It looks like the “Best in the World” needed one last ego trip…
For those who know the type of person he is, to the surprise of no one, C.M. Punk is now back in WWE. Color me one of those “unsurprised” individuals. I’ve been calling for his dismissal from AEW for well over a year prior to his All In fiasco. I’ve long known who Phil Brooks is, and I’m not alone.
If you read any interviews from folks like Eddie Kingston, Colt Cobana, Bobby Fish, Seth Rollins, A.J. Styles, and of course, The Elite — you know how the story of Punk is laced with controversy. “Talented”, yes, but “difficult to work with” is an understatement. Hell, Seth Rollins even called him a cancer.
And they have reason. As history has proven time and time again, Punk is only really looking out for one person. Himself.
There are a history of backstage incidents and sour sentiment involving Punk, from Ring of Honor to WWE, and most recently, AEW. And one can only make an assumption on the source of the issues. Is it everyone else involved? Cobana, Burke, Styles, Rollins, Page, The Bucks, Omega, Perry, etc…
Well, they aren’t the common denominator. C.M. Punk is. What Punk isn’t, however, is the “voice of the voiceless”. He is instead the “epitome of ego”.
Voice of the Voiceless No Longer
Remember the pipebomb promo? That was a cool moment, right?
Punk put on a wonderful front about standing up for wrestling fans who have had their intelligence long insulted. He “stood up” up to the WWE corporatocracy and to Vince McMahon. However, lest we forget, the end of the night, Punk still cashed a hefty WWE paycheck.
At the end of the night, Punk was paid well to play the victim. And this is what Phil Brooks does best.
He plays the victim card.
First of all, anyone who bangs their fist on the table to loudly proclaim that they’re straight edge is probably the biggest prick in the room, but I digress.
Punk was given a reign as WWE Champion that lasted over 400 days. He was pushed on video game covers and PPV posters. He had main event programs with The Undertaker, Jeff Hardy, and Triple H.
It still wasn’t enough. So why did we think AEW would be any different?
A man can change, right? That is until he didn’t, and decided to throw an entire company under the bus on a live media scrum. A man can be given a second chance and change, right? That is until he didn’t, and threatened his own boss with violence because of heat with another wrestler.
Beyond at all that, though. Punk is a giant hypocrite — kind of like Cody Rhodes (we’ll get to him).
The “C” in C.M. Stands for Corporate
What I find amusing is how little Punk actually cares about his own personal social beliefs. Remember this now deleted tweet made towards The Miz in 2020?
“Go suck a blood money covered dick in Saudi Arabia you f*cking dork”
Right, Punk has integrity! He would never want anything to do with a company that runs shows funded by a government with hundreds of human rights violations, right?
He would never take Saudi Arabian blood money — except that he is.
Punk would never take money from a company built by a man who openly supported Donald Trump; who actively tried suppressing Trans rights — except that he is.
He wouldn’t want anything to do with a company in WWE that is so fervently anti-union, right? Except that he is.
Phil cares so much about women’s rights as well, correct? It’s convenient that he seemed to forget that Nick Khan himself donates money to the Republican Party. In fact, most higher-ups in WWE regularly donate to Republican causes — the party who is actively anti-woman when it comes to reproductive rights.
But don’t let that get in the way of your spitefulness towards Tony Khan, eh?
For this is what it’s truly about for Mr. Brooks: His own ego. It is more important for Brooks to sacrifice his own personal beliefs and integrity simply to stick it to his old boss; and for a fat paycheck as icing on the cake.
Phil Brooks can’t stand for anything when he’s too busy on his knees selling out.
Punk truly doesn’t care about women’s or trans rights. He doesn’t care about strengthening unions, or creating better working conditions for pro wrestlers. Punk certainly doesn’t care about human rights violations in one of WWE’s biggest sponsors.
He only really cares about himself. Speaking of which…
The Codyverse is Not Immune To Ego
To a lesser extent, Cody Rhodes and C.M. Punk are different shades of the same coin. The difference here is that I actually like Cody Rhodes. But I have to call it as I see it. This is a man who promised a “revolution” and to listen to fans.
