There’s a famous episode of Seinfeld where George and Jerry discuss “the hand.” “The hand,” or the upper-hand in a relationship, is very difficult to get. Everybody wants it but only one individual can have it. CM Punk doesn’t need the WWE – they need him. Therein lies “the hand.”
The company isn’t in great shape at the moment. The rating for Monday Night Raw this week was an atrocity, falling to 2.62 and 3.59 million viewers. With the exception of football season and July 4 episodes, it’s the lowest number since 1997. Memorial Day is never a good day for television, but there is still a reason to be concerned.
Ratings aren’t the only issue the company is facing. Network subscription numbers have been decidedly average, their world champion is injured, Batista will be leaving shortly, and their new TV deal was a massive disappointment.
Most fans probably don’t see the significance of Batista’s departure, but it’s a bigger deal than you’d think. The WWE has absolutely no main event depth at the moment on both the heel and face sides of the spectrum. Batista, like him or not, is a big star. He’s had more heat than almost anyone on the heel side, and they could definitely have used him to carry a few months of programming.
Whether or not Punk is interested in coming back, there’s no question the company is hurting for his return. In fact, he’d be looking at serious money if he decided to “come out of retirement.”
Perhaps this was part of his strategy all along. Punk is one of the rare wrestlers who stands up for himself politically (and I don’t mean Republican or Democrat). He joined a pretty selective list of major names who walked out on Vince McMahon, including Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin. In every single one of those cases, the performer made more money upon returning and was pushed straight to the top of the card.
Punk probably recognized how important he was to the company, so walking out actually increased his value. It may not have seemed like it at the time, but “taking his ball and going home” was a smart business decision, even if he only wants one last lucrative run at the top.
Punk has always said he didn’t want to wrestle as an “old man.” He paid his dues, made his money (and more importantly, saved his money) and left when frustrations became too much to bear. It’s pretty clear his issues are not with McMahon. Punk and Vince are apparently late-night texting buddies and have always gotten along professionally. In truth, it’s McMahon’s son-in-law, Paul Levesque (Triple H), who was the catalyst for Punk’s departure.
Whatever the reason for the disagreement, Levesque needs to work his magic to get Punk back with the company. Levesque has always been a great politician both as an active wrestler and a member of the office. Let’s not forget that Levesque brokered the Hall-of-Fame deals for both Warrior and Bruno Sammartino. Most insiders believed both those men would never step foot in the WWE again, but Levesque managed to bring them in.
Just like Vince, Levesque is first and foremost a businessman. If he’s really interested in “what’s best for business,” he’ll go out of his way to make peace with Punk.