The man was right about one thing above all else—he truly was just a spoke on the wheel.
WrestleMania XXX went on without CM Punk, ushering in a new generation. So did the Raw the day after in what was arguably the best edition of WWE's flagship show over the past few years, if not longer. The passing-of-the-torch moment, once merely a myth reserved for the wishful thinkers of the bunch, has come full circle.
Daniel Bryan is the WWE World Heavyweight champion. His fateful, albeit predictable, win on the Grandest Stage of Them All, paired with excellent booking decisions for young talent, made it seem as if Punk never existed—or at the very least, as if the WrestleMania and Raw cards didn't have room for him.
Look at 30. The Shield dismantled the New Age Outlaws in minutes—as the trio should have. Cesaro, in a nod to past legends, bodyslammed Big Show over the top rope to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Bray Wyatt stood toe to toe with the industry's biggest face for the past 12 or more years and not only outperformed John Cena, but he told a story in the ring and captivated an audience in a way that has not been seen for some time.
Fans chanted for Punk in patches—and even in the main event as Batista and Randy Orton teamed up on Bryan—but we can all agree that the show wasn't hurt by his absence.
Neither was Raw.
Wyatt kept his momentum going, as his Family defeated Cena, mini-Cena (Sheamus) and Intercontinental champion Big E. The Shield, despite bright solo careers ahead, remained both together and face to team with Bryan to take on a form of Evolution, with Kane taking Ric Flair's place.
NXT stars Bo Dallas and Adam Rose were featured in video promos concerning their impending arrivals. Alexander Rusev made his official debut and kicked the tar out of everyone's favorite jobber, Zack Ryder.
The Divas division even got a major boost. AJ Lee proclaimed herself the "Best Diva in the World" to a plethora of Punk chants, only to drop her title a few minutes later to NXT sensation Paige.
Best of all? Cesaro.
Given Punk's tirades and animosity toward part-timers over the years (which certainly hold their merit), he may not have been too pleased to see Brock Lesnar beat the streak, regardless of who made the decision.
So when his former manager Paul Heyman—who delivered perhaps the greatest promo of all time earlier to celebrate Lesnar defeating the Undertaker—strutted down to the ring again and transformed from the most hated guy in the building with nuclear heat to a hero by taking Cesaro under his wing, it's safe to presume Punk was a tad irked.
Think about it. Now Cesaro has the credibility of someone who beat the streak via association—without any of the animosity and heat associated with it because he wasn't the one to actually do it.
Cesaro, once he disposes of Jack Swagger, surely has main event status in his future (although a dance with Lesnar next year at WM makes sense). Wyatt appears to be on an Undertaker-esque trajectory in terms of both in-ring ability and actual character. Even the Divas division has a sudden spark (Lee finally gets some help) that's hard to ignore. More NXT talent remains inbound.
WWE has moved on. Well, sort of. Punk's "sabbatical" has been leveraged by the company. It still sells his merchandise. It has yet to outright come out and say he's gone. It still wants the chants to happen. Why? Folks still tune in and pay money to see when he might show up—even if he never does.
Not only has WWE masterfully used the situation to its advantage, but those in charge have taken the company in a new direction.
It's one fans should be proud to partake in, and those who remain sour Punk is gone have to realize that he helped spur the change. His sudden departure caused a company-wide shuffle and altered the landscape.
Let's not view Punk as some sort of hero who sacrificed himself for the greater good. Perhaps it's a possibility, but we'll never know for sure, and if we do, it'll only come out once all legal ramifications subside when his contract officially expires.
Instead, bask in the new WWE. Instead of Batista waltzing down the ramp last Monday, titles in hand, it was Bryan. The ripple effect on the rest of the roster is readily apparent.
Punk is gone, and that's fine. If he comes back, great. If not, the wheel continues to spin. Enjoy it.
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