Last week, an item in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required, h/t WrestlingInc.com) got some buzz going, as it was noted that Rey Mysterio's contract had been renewed. However, it was explained that this wasn't necessarily a mutual decision, as WWE contracts can be frozen in the event of injury, and Mysterio has racked up plenty of time on the injured list.
Obviously the elephant in the room was what this means for CM Punk: He's not even injured, at least in the sense we usually use the word. He's rundown, but it's not like he wasn't cleared to wrestle, he just walked out. If WWE wanted to, could they use this clause on him?
In this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter (again, F4WOnline.com subscribers only, with a hat tip to WrestlingInc.com), there was a follow-up note because there had been a lot of inquires about how it would affect Punk. It was clarified that the stipulation was not specific to Mysterio's contract and could be theoretically used on Punk when his deal is up next month, though WWE would have to pay him his downside guarantee.
Indeed, section 10.2(b) of WWE's standard talent booking contract—which is filed with the SEC because some executive officers, like the McMahons and Paul "Triple H" Levesque, are TV characters—says:
In the event that WRESTLER is unable to wrestle for six (6) consecutive weeks during the Term of this Agreement, for any or no reason, including, without limitation, due to an injury suffered while performing services at PROMOTER’s direction, PROMOTER shall have the right to thereafter: (i) terminate this Agreement; (ii) suspend WRESTLER either with or without pay; and/or (iii) extend the Term of this Agreement for a period of time equal to the entire period of inability to wrestle, or any portion thereof.
I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not here to argue the legalities of this. But I doubt WWE would go through with it.
Rey Mysterio is in a very different situation from Punk. Mysterio has no immediate plans to retire. He has value to AAA in Mexico, and that's doubly so if their new American show on the El Rey Network ever gets going.
CM Punk is a completely different animal. While we don't know why he quit, he was open about feeling incredibly rundown for months in a Q&A session conducted a few days before he walked out. He's also talked about having enough money to retire, and that was three years ago—before he signed his current deal and had his big main event run. The likelihood of him going to TNA, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Global Force Wrestling, AAA or anywhere else is basically nil.
He considers himself retired. Maybe he'll eventually get the itch, but I just can't see how—if he ever has one last match—it would be anywhere other than WWE, short of some kind of pipe dream of a self-promoted independent show for charity or something else similarly far-fetched.
There's no reason to think Punk would go anywhere else. He's not sick of WWE; he's sick of the grind. He's been openly hostile to TNA for a decade; I once went to a ROH show where he punctuated a promo with "...at least it's not...TNA!" to get get the crowd going. It's just not happening.
A clean break is best for everyone.