This week on Monday Night Raw, WWE showed a video package of Undertaker's WrestleMania wins over former champions. Conspicuous by his absence was CM Punk.
CM Punk is now missing from all of WWE's video packages, from the signature that opens every show to each show's opening montage. Anything that CM Punk used to be featured in as part of WWE programming, even for a split second, has been replaced with someone else.
WWE is having CM Punk removed from all upcoming marketing, licensed projects and other WWE-related events, no matter how minor his role is in any of them.
What's more conspicuous?
According to PWInsider Elite (via WrestlingInc.com), next year's WWE Flintstones movie is having CM Punk cut out of it, meaning that CM Punkrock will never see the light of day. He's still in Slam City because it was already produced before his departure, but he's out of the Camp WWE series, as well.
As much as I was looking forward to the CM Punkrock Flintstones character, it makes sense that WWE is cutting Punk out of projects that aren't coming out for months or a year down the road. Where I don't quite get what the company is doing is just how quickly he's being cut out of everything else, especially since the process started several weeks ago.
Look, he's gone and he's not coming back. I get that. The licensing stuff makes sense; it's just personal disappointment that fuels any issues I have with that. The problem is that the other moves appear to have been done out of anger and for no good reason.
If you're doing a montage of everyone Undertaker has beaten, and you're angry at Punk, what does anyone in WWE have to gain by not showing him being beaten over and over for weeks? Punk doesn't gain anything by being shown in that context. He lost. In highlight form, even if you show him getting his big near-fall, everyone knows he lost.
I guess the best argument is that if Punk is gone, any glimpses of him will be wrongly interpreted as signs that he's coming back as part of some kind of realistic angle, like what came out of the "pipe bomb" in 2011. That's somewhat fair, and I can see why WWE might think that and roll with it to help the company figure out how to use his image going forward.
I can't completely agree with that: Personally, I think he's more conspicuous in his absence than he would be with his face occasionally showing up in highlight packages. I guess it does come down to personal opinion, and there may not be a "right" answer, but to me, erasing someone stands out more than letting them be, especially nowadays.
We're in a world where there are thousands upon thousands of super-fans who analyze every little thing, from edits to WWE's standard videos to who people stop following on Twitter. If WWE's worry is Internet chatter, then changes to the status quo will get the most attention, and in this case, that kind of change is cutting Punk out.
Then again, Punk didn't help matters by using his real name professionally for the first time ever this past weekend on Talking Dead...