ASK TITO – CM Punk Edition – No Compete Clause?, Joining WWE, AEW Lawsuits, William Regal, & More

Well, there must be CM Punk news out there, hence why you see me writing so much. Most webmasters can agree with me on this: CM Punk is a major online draw. Now, whether he packs arenas as much as other top stars is a good debate, but in terms of online traffic, CM Punk is totally polarizing and gets a response from his fans or from those who hate him. My boy Aaron Rift is able to purchase a gold plated swimming pool thanks to the past 2 years worth of CM Punk news posted on NoDQ.

After my well received LAST COLUMN, questions about CM Punk, his future, and AEW afterward poured in and rather than spending hours writing replies on emails, I’ll write a column instead that can be read by the masses. That’s right, it’s ASK TITO time.

Just one note for the person who posted news about the William Regal the AEW backstage incident when CM Punk refused to shake the hand of a “Triple H stooge”. Why are you just releasing this news now? Seems convenient, as if you don’t want him to return to the WWE… That would have been more relevant to report to solidify that CM Punk was “all in” with AEW and was anti-WWE. Seems very convenient to post this now, just as he may potentially rejoin WWE. Makes me wonder who put you up to it?

Let’s get right into your questions.

ASK TITO – CM PUNK EDITION – Your Questions, My Answers

Do you think that CM Punk has a no-compete clause in his contract with AEW?

It’s very likely, depending on how his relationship with AEW ends. Most often, there is a standard 3-6 month on most wrestling contracts if released early. Often times, if the employer decides to cut a wrestler just from a financial standpoint and it was not their fault, there may be restrictions on their employment afterward. HOWEVER, CM Punk as terminated “with cause” which I believe will have a no-complete clause of some sort built into it.

Why? Because if every wrestler could behave badly just to get out of their contracts (looking at you Andrade), they’d be released from their contract and easily go to a competitor. That makes no sense. Also, if a wrestler forces the issue by quitting on their own, the release is negotiated to not work for certain competitors and that could span a long time (Brock Lesnar, for example).

I believe CM Punk may have a non-compete for the tenure of his contract, along with NOT getting the remainder of his money. Hence why I believe a lawsuit against AEW is coming up next.


Does CM Punk have the right to sue AEW?

I believe so. The idiot Executive Vice Presidents barging into his locker room after All Out 2022’s Media Scrum gives Punk lots of legal options. THAT SAID, he did return to wrestle after all of that mess and it could reduce the impact of that incident. However, as seen by earlier reports, the Elite kept refusing to meet with CM Punk. Hopefully, CM Punk kept good documentation of that to prove of a “hostile” work environment that the EVPs created for him.

Getting terminated “with cause” publicly and the large sum of money owed will prompt a lawsuit. If not, just the threat of CM Punk openly discussing AEW’s backstage is a major threat to Tony Khan. I believe that the two sides will meet, as AEW wants silence and CM Punk will want the remainder of his money, to reach a settlement.


Could AEW sue CM Punk if he “shoots” about his tenure in AEW?

WWE’s doctor tried to sue the WWE, didn’t he? Lost that case. WWE didn’t sue CM Punk following the November 2014 Colt Cabana podcast. It’s not so much “free speech”, as it is very difficult in court to determine how damaging words on a podcast really hurt or matter. Plus, Punk doesn’t lie that much and the courts vindicated him when the physician tried to sue.

Fact is that the Elite meddled with CM Punk and were leaking information to dirtsheets. That would ruin them in any court of law, along with coming into his locker room aggressively.


What are the consequences for AEW by releasing CM Punk?

Plenty for AEW. For one, they cannot risk any additional free agent losses in the near future. Thus, any wrestlers with contracts coming up soon can ask and they shall receive raises from Tony. Lots of current AEW wrestlers about to get paid because what Tony doesn’t want is a perception of everyone jumping ship.

Current WWE wrestlers will think twice about joining AEW and will only join based on an absurd payout. Did they want Edge? Well, that asking price just went up. And it’s not just CM Punk, as other ex-WWE wrestlers have struggled there too and not everyone wants to kiss the boots of the Young Bucks. Free agent signings suddenly became extra expensive for Tony Khan because he allowed the EVPs to make life miserable for a short-tempered CM Punk.

