Analyzing Fan Behavior Since CM Punk's Departure from WWE

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Analyzing Fan Behavior Since CM Punk's Departure from WWE
Credit: WWE.com

A downpour of emotion has inspired CM Punk fans to lead a misguided fight against WWE.

Rather than be frustrated with the Superstar whom many put on the proverbial pedestal, many fans have aimed their animosity at the company that employed him. Chants for Punk have kept him in the news weeks after he quit pro wrestling. 

The disappointment of having a beloved warrior head elsewhere is understandable. The way some fans have dealt with that feeling is not.

Fans have tried to take over WWE's programming, cramming in Punk's name, but to what end?

WWE wants Punk back in the ring as much as his fanbase does. 

Detracting from the talents performing today, Punk's loudest supporters are screaming a message that WWE has already heard. Punk's absence is a problem WWE can't fix the way his devotees want it to. It can only put out a Punk-less product that highlights the roster's other stars.

Logic hasn't gotten in the way of fan fury, though.

The story of post-Punk WWE has been one dominated by upset fans voicing their opinions in the form of chants. "CM Punk! CM Punk!" has been the anthem for a group of fans looking to force a change that WWE simply can't make.

Outrage spilled over first at NXT of all places. 

WWE confiscated several Punk signs at a January NXT taping, as reported by PWMania.com. That didn't stop fans from voicing their support for the departed Superstar.

Although it was a strange location to begin this battle against WWE, the timing made it understandable. The situation was unclear at that point. Fans subsisted only on rumors, unsure of why Punk left and whether or not he was coming back.

WWE hadn't made a statement on his exit, and neither had Punk.

Not knowing if Punk was pushed out or if this was all part of some elaborate storyline created incendiary emotion that first caught fire at WWE developmental.

That fire raged on during the first Raw after word of Punk's departure emerged. On Feb 3, chants for Punk filled the CenturyLink Arena in Omaha, Neb. even during a Daniel Bryan match.

WWE didn't foresee the roaring response Punk earned. PWInsider (via WrestlingInc.com), reported that officials didn't see Omaha "as a hotbed of 'Internet fans'" and thus wasn't as concerned about the audience hijacking the show as they would be in his hometown of Chicago.

The company miscalculated.

Punk chants provided the soundtrack for much of the action that night. They became something wrestlers like Randy Orton had to talk over.

They also became distractions during matches.

WWE tried to just ignore it all like a parent might turn away from a child erupting in a tantrum. It didn't work. The chants persisted.

Segments, interviews and matches all suffered from distracting chants for Punk. WWE's decision to ignore the situation forced the announcers to pretend not to hear them.

Meme from MemeGene.net

Dealing with this earlier might have cooled things down. The silence from WWE only served to upset fans more, giving off the vibe that the company didn't care about losing Punk.

It wasn't until Raw hit Punk's hometown that WWE even addressed the issue.

After Dave Meltzer, (via WrestlingInc.com) reported that a source told him Punk was expected back, anticipation swelled. The March 3 Raw began with Punk's music hitting, only it was Paul Heyman who stepped out from the backstage area.

Heyman told fans that Punk was not there. Having heard things like that before, only to have the wrestler in question make a "surprise" appearance at the end of the show, the audience didn't listen to him.

Paul Heyman discusses the CM Punk situation.

The manager switched the conversation to his client Brock Lesnar as if to say, "We're moving on. WrestleMania is coming."

That wasn't enough to quell the situation. Punk chants were as ever-present on Raw as corny one-liners from Jerry Lawler.

Punk never appeared. It seemed that his chances of returning, at least before WrestleMania XXX, were greatly reduced. It was time to give up, but some fans still held on tight to their anger and adoration.

Then vocal support for Punk occurred at an event where there was even less of a chance of him showing up: TNA's Lockdown pay-per-view.

That's like chanting Tom Brady's name at a Jacksonville Jaguars game. He's not going to be playing for that team, so why bother? It makes more sense to support those who are banging their bodies around for our entertainment.

WWE, as always, is an imperfect product, but there are plenty of elements worth celebrating. Great matches happen every week. Punk chants are disrespectful to the performers toiling between the ropes.

On Monday's Raw, WWE found its most effective weapon for combating the fans pining for Punk: an electric segment that can't be ignored.

That's what the company delivered with Bryan's occupation of Raw. He enlisted a group of fans to clog the ring area and refused to leave until Triple H met his demands.

The unexpected, perfectly timed scene had "Yes!" chants muffle those for Punk. The night still saw some instances of fans calling out Punk's name but there was less fervor to the voices.

That's a result of time, realization and the appeal of current storylines.

With no reward for their loyalty, Punk's supporters can't stay incensed forever. The lack of results will cause all that rage to abate.

Now that Punk has been gone for over a month and it's clear that he won't be nudged back anytime soon, even the most vocal members of his fanbase will have to adjust their attention to the current product.

Bryan is making full use of his red-hot popularity. The Wyatt Family, The Shield and Cesaro continue to deliver standout performances night after night. WrestleMania XXX is morphing into a card filled with intrigue.

Those are the things worth chanting for, not the actor who left the stage.

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