Without a climax, without true closure, CM Punk's time with WWE is over.
After months of wondering when Punk might come back to the ring, the latest news about the former WWE champ has fans as sure as they have ever been that he's done with the company. The focus now shifts to his potential plans for what's next.
Buzz surrounding the wrestler on hiatus began to pick up when word came out that his contract's end date was fast approaching.
His contract was believed to be expiring on July 17, per Mike Johnson of PWInsider. Earlier this year, Rey Mysterio was in a similar situation. Thanks to all the time Mysterio missed, WWE decided to extend his contract to make up for it.
Was Punk in for the same treatment?
He had missed plenty of time of his own, having not wrestled since January. According to F4WOnline (h/t WrestlingInc), although WWE could have done the same thing with Punk's contract as it did with Mysterio's, the feeling backstage was that it wouldn't be in anyone's best interest to force things.
Better to let him go free.
It sure didn't seem as if Punk would have hopped off his couch and slipped on his wrestling boots even if WWE had kept him under contract. If one spouse is intent on a divorce, there's no sense in fighting it. WWE quit fighting and quit waiting.
The company moved him to the "WWE Alumni" section of its website on July 14.
There was no "good luck with your future endeavors" statement issued. He was just put into the past tense.
Anyone who still believed that Punk and WWE would reconcile suffered disappointment. It appears that the two sides weren't even getting closer.
Instead, the gap between them was reportedly widening. According to PWInsider (h/t PWMania), Punk and WWE's relationship was probably worse than it had ever been.
Once word of Punk's becoming an alumnus got out, fans began to express their gratitude for what he gave of his body and his life in the ring. #ThankYouPunk began to trend with messages like this one from fan @ShockZ314:
Punk responded with a tweet of his own. The statement he issued read like a final goodbye, a tip of his cap on the way out (note: language in Punk's tweet NSFW):
For those hoping to see him head back to Ring of Honor, take some bookings in Japan or take the surprising route of making TNA his new home, it's best not to start the cycle of false hope all over again. With a grueling schedule performing a grueling form of storytelling no longer wearing on him, Punk seems at peace.
Being married to AJ Lee and having the free time to binge-watch TV will do that to a man.
It may take a long while before he gets the urge to wrestle again. Note what he tweeted regarding his plans for the near future:
The podcasting business would suit him. He's funny, a charismatic talker and never in short supply of opinions.
And if he ever wanted to get behind the announcer's desk again, a Hall of Famer wants to team up with him.
Jim Ross told Brian Fritz on the Between the Ropes podcast that he'd like to commentate for New Japan Pro Wrestling with Punk. The two could provide the English-language announcing for one of NJPW's Internet pay-per-views. Ross admits, however, that he hasn't talked to Punk about it. Rather, he was just throwing the idea out there.
Fans will get to hear Punk speak his mind during the live Nerdist podcast on July 26 at the Balboa Theater during the San Diego Comic-Con. He'll join actors Michael Rooker and Evangeline Lilly at the event.
That's not exactly what Punk's fans want to see him doing, but one's choice right now is to either accept his non-wrestling present or revisit his tenure inside the squared circle on the WWE Network.
In hopes of luring in new subscribers, WWE aired the CM Punk: Best in the World special on its streaming service just one day after changing Punk's status.
It appears that broadcasting this recap of his journey and career is the only salute WWE is going to offer Punk. The strained way in which his and WWE's relationship ended makes this an unusual parting. There was no grand goodbye, no CM Punk Appreciation Night.
He was simply slid from the active to the non-active section of WWE.com, ending an odd story in the quietest way possible.