CM Punk shocked fans and World Wrestling Entertainment when he announced he was leaving wrestling. On Monday January 27, prior to the airing of RAW, he informed Vince McMahon he was packing his bags and going home to Chicago. Punk is under contract until this summer, but due to his actions, it’s entirely possible we’ve seen the last of him in WWE for the foreseeable future. If he is indeed gone for good, it marks the WWE losing one of its top stars.
It’s not a new challenge for the company, as there have been many surprising departures in the past, particularly when WCW was around. With a billionaire in Ted Turner owning WCW, the company offered guaranteed contracts, with heftier salaries and less work dates. Wrestlers often left Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation for greener pastures. There have been superstars who have flat out quit, and superstars who were released from their contracts to the shock of wrestling fans.
Superstars have left in controversial ways, such as Bret Hart being screwed out of the title in Montreal. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were part of the infamous ‘curtain call’ at Madison Square Garden when they broke character in front of a live crowd and revealed their real-life friendship with Triple H, Shawn Michaels and the 1-2-3 Kid. However there departures were anticipated. Vince McMahon claimed he could no longer hold up his end of the contract with Hart and told him to sign with WCW. Nash and Hall’s deals were expiring and their departure was evident for a while. Hulk Hogan‘s departure from the company in 1993 was also expected for a long time, as word was that he was retiring from wrestling for an acting career, (which didn’t quite work out and he signed with WCW in 1994). The Rock left wrestling quite early to pursue an acting career, but his departure was slow, as he began to phase himself out gradually from the WWE. The more success he experienced in Hollywood, the less fans expected him to stick around in pro wrestling. This list of superstars will focus on the more shocking, abrupt departures. Ones that fans never saw coming.
All of you internet-browsing sweat hogs, keep the noise down while I take you back to the Ravishing One, Rick Rude’s WWE departure. Okay, so a villainous promo doesn’t have the same effect in writing. Anyway, Rick Rude was no longer an active wrestler for the WWE in 1997, but his departure was a shock nonetheless. Who else can say they were on RAW and Nitro at the same time? No one. Rick Rude appeared on a taped episode of RAW on November 17, 1997 as well as debuting for WCW live on Nitro that same night.
Rude had actually left WWE for WCW in 1991 for a better contract, before a back injury forced him to retire in 1994. He returned to WWE in 1997 as the “insurance policy” for D-Generation X. Rude quit the WWE in protest after the Montreal Screwjob in November, 1997. Since Rude was not signed to a full-time WWE contract, he was able to negotiate a deal with WCW quickly and sure enough fans soon saw him on two shows in the same night. Rude may not have been in his prime at this time, but he was still a big name and he definitely pulled something off that you’ll never see again.
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