Questions about why CM Punk quit and when he will come back still echo throughout the Internet and throughout the WWE world.
Recent interviews with Mick Foley, Alberto Del Rio and Paul Heyman provide varying degrees of insight into that issue. Their answers revive the buzz around Punk, keeping his name bouncing around.
Last year at Money in the Bank, Heyman turned on Punk, setting up a feud between them that would carry on for months. This year, Heyman is standing in another client's corner, and Punk is at home where no ladders need collide with his flesh.
Heyman, like so many other people in the industry, find themselves having to discuss Punk's absence. Nearly half a year after his abrupt exit, he is still a central piece to the WWE conversation.
Trying to forget about the now-retired star was harder to do this week as June 27 marked the three- year anniversary of his famous "pipebomb" promo.
Views went up for the video of him sitting on the entrance ramp bemoaning the fact that part-timers were taking spots he thought he deserved. With Punk not adding any new scathing rants, fans had to reflect on his best one.
In hindsight, his speech is prophetic. He talks about leaving the company, about believing he should be in WrestleMania's main event and how much backstage politics irk him. Of course, he ended up splitting as he mentioned. Not being a part of the premier match at WrestleMania reportedly was part of what compelled him to do so.
Now he's able to spend his time however he likes.
Sick of people telling me I don't do anything. I just watched 40 hours of Game of Thrones.— Coach (@CMPunk) June 26, 2014
Fans hoped he'd return for the first Raw in Chicago after his departure. They renewed hope for it happening at WrestleMania and then at Payback. It didn't happen, but Del Rio believes it will.
In an interview with Digital Spy's Mayer Nissim, Del Rio said, ""Yeah, of course. He'll be back soon. I don't know when, but he'll back."
That's the attitude many fans have had. It's no guarantee that he'll step back into the ring, but we've seen few retirements stick in this industry. It's hard to imagine that someone who is so masterful at something would just walk away from it without it pulling him back at some point.
Punk only being 35 ups the likelihood of him returning as well.
Foley isn't as sure as Del Rio that Punk is indeed coming back, but he did offer a glimpse into Punk's current state of mind. Regarding the former "Best in the World," he told Nick Schwartz of USA Today the following:
He marches to the beat of his own drummer. I will say he doesn't respond to me. I used to be able to reach out to him. I think he's just cut off all communication with people from the business, and if he comes back, it'll be on his own terms, and I respect that.
Punk has distanced himself from the industry, but that doesn't feel like something he can maintain. Leaving behind a world of friends and colleagues forever is hard.
If he does reinsert himself into the WWE fold, Foley wants him, like many fans, to face Steve Austin at WrestleMania. He mentioned that dream match in the above interview as well as him a few possible scenarios for Hulk Hogan at the marquee event.
It's Heyman's interview, though, that reveals the most about Punk. He paints a picture of a man weighed down by frustration, his passion leaking from him.
On Chris Jericho's "Talk is Jericho" podcast, Heyman said the following:
He was unhappy. He had enough. He couldn't take it anymore and it wasn't a slow build. A year before he walked, there were daily conversations of 'I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to take this. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be here.'
He added that he was surprised that Punk lasted as long as he did, saying, "Every day with him was an exercise in him finding the balance to simply continue on and the passion that he needed to do it."
If he was that drained and disillusioned with his work, one can't count on Punk to dash back to the ring. It sounds as if he's going to have to let his love for wrestling replenish and to be away long enough to truly pine for it.
While that process plays out, fans are going to have to be patient.
In the meantime, count on Punk to remain a subject of many an interview, for the guessing game about when he will next be competing continues to persist.