CM Punk made his AEW debut on August 20th, 2021.
CM Punk was terminated from his AEW contract on September 2nd, 2023.
In the two years he was with the company, there was an incredibly dizzying roller coaster ride for all involved, with some wildly memorable highs, but with some equally memorable lows. It would be difficult to find a two-year run for anybody, anywhere, that had as many different things going on as what we saw over the last two years with Punk in AEW.
Now that it’s over, the clear cut first question that needs to be asked is whether or not it was worth it to bring him on board in the first place.
The answer to that is easy. Of course it was worth it. Don’t be stupid.
Whether you like CM Punk or not… whether you like Phil Brooks or not… there is zero denying that he made a lot of money for AEW, and that he brought a lot of extra attention to the company that wouldn’t otherwise be there. He helped to legitimize MJF as a true top tier performer.
I won’t ever take that away from him, and neither should you.
However, there’s all that… other stuff… that can’t be ignored. If there are two things we’ve learned about Phil Brooks through the years, it would be…
One, he doesn’t necessarily seek drama and trouble out, and…
Two, when drama and trouble are found, his first instinct is to lash out as swiftly and severely as emotionally and physically possible. He’s the kind of guy that would find a couple ants in his kitchen and he’d burn the entire house to the ground just to get rid of them.
For that, I can’t judge him. I’ve been guilty of doing similar things in my life. Several times, as a matter of fact. Is it the best, or healthiest, response? Not even close. It is what it is, though.
The final incident for Punk was his apparent beef with Jack Perry. As the story goes, Perry wanted to involve real glass in a backstage segment on an episode of Collision, and it would be used to write him off of television for a bit with an injury angle. Reports are that Perry got the green light from the proper channels (aka Tony Khan), but when he arrived at the arena on the day of the episode, Punk approached him and told him that it wouldn’t be happening because it simply wasn’t how things were done in the company. Some sort of argument would ensue, and that would be it for the time being, up until the pre-show for All In(nit), during Perry’s match with Hook, when the Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Jungle-Boy made a snide remark into the camera about a car windshield that was being used for spots in the match, saying that it was “real glass” and telling an unnamed person to “cry me a river.” This would lead to another backstage altercation after the match, as Punk was ready to make his way out for the pay-per-view opener, but that’s where the stories began to get crazy.
In the span of a couple days, there must’ve been 846 different accounts of what happened backstage. First, we heard that Perry popped off to Punk, only for Punk to retaliate and either choke Perry or choke Perry out before the fight was broken up. Then, we heard that it was Punk that was actually the aggressor, and that he charged at Perry, attacking him after Perry said that his comments were in character and trying to get heat. That story also said that Punk “lunged” at Tony Khan in an aggressive manner, repeatedly saying that he “quit.” Pretty opposite sides of the fence there with those versions of the story, but which one was closer to the truth?
Well, Punk was fired and Jack Perry is still employed, so that probably gives us a clear answer. Even with Punk’s history, I don’t think he would’ve had his contract terminated if he was merely defending himself or responding to someone being in his face and acting like a bratty cunt.
Again, Punk took what could’ve, and should’ve, been nothing more than a minor incident, and he torched a bridge so badly that he couldn’t make it back to a position of employment.
While there is a lot of blame to throw around, I don’t think any of it is bigger than the chunk Tony Khan should be receiving. For far too long, situations have gotten out of control backstage, and instead of him being the President and CEO of the company, he decided he would rather try to be everyone’s best friend. Even up until the very end, when he revealed that he felt his security, safety, and even his life was in danger due to what happened at All In(nit), he STILL couldn’t make a decision on his own and required the assistance of a “discipline committee” and “legal council” to decide on Punk’s fate.
Are you kidding me?!?
Now, maybe you could understand it if the incident happened somewhere he didn’t happen to be. Hearing about something second, third, fourth, and even fifth hand can be a nightmare to deal with. However, we’re talking about something that he witnessed, directly in front of him, with his own two eyes, and even took a turn to directly involve him… and he still couldn’t put his big boy pants on.
This, of course, goes back to the post-show media scrum at last year’s All Out show. Punk figuratively set the AEW locker room on fire for a lengthy period of time, all while Khan sat right next to him, looking as if someone who had just eaten weeks-old Taco Bell. Folks… if you’ve been reading me for a while, you know my opinions on Vince McMahon, so you’re not going to see me praising Vince much, but can you imagine that same scenario with Vince in Tony Khan’s place? Just try to picture a post-show media scrum for WWE with one of Vince’s wrestlers taking a nice, creamy shit all over half the locker room, management, and decision makers… all while Vince just sits there and looks like a kid who just saw his puppy run over by a car. It wouldn’t happen. At best, Vince would’ve put an end to the presser right then and there, and at worst, he would’ve tried taking a swing at the wrestler himself.
