MR. TITO: Tony Khan Has Terminated CM Punk from AEW… Now What? WWE Return?

Sigh… Here we go again. If you’re in the online wrestling business, CM Punk is great business for me. Owners of websites see record breaking traffic regarding CM Punk stories, as do my columns. And it’s not about any great matches CM Punk had or any great promos. Nope… It’s all about the status of CM Punk on whether or not he’ll remain with a promotion.

As I said in my previous column from 8/29/23, 3 things can be equally true:

(1) Tony Khan is an inept President and manager of AEW.
(2) The EVPs of AEW are complete trolls.
(3) CM Punk is highly emotional and can get dramatic.

Yes, the Elite trolls have been needling him since 2021 because they are likely jealous of Punk’s big contract and drawing ability. They have many loyal flunkies, such as Adam “Hangman” Page and “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, who will do their dirty work. On top of that, Tony is a complete enabler towards the Elite group and reportedly parties with them. That said, instead of CM Punk being above them and just letting his drawing ability speak for itself, he stoops to their level and actually goes lower than them.

The Media Scrum after AEW All Out 2022 was the most unprofessional thing that I’ve ever seen on a pro wrestling related event. Him shooting on AEW, Adam Page, and the EVPs publicly was ridiculous and made the entire company, which has been paying him millions, look bad. And why did he do that? Because Adam Page cut an unscripted promo on CM Punk, which Punk actually delivered a receipt in the form of his unscripted promo later, and then stuff is getting sent to the dirtsheets. Big deal. Do you realize how light the dirtsheet subscription rates are right now? They certainly are not what they used to be with the wrestling business shrinking over the past 10 years. Yet, that bothered CM Punk to attack the entire company at the Media Scrum?

Everything looked sour to me when CM Punk would only return to AEW because a separate Saturday Night show was created. As a 20+ year veteran and a 44 year old man, he couldn’t take charge of the situation behind the scenes and then help craft a massive CM Punk vs. the Elite feud to draw everyone lots of money? Nope, he wouldn’t return unless the Saturday show was created and none of the Elite had anything to do with it. Great story, bro, but you still couldn’t show any calmness backstage. AEW draws over 80,000 at Wembley Stadium and yet we’re getting into fights backstage, in front of everyone, with Jack Perry.

Pattern of behavior is there with CM Punk, whether he likes it or not. Demanding and a perfectionist in Ring of Honor, wouldn’t listen to trainers in OVW (Paul Heyman seriously saved his career down there), had some backstage heat due to an interaction with the Undertaker, difficult to speak to according to WWE officials as he’d complain to everyone else but be quiet when WWE officials inquired him, leaked that the WWE locker room was upset with part-timers coming to the WWE like the Rock, outright quitting the WWE after Royal Rumble 2014, ripping the WWE and Triple H to shreds on the November 2014 on Colt Cabana’s podcast, always taking cheapshots at the Miz (which he apologized during his recent WWE show visit), and of course Page unscripted promo/Media Scrum/Backstage Fight/Shooting on Adam Page’s merchandise sales, and getting physical with Jack Perry. Gee, seems like he has difficulties working with promotions.

You don’t have to tell me twice that AEW is a hot mess and WWE can be as well. But you don’t see other wrestlers acting out the way CM Punk has. Vince and Tony are difficult to work with, yes, but does that mean their companies need to be attacked publicly?

And this is 2023… The 1950s-1990s has long past where you need to use fists to make a point backstage. There’s no need to throw punches, hard shoves, or put on chokeholds of other wrestlers. Let the wrestlers bury themselves… Jack Perry wants to go through a real windshield. Then let him! Let him feel the same consequence as Bill Goldberg felt when he tried to punch out a real car window one time. If AEW officials really approached CM Punk to speak with Perry about this car window, he should have ignored them. It’s not his job to control other wrestlers and the same goes about any wrestler trying to confront him. Nope, he takes the bait every time.

Tony Khan created this mess because he’s a complete enabler to the EVP trolls and their Elite followers. Because he has no control over those goofs, they are allowed to leak stories to Dave Meltzer, attempt to barge into a locker room to attack CM Punk, and get their flunkies to do their bidding. I said it before that the Young Bucks, who are the ones really stirring the pot against CM Punk, should NOT have been re-signed to 4 year extensions. But Tony loves those guys and signed them instead. OK, then you need to set ground rules to enable everyone to enjoy the AEW environment and work together to make major money.

Now that CM Punk has been terminated, it’s time for Tony Khan to put his foot down on the rest of the roster.

(1) Create new policies on leaking any stories or trade secrets to dirtsheets or other publications. Create fines and de-push wrestlers who get caught leaking.

