After almost ten years, CM Punk returned to WWE at Survivor Series this past weekend. It was a massive shock to most fans and even to roster members. WWE announced that Punk would be on Raw and it was mentioned during Raw he would be there with a “live mic.” There was a groundswell of anticipation to see what he would say. The audience sat on the edge of their seats as he entered. Then he got on the microphone.
I can summarize what he said in a few sentences. Punk told the world he was home. He also mentioned that he was in WWE because of the fans. Then he mentioned his wife AJ Lee, which got a lot of applause. Punk spoke about the love and admiration backstage with all the wrestlers and how he was welcomed with open arms. It was a very cookie-cutter return promo that most wrestlers would cut when they return. But why has there been so much backlash online about it? Why are there so many people talking down about this return promo? I may have some idea.
The consensus I have been seeing online is “That Punk promo felt disingenuous.” and I can understand that sentiment. Punk has always felt like the fiery leader of the anti-establishment coalition. He has always been the “voice of the voiceless” and stood up for the little guy. So him saying that he was “home” in WWE may sound a bit hypocritical. But when Punk was in WWE almost ten years ago, he spoke about “guys like him” never getting a shot. Wrestlers who came from the independents and were not the muscle heads like Hogan and Luger never got the opportunity to be on top. Though since he left, those guys have been the ones at the top of the card.
The former Tyler Black, now Seth Rollins, is the World Heavyweight Champion. He is the top star of the Raw brand. When Punk was still in WWE before, Rollins was just one of the guys in that Shield faction. Numerous guys have been able to shine over the years Punk was gone and they all fit the mold Punk laid out. So what would he have to complain about? His whole basis before was the mistreatment of guys like him, but now they are the ones on top.
One of the first things Punk says in his promo is that he has changed. What better way to show that he has changed than by showing up and showing love to WWE? When he debuted for AEW, Punk talked down about WWE and mentioned how great it was to be in AEW. He was still seen as “the voice of the voiceless” and AEW fans were trying to find their voice. But over the past year, WWE fans have found their voice. Since Triple H has taken over in creative for WWE, there have been many changes that fans have seen for the better. No longer does Punk speak for the masses in a rebellious rage, but now he is compliant and content with how things are running in WWE.
Earlier in the night, Seth Rollins told the crowd (who were chanting for Punk) that he did not want to talk about that “hypocrite.” Then after the Punk promo, I saw a lot of people using the word hypocrite online. It may be a stretch, but Punk and Rollins may be playing into all of this to make it more titillating for the audience when they finally come face to face. There were no catchphrases like Punk usually does. He didn’t ask you to tell him when he was telling lies. Punk only mentioned being the best in the world when he was talking about why he came back. He wants to prove that the ones who claim they are the best are not because they have not had to face him in ten years.
I have never been a “CM Punk mark.” I have enjoyed what he does but I never really saw what made him so special to so many people. This isn’t an article meant to sound like a “Punk apologist” but I wanted to get my thoughts out. Punk can try to end his career on a better note than when he left AEW. It is like he said as Raw was going off air, he is not there to make friends, he is there to make money. What is a better way to make money than by wrestling against people who may not like him? How much money can he make in a company that people think he hates? Only time will tell.