MR. TITO: CM Punk is NOT a Hypocrite for Returning to a Changed WWE Thanks to Triple H

I usually try to stay away from RESPONSE columns to what others have said, but the record needs to be set straight about whether or not CM Punk is a “hypocrite” for returning to the WWE. Our own Top 5 Wrestling NoDQ columnist, an admitted AEW fan and outspoken as being anti-WWE, has a column attacking both CM Punk and Cody Rhodes as “hypocrites” for returning to the WWE. The other being online wrestling reporter Ryan Satin calling CM Punk a “hypocrite” for returning to the WWE on one of his Tweets on X/Twitter (which he has since changed to protected view).

First and foremost, if you’re going to throw out that word “hypocrite”, BE CONSISTENT in your criticisms of the many, many wrestlers who had bad dealings with the WWE and yet they somehow returned.

– Hulk Hogan badmouthed the WWE in Japan during 1993 (while he was champion, too) and testified against the WWE in the steroid trial of 1994, returned in 2002.

– Bruno Sammartino left WWE on bad terms and ridiculed them for years for peddling steroids. He returned in 2006 for a merchandise deal and then to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.

– Ultimate Warrior left badly in 1991, 1992, and 1996 and spent years attacking the WWE. On WWE’s side, they made an attack DVD documentary about Warrior entitled “The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior”. Yet, he came back during 2013 for merchandising opportunities and got into their Hall of Fame during 2014. The Hall of Fame, since, has an Ultimate Warrior award.

– Bret Hart returned after the WWE screwed him during Survivor Series 1997 and killed his brother Owen Hart. Yet, Bret came back for a DVD, returning to television, a Wrestlemania match against Vince McMahon, and the Hall of Fame.

– Brock Lesnar abruptly left the WWE in 2004 and was forced to sign a non-compete clause to not perform in any wrestling or MMA promotion through 2010. Brock performed for both, and was in lawsuits for most of the late 2000s. Yet, he returned to the WWE during 2012 and has had great relations with the WWE, even once fooling Ryan Satin over a FILMED backstage segment where Lesnar tossed the belt at Vince McMahon. Lesnar has made millions with the WWE.

– Scott Steiner didn’t leave cleanly during 2003 and has been outspoken about the WWE in many shoot interviews. Yet, I witnessed him getting into the Hall of Fame during 2022.

– Macho Man Randy Savage left WWE during the fall of 1994 and took his Slim Jims sponsorship with him to join WCW. That initially upset WWE, but there were reported attempts to bring Savage back during the late 1990s for an opponent for Steve Austin. Then, after Triple H called Macho a “dinosaur”, Randy cut a shoot interview in which he called out Stephanie McMahon (the genesis of the Macho Man & Stephanie rumors). Yet, during 2010, Macho Man began to sell merchandise for the WWE and appear in their video games. It was likely that their relationship was rebuilding but Savage passed in 2011.

And I could go on and on and on… Many WWE wrestlers have been released, conducted shoot interviews, and then returned to the WWE with open arms. It happens…

But if you listened to what CM Punk said to end his segment, “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to make money”, everything in Pro Wrestling is about making cash. Money talks and BS walks… Making a bit pile of cash will erase bad feelings of the past in the pro wrestling business.

Punk’s comments eerily resemble what Scott Hall once conveyed about joining WCW during 1996. A veteran once told him “you could either make friends or money in the pro wrestling business”, to which Hall said that “I already have many friends, so I want that money”. Is Scott Hall a hypocrite for taking the big guaranteed money in WCW, a contract that he could NOT obtain in the WWE? Same thing with Kevin Nash, who also had bad feelings about WCW after the many goofy gimmicks they gave him from the Master Blasters to Oz to Vinnie Vegas? Is he a hypocrite for taking that GUARANTEED money to try WCW again? And better yet for Hall and Nash, they returned and changed the business down there.

