MR. TITO: The Rumors of CM Punk Returning to Pro Wrestling – Rejoin WWE or Join AEW?

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Holy cow… What’s happening with Pro Wrestling right now is this and the National Basketball Association (NBA) has the same exact problem. Thanks to All Elite Wrestling (AEW)‘s existence, player movement stories (news or rumors) has become more interesting than the actual matches. Just like player trades and free agency has become more interesting than the games themselves in the NBA.

You can hate AEW all that you want and I’ll probably agree with you on certain aspects… But what you cannot deny is the fact that they’ve created another OPTION for wrestlers to join besides the WWE. That’s a fact. Upset as Dean Ambrose in the WWE? Fine, join AEW as Jon Moxley. Tired of being just a midcarder in the WWE? Chris Jericho had the option to join AEW as a top guy. When Kenny Omega wanted to return to the United States during 2019, he had options of joining either WWE or AEW. Want to let go of Luke Harper (Brody Lee), Rusev (Miro), Matt Hardy, Revival (FTR), and many others? AEW will welcome them. Legends like Sting, Big Show, Mark Henry, and Christian can still find work and good financial opportunities with AEW instead of WWE.

It’s been fun for the past 2.5 years of just hearing stories of speculation where this wrestler may go, where that wrestler might end up, etc.

And then you have the great unicorn, CM Punk. We have speculated to DEATH about him maybe returning to the WWE or shocking the world by boosting a competitor if he joins AEW. I have written countless columns about CM Punk and I keep getting told by many readers “he’s not coming back”.

Yeah, but if you’re a highly important free agent and (a) WWE is desperate to stop their viewership loss and (b) AEW wants to win now and sees the opportunity to quickly catch the WWE with their 600,000 viewer gap against RAW… The opportunity is knocking. CM Punk has MAJOR leverage right now and he’s starting to realize it with WWE’s business rapidly declining through 2021. WWE just brought back John Cena and Bill Goldberg for some help promoting Summerslam and actually placed John Cena on RAW for fun just to pop a number.

Cena and Goldberg, however, have at least been on a major promotion’s show in the last 7 years.

CM Punk hasn’t. We have not seen him work with a major Pro Wrestling promotion since the 2014 WWE Royal Rumble. After that show, he walked out of the WWE due to creative differences, burn out, and health concerns that he would explain in an extensive November 2014 Podcast with his now former friend Colt Cabana. He has never returned to a major promotion since. No WWE, no Ring of Honor, no TNA/Impact, no NWA, and despite the many, many rumors, he has not shown up for AEW just yet. Yet for many WWE shows, you keep hearing the “CM Punk” chants. On top of that, history has been kind to CM Punk and the frustrating WWE product since he left has proven him right.

On top of that, the WWE treated him poorly since his HUGE WWE Money in the Bank 2011 victory over John Cena for the WWE Title until his early 2014 exit. Let’s go through this again:

– WWE did a half-arsed WWE Title tournament after CM Punk left, setting up Title vs. Title against John Cena at SummerSlam 2011.

– Triple H was the referee for CM Punk vs. John Cena at SummerSlam 2011 and not only did a poor job calling the match, but afterward it saw Kevin Nash randomly hit the ring and attack CM Punk only for Alberto Del Rio to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase.

– CM Punk would then get buried by Triple H at the next Pay Per View in their “revenge” match (Kevin Nash’s involvement was never explained) and then CM Punk took 2 more Pay Per View losses after that (lost a WWE Title match, got pinned while tagging with HHH against Miz & R-Truth).

– Sure, he won the WWE Title at Survivor Series 2011, but that was because Alberto Del Rio was failing as champion. CM Punk would spend the next year hardly ever headlining RAW as Champion and often did not headline Pay Per Views as well.

– Turned heel in the middle of his WWE Title run. Who has ever switched from babyface to heel as champion before?

– Lost every major match during 2013: Rock twice, Cena, Kane, Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar.

– Used as the first stepping stone to begin pushing Roman Reigns during early 2014.

If you look back at the build-up for Money in the Bank 2011 after the “Pipebomb” speech, it caused viewership numbers to pop during the Summer, MITB 2011 outdrew the previous year’s Pay Per View, and CM Punk’s merchandise sold through the roof during the months after MITB 2011. CM PUNK was a draw… Those are stone cold facts, folks.

