So when it came down to it last year, progress in bleeding through talent, putting over fresh new faces into the higher echelons of the company, WWE didn't really pass the test. They managed to stock up the mid-card to the gills with average gimmicks yet talented wrestlers. MVP, Jack Swagger, Vladimir Kozlov( who has dropped even further down the pecking order), John Morrison, The Miz and Kofi Kingston all had pushes but none broke that glass ceiling. It is something that has worried WWE all the way through last year and has continued up until now.
There was a bright light. C.M Punk started the year, firmly in the Mid-card. He was rooted in small time feuds and a baby-face gimmick which, quite frankly, wasn't going anywhere. Suddenly, through either inspired writing or chance luck, C.M Punk won the M.I.T.B at Wrestlemania and then took advantage of it by pinning a tired and beaten Jeff Hardy At Extreme Rules, meaning he was World Heavyweight Champion for the second time. His first in 2008, flopped quite miserably after a largely similar story-line with the difference of Punk's indifferent babyface gimmick.
What came of it was a fantastic feud between the red-hot Jeff Hardy and Punk, who had turned heel and was relishing his chance to match it up with a genuine headliner. Punk caused genuine heat and was getting a reception which was at the time only rivalled by Vickie Guerrero. There was no doubt that this was opportunistic. Edge was out for periods of time but Punk was suddenly Smackdown's top heel. It all seemed rosy, the story-line was easily becoming one of the best of the year.
Behind the scenes though, Punk was ruffling feathers as Champion. The Undertaker was miffed at CM Punk's scruffy appearance which in Undertaker's head, was not befitting of a World Champion. Whilst Shawn Michaels believed that Punk's attitude to other main-eventers was contemptuous. Punk didn't help the situation by insinuating that he was on the same level of John Cena in importance. It all added up to Punk having to be punished by the top brass, and punished he was.
After the Hardy/Punk feud came to it's natural end, their should of been to options available to Punk. Dropping the belt to a babyface and subsequent main event feud or a switch to a different brand where he could turn babyface again and carry on the heat garnered from his run with Hardy.
None of that happened. He had a mini feud with a returning Undertaker, but it never got off the ground. Punk was always going to concede the belt and the feud was a means to an end for Punk dropping the title. There was no steam or effort put into it.
After that, Punk found himself scrapping with R-Truth, which left either of them coming out with much credence, and then he was booked to a nothing feud with Matt Hardy back in ECW, ironically where it all began for Punk. By the end of the year, Punk had almost done it, almost broken through to the top ranks.
As we entered the new year, Punk has been steadily clawing his way back into reckoning with a tag team run with Luke Gallows, formerly known as Festus. And now they find themselves as number 1 contenders to the title.
However, this would be great news for somebody coming from the mid-card, but CM Punk isn't. And whilst Sheamus has been thrusted into the spotlight and then handed the belt and been told to run with it. Punk, a genuine top class heel who could of quite easily filled Sheamus's boots, has been reduced to petty feuds and nothing heat.
So when will this end? His tag team run would suggest that they have him booked upto Wrestlemania at least. After that, Punk will have two options at his disposal. Either a run as US Champ or I.C Champ or another run with a main-eventer, to at least try and recapture some of the lost momentum from last summer.
Punk's punishment has been quite the hinderance to any serious development of talent. Just as he was on the verge of breaking through, it was taken away from him. Just as WWE was being criticised for not providing any new story-lines and match ups, they take away a fresh new talent. Just as those critics were to be confounded, they take it away. It speaks volumes of what is going on in the company at the moment that they listen to the top talent and bury the young guns. Punk has been punished enough, for the sake of the company, at least give him a push.