CM Punk fans will have to depend on the virtual version of the former WWE Superstar to get their fix.
Months after his abrupt exit from the ring, he is set to return—but only in video game form. Punk's likeness will be a key component of WWE 2K15.
Buzz still surrounds him, with talk of his promo skills and congeniality popping up on the Internet. A viral video of him is also making the rounds, providing a glimpse into his post-WWE life.
As for what he was like backstage before jettisoning himself from the WWE grind back in January, a former NXT prospect offered a touch of insight.
When WWE lets wrestlers go, bitterness often erupts. Stories emerge involving what backstage politics the wrestlers suffered. That wasn't the case with Garret Dylan.
Dylan (real name Jody Kristofferson) was one of several NXT prospects the company released this month, per PWInsider. His parting shot was aimed at Punk:
That's refreshing to hear.
It's great to hear that Punk didn't look down on a guy so far below him on the company hierarchy. Instead, Dylan's view of him points to Punk truly caring about the industry as a whole.
It's an industry whose members have been asked about Punk at every turn. He's the enigma that fans want to better understand, even if it means looking at him through other people's eyes.
Punk has come up several times in Paul Heyman's recent promotional appearances.
Most recently, Heyman talked up Punk's promo skills in an interview with Complex magazine. When asked who he thought some of WWE's best mic workers were, he named John Cena, Steve Austin and Punk.
Heyman said: "I thought the work that Punk did as Champion was simply brilliant and groundbreaking and trend setting, so I would be remiss not to include him on this list as well."
That inclusion is not surprising in the least. Heyman saw firsthand Punk swinging verbal swords when he carried the WWE title. Punk's ability to enthrall with the mic in his hand is part of why his feud with Cena was so indelible.
2K Sports has decided to harness the power of that rivalry in the latest installment of WWE's video game series.
IGN's Vince Ingenito reported that Punk and Cena will be featured in the 2K Showcase mode for WWE 2K15. The WWE 2K Twitter account punctuated the announcement:
The game mode will allow fans to relive and play through several of Punk and Cena's matches. It's a smart choice for the game—one that also got people talking.
Was this a sign of Punk coming back? Did this mean his relationship with WWE had gone from caustic to civil?
As you may have guessed, the answer to both is "no."
Mike Johnson reported on PWInsider "We are told that Punk's inclusion has no bearing on his current relationship (or lack thereof) with WWE." He added the following:
The game design and the WWE 2K15 feature of a 'great rivalries' story mode (featuring Punk's inclusion vs. John Cena) was set in stone almost a year ago, so that would be many months before Punk walked out on the company following the January 2014 Royal Rumble PPV.
We are told that there was no way to change the game this late in the design process without completely removing the entire story mode, so Punk is included.
It is not a sign that he and WWE have come to terms for a new deal of any kind. A WWE source remains steadfast that Punk and the company have had 'little to no communication' since February 2014.
Even for the most optimistic of Punk fans, reasons to believe that the Best in the World will strap his boots on again soon continue to dissipate. Video games, the WWE Network and memories remain the best way to experience Punk's great talent.
He's now free to spend his time however he pleases. Apparently that includes dumping ice over his head.
As noted by TheAtlantic.com, the recent Ice Bucket Challenge craze is a means to "support research to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease)."
Punk took the challenge. AJ Lee helped dump the bucket over his head before he issued a few challenges of his own afterward.
His WWE fanbase would likely much rather he was challenging Seth Rollins or Bray Wyatt to a match, but that's only going to happen if a gamer instructs him to do so with their controllers. Even though the chatter surrounding Punk persists, he's no closer to stepping between the ropes again.
Punk's likeness and legacy remain a source of income for WWE. Him sacrificing his body won't be.