But as I described in my recent 07/06/2021 Column titled “10 Years Ago, CM Punk’s Pipebomb Promo Threatened the Corporate WWE Structure”, CM Punk’s unscripted promo and the fans gravitating towards that was a threat to WWE’s corporate way of life. WWE preferred to control every word that their wrestlers speak and everything they do inside the ring. Thus, they tore down CM Punk in favor of pushing Alberto Del Rio and Triple H’s Authority angle instead. Sure, Punk made money on that 2011-2014 contract, but he only made that because he had LEVERAGE in leaving the WWE while being white hot.

Now, CM Punk has LEVERAGE to either help SAVE a declining WWE or to HELP AEW quickly close the short viewership gap.

And as I described in my 06/29/2021 Column titled “WWE is just a Roman Reigns Injury Away from Failure”, the WWE is just a Roman Reigns injury away from Smackdown beginning to tank in viewership. The fact is that WWE’s Developmental System is depleted of good talent and is unable to train & mold future prospects of size for Vince McMahon to want to use. Again, the WWE wouldn’t be bringing back Bill Goldberg or John Cena if their developmental system was pumping in new great talents to push instead.

With the WWE, Triple H is the problem for CM Punk. Those shoot comments about HHH during that 2014 Colt Cabana podcast cannot be undone. Triple H has a big ego to bruise and those comments were personal. Unless the WWE has really diminished Triple H’s role backstage, I don’t see CM Punk returning to the WWE. I could see Vince McMahon wanting him back, but Triple H is the issue.

For AEW, remember, CM Punk soured at both Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks texting him offers to join AEW during 2019. That’s a documented fact. If AEW is the chosen place, then communications would have to improve and be formal between the parties. The problem I see is Kenny Omega. Is he willing to allow CM Punk to arrive and potentially challenge him for his big pile of belts? Omega is a weird one and he has a ton of power backstage as an EVP of the company. Salary wise, could CM Punk make more than the EVPs of AEW?

I said this for a while, but Sinclair Broadcasting should make a serious offer to CM Punk to not only perform and be the face of their company across all of their many broadcast channels, but to potentially help with the booking of the shows. Ring of Honor could have more to offer in terms of control to Punk compared to WWE or AEW.

Or, CM Punk is negotiating to do his own thing, maybe bringing Daniel Bryan along. Hey, if Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks can draw 10,000 paid fans in 2018 for the “All In” event, then could you imagine what a show containing CM Punk and Daniel Bryan could draw? Maybe those two team up and just have random one-off shows across the country and can be broadcast as Pay Per Views?

But maybe CM Punk and Daniel Bryan could “invade” AEW together (add Tessa Blanchard, please!). It could be a big splash like Kevin Nash and Scott Hall joining WCW during 1996, though Hall & Nash were blessed with an all-time great storyline to kickstart their WCW return.

The possibilities are endless and it’s a THRILL to just speculate on what will happen.

Do you want to know what I think will happen with CM Punk?

LOOK WHO REPORTED IT… Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful is the one who broke the story, NOT Dave Meltzer or the Wrestling Observer folks. Think about that for a second… Meltzer used to break every wrestler free agent move in the past, but for the past 2 years, he seems to be lacking sources. He didn’t report on Sting, Big Show, Mark Henry, Matt Hardy, Miro, Brodie Lee, Jon Moxley, or any other free agent name. It’s as if he’s completely biased towards AEW and refuses to ruin any surprises. For WWE, we knew that both John Cena and Bill Goldberg were going to wrestle at SummerSlam ahead of time.

With Dave Meltzer and the Observer Boys NOT reporting on this CM Punk story and opening the door for someone else to report it first… That tells me that CM Punk is leaning towards joining AEW. Seems obvious to me.

CM Punk needs to come back. The fans need him because we need someone who can not just perform well inside the ring, but on the microphone as well. He needs to push other wrestlers to compete with him on his mic skills just as we need veteran CM Punk backstage to help other wrestlers learn from him.

Punk needs to erase what the WWE did to him and join a competitor to “stick it” to them. The scary part, though, is that AEW’s structure with Tony Khan and the 4 EVPs might not let him unless they agree to stay out of his way.

There is SO MUCH money to be made here by CM Punk’s return and I believe the gap would tighten considerably with a well pushed Punk in place at AEW.

I’m hoping that it happens. Wrestling needs CM Punk back and we can’t let him slip away to Father Time.

So just chill… Until the next episode!

Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.



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