I believe that MJF is as good as gone when his contract reportedly comes up next year with AEW, if he hasn’t signed a longer extension that I’m not aware of. As a young superstar, he’s very observant on how things operate in AEW and plus, he’ll have to endure the politics of the Elite EVPs for the next 4 years. Who wants that? Plus, WWE is on the upswing again and the Endeavor deal will only make the WWE grow stronger. MJF is still young and many of WWE’s top stars are getting older. Thus, he can join them and quickly join the main event scene there.

The real pain shall be Warner Bros. Discovery. Remember, the condition of AEW Collision happening on Saturday Nights was that CM Punk would headline that show. Well, AEW just terminated CM Punk. It’s very likely that viewership for that Saturday Night show will tank and AEW does not have much star power on their roster to boost it at all. This will be the “beginning of the end” for AEW and Warner Bros. Discovery, and I could see a situation where WBD goes all in (ha, that pun) on negotiating for the WWE to bring RAW to TBS or TNT and then take the loss on terminating AEW early. Then, AEW becomes the next Impact Wrestling who cannot obtain a good television contract and becomes a write-off loss for Khan’s companies (just like it was for Panda Energy for TNA, much like it is for Anthem for Impact).


Do you believe that the WWE will sign CM Punk?

WWE has had this man before and it didn’t end well… With Triple H more in charge of the company and him being the target of many Punk attacks (accused him of steroid use, after all), there will be issues. However, CM Punk is a legitimate draw both in terms of merchandise and viewership, as proven in AEW and now shall be proved when AEW’s numbers drop and the city of Chicago is completely gone. WWE, under Vince McMahon’s tenure, can forgive… Hulk Hogan testified against the WWE during 1994 and was back wrestling for them in 2002. Ultimate Warrior and WWE had a bad break-up in 1994 when they fired him over HGH shipments, yet they brought him back in 1996. Iron Sheik, Jim Duggan, and Rob Van Dam were all pulled over in cars with drugs found, yet they were given multiple chances to return.

As my buddy Virtue brings up, guys like Ultimate Warrior (again) and Bruno Sammartino were out of the WWE for decades but made amends with Vince McMahon to join their Hall of Fame. Yes, Triple H negotiated both of those returns. However, Warrior and Bruno’s issues were personally with Vince McMahon. In this case, CM Punk has issues directly with Triple H and part of his AEW return was boasting about how bad it was in the WWE. Now, the tables have turned on CM Punk… How can he mend broken fences with the WWE?

BUT – CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns looks AMAZING headlining something… Personally, I’d push for Roman vs. CM Punk for Royal Rumble 2024 and then continue with Cody Rhodes defeating Roman at Wrestlemania 40. Getting terminated from another promotion and then letting him headline Wrestlemania, his biggest wish, isn’t a way to reward someone for bad behavior. Headlining Royal Rumble 2024, with Roman Reigns, could be the best route and then the WWE could just let him go.

I saw someone suggest that WWE should sign him and put him in NXT to boost that show’s ratings. Again, do you think that Triple H wants that guy around his developmental talents? He has a tendency of getting really close with wrestlers and what HHH doesn’t want is any kind of mutiny or complaining in NXT under Punk’s influence. No way that Triple H would put him around developmental talent.

Remember, though… Punk did fight for UFC for a brief period of time. While he did poorly, he still did it and that’s more than most can say. With him as a former UFC fighter and commentating on other MMA events, along with his prior WWE experience, they could use him to cross promote both the UFC and WWE products.

Ultimately with CM Punk, I could see WWE getting a few big matches out of him and then placing him on commentary, like a Jesse Ventura role. He’d thrive there if he wanted to.

In my view, everything will depend on Triple H and whether he’s ready to forgive words said in the past. Reportedly, they did briefly acknowledge each other when CM Punk appeared backstage at a recent WWE event (where Punk was primarily squashing his beef with Miz). While they didn’t talk extensively there, it could have prompted private conversations between the two. When you have mobile phones, you can call people privately…

There’s just TOO MUCH money to be made, if the WWE can get CM Punk earlier rather than later. Roman Reigns needs big names to defeat, as he has mowed through everybody. Punk vs. Roman would draw HUGE money, as would Punk vs. Cody, Punk vs. Seth, or even Punk vs. Lesnar again. The downside is that CM Punk will go nuclear on a very cohesive WWE locker room and help kill their current momentum. But if he joins them, behaves, and just gives them what they want (i.e. put over many wrestlers), he could rehab his image there and eventually join their Hall of Fame. Then, he can rake in money for years with appearances.


What should Tony Khan do in response to CM Punk’s termination?

