An in-ring return for CM Punk has been on everyone's mind since his shocking reemergence on WWE Backstage in November, despite The Voice of the Voiceless himself saying he has no intention of wrestling again any time soon, if ever.
Nonetheless, fans will continue to speculate whether one more run for Punk is in the cards, and purely from a fantasy booking standpoint, it's exciting to imagine all the possibilities left for him inside the squared circle. That includes emerging victorious in the 2020 men's Royal Rumble match and going on to headline WrestleMania 36 for the WWE Championship.
The Rumble is known for the surprises it has in store and for being one of the most unpredictable nights of the year for WWE. Needless to say, Punk popping up in the No. 30 spot and winning the whole thing would make for an amazing moment.
Punk is widely remembered for his record-setting reign as WWE champion that lasted from late 2011 to early 2013, as well as the many other titles he held in the eight years he was around for. However, although he came close on multiple occasions, he was never able to win a Rumble.
In fact, his final WWE match was the 2014 Royal Rumble, where he lasted a whopping 49 minutes before being eliminated by Kane. He walked out on the company the very next night before Raw, never to be seen by the WWE Universe again.
Fans have been voicing their desire for him to come out of retirement for years, but it didn't seem plausible until his WWE Backstage debut. It'd be fitting for him to not only return in a Rumble but also to be the last man standing to make up for his dismal departure six years previously.
Truth be told, there aren't many Superstars who could realistically come out on top in the men's Rumble on January 26. Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns are two talents who come to mind, but WWE risks the audience turning on The Big Dog again if he won the event for a second time.
As for KO, the company hasn't done enough with him lately to convince the masses he's worthy of facing Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. Only an elite few Superstars can claim they've beaten The Beast Incarnate, and Owens simply isn't close to being in that conversation at the moment because of how he's been booked.
Unless Keith Lee or Matt Riddle from NXT shock the world by winning the Rumble, Punk entering the annual Battle Royal and reigning supreme isn't as far-fetched as most may think.
Owens recently replaced Seth Rollins as the top babyface on Raw, with The Architect reverting to his heel roots following Survivor Series. Beyond KO, though, there aren't many believable babyfaces on the roster outside of the usual suspects.
Humberto Carrillo, Ricochet and Aleister Black are still works in progress, while Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio are more like supporting players at this stage of their careers. That leaves the flagship show without a notable name to build around, which is where Punk comes in.
Of all those aforementioned athletes, none of them would stand a chance against Lesnar at WrestleMania. Granted, Punk has largely been inactive for the past six years, but he knows The Beast Incarnate better than any of them and could be viewed as a legitimate threat to him.
Punk previously waged war with Lesnar in the summer of 2013 during The Straight Edge Superstar's unforgettable feud with Paul Heyman.
Mere months before The Beast was positioned as being virtually unstoppable (as a result of his historic win over The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX), Punk pushed to him to his limit in an instant classic at SummerSlam 2013. He nearly submitted the former UFC heavyweight champion before Heyman interfered and cost him the victory.
Lesnar and Punk had such strong chemistry together that it was odd a rematch never happened. WrestleMania XXX would have been the perfect place to host such an anticipated encounter (ideally over a top title), but due to Punk's abrupt exit, we'll never know if they would have done battle again in WWE.
Lesnar vs. Punk would have made sense at The Show of Shows that year, especially if it was for the WWE title. Interestingly enough, WrestleMania in 2014 would have marked 434 days since Punk last lost the prestigious prize, the same amount of time he held it during his second reign.
It was a story worth telling then and it's a story worth telling now. There isn't one obvious opponent for The Beast at the upcoming spring spectacle, but Punk would definitely be a logical choice.
Of course, all of this is pie in the sky unless Punk decides to trade in his talking gig on Fox for a pair of wrestling boots. Until that time comes, we're left to wonder if him winning the 2020 Royal Rumble match and competing for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 36 would be as epic as it has the potential to be.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.