The Best in the World is back for another run in WWE hoping for a better change for himself and the wrestling business. One of the most controversial figures in professional wrestling history is still making buzz on social media when CM Punk made his blockbuster return to WWE for almost a decade at Survivor Series: WarGames premium live event in his hometown in Chicago this past weekend. As claimed by WWE, this is considered as their “most social moment” in history due to garnered views, interactions, and reactions by fans in WWE’s official social media accounts. Prior to that moment, there were rumors and references related to CM Punk that hinted his return to WWE as being observed by some fans either in social media or WWE’s graphics. With this grand welcome by WWE Universe and WWE management, some are still worried about Punk’s possibility of causing another problem in the locker room, which was the reason of his termination in AEW. This might be the issue that WWE will now face, but it’s up to the management to control it without harming anyone. Would CM Punk bring his excess baggage from Tony Khan’s company? To simply answer that question, it will be interesting to see what WWE can do to prevent these potential happenings in the following months.
Left WWE in early 2014: The root of all
CM Punk left WWE after his stint at the Royal Rumble match, it was notable that he was eliminated by Kane at the closing moments, who played a corporate role at that time as a part of “The Authority” led by Triple H. He left not just because he was not feeling well, but he needed to take a break from wrestling. There were several factors that added to his reason for staying away for a moment, and one of these factors is the WWE management itself at that time. That might be an issue to CM Punk’s point-of-view, but it was not the bigger picture. He left the company without any further notice or permission to Vince McMahon, considering he still has a contract with WWE in 2014. This translates to the company to forcibly remove CM Punk in future advertisements of shows.
If the reason for him to leave WWE at that time is to pinpoint his downfall in terms of booking, then he must understand how the wrestling business works in general. Considering that CM Punk knows his worth in the company being the WWE champion for 434 days in 2011-2013 and some accolades in the past, maybe Vince felt like it’s time for CM Punk to be removed as a main eventer for a moment and let other wrestlers claim the spotlight. That’s not what it is in reality though, Vince McMahon had favorites and CM Punk was not on that list, so the fans got an extra dose of John Cena, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, and even Goldberg making a return years after and was given a great treatment than CM Punk after he left. Also, during his departure year, the “YES!” movement by Bryan Danielson (known as Daniel Bryan in WWE) was the hottest topic in WWE at that time and led him to the main event, and even winning the WWE World Heavyweight championship at WrestleMania 30 in a triple threat match against Batista and Randy Orton.
CM Punk’s contract in AEW was terminated due to several backstage issues
After 7 years of retirement from pro wrestling, CM Punk made his first wrestling appearance at AEW Rampage inside the sold-out United Center in Downtown Chicago. Since then, AEW was the hottest thing in wrestling business outside of WWE especially that they consistently defeated its counterprogram WWE NXT in terms of cable TV ratings on Wednesday nights, then CM Punk entered the growing roster of talents. AEW CEO Tony Khan seized the opportunity of the sudden downfall of WWE’s creative direction and fan interest to the product due to the Vince McMahon being “out of touch” and thought of bringing back CM Punk in the wrestling business to make AEW climb at the top. It was all rainbows and butterflies for Tony Khan and the entire AEW roster until the All Out PPV event in Chicago where CM Punk, Ace Steel and other notable pro wrestlers such as Christopher Daniels, Michael Nakazawa, together with AEW’s Executive Vice Presidents and wrestlers Kenny Omega, Nick and Matt Jackson (collectively known as The Young Bucks), had a misunderstanding backstage. Days later, several media outlets published news that those people who engage in this incident were suspended to the extent of some might leave AEW.
No one knows what’s coming next. When everything was fixed already, here comes another trouble. This time, it was CM Punk and Jack Perry who had major altercation that led to Punk’s departure from AEW. As reported by Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Jack Perry wanted to use real glass in an angle to write him off television but CM Punk, together with Tony Schiavone, doctors, and other backstage officials contradicted Perry’s suggestion. This time, CM Punk was right for protecting Perry against potential harm in doing that stunt, or else it is something that Jack Perry would pay. Due to this incident, both Punk and Perry fought backstage, and they almost hit Tony Khan while doing his job in the gorilla position. In other words, both CM Punk and Jack Perry showed their unprofessionalism in front of their boss which is something that would destroy an employer to employee relationship that happens anywhere.
Triple H will lose credibility if such actions occur
Hunter is currently one of the most influential figures in pro wrestling which many talents respect him. Through his leadership in NXT for 10 years and was also a head of talent relations before, he recruited a lot of talented wrestlers from different countries and will train through the WWE Performance Center. Some of these powerhouse recruitments by Triple H were Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Gunther, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, among others. If CM Punk continued to cause problems backstage then Hunter might lose credibility, which will cause to lower morale among in-ring performers and other employees. In turn, WWE will turn into a “toxic” and “unhealthy” workplace that happened during the last years of Vince McMahon as creative head and chairman of the board.
A WWE comeback is just all he needs
In an episode of RAW after 2023 Survivor Series: WarGames PLE, CM Punk made his iconic return to the weekly television program and cut a promo to conclude that episode. He said that he’s changed and meanwhile said that “I’m here not to make friends. I’m here to make money.” CM Punk told the audience that whatever happened in the past will just come in full circle especially that pro wrestling is merely a business entity, and Punk just needed a job. In turn, WWE also tried to seize the opportunity to bring back CM Punk due to his talents, in-ring abilities, and popularity to draw people in once again and watch their product, for business and profit. Similar to AEW, Tony Khan will find ways to rebuild his company as they thrive to increase the number of sales in terms of TV viewership and ticket sales especially in their weekly TV shows such as Dynamite, Collision, and Rampage.
As mentioned by fellow NoDQ columnist Mr. Tito in one of his articles, money really talks in pro wrestling as this is considered as “business” despite the negative comments being said by wrestlers who used to work there. The blood that flows in any sort of business is money, and CM Punk is still here for the same reason. Similar to Ric Flair, who needed to stay retired before suffering any concussion considering his age, came out from retirement and went back to the squared circle for one reason only: MONEY! In this case of CM Punk, I think one of the reasons why he went back to WWE is to main event WrestleMania, which is something that he needed to accomplish long time ago. With the current situation of WWE, WrestleMania is already a 2-night event since the pandemic which also means that there can be two main events. CM Punk’s WWE run in 2024 will have a bigger possibility for him to close one of two nights of WrestleMania that will surely highlight his career.