TK has needed to put his foot down for a long, long time. He’s not their friend, buddy. He’s not their buddy, guy. He’s not their guy, friend. That shit has never worked in wrestling, and it always leads to either a splintered locker room, or it leads to the outright destruction of an entire company. Look no further than Eric Bischoff wanting to be a drinking buddy and motorcycle riding chum to many members of the WCW roster.
I’m not saying all of this to make Punk, or “Hangman” Adam Page, or The Young Bucks, or Kenny Omega, or Jack Perry, or anyone else seem innocent. Everyone has played their part in making sure we’ve reached this stupid point in AEW history. I just feel that it starts from the top, and that if Tony Khan had been able to grow a set, maybe… mayyyyybe… we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
So, what happens now?
The people who are even hinting at this could be the beginning of the end for AEW are the unfortunate victims of a severe mental handicap that has been affecting them since birth, perhaps as a result of their mothers doing drugs while they were in the womb. While Punk has been a very important figure for the company over the last two years, he is just one man. That roster is still entirely too large, and entirely too talented, for one man’s departure to bring on the type of catastrophic problems some folks have been predicting. The company will continue doing their thing, making money, and finding different avenues they can venture down in an effort to stand out from anything WWE is doing.
What happens with Punk?
Naturally, there is going to be all sorts of speculation about a return to WWE. On November 25th, the annual Survivor Series pay-per-view takes place from… the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Lord knows that there are going to be a bunch of CM Punk chants taking place that night. Two months later, we’ll be treated to the 2024 edition of the Royal Rumble, and I think it goes without saying that the rumor mill will be in overdrive for a surprise appearance from Punk there.
Does WWE need CM Punk? Nope. Does CM Punk need WWE? Nope. Could WWE and CM Punk work together on a return for the man, even if it’s on a part-time, temporary basis? Absolutely. It’s asking A LOT of both sides to make that happen, though. On WWE’s side, you have some of their top stars (Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins at the forefront) who are on record saying that they dislike Punk. Then, on Punk’s side, he would still have to work underneath the same people (Triple H, Vince McMahon, and so on) that he hated dealing with the last time he was in WWE. Sure, money talks, but I don’t think it’s about money for Punk, or he probably would’ve been back in a wrestling ring long before 2021.
Do I want to see CM Punk make a return to WWE? Honestly? Yes. He has made it pretty clear that he still has a lot to offer in the ring and on the mic, so there’s a lot of great content to be made if he was back in WWE. New opponents, new feuds, rekindled feuds, promo battles… it could be fun. I’m just not sold that it could ever happen.
No matter what happens in the future, it’s pretty clear that this entire situation has been sad. If only Tony Khan had a spine… if only Phil Brooks had gone to therapy for the issues that he so clearly needs to work through… if only if only if only if only if only.
Your turn. First, who do you think is most to blame for what happened with CM Punk and AEW? Second, do you want to see Punk return to the ring somewhere, or would you rather see him stay away permanently? As always, you can hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
Kenny Omega vs Konosuke Takeshita: I’ve been waiting and waiting to see these two square off in a singles match, and after all that time, they did not disappoint. Time and time again, Takeshita continues to show the world that he is ready to be a main event worker in AEW. His future is insanely bright.
Seth Rollins vs Shinsuke Nakamura: As I mentioned in my Payback review column, the entire build for the match has been really stupid, but the match was exceptional, as I figured it would be. With the post-match stuff that happened after the show went off the air, it’s clear that we’re going to get a rematch. I’m fine with that, but damn, they have to pull the trigger on a top tier title reign for Nakamura eventually, right? He is now 0-6-2 in World Title matches on television and pay-per-view since joining the main roster, so he has to be due for a win at some point.
Becky Lynch vs Trish Stratus: A really, really good Steel Cage Match that featured the right amount of brutality and violence. You can say whatever you want about the feud itself, but both women took it upon themselves to deliver here.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs Finn Balor & Damian Priest: A wild, chaotic Street Fight. I’m not sure many truly expected the titles to change hands, so that was a surprise, but it makes sense. WWE loves booking their heel stables to hold as many titles as possible at the same time, and now, everyone in The Judgment Day is a champion.
Bryan Danielson vs Ricky Starks: These poor bastards are going to be feeling those strap shots for days. Goodness gracious. They were able to overcome the physical limitations that come with being physically tied to your opponent for an entire match, and they gave us something memorable.
Orange Cassidy vs Jon Moxley: Kudos to Orange Cassidy for quite the title reign. It ended at 326 days, but it felt even longer than that with the regularity of the title defenses OC had. The man has earned a vacation, although it remains to be seen if he’ll get one. Either way, I think he has been elevated to being a full-fledged main event talent now. The AEW fans are ready for it. He’s ready for it.
