It's been reported by PW Insider (subscription required) that CM Punk had a throw-down, drag-out argument with the WWE Creative staff several weeks ago. The confrontation was so intense WWE management, presumably the McMahon family, had to get involved to keep one of their biggest stars from walking out on the company.
The question is, what would happen if Punk were to walk out? Recall the months leading up to the famed "Pipe Bomb" promo that set off Punk's run to the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank, and later his historic reign as champion. It was widely speculated Punk was prepared to let his contract expire.
On the most recent DVD documentary of Punk's career that was released after this incident, he said he didn't even sign the contract extension into the night of Money in the Bank. He had Vince McMahon over a barrel and pulled as much out of the situation as possible. He picked up a big payday and enough creative control to set himself up as the clear No. 2 guy in the company.
Were Punk to walk out, WWE would be in an even greater crisis. Had he left two years ago, we'd be left asking many "what if" questions, though, Punk was still not a main star in the company. He wasn't the focal point of any long-term booking. He wasn't selling the merchandise, drawing the house show crowds or garnering the mainstream attention he does today.
Were Punk to walk out, the WWE would be left with only John Cena. Punk, in the last year, has reached near Cena levels of respect and priority when booking storylines. He's a believable threat to the title at any point, and draws the loudest pops of any active roster superstar touring full-time. He has the respect of the locker room and is seen as a leader by veterans and rookies alike.
Were Punk to walk out, many hardcore fans would exit with him. This week watching WWE Raw with two friends who attended WrestleMania with me pondered a serious question: If Punk isn't on every week, why are we watching WWE Raw?
Young adult males don't watch the program for John Cena. We don't watch it for Sheamus. We don't watch it for Alberto Del Rio. Some may tune in for Triple H or Brock Lesnar, but the two have been entrenched in one of the most boring main-event feuds since Cena "battled" John Laurinaitis. We like The Shield. Ryback is acceptable to most. Ziggler and Bryan are fantastic, but aren't focuses of the show.
Were Punk to walk out, it would leave a massive void for a significant segment of the WWE's long-standing audience. We aren't the transient "casual fans." We aren't the kids who love Cena for a few years before getting distracted by some new cartoon on Disney Channel. It would leave us questioning who could make it in the WWE if someone as talented and beloved as Punk is cast aside?
Let's hope it doesn't come to that. For all we know, Punk could be back in a month or two as if nothing happened. This wouldn't be the first time Punk was at odds with the McMahons and the creative direction of the company. This could all be a mountain out of a mole hill.
But were Punk to walk out, we know he would be missed from the WWE Universe and have a serious impact on viewership and Vince McMahon's bottom line.