A matter of months ago, I sat amongst 85,000 plus fans witnessing CM Punk’s return to the UK at AEW’s All Out: London. It was an incredible moment for me as a CM Punk fan, one of the remaining few which couldn’t help but feel like a minority that early evening. As the show went on, word started to creep around the stadium regarding an altercation that took place backstage moments before Punk made his entrance. He and ‘Jungle Boy’ Jack Perry were involved in a physical confrontation which later led to head-honcho Tony Khan feeling unsafe in his own work environment. Shortly after the tremendous event, CM Punk was let go from All Elite Wrestling.
Since his comeback in 2021, Punk’s wrestling saga has been a whirlwind to say the least. Rumblings began during his initial feuds with Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley, later taking a real turn following his second AEW title victory in Chicago. The fight that would soon become known as ‘Brawl Out’ would go on to define his persona and his real-life character outside of the ring. Punk became bitter and twisted, going against pretty much every statement he made in his first promo on Rampage. Punk became the ire of the vexed roster as well as the fans themselves. Boos became prominent across all of his matches and you could just tell that Phil Brooks the man was phoning in his latter AEW performances.
The writing was on the wall for Punk and rightfully so, with his AEW career brought to an abrupt end after London. Punk returned for minor appearances here and there in the MMA world and immediately started fuelling the rumours of a potential WWE return. Members of the Internet Wrestling Community went back and forth for months prior, speculating as to whether or not Punk will be re-signing with WWE and making a big homecoming at Survivor Series in Chicago.
In the future, I suspect we will all look back on this as a really strange time in the wrestling scene. WWE themselves went out of their way to lead many to believe that they were against the idea of CM Punk returning to the WWE roster. Many of the wrestlers signed to WWE made it very clear that Punk may not be welcome in their locker room if he were to return. It was natural to believe that Triple H and Nick Khan were heading towards the sensible decision of veering away from Punk and focusing on their stellar roster as it is. However, that wasn’t to be at WarGames.
Even though it was a 99% chance that Punk had still been turned down by Hunter and pals, plus with a returning Randy Orton to stomp out any remaining fires, fans in attendance were still convinced that Punk may be showing up. You only had to look through X the day before to see fans posting sightings of Punk in the local area (as if he were going to be in any other city). Chants began as soon as SmackDown Live started airing to a mixed reaction and they continued throughout all of the PLE. With WWE also adding in the intrigue of Orton no-showing the WarGames match, if they hadn’t brought back Punk, they would have faced a very vengeful backlash.
I’ll hand it to Triple H, who allegedly took over all production upon the finish of the men’s WarGames main event, they played the fans well, especially those watching on the Network. By playing that finale signature and having Cole wind things down on commentary, it was all but confirmed that Punk wasn’t making his live return. And then it happened. I was taken off guard, despite being prepped for it in the hours leading to the show’s conclusion. The fans gave Punk a massive welcome back pop and I lost my mind. It was a great moment, it seemed. Then the aftermath kicked off.
Fans noticed that the wrestlers left in the ring, namely Rollins, Drew and Orton, were visibly frustrated with Punk stealing the show. It was later revealed that McIntyre wasn’t best pleased when he made it back through the curtain and neither was the World Champion, Seth Rollins. Both angry with the situation, it either indicates that this is the continuation of a very well-played work on the fans or that the apple cart has well and truly been upset.
It will be interesting to see how WWE play this on tomorrow night’s RAW. If CM Punk were to be given a live microphone — and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to see that — it wouldn’t shock me if they heavily script or nudge him in certain directions to avoid any further drama. This already feels like an extremely volatile situation and with so many major stars potentially very frustrated with this decision by Triple H, this could lead to many choosing not to renew their contracts when the time comes.
Punk has been signed to a multi-year deal, suggesting that Hunter and the big-wigs have a lot of faith in him managing not to piss anyone off. But this is CM Punk after all.
Again, I’m a huge fan of ‘The Second City Saint’ and I really don’t want him to mess this one up. I really hope that Punk has been humbled over the past few months and he is genuinely wanting to make amends with the wrestling community by returning to WWE. WWE need to be very careful with how they book CM Punk and against who. This could very easily lead to a similar situation as to what happened in AEW if they let him run loose without being checked.
For both sides, I want this to work out with WWE. I want him to be given the big comeback run fans have wanted to see from him since he upped and left in 2014. I want him to make the company a tonne of money. I want fans to fall in love with CM Punk all over again. But this all comes down to the man himself — this is his redemption arc. Can he earn the trust of the fans and his peers by finally accepting that he needs to shut his mouth on occasion and accept that the world around him is changing?
I look forward to looking back on this piece this time next year and either rolling my eyes in frustration at how it all fell apart again or feeling proud at the fact that he turned it all around.
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