FTR & The Young Bucks vs “Switchblade” Jay White, Juice Robinson & The Gunns: The match got wilder and more fast paced the longer it went on, building up to a frenzied finish… aka what you’re going to expect with an eight-man tag in AEW.
Eddie Kingston & Katsuyori Shibata vs Claudio Castagnole & Wheeler Yuta: A solid mix of the hard-hitting Japanese style and a pure technical style that made for a good match. It’s still crazy that Shibata was able to return to the ring after a subdural hematoma forced him into what many thought was a permanent retirement in 2017.
Orange Cassidy vs Penta El Zero Miedo: Yet another notch in that crazy Orange Cassidy title reign, and the man’s final successful defense before dropping the belt. I don’t know if that’s quite trivia worthy, but it’s something.
Chad Gable vs Ludwig Kaiser: Gable continues to be built up for his upcoming Intercontinental Title rematch against Gunther. If Gunther wins, he will go on (barring some unannounced match for later in tonight’s episode of Raw) to break The Honky Tonk Man’s record for longest Intercontinental Title reign of all-time. Interesting times.
Dax Harwood vs “Switchblade” Jay White: Punk isn’t around to have really lengthy matches on Collision anymore, but that’s more than alright in this instance, because people like Dax and Switchblade are still around to carry that torch.
El Hijo Del Vikingo & Nick Wayne vs Kip Sabian & Gringo Loco: More spots than a leopard orgy. What else needs to be said?
The Miz: The Rock, John Cena, LA Knight… when The Miz gets to impersonate someone on WWE television, he nails it. Maybe he should just do that every week.
Becky Lynch vs Zoey Stark: It’s really only a matter of time until Zoey Stark is the Women’s World Champion on Raw. Well, unless she moves to Smackdown, where it will be a matter of time until she’s the WWE Women’s Champion. She has been so good in the ring for a long time, and if her charisma and promo skills can start to catch up, she could be something special.
Jey Uso: He’s on Raw now, away from his brothers and his cousin. Normally, you would say that’s a good thing. On his own, he is more than capable of being a legitimate main event talent on Raw, and is a threat to the World Heavyweight Title. Of course, the entire Bloodline story isn’t a “normal” situation, and now, it probably just means we’ll get family drama on both shows. I guess we’ll see.
The Creed Brothers vs The Dyad: Time is a flat circle. It feels like we’ve been dealing with these teams feuding for the better part of a decade now, but perhaps it’s finally time to move on. I will say this, though… Julius Creed’s one-armed powerbomb is legitimately one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in a wrestling match.
Roxanne Perez vs Blair Davenport vs Kiana James vs Gigi Dolin: A very good performance from all four women here, leading to a bit of an unexpected result. It might not be the one many people were looking for, but I think Kiana James and Tiffany Stratton could have a surprisingly good match for the NXT Women’s Title.
Miro vs Powerhouse Hobbs: Those AEW fans sure love meat, don’t they? Whether you feel the constant chants helped or hurt this match doesn’t matter right now. The fact of the matter is that Miro and Hobbs went out there and kept hitting each other with Barry Bonds home run swings, and it was enjoyable to witness.
Nathan Frazer vs Joe Coffey: The Global Heritage Invitational is off to a good start. Whether it leads to much of anything remains to be seen, but at least we’re getting some fun stuff to get it underway.
John Cena: He’s back again, and WWE’s ticket sales are being boosted because of it. Almost across the board, shows that Cena has been announced for over the next couple months have seen their ticket sales receive instant boosts. There have literally been thousands of tickets sold since Cena’s return. The man’s still got it.
This Week’s Playlist: “30 Million” by G Perico… “Keep Going Up” by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake & Nelly Furtado… “With Regards” by Polaris… “Irreversible” by Escape The Fate… “Song of the Dusk” by Insomnium… “NEVER BE LIKE YOU” by Kingdom Collapse… “Lost In The Fall” by Dying Wish… “Sound and Fury” by Dust Bolt… “Fallen From Grace” by On Thorns I Lay… “Reintroduction” by Young Jeezy… “Gangsta Party” by Young Jeezy & Slick Pulla… “Jeezy The Snowman” by Young Jeezy… “Makin’ It Look Easy” by Young Jeezy… “Take It Easy” by Mad Lion… “Drive Slow” by Kanye West, Paul Wall & GLC… “Holy Diver” by Dio… “Symphony Of Destruction” by Megadeth… “South Of Heaven” by Slayer… “Cemetery Gates” by Pantera… “Linchpin” by Fear Factory