He took the sledgehammer and “crushed” the throne of Triple H at the inaugural Double or Nothing. He was one of the leaders of this new wrestling promotion that could actually compete with the corporate monster that is WWE. Rhodes consistently spoke of anti-monopoly resentment. He bashed the antiquated ways in which WWE had been operating for decades to put over a new breed of pro wrestling in AEW.
But I don’t believe he ever thought it would take off.
I’m speculating, and I could be wrong, but it is my belief that Cody never truly thought AEW would succeed. He looked at Tony Khan, an inexperienced wrestling promotor, teamed up with a group of talents known more for their work in Japan than the U.S. He looked at Chris Jericho, who was on the tail end of his career, and while Jon Moxley is a nice touch, he’s not a needle-mover on his own.
Deep down, I believe Cody never expected much out of AEW in terms of success.
So he booked himself into a corner where he could “never” compete for a world title in AEW. And when talent far greater than him started to roll into AEW (Danielson, Cole, Black, etc.), and talent far greater than him started to become more popular than him (Page, Omega, Cassidy, etc.), he had a serious talk with his own ego.
Cody became a parody of himself in AEW, and in some ways, largely swung and missed with the AEW fans. His contract with the company was soon up. And then Mr. Levesque called…
Why stay in AEW as a mid-carder when he could get paid more to be the #2 in the largest known wrestling promotion in the world?
Screw the revolution, right?
Like Punk, Rhodes sacrificed any integrity he had to placate his own ego. He took the easy way out. And so did Punk.
Everyone is Taking AEW For Granted
Punk and Rhodes as well…
Aside from being a clear alternative to WWE’s PG style, let’s be brutally honest. At the least, AEW is another place for pro wrestlers to make a living. Even if you don’t like the product, at the very absolute least, it’s somewhere else wrestlers can make a good living at their craft. Actively cheering on their demise is something a low-IQ, basement dwelling incel would do.
Finding any way to throw shade at them simply out of dislike is quite the childish feat.
AEW is the NWA/New Japan/PWG hybrid. You’re going to get Strong Style, Lucha Libre, Hardcore, and Old-School styles of wrestling all on one show. You’re going to get sports-influenced tournaments, “indyriffic” spots, “blood & guts”, and a little “sports entertainment” in one weekly broadcast.
There is something for everyone in AEW. It’s a “buffet” of wrestling as opposed to the usual WWE menu of one plate. You’ll never get anything in AEW close to what you see in WWE on a weekly basis aside from the occasional “sports entertainment” in a few segments.
And if you’re a WWE fan, and you prefer that style of presentation and family-friendly, formulaic wrestling, great! Different strokes…But it’s funny how many pro-WWE/anti-AEW “fans” continue to bash AEW for the very thing that makes it different in the first place.
Did You Actually Want An Alternative?
Look, nothing is perfect, AEW included. But how many years did internet fans clamor for an alternative? How many years did many of us complain about WWE’s poor quality? Above all, many fans just wanted something different.
Oh, but not like THAT, right?
WWE — Story-Focused | Formulaic | Sanitized | Kid-Friendly | PG | Hero-Booking
AEW — Wrestling-Focused | Different wrestling styles | Violent | Adult-Geared | TV-14 | Strong Style Booking
Stop trying to put AEW into a box in which they simply do not fit in. They have their own style. Love it or leave it; but don’t trash it.
This is All Elite Wrestling. Comprised of what can easily be argued as the most talented roster in the world, possibly even in wrestling history. And if it were to ever fold, remember, we’re back to one less place to work for over one hundred wrestlers. We’re back to the monopoly-influenced environment that bred AEW in the first place.
You don’t have to like AEW. But taking the easy way out like Punk and Rhodes to dismiss the #2 brand simply because it’s the cool thing to do is a low-effort attitude. And so many gullible fans are jumping on this bandwagon right now.
Did You Forget AEW Is An Alternative?
If you are familiar with my past work, in good faith, then you know I am no stranger to criticizing AEW. From past inconsistent booking, to a lackadaisical approach towards women’s wrestling (which has admittedly improved in 2023), and the sometimes PR nightmare that is Tony Khan himself.