(2) Demote Kenny and Young Bucks from their EVP titles. You are just being paid to wrestle now.

(3) Consider Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho’s roles. Should any active wrestlers have any power?

(4) Anyone goes unscripted on television receives massive fines.

(5) Start actually working with Jim Ross on how to properly run a wrestling business.

History shows that making active wrestlers as managers backstage always leads to problems. Wrestlers still think like wrestlers, and thus do things in their self-interest. Dusty Rhodes did this during the 1980s, even when maybe he was on the downslide of his career. Triple H protected himself when he was dating and engaged to Stephanie McMahon. Give someone creative power, such as Hulk Hogan, and they’ll do things only for themselves and not for the good of the entire company. Bucks/Omega/Cody and now Moxley/Jericho with backstage power are also self-serving, as their attention is SPLIT between helping AEW and keeping their in-ring careers going.

Punk’s exit is going to create multiple problems for AEW, such as:

(a) Warner Bros. Discovery executives who gave AEW the Saturday Night timeslot on TNT that was contingent on CM Punk headlining that show. This may be the beginning of the end for that relationship, and AEW may have television deal issues within the next 2-3 years, if not sooner. For example, what if WBD just decides to cut their losses and sign the WWE during 2024?

(b) CM Punk signs with WWE and actually behaves.

(c) No other major WWE free agents will want to sign there. While Punk was also in the wrong, he was attacked by the Elite trolls who cut an unscripted promo on him and then fed garbage to the dirtsheets (Dave Meltzer, primarily, who will happily digest said garbage).

(d) Current AEW wrestlers, who aren’t as loyal to the Elite, are wondering when their next contract is coming up.

(e) CM Punk is going to talk. This was a termination, not an agreed upon release. Thus, no Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) were signed.

Do you think that Edge wakes up this morning and thinks about joining AEW, even if the money is absurd? He knows CM Punk and I’m sure they’ll talk soon, privately, about his experience there. Then, you have MJF‘s deal coming up next year, I believe. He has witnessed how the Elite toyed with CM Punk and have essentially got away with it. With the Bucks/Omega/Page signing 4-year extensions, does MJF want to be the target for their next political games? Or does he want major fame like the kind Cody Rhodes is receiving?

AEW had to terminate CM Punk because they created the conditions that didn’t nurture him as a talent, long-term. It started off great with that Chicago Friday Rampage and the goodwill of him working with younger talents was initially nice. Then, the Elite began their games and somehow figured out that Colt Cabana would be the perfect topic to drive CM Punk wild. Remember, when the WWE’s physician sued CM Punk and Colt Cabana for defamation, Punk and Cabana had a falling out because CM Punk refused to pay all or part of Cabana’s legal fees from that case. Cabana was moved from the AEW roster before Punk arrived to the Ring of Honor roster (owned by AEW) after Punk arrived. Knowing Cabana was a sore spot for Punk, they sent out stooge Adam “Hangman” Page to cut an unscripted promo on CM Punk. Then, the Bucks followed up on that by leaking complete lies to the dirtsheets, which Tony Khan had to publicly correct.

But the Elite knew what they were doing and not only did it cause CM Punk to “shoot” on Adam Page during his own unscripted promo on AEW Dynamite, but it caused Punk to go on the full attack of the Elite, Page, and AEW during the 2022 AEW All Out Media Scrum. I don’t believe they expected THAT kind of response, hence why they went to his locker room afterward because their feelings were hurt. Nor do I think they’d expect CM Punk to throw punches when a gang of 5 people (Bucks, Omega + 2 stooges) barged into Punk’s locker room. All 5 were suspended temporarily by AEW.

Tony is now stuck on an island with the Elite and for the next 4 years, he has to eat spoonfulls of their BS. Had he met with this EVPs behind closed doors after the Adam Page shoot promo, we may not have any of these issues… But he did nothing and allowed things to fester on Punk’s side while opportunities to troll were growing on the Elite’s side. If you give an inch, trolls will take a mile. AEW’s backstage is very leaky and anti-Punk stories just always seem to happen in the sheets of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer state-run newsletter.

Tony should have seen red flags when the Elite refused to ever meet with CM Punk to hammer out their issues and do business, which reportedly also happened during the week prior to AEW All In 2023 when the Elite cancelled another meeting. Then, why was CM Punk designated to talk with Jack Perry about going through a windshield? CM Punk is NOT a road agent, let alone President or EVP. If you don’t want him going through an actual windshield, THEN MANAGE YOUR OWN DAMN COMPANY. Tony could have said “we’ll pull you from the card if you still want to go through an actual windshield”, simple as that. Jack would have listened to that threat, especially for how low he is on the AEW’s roster. But that didn’t happen, because AEW is horribly managed, and it prompted CM Punk to have this discussion. Perry is an Elite loyalist, so what did you think would happen? The discussion didn’t go well, Perry mocked CM Punk on screen by the windshield, and then the backstage confrontation happened.