Ryan Satin – Are you a hypocrite for bashing WWE’s product for YEARS and then getting hired by FOX Sports 1 to speak positively about the WWE on the short-lived WWE Backstage show? Oh, and by the way, you were joined on that show by CM Punk, whom you’re now criticizing for rejoining the WWE. Wouldn’t Punk be a hypocrite, too, for appearing on a WWE sponsored show on FOX Sports 1? Sounds like it to me… I’m so sure that you called CM Punk a hypocrite during 2019-2020, to his face, while you were on the set of WWE Backstage multiple times or in production meetings. Right?

Here is the TRUTH about the CM Punk 2023 return to the WWE… He’s NOT a hypocrite. Not even close!

Why? Because the WWE that he spoke about for being “toxic” and “unhealthy” (his quotes) from the time he left during early 2014 through 2021 has changed for the BETTER from 2022-2023.

So when CM Punk joined AEW during August 2021, the WWE was still being heavily micro-managed by Vince McMahon while Creative was overseen by stooge Bruce Prichard and Talent was managed by stooge John Laurinaitis. Nothing had changed… WWE of 2021, while Punk was joining AEW, was still the toxic stoogefest that CM Punk alludes to in his 2021 and even his early 2022 promos.

During the early to mid 2010s, CM Punk dealt with an inexperienced Triple H who was (a) still competing as a wrestler and (b) thrust into EVP positions overseeing Talent and Creative. Major conflict of interest, as Triple H is extremely competitive as a pro wrestler and has a big ego about how his wrestler is portrayed. That competitiveness of Triple H’s didn’t like CM Punk, as Jim Ross reported how HHH was often critical of CM Punk’s natural physique of not using any substances to become chiseled as “skinny fat”. Triple H was thrust into CM Punk’s creative through SummerSlam 2011 and then he BEAT CM Punk at Night of Champions 2011, while 2 Pay Per Views later, CM Punk eats the pin in a Tag Match teaming with Triple H against R-Truth and Miz. That “Summer of Punk” momentum was personally ruined by Triple H, which created major heat between the two through early 2014 when Triple H wanted to wrestle Punk at Wrestlemania 30. Hence, why he quit and Punk pointed the finger clearly at Triple H during his November 2014 shoot interview with Colt Cabana.

The WWE that CM Punk dealt with and was highly critical of was the one he endured as a wrestler from 2005 through 2014, but also one that Vince McMahon stoogefest and Triple H’s inexperience extended through 2021. And remember, Punk had to fight and claw to earn everything, including WWE wanting to release him as a developmental talent at OVW (but Paul Heyman protected him), pushback from the veterans backstage who disliked him winning Money in the Bank briefcases, and then WWE willing to let his contract expire during June 2011. That’s why he was wrestling John Cena at Money in the Bank as just to build up Cena to defend his title at SummerSlam 2013 against Alberto Del Rio. That was the long-term booking plans… But, CM Punk delivers the “Pipe Bomb” promo, and suddenly things changed and Punk signed a 3-year extension.

Facts are that CM Punk got burned out from the WWE schedule, citing burnout, injuries, and false promises made to him for headlining Wrestlemania as the Main Event act. He just had enough, as many other Americans have had at jobs (hence why there will ALWAYS be at least a 4% unemployment rate), and didn’t appear in ANY wrestling promotions until 2021… 7 year absence. He got a taste of the WWE doing the FOX Sports 1 WWE Backstage show, but probably saw that the Vince McMahon stoogefest was still firmly in place during 2019-2020. Thus, by 2021, his options were to deal with the Vince stoogefest or try this brand new promotion that was willing to pay him millions. Based on what conditions of the WWE were through 2021, I don’t blame CM Punk for trying AEW. WWE was still too toxic through 2021.

For a moment, CM Punk made AEW better… He was a legitimate star floating around in a small pond, yet he got them above or near 1 million viewers again for AEW Dynamite and he gave AEW its first $1 million gates. I personally believe that CM Punk’s 2023 to AEW helped pump up the Wembley Stadium All In’s attendance by another 20,000 tickets sold. After he returned, sales quickly jumped. CM Punk has been the top AEW merchandise seller and his stuff is still selling well at the company, despite his exit.

