2024 was shaping up to be a BIG YEAR for the WWE, as they enjoying the new relationship with Endeavor, they just acquired CM Punk from AEW after he was just terminated there, signing Jade Gargill as a free agent away from AEW, and the interest of where Monday Night RAW would go for their new television deal kept everyone captivated. Then, just the subtle hint of ROCK vs. ROMAN REIGNS at Wrestlemania 40 got everyone pumped for 2024…
And then bad news after bad news happened… Charlotte Flair blows her ACL, ruining any opportunity of working with the increasing-with-experience women’s division and new names like Jade Gargil. Seth Rollins injures his knee in his main event match with Jinder Mahal on RAW, possibly ruining or at least limiting his Wrestlemania opportunity this year. During the week when WWE announced a new 5-10 year and up to $5 billion deal with Netflix for RAW’s television rights along with announcing the Rock as joining TKO’s Board of Directors, a lawsuit full of disgusting allegations as dropped on that very board’s Chairman Vince McMahon. Brock Lesnar is apparently the “UFC Fighter and WWE Wrestler” named in the lawsuit documents, so he’s cancelled from the WWE too. Nothing but bad luck to ruin the potential of 2024 for WWE.
Then, CM Punk gets injured… Torn triceps, which can take up to 6-8 months to heal.
Damn you 2024!!!!!
For CM Punk, could the dream be over?
Now, now, Internet Wrestling Community… Before you have a stroke, I believe CM Punk still has SOME value to the WWE when he returns from his triceps injury. As long as you (a) have personality and (b) have effective communication skills, you can continue working at a high level in the wrestling business no matter the age or circumstances. Look at Christian in AEW right now… Just KILLING IT on the mic and with his character insomuch that the in-ring matches don’t matter. “What will he say next?” matters more with him and seeing when he’ll “get his” in return from what he says.
So yeah, I believe that CM Punk can return and still have a successful WWE career on the back nine of his career.
But damn, I believe that reaching peak WWE star power may be over for CM Punk due to this triceps injury. It’s a 6-8 month bucket of cold water that douses the red hot flame he had coming off of his All Elite Wrestling (AEW) exit.
Since CM Punk’s WWE Survivor Series 2023 return, this WWE run was to “show up AEW” for terminating him in the first place. Even before CM Punk joined AEW, he was a polarizing wrestler as I used to have all kinds of debates about 2011’s events and Punk’s WWE use from 2012-2013, and then his 2014 exit and the infamous podcast with Colt Cabana. Then, however, he joins AEW and suddenly it morphs into WWE vs. AEW… That didn’t last long, as AEW began attacking itself from within as seen by the events leading up to AEW All Out 2022 and then All In 2023 at Wembley. Both the time off between 2022 and 2023 along with CM Punk’s termination for (a) beating up Luke Perry’s baby boy and (b) making Tony Khan scared for his life in his “safe” environment created all kinds of controversy and debate. Punk joining WWE reignites that WWE vs. AEW online debate, as any mere mention of Punk or AEW gets my Comments section flooded under any column that I post.
But then POOF, 1 injury wrecks everything for CM Punk.
GONE is that opportunity to headline one of the nights of Wrestlemania for 2024, as that was a past request of CM Punk to headline Wrestlemania and it went unfulfilled. By Royal Rumble 2014, his last WWE event before walking out on the next-night RAW, he saw the writing on the wall… Despite all of the hard work and putting everyone over during 2013, there was no reward despite promises made by Vince McMahon to possibly headline Wrestlemania. That said, even if CM Punk was headlining Night #1 for Wrestlemania 40, it’s still Night #2 that matters in my opinion. But hey, you wouldn’t see me throwing away a Silver medal at the Olympics if I was awarded one.
When CM Punk returns to the WWE in 6-8 months, that shine of being the “spurned AEW wrestler” has lessened. If we don’t see him on WWE television within 6-8 months to remind us how much AEW and Tony Khan blew it with Punk, we’ll start to forget and lose passion for cheering on Punk as that rejected AEW wrestler.
Momentum always quickly change in the wrestling business, and it’s exponential now. Hell, when Steve Austin took time off from late 1999 through mid-2000 due to his neck surgery, he returned to a changed WWE back then. Things are moving faster now with 2 brands and more events and more hours to fill, along with the speed at which wrestling fans can communicate but also the growing distractions. Social media has sped up things considerably and has preyed upon short attention spans. Many wrestling fans will start to forget why CM Punk ended back with the WWE in the first place.
