Ended up down the Youtube rabbit hole the other day re-watching the keypoints from the Summer/Fall of Punk. Still amazed at how something with such an amazing start ended up turning into such a clusterfuck. (The WALKOUT!) But looking back on what we'd all agree was a botched opportunity, I ask: what should they have done?
The angle as I see it had a major structural flaw, which is that we all wanted Punk to be the new babyface megastar, but how does he do that as the guy who is walking out on the company? It was a tricky situation in that Punk needed to stay out longer to maintain his cred/aura, but at the same time it would have portrayed him as a guy who didn't want to fight. And our dream scenario of Punk defending the title in ROH, or creating some kind of ROH invasion, was just never going to happen and would have been a logistical nightmare to pull off on WWE TV anyway.
The other giant problem is that upon his return, Punk didn't have that corporate megaheel to feud with. Alberto was nowhere near over enough to mean anything. Cena (the obvious choice) was not going to turn heel on account of merchandising/sick kids/ The Rock match. And Triple H, who as a full-on actual HEEL could have taken Punk to another level, was not going to forego the Taker "End of an Era" match in order to play the Vince role and put Punk over.
At least they salvaged it to the degree that Punk has obviously become a top star, but in retrospect it seems that there were too many limitations for it to have been the revolutionary angle we had hoped for.
I think for me the main problem was the hotshotting of everything at once on that RAW, ala the Invasion. In only two shows you had Vince declaring the title vacant, announcing a tournament, Rey winning the tournament, and then John Cena beating Rey in the SAME SHOW to win the title back and reset everything. Especially given that the belt was going to end up with ADR at the end of Summerslam anyway, it was all a lot of needless machinations and title changes for no payoff. Why not do the tournament final or semi-finals and finals at Summerslam? Or the Rey-Cena match there? That way Punk can take a few weeks off (not the months people seemed to think he should have taken, but certainly not just the one week he did take either) and return to challenge the champion at the end of Summerslam as the big payoff there. Then you have your champion v. champion match for NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS (what a concept, I know).
Of course, fantasy booking is self-indulgent tripe and we are lesser people for engaging in it.