The Steamy Files: The Neverending Story

“Walk around the city with a ice pick; I been paranoid, usually I ain’t like this”, ISIS – Joyner Lucas (ft. Logic)

Before we get started, if you want to talk about this column, share your opinions or talk about wrestling, I’ll be more focused on engaging via Twitter from now on. My handle is @steamyrv, my profile is public and my DMs are open.

I’m guessing a lot of people read the title of the column and thought this was going to be about Cody, but sorry to disappoint, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. No, I’m here to discuss the true never-ending story of pro wrestling for the last 6 months. It seems we’ve all been experiencing Groundhog Day over and over again like Bill Murray because no matter how much time passes, the same arguments and talking points pop up over and over again.

Yes, I’m talking about CM Punk’s exit from AEW. Trust me, I wish this story would die too, you’d think that after all this time and no new information coming out that it would be fading away from our collective consciousness but it never does. You’ve all heard these arguments by now, it’s always centered around one of the following:

  1. The Elite were leaking stories to Meltzer about Colt Cabana and that’s what caused Punk to get mad
  2. The Elite and Tony Khan should have sat down with Punk and talked it out after the Brawl Out
  3. Worker’s rights

There are also the ones lamenting that this was never turned into an on-screen angle, saying how AEW threw away lots of money by not turning real-life into a work. I previously addressed CM Punk’s AEW tenure in broad strokes when I wrote my Toxic Wrestling Fandom column, but at that time I focused mainly on the Gripe Bomb, the brawl and the All In incident. While it’s impossible to make a column speaking specifically on Punk’s tumultuous tenure in AEW without mentioning those, they will not be the focus of my column. I want to look at what went down between September 2022 and August 2023 and debunk some of the rumours. To do so, we’ll start our journey on September 4, 2022.

1-Gripe Bomb and Brawl Out

1.1- Leaks and dirtsheets

While I try to keep dirt sheet rumours and innuendo out of my columns for the most part, it’s impossible to talk about what allegedly led to the September 4th incident without acknowledging them. Based on Punk’s comments, it seems that the reason for his anger was his belief that someone from the Elite was leaking stories to Dave Meltzer about how Colt Cabana wasn’t allowed in an AEW locker room because of Punk. Some rumours had it that Colt was fired as well, but the jest is that Punk and Cabana could not be allowed in the same building at the same time, according to the rumours.

I’ve spoken at length that I don’t believe there is such a thing as a wrestling journalist, I’m not going to go into detail again. However, let’s think about this logically. It’s a fact that after Punk’s initial signing with AEW in 2021, until after the All Out 2022 PPV, Colt Cabana was never seen on screen in any form of AEW programming. He would wrestle a match on Dynamite against Chris Jericho after Punk’s injury but is now working in the ROH brand.

Anyone who is mildly familiar with the history of Punk and Cabana will know these two had a nuclear falling out. Their friendship was irrevocably damaged as a result of the lawsuit filed against both men by Dr. Chris Amann of WWE. The rift was so bad that it led to a lawsuit between the two former friends over legal fees incurred during the original trial. This was public information that was available to all, way before CM Punk ever signed an AEW contract. If you’re signing CM Punk to your company and Colt Cabana is also under contract with you and you try to have both men co-exist under the same umbrella, you’re risking the possibility of a blow-up or an incident. Tony Khan clearly knew this and felt (rightfully so) that the best thing to do was bench Colt and keep paying him per the terms of his contract and bring Punk in, given the public interest in seeing him back in pro wrestling at the time.

There’s no need for anyone to leak that to Meltzer. If I, one man with an Internet connection, and most of the IWC already knows of the bad blood between Colt and Punk, Meltzer, who makes a living selling newsletters about the backstage happenings of the pro-wrestling industry, knew that as well. Cabana wasn’t exactly a featured star on Dynamite back in 2021, but Punk showed up and Cabana disappeared completely. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together. My theory, and what is also the most plausible scenario, is that Meltzer came to that conclusion all by himself and he reported it. Meltzer is a terrible communicator, and so it’s hard to understand when he is talking about what is “news” and what is “opinion” as he tends to ramble and go on word salads that don’t amount to a hill of beans.