And with 6-8 months added to the clock, CM Punk gets a little older. Torn muscles in your 40s don’t heal as well as they do in your 40s and 50s. He’s 45 and going on 46 this year, but he’s mounted up many injuries since returning to pro wrestling during 2021. In 2022 alone, and keep in mind that he didn’t wrestle the entire year, he broke his foot and tore his triceps muscle. By the way, he tore his LEFT triceps in AEW at All Out 2022 and he tore his RIGHT one at Royal Rumble 2024. Either way, that’s both arms that have been surgically repaired… If you thought he struggled getting guys up for the GTS now, wait until he returns with 2 surgically repaired arms!
But if you watched CM Punk in AEW, it was apparent quick during 2021 that CM Punk had aged and that 7+ years of not wrestling reduced his ability to perform. He wasn’t exactly “rested up”, but in truth, he was 7 years older. I’m close to his age and anytime I do something with a lot of running, such as a pick-up basketball game, my legs are hurting for days afterward. Hell, just mowing the lawn makes you sore as you hit your 40s and I’m not exactly sitting on the couch all day. CM Punk had about 17 years taking bumps inside wrestling rings before leaving the WWE during 2014, and then he trained to be a MMA fighter which is no easy task. Mileage from Pro Wrestling + Fighting in MMA + Getting Older = not as athletically great as you once was. Simple math.
Overall, CM Punk looked good in the 2024 Royal Rumble, but that’s a bit different than say a one-on-one match where you have a lot more activity other than “go to corner, try not to blow someone’s knee out”. I enjoyed his Madison Square Garden match with Dominick Mysterio, but that match had a lot of “sports entertainment” built in that didn’t require CM Punk to exert himself physically. I hate to say this about an experienced pro like CM Punk, but Dominick did AT LEAST an equal amount of work, if not more, to make their match sensational. He’s the most over heel in the WWE, besides Roman Reigns. But Mysterio is light as a feather and highly skilled as a worker to sell whatever you give him. It’s easy to GTS him, but what about a wrestler who is slightly heavier than him?
That’s the trick, here folks, with longevity in the wrestling business. Just quote Toby Keith’s “As Good As I Once Was” song…
If CM Punk thinks he can still perform exactly as he did through his 30s and still do the same exact moves, he’ll fail. That’s why you have to ADJUST your wrestling style, with age. Sorry Hulkster, but those legdrops add up when you’re older and so do the Macho Man elbows (which Punk replicates). By the way, Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage were around CM Punk’s age during the peak NWO years for WCW. If you’ll recall back then, seeing the storyline antics of the NWO on WCW Nitro far exceeded the in-ring output seen on Pay Per Views. While Macho still could have great matches, he still wasn’t as great as his youthful self and began suffering injuries. Meanwhile, Hogan’s main event matches suffered in quality.
You have to reinvent yourself to stay relevant… You cannot do the same things athletically in the ring as you once did. If you have a finisher that involves lifting another human body above your shoulders and then lifting your knee as they fall in midair, maybe you should rethink that finisher? Do what Chris Jericho did and invent a simple finisher like the Judas Effect. Jericho is the master at not only reinventing his in-ring work, but his character as well.
When CM Punk returns in 6-8 months, the only way he could recapture SOME of that magic and AEW termination momentum lost is for Punk to reinvent himself too. He needs a new finisher, BADLY, and needs to reduce the high risk moves that he tends to try. While he may be 0-2 in MMA fights for UFC, experience is experience… Find a finisher that doesn’t involve (a) jumping off top ropes or (b) requires you to life someone. What moves are out there that nobody uses in today’s WWE? Something like Sting’s reverse DDT, Chris Kanyon’s Flatliner, Christian’s Killswitch move, etc. That, or come up with a submission hold that is difficult to escape. Something, because the GTS just doesn’t look well executed as it used to be and will get harder with 2 surgically repaired arms.
The goodwill of being the “terminated AEW martyr” will likely be gone in 6-8 months… Thus, being a babyface playing off that AEW martyr shine will be gone as well. Fan attention spans will be focused somewhere else, as “time heals all wounds” for anyone mad at AEW for terminating CM Punk.
And that’s why CM Punk’s return should be as a heel… Furthermore, a very dastardly one at that. We’re talking Dick Dastardly kind of pure evil. Dishonest John and his dirty deeds done dirt cheap? You got it… JR Ewing should not have anything on CM Punk. *Producer informs Tito to come up with more recent pop culture references* Hmmmm… OK, have CM Punk be an aggressive parent in 2024 who doesn’t take crap from their kids and takes away all of their electronic devices as punishment or maybe sends those devices to the dump. THAT KIND OF HEEL!!!!!!!
