MR. TITO: WWE in 2023 is Much Different than Early 2014 for CM Punk… Can He Make It Work?

With CM Punk being “terminated with cause” by All Elite Wrestling (AEW) on Saturday before AEW Collision and All Out in Chicago, that should eventually allow him to become a free agent (still unsure of any no-compete clauses in that termination). With NWA and Impact being smaller fish in the pond, along with any Independent promotion, it seems like wrestling fans want him to rejoin the WWE. Well, that’s easier said than done because his exit from the WWE wasn’t exactly clean back during January 2014 and relations between Punk and WWE haven’t been that great since.

Furthermore, he’d return to the WWE as an older wrestler, 44 about to turn 45 years old. Within AEW, he sustained multiple injuries at times when AEW hoped to rely on him as their World Champion. During 2012-2013, he sustained a few more injuries, granted at the hands of the almighty Ryback. Within AEW, he didn’t quite have any blockbuster matches that were screaming “Match of the Year” as he did during WWE for 2011 and 2013. To quote Toby Keith, “he’s not as good as he once was”, but hardly anybody is once they get into their 40s when everything starts to really hurt.

Worst of all for CM Punk, he’d return to the WWE with a ton of baggage… He ripped the WWE multiple times while acting as an AEW wrestler, but his unprofessional responses to the Elite Trolling could do him in… The Elite Trolls kept accusing him of causing Colt Cabana to be demoted to Ring of Honor and CM Punk’s response? Burn the entire place down at the AEW All Out 2022 Media Scrum. Could you imagine the WWE’s response to any talent who went unscripted on the company’s dime and time? Vince would rip your face off! In addition to that, Punk has been physical with several AEW talents backstage. While fights can happen, it seems like a pattern is developing whether the Elite turds deserved it or not for being agitators.

However, the WWE could just laugh at Punk’s antics and appreciate that he has single-handedly destroyed AEW and exposed them for the Elite Trolls that they employ. While in the WWE, CM Punk did get into any fights, go unscripted on promos (besides 2011 when he was granted permission), or rip in to the WWE at any media events. It was only AFTER CM Punk was long terminated that he began speaking publicly on the WWE, November 2014, and exposing their business.

Let’s just make the assumption that the WWE has some interest…

For one, WWE has the leverage. WWE is doing quite well right now and actually have several stars rising towards their top drawing star, Roman Reigns. Gunther, Seth, Roman, Cody, and LA Knight isn’t a bad set-up, with an occasional Brock Lesnar, some youngsters like Solo, Dom, Breakker, and others coming up. Meanwhile, lots of reliable and loyal veteran talent who are willing to put over anybody without flinching (looking at you, Miz). WWE doesn’t need CM Punk because they are experiencing a boom period right now and things are really looking up with the Endeavor merger plus new TV deals. Punk, on his very best behavior, could pop a Pay Per View or two (excuse me, “Premium Live Events”) and maybe help with interest in a new TV deal. WWE will make money on those anyway, with or without Punk.

If Punk really wants to join the WWE, they can get him at a discount. Where else will Punk go? AEW… Hell no, he burnt that bridge down and pissed on its ashes. NWA and Impact would bankrupt themselves paying him, but he would help them recoup some of it. Where the WWE could really get him cheap is by Punk being really motivated to join the WWE and prove himself to make AEW look bad. If we could get a 1-2 year great run out of Punk where he’s well behaved, cooperative, and communicates well with management, he’ll draw business and make himself valuable to the WWE again. Hall of Fame would be a great cherry on top of a great 2nd WWE run.

But here is what everybody needs to realize… CM Punk in 2023 is not only a different guy than when he left the WWE during January 2014, but the WWE is a much different company over the past 9 years too. Much different, actually.

Here are the main differences in the WWE now versus what is was during 2014:

(1) No more Pay Per View bonuses and changes in royalties.
One of Punk’s complaints about the WWE Network was that it would reduce payouts for Pay Per View events and reduce royalties on video based content. Contracts were built specifically about Cable/Satellite forwarding revenues regarding Pay Per Views. If streamed on WWE Network, there is none of that.

(2) Fewer houseshows.
Major bonus… If CM Punk returns, he’ll work LESS than he did during early 2014 when WWE still had a decent houseshow circuit. WWE has significantly scaled back on houseshows, though its rising popularity could change that soon. Punk was working through injuries and it burned him out.

(3) Saudi Arabia.
WWE now has at least 2 tour dates in Saudi Arabia. A few years ago, Punk tweeted the Miz “go suck a blood money covered d*** in Saudi Arabia” during early 2020. Yikes… But if Punk returns to the WWE, the expectation is that he’ll have to work shows there.

(4) More Celebrities wrestling.
During the early 2010s, CM Punk complained about wrestlers like the Rock or Brock Lesnar working part-time schedules. Well, now WWE has celebrities in the mix who work part-time schedules while guys like Cena and Brock Lesnar just come in and out when they are available. Punk would just have to get over it, especially as guys like Bad Bunny and Logan Paul are actually proving to be successful when participating in WWE events on a limited basis.

(5) Creative Team changed.
For most of CM Punk’s WWE tenure, he dealt with a Stephanie McMahon led WWE Creative Team. Stephanie gave those duties to Triple H during late 2013, which I believe is a major part of the reason CM Punk left during early 2014 because (a) he saw Orton vs. Batista headlining Wrestlemania 30, two Triple H friends, and (b) CM Punk was going to wrestle Triple H at Wrestlemania 30. Since then, however, the Creative Team morphed further with Bruce Prichard having a big say along with Triple H and Vince McMahon. Hollywood writers are still there, but the guys at the top aren’t afraid to rewrite what they present versus Stephanie who relied on them much more.

