Last Tuesday, news broke all over Twitter about CM Punk leaving the company. Punk, who’s contract is up in July, was not a part of Monday Night Raw following the Royal Rumble. Rumors began to swirl around why Punk walked out, ranging from his displeasure in the WWE’s use of Daniel Bryan to him not wanting to potentially face Triple H at Wrestlemania XXX or once again not being the Main Event at Mania.

Others are speculating this is just another work by WWE. Punk’s walking out has been all over major news outlets much like Bryan’s exclusion from the Royal Rumble. Media coverage like this could mean something was intentionally leaked to get everyone riled up and make WWE a hot topic, especially with the big debut of the WWE Network less than a month away.

To clarify, CM Punk is still an employee of the WWE. His contract with the company does not end until July of this year, but the reports came when he was not a part of last Monday’s Raw and was pulled from the advertising for future events.

Speculations aside, Punk is clearly exhausted. He made this fact known at Comi Con in Portland on Jan. 24, two days before the Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh. And it’s obvious the amount of hard work Punk puts in on a weekly basis while acting as one of WWE’s biggest super stars.

There is a video on YouTube from the event with dialogue from the Q&A. Punk was asked by someone in attendance: “As the years have gone on, how do you feel your body has been holding up through professional wrestling and all of that?” Punk’s answer came at great length, and was an inside look in the struggles he’s gone through physically.

“I’m just getting old, man. I’m 35 (“You’re just a kid!”). But my body’s not! In a way technically I’ve been doing this since I was 15-years-old so it’s a little different. And my years in the business is different. Like (John) Cena’s been wrestling since 2001 maybe or 2002 or something like that. I was going to Japan already and doing all kinds of stuff. I didn’t just start wrestling when I magically appeared on WWE television so you know there’s a lot of miles on me.

He continued: “I think some days - right now I feel a lot better than I have. The three months for a while there I felt really horrible, like we were trying to figure out what was wrong and I was literally getting an MRI every week, and blood work and all this stuff and just try to narrow it down exactly to what was wrong with me. I just think I’ve been doing it for so long I just got tired and exhausted kind of. I just think a break is the only thing that’s gonna make me feel better.”

After Wrestlemania XXIX when Punk wrestled Undertaker, he walked off the show on Raw, telling the crowd he was tired. Clearly that was written into the show, but it was also the first public signs that Punk was exhausted. The previous 434 days heading into the 2013 Royal Rumble, Punk was the WWE Champion (he dropped the belt to The Rock). He worked his tail off for over a year defending the title and being the most prominent person on television for the WWE.

Punk returned just two months after Wrestlemania to face and defeat Chris Jericho at the Payback PPV in Chicago, Punk’s home town. Punk hasn’t been the same since his return in June, and it’s clear he’s been running on fumes from that point until now.

Punk needs a break from wrestling, whether it’s for a couple months, a couple years, or all together. Will he wrestle again in the WWE? I think so. I don’t think Punk would want to wrestle anywhere else. And the WWE should realize that Punk is the reason the company got a lot of new fans as well as fans who came back to watching the shows (including me) in the last three years. His infamous “Pipe Bomb” on June 27, 2011 was one of the single most important moments in WWE history and is still watched on YouTube with nearly three million views.

It’s going to be difficult to fathom a Wrestlemania without CM Punk this coming April if his hiatus lasts. But it will be even more difficult if the last image we saw of CM Punk on TV was Kane choke slamming him through an announce table at the Rumble and not him headlining the biggest show of the year.

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Here are some quotes by Punk from Jan. 24 at ComiCon in Portland.

Punk on Batista over Bryan

“I think this is Daniel Bryan’s year. I’ve sort of been in the position where I thought it was my year and I watched other people get other opportunities and stuff like that. And no slight on Dave (Batista) - he’s a good friend of mine - I just wish I could see Daniel Bryan main event a Wrestlemania. But Dave I think is great and it is not a situation where - God, Rock’s probably gonna get made again (laughs) - but it’s not like Rock coming in and he’s just doing Pay Per Views. He’s going a full schedule so we’ll see how it happens. We’ll see how it unfolds. I think Dave coming back is a good thing.”

On the company

“I’d like to see it go back to less writers and more bookers with long term plans and ideas.”

To where you can build characters?

“Not necessarily that. just an idea of where you’re going instead of every week is like ‘Where are we going?’ and “Oh they’re not gonna remember that, that was two weeks ago,’ and dropping stuff at slightest notion that it’s not working or having no real plan of what you’re doing. Like they’re worrying about Wrestlemania now. If it was my company I’d have that all settled and be worrying about Wrestlemania XXI. But the long term booking and planning hasn’t existed in quite some time.”

“That’s what it boils down to. I think a lot of the times the fans want something different. Daniel Bryan’s awesome, but I think one of the biggest things he has going for him is he’s different. Three years ago I was different, you know what I mean? All of a sudden everyone was like ‘Woah! Him in the title picture, that would be cool,’ because it was different. Now, they want Daniel Bryan in the title picture because it’s different. ECW at that time was something completely different for a lot of people who didn’t see stuff like that and it was an alternative. It’s just a lot better. It’s like going to a restaurant and if there’s one thing on the menu it sucks. But if you go to a restaurant and there’s a whole bunch of stuff on the menu you get to choose what you think is best at that time. It’s always a better situation for everybody if there’s alternatives and different things to watch.”

Started at The Press in 1993 as an Ocean County reporter. Moved to the copy desk in 1994 until taking over as editor of At The Shore in 1995. Became deputy sports editor in 2004 and was promoted to sports editor in 2007.