CM Punk could be returning to a pro wresting ring near you in light of a recent report from Fightful Select (h/t Wrestling Inc) that the former WWE champion has been negotiating an in-ring return. The report did not confirm where a hypothetical return would be, however WWE officials reportedly believe Punk will land in AEW.
Punk made his shocking return to WWE programming as a panelist on WWE Backstage in 2019, however the return had little-to-no effect on viewership and the show was ultimately canceled less than a year later.
AEW President Tony Khan teased big surprises coming soon on a recent episode of Busted Open, and with AEW set to make its debut in a nearly sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium as part of its New York debut, the return of CM Punk would be the type of surprise fitting for such a high-profile event.
All Elite Wrestling has also been linked to Daniel Bryan, whose contract recently expired with WWE, and even the recently released Braun Strowman has teased mixing it up with Wardlow. PWInsider (h/t Wrestling Inc) recently reported that WWE has no merchandising or licensing plans for Bryan, fueling speculation that he could be the latest in a string of former WWE Superstars jumping ship to AEW.
CM Punk has not wrestled since the 2014 Royal Rumble, an infamous match where Punk claims to have suffered a concussion following a spot with Kofi Kingston. Punk’s tirade about that match—and his stint with WWE—during Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast was the subject of a long, drawn-out and bitter lawsuit where WWE sued Punk and Cabana.
A Cook County jury ultimately ruled in favor of CM Punk, however his longtime friendship with Cabana—a current AEW star—was fractured after a disagreement over legal fees.
Punk lost badly to Mickey Gall in his failed attempt to transition to UFC and recently had his second loss overturned after opponent Mike Jackson tested positive for marijuana. The controversial star has been made to endure questions about a potential return, and Punk even appeared at Starrcast III for a tell-all interview with PWInsider’s Mike Johnson.
A CM Punk return would be exciting news for the niche Internet Wrestling Community and the wrestling world at large. It may even reinvigorate some of the disillusioned hardcore wrestling fans who left the product since 2014. But if WWE or AEW wants to achieve the type of mainstream success of the industry’s peak during the Attitude Era, it will need to do so by fostering younger, up-and-coming talent like Britt Baker, Darby Allin, Big E and Riddle.
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