What would potentially be the upside for The Elite to tell Meltzer something like that? First of all, it’s not exactly new information, perhaps it would be a confirmation of what most people already assumed, but why would the Executive Vice-Presidents and the men who helped found the company want to go to Meltzer to express their alleged displeasure with the situation when they can go knock on the owner’s door? As EVPs, they would also be aware of the contractual status of Colt Cabana and would therefore know that he’s still signed to the company. While it’s unclear what exactly the responsibilities of the EVPs consist of, I would be surprised if they were not consulted at all before CM Punk was signed. Yes, at the end of the day, its TK’s money, but it would be weird to not, at the very least, ask the Elite’s opinions before making a decision.

1.2-The Brawl Out:

Now that we’ve talked about what supposedly led to the Gripe Bomb, let’s address the brawl out. We will never know for a fact what actually went down that night. Given that there were no video cameras and that emotions were running high, I doubt we’ll ever get a clear and definitive picture of who did what and how everything unfolded.

What we do know for a fact is this: Punk went back to his locker room after his bitch fit and The Elite went to confront him. Punches were thrown, Omega was bitten (the scars on his arm were very visible) and everyone got stripped of their championships and suspended as a result.

I think going to confront Punk was a terrible idea by The Elite. He was hurt, angry and clearly not in a right state of mind. I have no doubt they were angry too and didn’t appreciate being called out the way that they were during that scrum. Was their intention to get in a physical fight? I don’t know. I have no doubt voices were raised and tempers were hot and then someone threw a punch or threw a chair and shit hit the fan.

While the events of the night remain unclear, resorting to violence is never the solution. It doesn’t solve anything; in fact, it just tends to make people angrier and further the bad blood. I can understand sometimes tempers flare and people might get in a tussle but for a full-blown fight to go down? That’s bad.

2-The Aftermath

This is where the story usually skips ahead 9 months to CM Punk’s return to Collision in June of 2023, but the question that I’ve never found the answer to and still wonder to this day is what happened next? CM Punk had also suffered a torn triceps during his match with Jon Moxley that night so this further complicates things.

When a worker gets injured under your watch, it’s usually illegal to outright fire them. I don’t know the full details of Punk’s contract but one thing is for certain, if the decision had been made to fire Punk right there unilaterally, a lawsuit would have been Punk’s next move and rightfully so. He got injured working for AEW and his guarantee should be honoured during the time he is on the shelf until he can get back to work.

The Elite were suspended and basically healthy scratches for a few months. The Trios titles were vacated and the names of Omega and The Young Bucks were not spoken on AEW TV until their eventual return. Given that they suffered no serious physical injury in the fight, they were able to get back to TV much faster than Punk. Some will ask: if I am OK with the idea of firing Punk for his part in the incident (injury not withstanding) why do I not call for the same for The Elite? That’s because they were provoked. I still say that going to face Punk right then was a major mistake. I don’t know what their state of mind was but the best course of action would have been to let cooler heads prevail and address the issue at a later date.

However, you can’t just go public with such disrespectful comments directed at your coworkers and especially company executives. It’s unprofessional and speaks of a lack of control over your own emotions. Did Punk really believe that The Elite were talking about him behind his back? Or was there more to the story? The reason I chose to the line from the song ISIS to begin my column is that I do feel that if that is the true reason for CM Punk flying off the handle, it speaks to a deep paranoia. I’m hoping that he at least asked The Elite if this was true before he went off during that media scrum and that they denied it. It would speak to Punk being distrustful of Omega and the Bucks, but if he didn’t even bring up the situation to them and refused to even consider the very real possibility that the Elite didn’t talk to Meltzer, then that is a clear sign that Punk wasn’t in a good mental space.