However, I tend to defend this promotion on good faith, as much as I possibly can. But mixed responses to the Hangman/Swerve match have brought me full circle with my general approach to the AEW product. And it’s why I’m leaning in to support this company more than ever at this point.
As for the Swerve Strickland vs. “Vampire” Adam Page 5-STAR match. Grow up, get over it, or go back to your kid-friendly WWE product. When did wrestling fans become so weak? We saw worse stuff during the ECW/Attitude Era.
Blood and Guts in pro wrestling has been around for decades. Go back and rewatch the Greg Valentine/Roddy Piper dog collar match from 1983 and note the screaming happy children in the crowd. They certainly didn’t need protection from all the blood being shed.
Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody, Abdullah the Butcher, The Valiant Brothers, The Sheik, Jerry Graham — the list goes on of old school bleeders from the 60s and 70s that make Full Gear‘s Texas Deathmatch match look like child’s play.
AEW is an alternative. (See prior section)
But I don’t think many internet fans actually want that. Many would rather have a product where they can have the perception of active participation/input, as if their opinion matters. For many WWE fans, or casual fans, what it means to be a true alternative is mostly lost on them.
Alternative usually means counter-culture — even if just in spirit. You’re either with that — or you’re not.
Going Home. For good.
I know what the sentiment will be with a piece like this. The “butthurt” AEW fan mad at Rhodes and Punk for leaving. So I’ll cheer on AEW and simp out for their product in retaliation.
…I honestly don’t care what anyone thinks. I was never a huge Punk fan and knew of his past issues — and I was never really into Cody Rhodes as well. I have nothing to prove to literally anyone.
Punk appearing at Survivor Series was a shot fired at AEW, however. Cody Rhodes “the EVP in me” joke at the Survivor Series press conference was another shot fired as well. I can recognize that the optics aren’t great for AEW. Two major stars leave, and when you loop Cargill into that, it’s as if talent is running away from AEW — which isn’t the case at all.
What we have is two major stars that couldn’t set aside their own egos for the sake of pro wrestling.
And with that, a bigger issue — that of wrestling fans that can’t set aside their own egos to simply enjoy both promotions in good faith; or at the least, enjoy one without bashing the other. I’ve been guilty of this myself at times.
AEW is an easy target when the shots are fired from the #1 promotion and their fans — and especially those who write bad faith articles and social media posts in doing so. These people contribute nothing of value to the wrestling industry, and in all honesty, hurt it greatly.
Look, I am hopeful for AEW’s future. I believe a new TV deal is coming, and that between MJF, Ospreay, Cole, The Elite, etc. — that AEW will be just fine without Punk (they have been if you haven’t noticed), and they’ve been fine without Cody.
The Monopoly Will Return One Day Unless…
Whether it’s in a few years, or even 5-6 years, I get the sinking feeling that AEW won’t be around forever. Part of that is likely due to too much time on social media, but part of that is wrestling history.
The longest modern competitor to WWE was WCW from (roughly) 1995-2001. That’s only 6 years. AEW is already well past half of that number. But if it were to ever fold; for any reason, we’re going to be back in the wrestling dark ages.
And then fans will complain…again…but probably about WWE.
Personal note: And I can’t do that anymore. I’m attending this week’s Dynamite. My second wrestling show of the year (the first being Stardom). It was incredible to attend Stardom knowing that I could just take it at face value and nothing else. I don’t have to worry about what the internet is thinking or if I should write a column about it.
I have a good life; a great partner, and a solid career. I simply want to do more; be it write novels, travel, etc…and man, does being an online wrestling fan drag me down.
So I’m removing myself. I get to experience wrestling like a “casual”. Even my Disqus account will be deleted by Wednesday morning. And to be honest — I think many online wresting fans would benefit from doing the same. Snarky anti-AEW or anti-WWE comments doesn’t actually help pro wrestling — especially when nobody is really having any real conversations anymore (myself included sometimes).
What will help is attending shows, buying merch, staying positive (critique in good faith), and tuning in. It’s as simple as that.
So in wrestling nerd-like fashion I end with my favorite wrestler’s farewell:
I must bid you adieu, so goodbye everyone, *mwah* and goodnight. Bang!