I write this with the expectation of receiving buckets of hate. In this day and age, fans have many demands that mean little once quenched, for more are born within the same period. It's an ever-expanding, ever-evolving wish list, one that leaves no one truly satisfied and everyone complaining.
These very fans also dislike being called out on the inconsistency of their demands; their laudatory vision of WWE, while extremely unstable and unlikely, is perceived the most idealistic one.
CM Punk set the WWE Universe alight with his highly controversial departure back in January, when he left the company as quietly as he could. Rumours, including this one from Power Slam Magazine (via Christopher Olmstead of Wrestling News Depot), whizzed through the buzzing dirt sheets claiming Punk's exhaustion and annoyance with his booking status as the primary reasons for his abrupt exit.
Others disregarded it all as a work, for Punk is not new to these scandals. They started preparing a rousing ovation for a Raw in Chicago when he would undoubtedly return to his city for the build to WrestleMania. When he failed to show, hope for a WrestleMania 30 return surfaced, followed by a final, desperate, halfhearted plea for him to show up at the Payback pay-per-view in Chicago.
But CM Punk, as pulsating, built-up frustration in many fans would tell you, never came back.
The moment the harsh reality started to settle in and the glimmer of hope began to fade, hatred began to flow from all corners. The preachers of morality within the Internet Wrestling Community started their sermons of contractual obligations and repaying the fans' support. The ones blinded by rage began questioning Punk's relevance in the WWE, his wrestling skills, promo skills and the man himself.
He is still backed by a loyal cult of fans who can relate to his departure and understand what the guy went through. These fans, much like John Cena fans, have been shunned and forced into a despicable club, for they stand for a wrestler whom a large segment legitimately hates.
All I ask for in the midst of it all is consistency.
Fans still cheer and respect a true WWE icon in Stone Cold Steve Austin, a man notorious for having left the WWE in a similar fashion—disgruntled and frustrated by booking decisions. The financial and sentimental obligations remained and were even larger for Steve Austin because he was a bigger star than CM Punk during a time when WWE enjoyed a larger fanbase.
He chose to leave, yet we cheer him on. This really begs the question: Are our ethics and morals defined by the Superstars we love and hate? Is it OK for Stone Cold to do something because we respect him but not CM Punk because we don't?
In fact, WWE itself reacted much more negatively to Austin's act of "taking his ball and going home," while CM Punk is nowhere close to getting the infamous WWE spite other wrestlers usually get. His absence was positively acknowledged by Paul Heyman—who painted him in a sympathetic light—his DVD was heavily marketed and apart from a few jabs from The Authority, he hasn't received much negativity from a company he left stranded.
Why, then, do we feel an urge to blame the individual when we clearly don't blame other such acts of betrayal? Will we take him back in loving arms like we took Austin if he decides to come back a year later and expresses regret?
It's the same thing that happened with Batista. Fans were quick to criticise a part-time wrestler taking the main event spot fresh from Hollywood—even though The Rock had been doing it for a couple of years already. Yet The Rock was treated as a god and Batista a joke. Once again, our beliefs were only defined by the wrestlers' personalities and not actual morals and ethics.
I say this as a massive Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk fan. I do not condemn either for leaving the company, for I can relate with the frustration of being a part of something you don't enjoy anymore. I cheer for both, for I genuinely wish for these exceptional performers to be back onscreen. Because in the end, this is entertainment, and that's all I really care about.
Thanks for the read.