When CM Punk returns to the WWE as a heel, I want that microphone work to be better than ever. LAY INTO the polarizing aspect of CM Punk and just tear into those fans with those mic skills. Throw pipebomb after pipebomb at the audience! Show ZERO mercy.
Make him the heel that a newly turned Roman Reigns can challenge and defeat at a well hyped Wrestlemania 41. How does that sound, folks? Oh, it’s tasty…
Thus, there will still be some VALUE in CM Punk with the WWE upon his triceps injury return, BUT HE HAS TO BE DIFFERENT. The in-ring style needs to change, but his character needs to as well. This “AEW martyr” gimmick won’t work in 6-8 months, as the whole point of that babyface gimmick was to prove that CM Punk can thrive in the Triple H environment of the WWE and headline a Wrestlemania night to STICK IT to AEW, their Young Buck EVPs, and Tony Khan. Thanks to the injury, headlining Night #1 of Wrestlemania 40 is out of the question and with CM Punk being a straight-edge kind of guy, there’s no way he toughs it out for over 2 months for Wrestlemania. He’s going to need surgery ASAP to repair that injury.
Lots of “if” statements there, folks… No guarantees that a CM Punk heel turn and modified in-ring style an recapture momentum CM Punk had as the “AEW martyr” babyface character. Punk getting terminated by AEW was a once-in-a-lifetime GIFT to the WWE and CM Punk himself to strike it big in the WWE. Those early numbers that Punk did by returning were outrageous and his merchandise sales have instantly boomed. However, that all comes to a screeching halt because CM Punk is injured and needs at least 6-8 months to return. And in 6-8 months, most fans will move on to backing other wrestlers and the heat towards AEW for their Punk antics will die down.
To quote John Lennon, “the dream is over” and “you just have to carry on”.
The “Revenge Tour” by CM Punk to “stick it” to AEW for terminating him has ended. It’s over.
The question is will CM Punk emulate his hero, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and refuse to change his character for about the first 9 months of his return only to have a slightly disappointing heel turn afterward and then have to revert back to a stale version of his older character? Or will CM Punk return to the WWE with guns blazing and as a full blown heel?
Don’t forget how Roman Reigns returned during August 2020… He left the WWE for COVID reasons during March 2020 as a babyface, set to wrestle Bill Goldberg at Wrestlemania 36, but then returned as a heel to quickly capture the WWE Universal Title and acquiring Paul Heyman. Since then, Roman Reigns morphed into the biggest drawing sensation in pro wrestling since John Cena. WWE always wanted Roman to be a John Cena babyface clone, not realizing Roman would be more effective as a heel because naturally gets put off by people. CM Punk is the same way, as he’s been confrontational his entire real life.
The AEW termination momentum has ended, but this creates a perfect opportunity for CM Punk to reinvent his in-ring style and character. Just take the time and carefully plan this return, or any “return momentum” could instantly fail. Roman’s heel turn during August 2020 could have failed, but they planned for his return and gave him the right assets (Jey Uso storyline + Paul Heyman) to succeed, while giving Roman FREEDOM on the microphone for cutting promos.
“The dream is over, what can I say? The dream is over, yesterday…” That’s reality.
Oh, and if they had Drew McIntyre do an injury angle with CM Punk, that means that Drew has re-signed with the WWE for a new deal. Why would they do that and let him walk to another company as the many who took out CM Punk? Makes no sense… If I were guessing, the WWE allowed Drew to troll Punk online with memes (like RIP to CM Punk main eventing Wrestlemania 40) because he was signed to a new deal. Then, they’ll feud at SummerSlam 2024 and I guess gauge it from there on fan sentiment towards CM Punk. I’d advise to turn him heel soon after his SummerSlam-ish timeframe return to begin building towards Wrestlemania 41.
As always, all plans can change when TKO’s newest Board Member, The Rock, decides to participate at a Wrestlemania. Punk got mad when “Dwayne” took his Wrestlemania spots during 2012 and 2013, so how would he react if that happened during 2025?
Either way, I think Punk needs to return with a fresh coat of paint for his in-ring abilities to adjust for his age and change-up the character because the “AEW martyr” gimmick won’t work in 6-8 months. Punk can return and state “but now I’m reborn” with a new heel character that can terrorize fans and fellow wrestlers. I’d argue Punk is a better heel than a babyface, by a margin.
“The dream is over”, what can I say? The fans will have carried on from how AEW terminated him, as their attention spans won’t let them fully remember. Just the way it is…
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