Absence makes the heart grow fonder. CM Punk would do well to keep that in mind as he plots his next move.
The former WWE champion shocked everybody when he abruptly walked out on WWE Raw back in January. He left a cryptic tweet, which seemed to signal that he was actually leaving:
Thanks for all the support. Keep being you guys, it's pretty cool.— Coach (@CMPunk) January 27, 2014
In a press conference, Vince McMahon commented that, "He's taking a sabbatical, let's just put it that way," per Marc Middleton of WrestlingInc.com.
"Conventional" is never a word you'd use to describe Punk, so the way he exited the company shouldn't come as a huge shock.
Now, the question is, when will he return?
WWE Raw is in Chicago next Monday, which is leading some to believe that Punk will come back then. The Allstate Arena is where he returned following his loss to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, and it's the scene of his greatest accomplishment to date in WWE—the Money in the Bank 2011 win versus John Cena.
While that would be an appropriate setting, the timing would be all off.
You can bet that when Punk does return, he'll be placed right in the middle of a major program and at a major stage. Otherwise, what's the purpose in leaving in the first place?
With a little over a month until WrestleMania 30, there's no room for Punk to get anything close to a main-event program.
Brock Lesnar is facing off with The Undertaker, Daniel Bryan looks to be on a collision course with Triple H and Batista is the No. 1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, or whatever the company's calling it.
The only place where you could see Punk fitting in is the title match with Batista and Randy Orton. How could that be explained, though, in such a short amount of time? It's not like you can take Batista's shot away from him, as great as that would be. Nor will Orton have a title defense this close to the biggest show of the year, in which he could lose his title.
This is WrestleMania. You don't want to haphazardly cobble something together for a few weeks. WWE played its hand by having Batista win the Royal Rumble, and it can't go back now.
If WrestleMania's out, the next logical choice would be another of the "Big Four" pay-per-views, in the event Punk even wants to return in 2014. SummerSlam or Survivor Series wouldn't be bad options. Maybe Money in the Bank in June is an option.
From Punk's perspective, why rush it? Wait until at least Royal Rumble 2015, when you could be positioned for the main event at WrestleMania 31.
Will CM Punk return to WWE in 2014?
He's made and saved enough money to live comfortably for the immediate future. His knees could also use the time off.
Punk has attained a level of star power where he can stay on hiatus for as long as he wants, and he'll remain one of the biggest stars in the business. There's no threat that, if he waits too long, the fans will forget him. The "CM Punk" chants may die off in a while, but make no mistake about it, the second that Punk returns, the crowd will go crazy.
In fact, the longer he remains gone, the larger the pop will be when he gets back. The Rock and Lesnar didn't have any trouble getting a reaction, despite being out of the business for years. Even Batista got a solid reception at first.
As great as it would be to see CM Punk in a WWE ring again, it's a scene that fans won't likely be treated to for some time.