I don’t blame CM Punk for joining AEW in 2021… Would you want to work for Vince McMahon, Bruce Prichard, and John Laurinaitis, two of which were pains in CM Punk’s arse in the past? WWE during 2020 and 2021 was releasing many, many wrestlers without notice or cause. Very, very toxic environment that also had other things going on, such as Vince McMahon having sexual encounters that led to millions paid out and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) signed.

The TRUTH is that the WWE for 2022-2023 has changed and changed for the better. THAT is what CM Punk has agreed to join. Had the Vince McMahon stoogefest continued through 2023, I have doubts of CM Punk’s return UNLESS the money was too hard to resist. That said, CM Punk was paid well by the WWE during 2011-2014 and he still walked out of that contract. Money isn’t everything for CM Punk.

And just why is 2022-2023’s WWE better and friendlier to a discouraged talent like CM Punk? Well, it’s because of WHO is now managing the company… Yep, Triple H.

As I wrote in my column about AEW’s Tony Khan, it takes about 5-10 years to figure out the Pro Wrestling business in terms of becoming a promoter. Vince McMahon spent over 10 years working for Vince Sr. for various jobs, and it took a moment for Eric Bischoff to figure out how to make WCW into a superpower. Many other big promoters, like Verne Gagne or Fritz Von Erich, were former talents who became bookers under supervision and once they became good at it, they either took over the promotion or started their own. The fact is that it TAKES TIME to become a good wrestling promoter. Tony Khan is about to enter year #5 of just being in the business, let alone being president of a wrestling company. Gee, I wonder why he’s struggling so much.

FACT is that the Triple H of 2022-2023 is FAR DIFFERENT than the Triple H EVP that we endured from 2011 through 2020 when he was relieved of most of his duties. Triple H took over Talent Relations during mid-2012 but lost them to John Laurinaitis during early 2020, while HHH became Creative EVP during late 2013 and lost that role to the dynamic duo of Bruce Prichard and Eric Bischoff as “Executive Directors” (Bischoff exited soon, Heyman would take his place and eventually leave creative too with Bruce taking over both RAW and Smackdown). I’ve made many many arguments about Triple H’s tenure overseeing Talent from 2012-2020 and Creative from 2013-2019. While HHH improved Tag Team and Women’s wrestling, he couldn’t produce a top drawing Main Eventer from his NXT promotion from wrestlers he personally signed (Finn Balor and Kevin Owens are his best guys). Fact is that RAW’s viewership was above 4 million viewers during 2013 and started trending below 2 million through 2019.

BUT, time heals all wounds as they say… Triple H needed EXPERIENCE, and the 2010s was his “10 years” to receive his bumps and bruises as a potential promoter.

Then, something else happened… Through September 2021, Triple H was hospitalized for significant issues, build up of fluid in his lungs and around his heart, that could have led to heart failure. In fact, he now has a defibrillator built into his chest to assist his heart and having that device, along with his age and having heart issues to begin with, has caused him to officially retire from in-ring work. While it is a shame that a near-death experience forced this in-ring retirement, this would allow Triple H to focus on becoming a stronger manager of the WWE rather than having some focus on his in-ring character. When Triple H appears on camera or in interviews now, he’s warm, calm, and focused on the BUSINESS without having to attempt to be a wrestling character. He’s too damn competitive and ego driven as a wrestler, but with that now gone, his focus is 100% on helping wrestlers and the WWE product improve.

But also, when you’re having near death experiences, laying in hospital beds, or just resting while you recover from major heart surgery… Your life flashes before your very eyes. From 2021 through early 2022, Triple H had time to THINK and REFLECT about his past tenure as a Executive of the WWE. It’s the same argument I gave for Roman Reigns, who had time off from 2018-2019 and through a portion of 2020. Roman had time to THINK and REFLECT on his prior 10 years of in-ring experience and he came back stronger than ever.

