momentum his career has had, all the while helping TNA reach their next level of popularity.
It's hard to imagine TNA not wanting him, meaning this decision hinges upon how Punk wants to go about his career from here. It is entirely possible that he doesn't even want to wrestle anymore, although I find that hard to believe.
If he were to return to TNA, it would likely be similar to how Batista rejoined WWE: a fast start, leading to a very prominent role before long.
The Jump to MMA
As many wrestlers do, Punk has an extensive background in martial arts, specifically muay thai (Thai boxing). We've seen superstars make the leap between professional wrestling and martial arts before, and that might make the most sense for him.
Yes. I don't think that's going to surprise anybody, and those that think that I don't belong in an octagon, I welcome that. I welcome anybody who tells me I can't do anything. It makes me want to do it more. I think that there's a lot of guys that our paths might have been a little different if the UFC was as prominent.
There's a clear interest from Punk, but he's not the only one that would be interested in seeing the Straight Edge Superstar in the Octagon.
In fact, one the biggest supporters of this is none other than the Green Ranger himself, Jason David Frank. The former TV star and MMA fighter had this to say about a former fight with Punk (via his Instagram):
So now that CM punk is out of his contracts and wants to do MMA. Why not me? He already said he fight me. I got this on video from a fan. Come on CM punk we could make this a awesome fight. Plus his weight is way down. ... I'll make any weight to make this happen!!
As much as this story appeals to my inner child, there's actually a real shot Punk takes his talents to the eight sides of steel.
UFC President Dana White has even spoken on the possibility of CM Punk doing MMA, and he seemed on board with it. "I like him, he's a great guy," White said, "It's a little late to get into the game, but who knows if he can fight? I don't know. We'll see what happens, but I like him a lot. He's a nice guy."
Who knows where the former WWE champion will end up. It could be in TNA—maybe even ROH—or it could be with the UFC, possibly even Bellator according to Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via Cageside Seats). Hell, there's even a chance this is all a hoax and is just to beef up the WWE's attention as we hit the home stretch to WrestleMania 30.
The only thing we know for sure is that wherever Punk decides to go, he will do well and will have the support of his fans every step of the way.