Take ownership. His poor management skills enabled the Elite EVPs to act childish and start drama backstage that led to the CM Punk volcano to erupt. Yes, Punk has a temper, but he seemed really happy during 2021 when he returned and was working with younger wrestlers. It was when he began to wrestle an Elite clique member, Adam “Hangman” Page, when things suddenly began. You’d think that Executive Vice Presidents of a company could have better communication with their own company President to find out the reasoning why Cabana was moved to Ring of Honor. In fact, they were probably told WHY Cabana was moved there, i.e. not because of Punk, but they still trolled anyway.

Tony has his head in the sand because he just signed Page, Bucks, and Omega to 4 year extensions when he probably didn’t have to. I don’t see the WWE having any interest in the Young Bucks, as they are smaller wrestler, a tag team, and clearly cause drama backstage and with dirtsheets. Tony suspended the EVPs briefly during 2022 after All Out 2022’s backstage fight, but reinstated all of them and they immediately acted immaturely on television regarding what happened. The EVPs have never been held accountable for their actions and the 4 year extensions will only enable them further. I believe that Tony has screwed himself for many, many years because of this decision but he couldn’t let any wrestlers leave AEW following Cody’s WWE signing. Hence why he felt forced to resign these toxic goofs.

If I were him, I would demote any existing wrestler who has backstage power. Don’t subtract the money in their contracts, but demote them in title and responsibilities. Then, working with Jim Ross, assemble a legitimate management team of ex-wrestlers and former promoters to give Tony the legitimate support that he needs. Then, empower road agents to help things backstage so that a wrestler, like CM Punk, wouldn’t have to go up to Jack Perry and explain to him how stupid going through a real windshield would be.

Then, I’d write new company policies that create excessive fines for leaking to dirtsheets, restricting things said or done online without AEW permissions, and what can or cannot be done inside a wrestling ring.

Grow some balls, Tony, is what I’m trying to say and quit being enablers to California Indy wrestlers whom nobody wanted to put on television until you arrived.

Oh, and cut ties with Dave Meltzer. Having a useful idiot makes you feel important, but ultimately, listening to his opinion has proved detrimental to your company. Bucks and Omega haven’t delivered many great moments or matches for your company, and empowering them to be EVPs has capped your company’s growth. Any associations with New Japan haven’t drawn for you, either.

Tony needs to listen to people with legitimate experience and intelligence. Who he’s listening to now are detrimental to his company and giving power to active wrestlers has hardly ever worked out well, long-term. Those who do not remember history of condemned to repeate it (George Santayana quote).


Should Impact Wrestling or NWA sign CM Punk?

Oh yeah, what do they have to lose? With both, I’d give him a role as a member of the Creative Team and see what he can do. Don’t pay him much, as you’ll have leverage if WWE doesn’t sign him but give him the opportunity to rehab his image with a solid run. In turn, he’ll help boost your viewership, attendance, and merchandise numbers.

Both promotions are the equivalent of “Walking Dead” zombies at this point, so getting any big star to join them is a plus even with the baggage.


What do you predict that happens next with CM Punk?

I believe that he’ll speak out, soon, on AEW wrestling whether Tony likes it or not. I think it will be a calm conversation, probably with his own lawyers sanitizing everything, unlike his November 2014 Colt Cabana shoot.

Then, he’ll sue AEW for defamation for ruining his name and reputation, while also claiming the money owed due to workplace safety issues. Remember, he was injured when the Bucks/Omega + 2 loyal stooges barged into his locker room to fight after AEW All Out 2022.

I believe that WWE will show some interest sooner rather than later to get Roman vs. Punk at Royal Rumble 2024. If Punk has contractual issues with AEW that would delay any earlier WWE debut, the ship may sail for Punk if legal troubles go past Wrestlemania 40. WWE might not want Punk with both Cody and LA Knight doing so well.

If WWE passes, I could see Impact getting a real shot at CM Punk and Anthem trying to roll the dice.

I could also see CM Punk retiring from the wrestling business, with AEW being his last try and burning him out from pro wrestling for good. Remember, he stayed on the sidelines for over 7 years before joining AEW. He doesn’t need this kind of agitation in his life and I don’t believe he’s enjoyed pro wrestling since his big 2011 run. The money kept him limping along during 2012-2013, but he was burned out by late 2013. He returns to AEW and has to put up with children almost immediately.