The question I don’t see asked and the one I can’t find an answer to is what happened once the suspensions were handed out and everyone went home to cool off? If we go off the rumours that came up after Punk’s 2023 return (which I will talk about later), then it would seem there was no communication between the parties. Let me remind you that CM Punk was out of action for 9 months. Yes, he was injured and yes, he was rehabbing his injury but did he ever try to call either The Young Bucks or Kenny Omega? Did he ever send them a text message asking if they could talk? Did he ever propose to fly himself to a Dynamite event so all of them could meet and bury the hatchet?

We know he made a visit to WWE Raw when they were in Chicago and he apparently met and talked with several people at that time. Was Punk waiting for The Elite to contact him? If so, why? As I’ve stated above, this entire scenario only happens because Punk decides to air out his grievances publicly and unprompted. No one asked him about any of the members of The Elite, no one asked him about Colt Cabana. There was no storyline reason to mention any of these men. Punk had just beaten Jon Moxley and was going to feud with MJF again over his newly won World Title (before it was found out he had suffered a serious injury). What possible reason could he have had to decide this was the time and the place? This isn’t a 20-year-old with a chip on his shoulder who thinks he’s the king of the world. CM Punk was a veteran, in his mid-forties and was the AEW Champion. While the belt is kayfabe, the trust that the company puts in you by giving it to you is not. When you are the World Champion, you are representing the company every time you are out in public. As such, you have a duty to lead by example and show others how to behave and how to act like you belong.

While it’s true The Elite could have reached out to Punk first anyways, be the bigger men, I have a feeling that their trust towards the man was broken and they worried that any contact could just set him off again and cause an even worse fallout. Maybe they were also angry at being called out in such a public fashion, humiliated to have been dragged down into the mud and embarrassed. The point is, it seems that no one reached out to one another to try and talk things out. Some may ask, why didn’t TK just get everyone together? Because they’re adults and when you run a large company, you have to count on your people to figure some things out for themselves. If such an attempt was made by anyone, it clearly didn’t materialize and as such we skip ahead to the return.

3-The return

I personally believe that bringing Punk back to AEW was a mistake. Yes, TK couldn’t just fire him right after the All Out incidents, but judging by what happened next, waiting until Punk was cleared and then buying out his contract to allow everyone to move on would probably have been the right move. I won’t even address the WB rumours; those never made any sense. The WBD CEO doesn’t care about the individual wrestlers that appear on AEW TV, they care about selling ads for the shows. It was rumoured that Punk was going to help WWE move RAW over to the WBD, but that turned out to be false and WWE signed with Netflix (which not one single wrestling journalist predicted before it was announced).

Tony Khan decided to give Punk a second chance. He most likely hoped that with time and distance that Punk would reflect on his actions and come back refreshed and ready to clear the dark clouds that had built up over his head at that time. This is where I pick up the trail I left off in the last section about a supposed sit down that Punk wanted to have with The Elite. I don’t know if this happened but let’s look at this objectively for a second.

You come back to work after 9 months away. Before your absence, you got into a fight with your coworkers. You spend 9 months in, alleged, radio silence and all of a sudden you want to meet? Where was this energy before? You had all this time to talk and try and work things out but you instead just wait until you come back? When you break someone’s trust, it’s up to you to try and repair the relationship if you so wish.

I mentioned that one option was reaching out during all that time away, but let’s say you don’t do that for a number of reasons. You’re coming back into an environment where you’ll be put under a microscope by not only everyone around you but all the fans watching, most of whom were confused and shocked by your behaviour the last time they saw you. Somehow you are granted a second chance, it just so happens that AEW is getting another show, 2 hours live on Saturday nights. While I don’t have any evidence to prove this, my guess is that it was agreed to do a split between you and the people you had issues with.

