Fans will point fingers at WWE and chant CM Punk's name. The company can't do much to avoid that.
Seen by many as the regime that pushed out the popular Superstar, WWE is easy to blame for Punk's absence. With little chance of him coming back, officials can't do much to satisfy the Punk fanbase.
WWE has seemingly decided that its only option is to sweep thoughts of him aside. That means playing the role of "the man" and taking away Punk signs at WWE shows.
This fan from the U.K. claims that his sign caused security to threaten to eject him:
A recent report addresses word that WWE was confiscating more signs at Monday's Raw. According to PWInsider Elite (subscription required; h/t Wrestling Inc) relations between Punk and WWE are still not good. The report notes that the company is probably going to go out of its way to to avoid calling attention to the fact that he's no longer around.
Limiting fans' self-expression is infuriating. Removing Punk signs feels petty.
But it's hard to fault WWE for going this route.
The company has to be fearful that left unchecked, a pro-Punk movement could get rolling. A handful of signs gets mostly lost in the crowd; hundreds of them become a protest.
In that scenario, WWE is the bad guy, the unjust authority figure. The last thing the company wants is to have its shows become a display of longing for a guy it can't convince to step back into the ring. It doesn't want Raw to open to the echo of Punk chants, a sea of Punk signs and a rising tide of dissension.
You have to imagine that if WWE could find a way to pacify Punk and get him back in action, it would do it in an instant. It's not as if the roster is so deep that it can shrug off missing a top-tier guy like him. Punk makes the company better, and they know it.
He just doesn't want to work for WWE. In an interview with Chris Van Vliet in July, he said he is "never ever" coming back (NSFW Warning: Video contains brief profanity):
That hasn't stopped support for Punk from continuing. That hasn't changed the fact that supporting Punk has become a symbol for pushing back against WWE's faults. Punk chants have come to mean, "We're unhappy with the product!"
It's as if a Punk return would stop WWE's bad habits of repetitive matches, overlapping Total Divas and the Divas division, having midcard champs lose non-title bouts or relying too much on John Cena. But fans know that there is no name (other than Chris Benoit) one can chant or scribble on a poster board that will get the kind of reaction Punk's will.
Short of sweet-talking Punk well enough to have him come out of his sudden retirement, WWE doesn't have a wealth of options here.
It can either take this draconian road and try to wipe Punk's name out of arenas everywhere or else watch the signs in the audience multiply. WWE most certainly doesn't want the pro-Punk movement to catch on like chanting "Yes!" for Daniel Bryan did.
And whether it's simply because more and more time had passed since Punk's departure, that movement appears to be fizzling out. Chicago hosted Raw on Sept. 29, and as WrestleZone.com tweeted, the chants weren't that big of a deal:
As Cageside Seats pointed out, Stephanie McMahon called Punk a "quitter" that night when they began.
She tried to pass the blame for his absence on him and not the company. Still, one hears his name in chants from time to time. Punk signs are still an issue.
There is one certain cure for the unrest from Punk's fanbase, but it's one that's not available. WWE isn't refusing to let Punk back through the door; it can't get him near it.
A company trying to douse a fire has to be the bad guy. It has to be the one shouldering fans' collective angst, not the man who walked away from them.