Instead of working on Vince McMahon’s unreal schedule of working late hours in the WWE offices, traveling all over the country for RAW/Smackdown/Pay Per Views, or trying to help develop talents at the Performance Center in Florida… Triple H had time to breathe… He had time to think about his decisions, review the outcomes, and become a student of the game once again by relearning what made the wrestling business work. You don’t get that perspective by being spread too thin, as I believe he was during 2011 through 2020 managing live events, creative, and talent while also being an occasional in-ring talent. He was burning himself out while not having any moments to think, reflect, or performing any research on how to improve himself or the WWE. He had no chance for personal development because he was working too damn hard under the Vince McMahon schedule.

Even though he went through absolute hell during September 2021 with his heart issues and almost lost his life, I bet he’d argue that this time off was much needed to get his BRAIN healthy again. Good lord, Triple H has been working the Vince McMahon schedule since he joined the company in 1995. You try working a 6-7 day workweek with 10-15 hours worked per day, while always being at the mercy of whatever a demanding Vince McMahon wants for 26 years. Let’s see how YOU survive that insanity.

Thus, by 2022, Triple H was rested and highly reflective on his past experiences as a backstage manager of the WWE. When Vince McMahon was forced to “retire” from the WWE during June 2022, Triple H was MENTALLY PREPARED and EXPERIENCED to take over the job.

And just what have you seen since June 2022 with Triple H in charge? GROWTH.

Good example of what Triple H has changed backstage was Sami Zayn. Sami went from LOSING to the cast of Jackass at Wrestlemania 38 to headlining Night 1 of Wrestlemania 39 by winning the Tag Titles with Kevin Owens against the Usos. While Roman Reigns was in much need of a heel turn and was thriving in his new role as “Head of the Table” for the Bloodline stable, the Bloodline AND Roman Reigns became BETTER with Triple H in charge. WWE’s numbers just exploded with Sami in the group which created great character arcs for not just Sami, but the Usos and Roman Reigns. Look at 2023 with Roman and the Usos following Wrestlemania 39. It drove major viewership and attendance numbers for the WWE for anytime they were on the show.

Look at Cody Rhodes… Yeah, that other “hypocrite”… He was forced to remain as Stardust and Triple H was EVP of Talent/Creative through 2016 when Cody asked for his release. Cody even smashed a throne at an AEW show that resembled one that Triple H used with a sledgehammer to drive home the point of his possible dislike for how he was managed back then in the WWE. When Triple H took over during June 2022, there were fears that Cody’s push would be disassembled with a vengeful Triple H in charge. NOPE, that push continued with Triple H in charge and I’d argue that Triple H’s 2023 creative has positioned Cody Rhodes to be THE GUY to finally defeat Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 40 and be a strong WWE champion afterward. Cody is a bigger star than ever under Triple H’s tenure with creative.

Women’s wrestling is good again under Triple H, as it was somewhat struggling before 2022 (hence why Sasha Banks quit the company). Tag Team wrestling matters… Look at Gunther, whom Triple H signed for NXT UK. He’s killing it as Intercontinental Champion. Younger wrestlers are starting to thrive in the WWE, as they weren’t through Vince McMahon’s micro-managing of creative. Celebrity wrestlers are really performing well under Triple H’s careful eye. Endeavor, who acquired the WWE through 2023, saw that and emboldened Triple H to remain the manager of WWE’s day-to-day operations while forcing Vince McMahon to STAY AWAY from micro-managing creative and talent. Thank the heavens, as Triple H is now fully allowed to build on the genius ideas he had during 2022 that made the WWE even stronger.

THAT is the WWE which CM Punk just rejoined…

The 2005-2021 WWE was a Vince McMahon stoogefest.

2022-2023 WWE is one led by a humbled, experienced, and reflective Triple H. In other words, a healthy environment for someone like CM Punk to join to help rehabilitate his tainted image from his past WWE exit and his AEW experiences.