This would seem like being on probation to me. You’re given some space and now show us that you’re ready to leave it all behind. You’ve got an island all to yourself and your friends, all you have to do is show that you’re not the hotheaded and untrustworthy man you’re being perceived as. Go on Collision, steal the show, show that you’re here to work with us, not against us. If everything goes well and you’ve shown us that you’re worthy of us trusting you with our bodies and that if we do work with you, you won’t turn around and go on another rant which would make everyone look bad then we can talk about it. But why risk further turmoil if we don’t know how you will react and can’t be sure you won’t blow another public gasket in the middle of our feud?

It seems based on reports that Punk was eager to put everything behind him. Perhaps he did have remorse for his actions and he thought the best thing would be to do an angle together and draw money. In Punk’s mind, he probably figured that money heals all wounds and that turning a negative into a positive would be the way to go. The Elite felt differently. I can understand both points. It’s true, a feud certainly would have drawn attention, but on the other hand, how do you know you can trust Punk to be professional? We saw what happened with the “Worker’s rights” line by Hangman. If that’s all it takes to set Punk off and have him mad for months, how do you make an angle about a real-life situation without bringing real-life into it? Would they need to write down every single promo word for word out before, get everyone to sign off on it to ensure no one gets mad about a line?

And what about in the ring? Accidents happen. Sometimes things go wrong, even something as simple as a stray kick or a punch that’s a bit too hard for your liking. Wrestling is about trust. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels didn’t like each other, but they at least trusted each other to do business. They had a long history before things went south between the two men, but even then, things went over the line a few times and it led to them fighting backstage. It took decades before the two would bury the hatchet. Trust once broken is very hard to win back.

Now as for what happened with Jack Perry, that’s more nebulous. If we believe the reports from the time, it seems that Punk vetoed a spot Jack wanted to do on Collision (which ended up happening at the All In PPV) in a very dismissive and rude manner. I mentioned before about being a veteran and what comes with it. I can’t be certain of what exactly was said, but clearly Perry didn’t appreciate it. Making that comment to the camera on live TV was a mistake. But that doesn’t excuse a man in his mid-forties coming to blows with a 26-year-old over it.


I’m well aware that no matter what I or anyone else says, there is no changing some people’s minds. For some, they’ve already chosen to scapegoat The Elite and TK for the way things ended with Punk’s AEW run. Maybe a very small number of people will read this and will think critically about this and come to the same conclusion I did, that while there were mistakes made on all sides, if Punk doesn’t go off and give The Gripe Bomb, none of this would have happened. Maybe Punk wanted more power in AEW and was not happy to report to people he felt were beneath him (just speculating). Maybe their visions didn’t align and maybe the entire experience was doomed from the start.

I’m just sick of hearing these arguments over and over again, always to defend Punk. No one is blameless in this situation, there are steps that could have been taken at any time to try and defuse the situation. But it has to be acknowledged what the root cause of all this was, and it was CM Punk. I don’t think the man is evil, but I do believe he has issues with anger and trouble dealing with his emotions. He seems to me to be a very black and white kind of guy, no shades of gray.

Those jumping to point out how great he’s been in WWE so far, just wait. I hope for everyone’s sakes that he truly has learned his lesson and that he will keep putting his best foot forward. He knows this is his last chance and he’s burned every other bridge behind him at this point. However, history has shown us that Punk is unpredictable. He’s out with another injury which will buy him some time, maybe more time to reflect on what went wrong with AEW, given how quick he went back to WWE after his firing.

Why did I write all this? Because now if someone keeps bringing up the same arguments, you can link him this column, given the character limits on Twitter and the chaos of comment sections, it’s hard to get a whole point across in one go. I am not foolish enough to believe I can change anyone’s minds, but I hope that eventually people realize that CM Punk in AEW was on life support the minute Punk chomped down on that muffin. We will never know exactly what went on in his head before that, what led him to that moment and why he did what he did, we just know that he did it. I’ll leave you with this quote from Stephanie McMahon, that isn’t about Punk, but sums up my thoughts perfectly:

“It just was a distrustful situation. If you can’t trust someone, you can’t be in business with them. It just doesn’t work.”

This has been The Steamy Files, until next time, enjoy yourselves!

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