For many months, fans have been speculating on the future of CM Punk and his return to professional wrestling. On the May 31st episode of AEW Dynamite, AEW owner Tony Khan made a massive announcement that fans have been waiting on for some time: CM Punk’s return to AEW on the debut episode of their new show, Collision, airing on Saturday, June 17th.
Fans have been divided on whether or not CM Punk should return to AEW following the controversy after the pay-per-view (PPV) All Out 2022 last September. Will bringing back CM Punk be a significant catalyst for AEW as they head into their massive summer, or will it be a big mistake?
Following the All Out PPV in September 2022, CM Punk made some fiery statements regarding his fellow wrestlers to the press in the post-show press conference. Shots were fired at former close friend Colt Cabana, former AEW World Champion Hangman Adam Page, executive vice presidents, The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson), and Kenny Omega. The controversy between Cabana and Punk and their lawsuit was brought back into the spotlight within this interview with new beef between Punk, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega surfacing as well. Punk made many blunt statements of dissatisfaction with these people, shocking the wrestling world. Punk said, “And I will still walk up and down this hallway and say ‘if you are having a f*cking problem with me, take it up with me. Let’s f*cking go.”
After his media scrum had wrapped up, CM Punk and his friend Ace Steel had gotten into a physical altercation backstage with Kenny Omega and Nick and Matt Jackson (collectively known as The Elite). Allegedly, The Elite had confronted Punk in his locker room after the press conference with claims stating that Punk was the first to throw a punch. The details regarding this brawl are largely unclear, with both sides making their cases against each other, although the investigation has since been concluded.
This fight between AEW wrestlers cast a dark cloud over the locker room and put a black eye on the reputation of All Elite Wrestling. In the episode of AEW Dynamite following the PPV, Tony Khan announced that the AEW World Championship, held by CM Punk, and the AEW Trios Championships, owned by The Elite, would be vacated due to the incident. It was later revealed that Punk had suffered a torn triceps in his match against Jon Moxley at All Out, which would’ve required him to vacate the title anyway. Punk and The Elite were suspended, while Ace Steel was fired.
To this day, fans are still torn on who to side with regarding the controversy. Do they back The Elite or CM Punk? Wrestling reporters have been going crazy for many months since then, keeping a close eye on anything and everything regarding CM Punk. There was a lot of uncertainty on whether or not Punk would return to AEW. Fans, including some wrestlers, have been concerned that a returning Punk would be dismal for locker room morale. With the announcement of his return for AEW’s new show Collision, wrestling fans are anxious to know the direction that AEW will go with him.
CM Punk has proven to be a massive draw (a wrestler is referred to as a “draw” if they attract many fans and bring in lots of revenue for the company) since his debut in August 2021. Punk returned after a seven-year hiatus from professional wrestling to a sold-out crowd of 20,000 people chanting his name in the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. On YouTube, the video of his arrival garnered over 16 million views.
Through his tenure in AEW, Punk has had many notable matches, promos, and rivalries with wrestlers such as Eddie Kingston, Hangman Adam Page, and Jon Moxley. One of the most significant rivalries was against MJF, considered by many in the pro-wrestling community to be one of the greatest feuds of the modern era. While injuries plagued the tail end of his initial run in AEW, Punk was a two-time All Elite Wrestling World Champion.
Punk will become the centerpiece of AEW’s Collision, and with his skills as a pro-wrestler and the star power he carries, he will surely be able to carry the show on his back and prove just how important he is for the company. Regardless of Punk’s high-level status, there is room for concern with a returning CM Punk as fans and wrestlers alike are concerned for the potential of tensions rising high once again.
The live crowd reaction was split between loud boos and cheers on the May 31st episode of AEW Dynamite when Tony Khan announced Punk’s return. On the surface, this may be concerning to some, but it allows Khan and his team to go in many different directions with Punk. The possibility of him returning as a baby face (the pro-wrestling term for the good guy) is possible as many fans have been desperately waiting for his return and will surely provide him with thunderous cheers as he walks down the ramp on June 17th. There is also the possibility of him turning heel (the pro-wrestling term for the bad guy). After his press conference interview after the All Out PPV in 2022, Punk had a fire in his eyes and spoke words that cut deep, something that Khan and his team can use to their advantage when creating a villainous story for Punk.
There is nearly limitless potential in the ways the Punk can be reintroduced into All Elite Wrestling. The versatility that he possesses as a performer, with his stellar in-ring psychology and legendary mic skills, provides AEW with a plethora of options to create many ground-breaking storylines heading into the summer. CM Punk has been able to draw eyes towards AEW’s product as he helped boost their cable numbers, while also gaining millions of views on the videos featuring him on their YouTube channel.
Despite there being bad blood between Punk and other AEW wrestlers, bringing him back into the fold is a wise move by Tony Khan and will be best for business. It will take some time for Punk and others to hash out all their grievances fully, but the prospect of doing so will be monumental for the company. There are a lot of question marks as the date draws closer to his return. Will his arrival divide the fanbase as well as the AEW roster? There is a lot that remains to be seen, but the announcement of his return might just be enough to signify that most of the major issues have been resolved. If everything works out accordingly, it will be a memorable summer for fans and a massive homerun for All Elite Wrestling. CM Punk has proven to be a significant spark for All Elite Wrestling and will prove once again to live up to his moniker of “Best in the World.”
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