CM Punk is back in pro wrestling. But it isn’t with WWE. Seven years after leaving WWE, Punk finally made his highly-anticipated return. He debuted on Friday night with AEW, bringing a rare presentation to the corporate that’s an equal blend of charisma and toughness.
Broadcast survive TNT, AEW Rampage opened with Living Colour’s “The Cult of Personality” blasting throughout the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, a song that has become synonymous with Punk. The response was electric, and Punk then cut a fanatical promo within the ring. It felt as if Punk were chatting with old friends, reminiscing about his departure from Ring of Honor in 2005—which he described because the day he left professional wrestling—and officially declared this moment in AEW his return. “I get excited about the prospect of me working with [Brian] Pillman [Jr.], [Powerhouse] Hobbs, Ricky Starks, Jungle Boy, Darby Allin, Jon Moxley–I’ve never worked a Jon Moxley before,” said Punk, speaking during a post-show news conference .
“Literally, it’s everybody. I’ve never done anything with the Young Bucks. I’ve never stepped within the ring with Kenny Omega. “I think there are numerous dream matches, [which] is what people will call them, or dream situations, and who knows who else is coming… I’m excited to be here. I said it out there within the promo–I’m here for the fans, I’m here on behalf of me. I’m not a liar, I’m not getting to lie–if you tell me this is often getting to be fun again, and that I can leave there and have the time of my life, that’s the juice on behalf of me .”
During Rampage, Punk called out Darby Allin, who was watching beside Sting from the rafters, for a match on September 5 at the All Out pay-per-view back in Chicago. “I want to backtrack to the primary thing I did,” said Punk. “I hadn’t been during a ring for seven years, and therefore the very first thing I did was mention Britt Baker. This must be paid attention to. this is often how you get talent over, this is often how you help people. I feel Britt’s great. i feel everybody here’s great. If I could have name-dropped everyone here, I might have, but that popped into my head.
“The Darby thing was [Tony Khan’s] idea. I did a Twitter Q&A a year, a year-and-a-half ago, and [the question was], ‘Hey Punk, who does one see that you simply think you’d wish to work with?’ it had been all young guys that I saw potential in. Darby was one among them.” Then, during a fashion perfectly fitting Punk, he exited his promo on Rampage by expressing his gratitude to the gang, offering free frozen dessert bars as people left the venue at the top of the night.
“These frozen dessert bars, to me, represent a thought, a thought that was gift-wrapped to folks that didn’t bother to require the time to undertake to know their audience,” said Punk. “This is that the easiest home run I’ve ever hit, and this is often a legit thank-you. Jon Lester came to the Chicago Cubs and won us a World Series. When he got traded away, he opened a tab at a bunch of bars as to how to mention many thanks to the fans. this is often my thanks to saying many thanks to the fans.”
Punk—who is 42-year-old Phil Brooks—remains a singular entity in pro wrestling. He was an indie wrestling icon before elevating himself to an entirely new tier of stardom in WWE. His promos are a number of the foremost compelling within the history of the industry, together with his “Pipe Bomb” promo from June 2011 standing the test time as a signature moment of Monday Night Raw.
Punk left WWE under especially acrimonious terms in 2014, which he attributed to legitimate concerns over his health. His termination was particularly galling, as he was fired in 2014 on his day. Vince McMahon later publicly apologized for the poor timing during an interview with Steve Austin on the WWE Network, but the damage between the 2 parties was irrevocable. His relationship with WWE was further derailed after a tension-filled lawsuit in 2018, where a jury ruled in his favor during a defamation lawsuit filed by WWE doctor Chris Amann.
That lawsuit centered around Punk’s criticism of his WWE medical treatment, which he spoke of during a 2014 podcast with Colt Cabana. to mention that the Punk/Cabana podcast went viral would be irony because it was an interview that reverberated throughout the whole industry. It made sense that Punk did the interview with Cabana considering their long-standing friendship. That took a turn, however, in 2018, as Cabana sued Punk for legal fees stemming from the defamation suit. This was settled out of court and has seemed to put an end to any sort of positive rapport between Punk and Cabana.
Interestingly, Cabana is additionally a part of the AEW roster. In his time far away from pro wrestling, Punk competed in mixed martial arts, fighting for the UFC on two different occasions. He also dabbled in writing and acting, all while an awesome amount of wrestling fans impatiently chanted his name and demanded his return. He briefly returned to WWE programming in November of 2019 as a part of the WWE Backstage show, where he was contracted through Fox and not WWE.
Punk now has the potential to be a huge star for AEW, allowing the corporate to succeed in a good wider audience because it seeks to say itself during a terrain long controlled by WWE. Punk’s AEW debut happened an evening before SummerSlam, a signature event for WWE. While parties from each side often contend that WWE and AEW aren’t in direct competition, there’s no mistaking that WWE officials are cognizant that the Punk appearance takes headlines far away from their weekend, while AEW is ecstatic to be the highest overall story during a weekend traditionally dominated by WWE.
“Timing is everything,” said Punk. “It felt right. once I was sick and tired and hurt [in WWE], and that I realized that these people wouldn’t care if I died today—there would be another show tomorrow. I knew I had to get rid of myself from things. I didn’t skill long it had been getting to deem me to heal. Then this came along, and credit to everyone in AEW. It jogged my memory of places I wont to work that I loved, where it had been more about the spirit of the thing. This, rather than feeling sort of a house, it felt sort of a home.” the longer term of wrestling has changed its direction. AEW’s newest acquisition helps place them on equal footing with WWE in terms of storylines, and, perhaps soon, ratings, as CM Punk is now All Elite.