After almost ten years, CM Punk is back in WWE. There was a time where I thought it was impossible. I thought there would be too much bad blood, too much distrust, and too much baggage for either side to ever come to terms again. However, there have been plenty of wrestlers with significant problems with WWE that returned over the years. Bret Hart, Brock Lesnar, Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, and Steve Austin are all examples of wrestlers who had massive problems with the company and eventually made their way back. CM Punk can now be added to that last after returning at Survivor Series a couple of weeks ago. After being fired from AEW, I thought the chances were greater than ever that he could return to WWE and there were persistent rumors that he would be returning. Those rumors ended up being true.
CM Punk famously quit WWE at the beginning of 2014 after years of injuries, burnout, and creative differences came to a head. CM Punk had to go home, and I don’t blame him one bit after listening to his experiences with the company in the years since his departure. If I was in his position, I probably would have done the same. Most of the reasons that led to him quitting are well documented and I will not rehash them here. There’s a part of his departure that I will share my opinion on, and that’s being taken out of the main event of WrestleMania 30. I distinctly remember seeing reports towards the end of 2013 that the plan for CM Punk was to start feuding with The Authority which would lead to him facing Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Creatively, this made sense and it created the possibility of Daniel Bryan facing Triple H. Instead, management made a clear attempt to bury Daniel Bryan down the card and brought back Batista to win the Royal Rumble match and face Orton for the title in the main event instead. For Punk, he would face Triple H in a match that had very little interest. I think it was absolutely insane for WWE to move forward with those plans for WrestleMania knowing full well that the fans were going to crap all over what they were trying to do. There was no reason to take Punk out of the main event when they could’ve had him eliminate Batista to win the rumble, giving Batista a reason to turn heel, and make the main event a triple threat match between Punk, Orton, and Batista, with Punk walking out as champion. Ultimately it worked out because Punk’s departure forced WWE to build the show around Daniel Bryan which led to one of the greatest performances in WWE history where Bryan beat Triple H to open the show and win the world title in the main event.
Seven years after leaving WWE, Punk would return to wrestling and join AEW and help lead a surge in its popularity in the second half of 2021. He did great work in AEW in my opinion. He had great matches, a great feud with MJF, and was made the world champion before injuries and the backstage problems with The Elite derailed his run. He returned this past summer and had a whole show built around him, but in the end, he was fired after a fight with Jack Perry at All In. I still think it’s a damn shame that Tony Khan didn’t manage the situation in a way that resolved all the problems between everyone involved and had found a way to get everyone to work together. I believe he should’ve put his foot down and squashed the situation before it ever had a chance to get out of hand. He didn’t and we all know what happened.
Now that he’s back in WWE, the possibilities are endless for him. There are big time feuds waiting to happen with the likes of Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Bobby Lashley, LA Knight, Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and a plethora of other stars that he can work with. A potential dream match with Stone Cold Steve Austin has even been discussed within the company. To start with however, it looks like Punk is on a collision course with Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship which will likely main event night one of WrestleMania 40 in April. Punk will finally get to put that notch on his belt of main-eventing WresteMania after all these years.
Above all else, I just hope that this run works out and Punk gets to go out on his terms. I hope everyone can work together and do the best they can for the product and the fans. Punk coming back is one of the ultimate never say never moments in wrestling and they would all be fools to let this go sideways once again. It’s “best for business” as the Game used to say. This will probably be Punk’s last shot at a pro wrestling run, and it has the chance to be an epic one. Hopefully, it ends up that way.