(6) More corporate.
CM Punk left before the TV deal, 2 TV deals ago, began. Now, he’d join a WWE where Comcast has deeper tenacles into the WWE’s programming (they own WWE Network now) and FOX has a greater say. Now, FOX likes CM Punk, hence why they hired him for that Fox Sports WWE show… That’s a plus. However, we’re soon going to have the WWE-Endeavor merger completed and it’s more corporate eyes watching and controlling the WWE product. Then, you have toy lines that can get you terminated, too. Ask Mandy Rose, whose online adult videos caused her termination when Mattel freaked out.

(7) Roman Reigns.
When CM Punk left the WWE, Roman Reigns was just beginning his Main Event push. Punk had a feud with the Shield during late 2013 and during his November 2014 podcast with Colt Cabana, he said that multiple agents kept telling him “whatever you do, don’t make Roman Reigns look bad”. Then, Punk put over Roman Reigns during early 2014 just before his post Royal Rumble 2014 exit. More than 9 years later, Roman is clearly a top drawing guy and confidently so. If CM Punk is going to work in the WWE, he has to acknowledge that fact in real life and get in line.

(8) Women’s wrestling.
When Punk was there, women’s wrestling wasn’t taken as seriously or was as featured as it is today. He could ask his real life wife, AJ Lee, about that as her matches were much shorter than the ladies have today. I’m not saying this would affect CM Punk, but it’s just a matter of fact that the WWE’s climate has changed and they are giving increasing amounts of TV time to women than before. That said, it could open the door for a role for AJ Lee if she were to be interested… Oh wait, she had that tweeting incident with Stephanie McMahon!

(9) Roster turnover.
While many veterans remain, there is also a new crop of talent who never met CM Punk. It’s very likely that many of them grew up watching Punk and may have a favorable opinion. After all, he made it through the WWE developmental system to achieve World Title glory like they aspire to and if any came from the indies, as Punk did, they appreciate him. The wrestlers who had bad experiences with CM Punk, such as Ryback, are gone now. Seth Rollins appears to be the only main WWE roster guy who appears to dislike Punk, but he said bad things about Logan Paul and Matt Riddle and ended up working with them. Seth has blurred the lines between being in character and real life that it’s hard to see if he’s being serious or not.

(10) UFC association.
Yes, CM Punk’s UFC career was short and resulted in a 0-2 record. But he still did it, even if it was UFC and Dana White rolling the dice on him. As far as we know, he had good relations with the company while he worked with them and didn’t have issues exiting the company. He was very appreciative of the opportunity there and still talks up MMA to this day. Now, Endeavor has bought the WWE and Punk could be used to cross-promote both promotions for them. By having a good time with UFC, even though Dana White regrets giving him the money, it can put in a good with Endeavor and put them at ease if he signs with WWE.

And lastly…

(11) Triple H no longer wrestling.
This is a very important point… During CM Punk’s entire tenure as a WWE wrestler, Triple H was an active to semi-active in-ring performer. In fact, CM Punk wrestled Triple H at WWE Night of Champions 2011 and was supposed to wrestle HHH at Wrestlemania 30 (but Punk quit before it could happen). The SAME argument that we’re making about AEW’s EVPs can be said about Triple H… Active wrestlers do NOT make great managers of other talent or members of creative. It’s just a fact… They are torn between helping themselves as wrestlers or helping others, but the former usually wins when having creative power. I believe that CM Punk had fears of creative troubles when Triple H assumed the Creative Team EVP duties during late 2013 when his wife stepped down to become Chief Brand Officer.

Now, Triple H cannot wrestle… He literally can’t due to health issues, as we almost lost Triple H a few years ago with heart issues. With the competitive fix now gone and done with, he’s back to being focused on helping others without any biased to his own personal needs. The WWE locker room, since Triple H’s return last year, has been a more welcoming atmosphere and he’s been very helpful to workers backstage. In fact, Triple H brought back many wrestlers whom Vince McMahon terminated.

With age, comes hindsight… I believe that Triple H has gained wisdom since sabotaging CM Punk’s momentum during the Fall of 2011 and seeing the friction he caused CM Punk and others (like Daniel Bryan during 2013). As he steps away from ever wrestling again, his mind is set on improving the lives of wrestlers and making a comfortable environment for talents. Hence why I believe Triple H can be much more successful with Talent and Creative, moving forward, because he no longer has to worry about his own in-ring work. He just has to manage talent and place them in positions to succeed. Just look at Gunther, Cody, Seth, Sami, Kevin, Usos, and Roman… All having the best times of their lives as workers.

I believe that if CM Punk just has a 2-3 hour meeting with Triple H to simply clear the air and get on the same page, they can do business together. Triple H has matured and is no longer the competitive, hungry wrestler that Punk dealt with during 2011-2014. Hence, why I believe Triple H could be the understanding yet tough supervisor that CM Punk badly needs to course correct. Punk failed to remain in AEW because Tony Khan and his Elite EVPs are immature hacks who cannot take control and are unable to nurture talents. Plus, Punk has zero fear about Tony or the Bucks, but he sure as hell would be afraid of consequences from Vince, Triple H, or the loyal locker room towards those guys.

CM Punk returns if the WWE wants him to return. I think that it could work out with a retired Triple H wrestler in place and supportive resources from Endeavor.

But it’s up to WWE to roll the dice and take a chance on Punk possibly going nuclear on their company at a time where they are legitimately growing without him.

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