And I guarantee CM Punk wouldn’t go unscripted on Triple H… Punk knows who is in charge… But I believe Punk knows that the WWE has recently changed for the BETTER and Triple H has changed for the better as well.

Punk has made lots of money in the wrestling business and on outside projects, while being very thrifty with his money. He didn’t need to return to the WWE for a multi-year contract. He WANTED to return to the WWE and that’s the difference. Meanwhile, Triple H has created an environment that could help CM Punk thrive and now be open to discuss any wrestler burnout situations.

Everyone can change and evolve folks, and that includes both CM Punk and Triple H.

But anyone can suffer in a toxic environment, which AEW truly is unless you suck up to the Young Buck EVPs or an enabler to the inexperienced and ball-less Tony Khan.

CM Punk is NOT a hypocrite for returning to the WWE. He’s a smart businessman for joining a company that has recently evolved into a welcoming place for talents (ask Cody Rhodes and Jade Gargill) while also still making millions of dollars.

During 2021 and early 2022, what CM Punk said was true about the WWE in his AEW promos… WWE was still an “unhealthy” place to be. But as CM Punk’s AEW tenure continued through 2022, it was AEW that evolved into the toxic workplace with a micro-managing company president and stooge EVPs. Tony punished nobody, and the EVPs were getting their stooges to say unscripted promos on television while leaking complete lies to Dave Meltzer about Colt Cabana’s AEW career since CM Punk joined. This lead to Punk’s outbursts in a now unhealthy and toxic AEW environment during 2022-2023. Meanwhile, Triple H took over the WWE during 2022 and made it become the better workplace to be for 2022-2023. See how things have quickly changed for the better in WWE and for the worse in AEW?

THAT is what anyone calling CM Punk a “hypocrite” is missing… The 2022-2023 WWE is far different from the toxic WWE of a Vince McMahon stoogefest that officially came to an end during June 2022 and thankfully, Endeavor sees that and is refusing to let Vince micro-manage creative and talent again.

An experienced, humbled, and reflective Triple H is now in charge and WWE is a better company in 2022-2023 than it was for the past 20 years before it. If you don’t believe me, then ask how $20 million worth of settlements with women occurred during that period of time?

Triple H is a good dude who probably kept Shawn Michaels from dying during the late 1990s, built confidence up for both Ric Flair and the Undertaker, and is highly respected among the NXT talent that he managed. Yes, he was an extremely competitive and ego-driven wrestler… But when takes that wrestler mask off, he cares deeply about the business. Furthermore as WWE’s manager of Creative and Talent since June 2022, he now has the EXPERIENCE to do the job RIGHT. Hence, why he’s thriving and why it’s a GREAT environment to join for CM Punk who just wants some appreciation and nurturing from a pro wrestling company.

Did you get all of that? That’s the damn TRUTH about CM Punk returning to the changed and evolved WWE company.

So you can take your hypocrisy claims and shove it. Don’t like CM Punk in the WWE, then go watch and suffer through an AEW whose environment has morphed into the toxic environment that has failed the WWE for many years now. Company President micro-managing everything with EVP stooges… That’s what the WWE was through 2021 and what AEW has officially become. Who is next to leave AEW to join WWE? Wardlow? MJF? And I doubt any big free agents join AEW from the WWE, unless it’s an older veteran with high mileage that the WWE just doesn’t want to overpay based on their potential output. I’m happy that Edge, Christian, Big Show, and Mark Henry are collecting big paychecks that maybe they couldn’t get in the WWE, at the moment.

I predict CM Punk is going to thrive in the WWE and rehabilitate his “damaged” image from his 2014 exit of the WWE and the many problems in AEW to become an even bigger star than ever. There will be no problems here, as the WWE has changed for the better and a humbled Triple H won’t let CM Punk become disgruntled without a heart-to-heart conversation.

For the record, I fully appreciate what Triple H has become as a wrestling promoter. I’m a big fan of his work since 2022 and cannot wait to see what he can do for WWE in 2024. How about that?

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