For the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of smoke about CM Punk potentially returning to professional wrestling by signing with All Elite Wrestling. Just about every major wrestling news outlet has reported it, with some going as far as to say it is a “done deal.” But we’ve heard rumors like this before. CM Punk has been rumored to return to pro wrestling ever since he left in 2014, with even Dave Meltzer insisting he’d be on the March third episode of Raw, before Paul Heyman trolled the Chicago crowd by coming out to Cult of Personality instead.
However, if the rumors were a wisp of smoke, the July 28th edition of Dynamite was a billow. The show was absolutely littered with references to a seemingly inevitable Punk debut. Tony Khan announced the second episode of Rampage would take place at Chicago’s United Center, which ties into CM Punk’s instagram story featuring “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project, the song famously used to introduce the Chicago Bulls in that very same arena. Moments after announcing it, Darby Allin stared down the hard cam and called out “the best in the world.” This led to the camera lingering on the crowd as they chanted Punk’s name. Later on, after Chris Jericho narrowly beat Nick Gage, MJF seemingly referenced Punk’s iconic Pipe Bomb promo.
The writing seems to be on the wall. CM Punk is coming to AEW, and he’s almost certainly making his debut on Rampage at the United Center. But… what if he doesn’t?
AEW Is Taking a Big Risk With CM Punk Teases
As I’ve said before, I’m ready for this CM Punk comeback. I’m already someone that rushes home to watch Dynamite every week, but with the impending debuts of Punk and Bryan Danielson, the show has become can’t miss. I don’t want to be the guy that has to find out that Punk has arrived via twitter, after all.
The good folks at AEW are perfectly aware of this. They know that now, more than arguably ever, they have the attention of the wrestling world. They have a chance, not only to trend on social media, but to reach out and grab those lapsed fans, not unlike how WCW was able to grab lapsed WWF fans by bringing in Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in the 1990’s. They’re going to put on the best product possible, so that even after the “exciting new toy” shine comes off potential mainstream additions, they will have created new fans.
But there’s also the part of me that believed Punk was going to show up on that Monday night back in March, 2014. And then at WrestleMania that year. And then for a couple of years every time Raw came to Chicago, occasionally during the Royal rumble, at ALL IN, on the first episode of Dynamite, and then occasionally, at other big AEW shows. The will he/won’t he of CM Punk’s much-desired return to professional wrestling has been absolutely exhausting for those of us that, pretend as we might, desperately want it to happen.
AEW could’ve ignored the rumors. And to be honest, in a world based on deception, they could’ve outwardly denied the rumors. But instead, they decided to steer into the skid, embracing the hype. And if they can deliver, it’s a wonderful moment. If they can deliver, it creates a moment that could rival Scott Hall’s arrival on Nitro. If they can deliver, it guarantees a pop that will be watched and re-watched for years and years to come.
But what if they can’t? What if they’re simply trolling us? It wouldn’t be the first time AEW has had a laugh at the expense of signing CM Punk. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time CM Punk has trolled his fans about a comeback. Sardonically and apologetically, even if Punk is signed, the only reason his return has as much hype as it does is because he quit. And I’m not saying Punk wasn’t justified in quitting. Anyone should be willing and able to quit any job that mistreats them, especially if their health is being neglected… but he has quit before.
The best thing about CM Punk is that he marches to the beat of his own drum. CM Punk is uncensored, volatile, creative genius. He’s not going to do something he doesn’t want to do, and he has no qualms washing his hands of a situation if it doesn’t suit him. And that’s admirable.
But… if Punk changes his mind? If he gets cold feet, if the WWE come up with a better offer, if something happens on Dynamite that sours him on the promotion, if he gets an offer to play Casey Jones in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, if the Blackhawks ask him to come play goalie… AEW has buried themselves.
Because while they haven’t explicitly come out and said “CM PUNK IS COMING,” they have teased it pretty heavily. At Rampage, we could have Kenny Omega vs. “Hangman” Adam Page in the single best wrestling match any of us have ever seen, but if Cult of Personality doesn’t hit at some point, it will be a disappointment. And the same prospective fans that could’ve become diehards will leave in disgust, not to mention the disappointment the pre-existing fans will feel.
Call me naive, but I believe CM Punk is coming. I have faith in All Elite Wrestling, and I don’t think they would go quite this far to tease something they can’t deliver. I wouldn’t put it past them to hit the bait and switch, debuting Bryan Danielson on Rampage, and then Punk on the following Dynamite, but I have a hard time believing they would be quite this antagonistic to their fans.
After all, they’re not the WWE.