“The worst kept secret has been revealed…” My colleague Craig could not have summed up what happened yesterday night better than that. More than 7 years after he left WWE, pretty much on bad terms, CM Punk is back in a wrestling ring and officially signed with AEW.
Even if the rumours had been running rampant for weeks, there was something here that was too good to be true. After so many years away from the business, many fans thought he would never come back. So, you had to be in front of your TV or in Chicago yesterday. Just for the excitement, his “Cult of Personality” emblematic theme song, the hometown effect. Just for CM Punk.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 21, 2021
AEW President/General Manager/Head Booker/CEO/Head Scripter/co-owner/Head of Creative Tony Khan fuelled the fire the days before, “I Have No Plans To Disappoint Anybody Tonight.” On the radio, he promised, “The Biggest Surprise (AEW) Have Ever Delivered.” Have you heard the crowd of the United Centre of Chicago in the video below? The expectations were sky-high.
He slowly took it in as he made his way to the ring. He ended up hugging fans and ended up jumping into the crowd for a moment. “You guys really know how to make a kid feel like Britt Baker in Pittsburgh,” Punk said. As he is used to doing, if he didn’t know what he wanted to say, he was going to say what he felt. He made clear he’s got the time, Wednesdays, Fridays, PPVs, he’s not going anywhere. If what he did years ago, if he let anyone down, he wanted them to know he wasn’t going to get healthy mentally or physically if he stayed in the place that got him six in the first place.
— player/coach (@CMPunk) August 21, 2021
Punk sat cross-legged in the ring, the classic Punk way, to tell a story. He said he was in a place and had to leave, it was ROH. He honed his craft there and cried when he left, but knew he had to. Punk said that’s when he actually left pro wrestling, but today he’s back. He’s back because he wants to face the young talent who has the passion he had as a younger wrestler. He has a few scores to settle as well. Punk ended up calling out Darby Allin. He’s seen Allin get beaten up and tossed all over the place, but he’s tough. He wants to help Allin, and there’s nothing more dangerous he can do than wrestle CM Punk, except wrestle CM Punk on All Out.
He’s back. A lot of people have waited for him for a long time, but he’s back. In the post-Rampage media scrum, he said he wants them all, Hobbs, Allin, Pillman, Ricky Starks, Jungle Boy, even The Bucks, Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley with who he has never shared a ring. Tony Khan said he had tried to make him sign since the first episode of Dynamite. Punk took his time, negotiated every detail of his contract. As he said, he is not “an easy girl to get into bed.”
He said once he was “never ever” going to return to wrestling. I’m not sure Punk was aware of the fact the wrestling business, the wrestling fans missed him. The 2011 Pipe Bomb segment has now become an important page of wrestling history, even if Punk clearly deleted the WWE chapter of his life. Since Friday night, all around the world, you can read wrestling fans saying they were reminded why they love wrestling. Just because of Punk.
Punk revealed that, despite his seven-year absence, he never really hated pro wrestling like many thought. Rather he despised what WWE brought to the table, which Punk, who didn’t mention WWE by name, ultimately doesn’t consider to be pro wrestling. For him, his career stopped the day he left Ring Of Honor. On Friday, he realized he found his love for pro wrestling once again.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 21, 2021
What’s next now? CM Punk is All Elite, as it seems, for multiple years. He is 42 years old, seems to look in good shape despite his years of retirement. He said he was there to wrestle, absolutely not to go back to the announce table or hosting a show. What AEW did on Friday night gave some hope to the fans but we can’t help but think that, in an already crowded roster, Punk is another bomb that will take some opportunities away from many wrestlers.
I was joking with my fellow writers about the fact that if Tony Khan was able to make CM Punk get out of retirement, he could easily make wrestle the dead. After all, they are making holographic versions of Elvis still tour . . .
Pics courtesy of Scott Lesh Photography, videos courtesy of AEW