I believe everything will depend on if WWE can get him to headline Rumble 2024 with Roman Reigns, or not. If they can’t get him, then I don’t see the WWE wanting to invest in an older CM Punk wrestler who could show his anger issues backstage at WWE events.


Do you believe that Tony Khan made the right decision?

Yes, I stand by what I said in my previous column “Time for AEW and Tony Khan to Cut Ties with CM Punk”. Because of the Frankenstein monster that they created by poking and trolling CM Punk, he became too troublesome to manage for the company. Now, if Tony Khan severely punished Adam Page and Bucks/Omega for the AEW Dynamite “shoot” promo by Page and also leaking lies to dirtsheets, none of this would have happened. However, the Elite drama queens went unpunished and thus CM Punk went completely nuclear at the AEW All Out 2022 Media Scrum.

That Media Scrum should have been grounds for termination and I believe it caused Punk to go from just being polarizing between Punk fans and loyal AEW fans to becoming a detriment with both groups to affect his drawing power. He attacked the entire company, wrestlers, and the EVPs in front of Tony Khan with lots of vulgarity. It shall remain the most unprofessional antic ever tried by a pro wrestler and this decision may affect him returning to the WWE. Do you think WWE wants him going unscripted on them? Hell no.

Then, bringing Punk back and the second he ripped Adam Page for not selling action figures in an after-show promo should have been a red flag for Tony. He wasn’t over it, and both Punk and the Elite refusing to meet should have been another red flag. Rather than forcing everyone to get along, he let it fester… Elite refused to meet with Punk the week before All In 2023, and I believe that the Bucks messed with Punk’s transportation in London (that will be proven later). Gee, why would Punk get violent with Jack Perry, another Elite stooge, and then get mad at Tony for enabling a toxic workplace.

Yes, Tony made the right decision… But he made this monster because of his lack of balls as a manager and enabling the Elite losers to play politics freely. Their actions and trolling pissed off CM Punk and caused him to embarrass the company through his Media Scrum and now fighting Jack Perry at AEW’s biggest event ever. Instead of talking about drawing 80,000+ fans in London, we’re talking about CM Punk fighting with Luke Perry’s kid backstage over a car windshield spot that was on the pre-show of this biggest AEW show ever. What a joke.

The toxic AEW environment caused someone with an ego, anger issues, and communication problems to get worse. A good company with competent management would have nurtured him, communicated better with him, and punished anyone who acted unprofessionally that harmed him. But AEW is not a good company, and Tony did nothing to punish his Elite EVPs and their stooges from messing with and upsetting their biggest star. Because Tony did nothing, CM Punk’s weaknesses as a person were ignited (anger, insecurities, ego) and caused infamous moments in wrestling history that will harm AEW long-term. Warner Bros. Discovery wanted CM Punk to headline their Saturday Night show and AEW couldn’t deliver that beyond 3 months.

What Tony needs to do is reflect on what happened and caused CM Punk to go nuclear on his company, particularly that AEW All Out 2022 Media Scrum. The last thing he wants is to cause another wrestler to CRY FOR HELP like that again. Furthermore, he needs to realize who he’s in bed with and that the Young Bucks, in particular, are bad for his business. Kenny Omega just isn’t a managerial type, but the Bucks are the ones demanding loyalty backstage and leaking false stories to the Observer boys to print for their favor. It’s very likely that Page, Omega, and the Bucks banded together to get deals together, while taking a stand that if anyone was left out, they’d all leave. Tony should have called their bluff, particularly on the Bucks who haven’t drawn a dime in AEW and have caused more trouble than anyone.

So yes, Tony should have fired CM Punk based on Punk’s actions… But he needs to take blame for creating that monster and letting him unleash on his AEW village.


Are you done with AEW after they have lost CM Punk?

I’ve been struggling to care about AEW with CM Punk… So yeah, probably. I’ll still cover relevant news stories, but in terms of watching their shows, nope. This company is sinking and will be in deep trouble, long-term, by their failure to capitalize on CM Punk’s talent and drawing power instead of personally attacking him with their EVPs.

Even with CM Punk there, they lacked any competent road agents who could sit down Punk and say “hey, could you adjust your wrestling style now that you’re older”. Everyone saw that GTS tried on Samoa Joe, but we also saw several botches of high impact moves that Punk used to do in his early 30s. It proved to me how bad the AEW environment was when they couldn’t help an older wrestler adjust inside the ring. Hell, they encourage 60+ year old Sting to take table bumps!

AEW is morphing into Impact Wrestling already, and I don’t watch much of that promotion either.

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