Punk has a pattern of behavior for over 20 years now, and the Elite know what they are doing to induce issues with him. Like I said, multiple things can be true at the same time… Tony is a horrible manager, Elite has a bunch of trolls, and CM Punk has issues. Punk is very much in the same drawer as Jim Cornette, as both are highly talented, but if you piss them off in any way, they’ll burn the bridge down to the ground. Again, we all know what the many promotions did to mess with Jim Cornette, but responded with force each time he was messed with. What Punk and Cornette should have done was just quietly let their contracts expire and go to a competitor to make them pay. Did Dave Letterman erupt at NBC when they played games with him and refused to give him the Tonight Show? Nope… He got of his deal and joined CBS to make them pay for their deeds. For the next 25 years, NBC had a competitive rival for their Tonight Show that they never had before.

Now, CM Punk shall be a free agent, assuming there is probably at least a 90-180 day no-complete clause in place following any termination. Then again, AEW may not have had this in their contract, under the assumption that CM Punk wouldn’t return to the WWE. Well, CM Punk was recently backstage at a WWE event, reportedly apologizing to the Miz for past words said and also wanted to have a discussion with CM Punk. From there, who knows if CM Punk privately had any discussions with WWE wrestlers or even Triple H?

That said, given what he has just done in AEW, does the WWE want CM Punk back?

WWE is feeling tremendous momentum right now. Viewership is up, merchandise is up, and attendance is also up. The Bloodline and Roman Reigns are drawing incredibly well and many of the younger stars are starting to blossom. Many of the celebrity additions have been working out really well, as are the part-time wrestlers who can come and go. While Vince McMahon has created drama, the environment seems to be welcoming with Triple H backstage, particularly as many wrestlers grew up through his system.

Would adding CM Punk to that ecosystem be worth it?

Well, having a CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns match headlining Royal Rumble 2024 would definitely be worth it.

If CM Punk wants to make money in the Pro Wrestling industry again, he’ll have to be on his best behavior or else he’ll be blackballed by all top promotions. WWE could benefit from big matches, but they don’t fully need him right now. What WWE would want is for CM Punk to come in and get defeated, as he never lost the AEW World Title. Adding the AEW Title to their lineage would be a major feather in the cap for Vince… Other than that, they can pass on an older CM Punk. Impact or NWA could heavily benefit from CM Punk, but again, it’s an older star. While he can cut a great promo, his refusal to work a modified style for his age has limited how good he could be inside the ring.

Just 2 years ago, think about how excited we all were… After years of begging as wrestling fans, Tony Khan finally signed CM Punk. On the AEW Rampage that drew over 1 million viewers for a Friday Night, he delivered a great return promo. We were all excited as wrestling fans, as we were denied Punk for 7 long years because of his WWE fallout. 2 years later, he was terminated by AEW for picking a fight backstage at the 80,000+ attended AEW All In event at freakin’ Wembley Stadium. This should have been AEW’s most shining moment, yet it’s overshadowed by CM Punk fighting Luke Perry’s son backstage.

CM Punk has been fired… But the Elite and all of their stooges (Perry, Page included) need to be punished too for ruining a great opportunity. If each of them skate freely with just brief suspensions, this company is going to go down in flames.

As I keep saying, 3 things can be true at the same time… Tony sucks, the Elite sucks, and CM Punk takes everything personally. 1 out of 3 have now been eliminated from AEW, so what about the other 2? How can they be corrected, moving forward, to prevent the next disaster for the company? Because Warner Bros. Discovery is watching very closely and just gave AEW $50 million because they had CM Punk on their roster. Punk is gone, and soon, that money may be gone too. AEW is barely drawing 900,000 viewership on a TBS Channel available to 80 million households. The AEW Fight Forever was a complete disaster, and hasn’t been selling well due to the game’s poor gameplay, glitches, and disappointing online mode.

Tony’s dad didn’t become a billionaire by being stupid and he’ll know when to get out of a failing wrestling business.

Tony better rethink how he’s operating AEW and fast, or else he’s screwed. If CM Punk goes to WWE, which will take major effort to happen, and behaves to make them millions of more dollars, it’s gonna hurt.

CM Punk should still be in AEW and thriving, but Tony’s mismanagement and the Elite’s trolling allowed the CM Punk volcano to erupt all over them. It’s over… AEW is gonna feel the pain because they botched the CM Punk signing and had to cut their losses for the monster that they created.

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