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Perhaps literally, that is the million-dollar question. Rumors and speculation continue to swirl about the former AEW World Champion, and the buzz has reached a fever pitch following a new report from Fightful Select, which stated that CM Punk has repeatedly expressed his interest in a comeback to AEW. On top of that, AEW star Dax Harwood recently noted that Punk misses wrestling, and he wants to give back to the fans.
With the news that AEW will make its debut in the United Kingdom at Wembley Stadium in August, it’s easy to connect the dots and predict that CM Punk will return to the fold in time for the major show. But the situation is quite complicated, to say the least.
Punk’s AEW run began with the electric AEW Rampage: The First Dance, where some fans were moved to tears by the sight of “The Second City Saint”, who was making his first appearance in a wrestling ring since he left WWE in 2014. CM Punk instantly injected star power, credibility, and excitement into AEW. At least from a perception standpoint, he helped AEW level up, and the company kept rolling as it added stars like Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson just a few weeks later. Punk went on to have memorable matches with a range of talent, including Darby Allin and Daniel Garcia. He also had two heated rivalries with Eddie Kingston and MJF.
The MJF feud particularly stands out, as it pitted two of the best talkers in wrestling against each other. The two stars had an unforgettable promo exchange on the November 24 episode of AEW Dynamite, which can be seen below.
The depth of the storytelling seen in this feud was unmatched, as MJF took shots at Punk for leaving wrestling and coming back years later, while Punk was just as critical of MJF and his arrogance. CM Punk ultimately defeated MJF in a brutal Dog Collar Match at AEW Revolution, and he set his sights on the AEW World Championship. It was only a matter of time before he won the gold, and he dethroned Hangman Page to win the title at AEW Double or Nothing. From there, everything quickly fell apart.
CM Punk suffered a foot injury in his first match as the champion, and he missed roughly two months. He eventually returned and entered a feud with Jon Moxley, who won the interim title in Punk’s absence. Moxley went on to shockingly defeat Punk in a squash match on the August 24 episode of AEW Dynamite to win the world championship before Punk got his win back at AEW All Out 2022. Of course, that’s where the situation exploded.
At the AEW All Out post-show press conference, CM Punk took shots at The Elite and aired plenty of dirty laundry while AEW CEO Tony Khan was sitting right next to him. The comments led to a backstage brawl between Punk and The Elite, and everyone involved was suspended and stripped of their titles. This controversy remains a black eye on AEW, and it’s fair to say the company hasn’t been the same ever since. Egos got in the way of business, and the company suffered for it. Former AEW EVP Cody Rhodes later said the spirit of All In was “gone” in that moment. To make matters even more complicated, Punk suffered a torn triceps at the pay-per-view, so it was unclear when he’d be able to potentially return.
The Complex Situation Of CM Punk
Fast-forward forward to April 2023, and the situation has only gotten more complex. Reports that members of the AEW roster no longer wanted to work with CM Punk circulated as early as October. Chris Jericho reportedly told Punk he was a cancer to the locker room after the fight. Previously, Punk and AEW were said to be discussing a contract buyout, but evidently, those talks didn’t lead to a resolution. In December, Punk seemingly agreed when Harwood noted that he should work it out with The Elite.
In recent months, the buzz has continued to heat up. CM Punk teased that he would wrestle again, and Mark Henry stated that Punk is not a locker room cancer. The saga especially picked up when Punk claimed that he wasn’t cleared ahead of his first match with Moxley. He also called Jericho a liar. A subsequent report than noted that Punk and Moxley have had heat, but Punk has had some contact with Tony Khan. Punk was reportedly willing to apologize for his actions at the scrum, and another report revealed that the two sides agreed to reconcile before Punk’s controversial Instagram post.
Meanwhile, Jericho recently stated that you don’t have to be best friends to coexist, and he believes AEW will thrive with or without CM Punk. On top of that, Harwood has expressed his interest in a match where FTR and Punk would face The Elite at Wembley Stadium, as he thinks the bout could take AEW to the next level.
Circling back to the short-term future, AEW’s massive Wembley show is on the horizon. There’s no doubt that CM Punk’s presence on the show would boost ticket sales, likely to a substantial degree. Likewise, Punk appearing on AEW Dynamite again would surely pop a rating, at least in the beginning of a potential comeback. At this point, it’s fair to assume that Punk’s return would bring a similar mix of highs and lows that fans experienced the first time around. Punk has a history of causing controversy one way or another, but he is a proven draw that can move the needle and give AEW the X factor it has been missing since he’s been gone.
The question remains — is it worth jeopardizing the morale of the AEW locker room, which is said to be substantially better now without CM Punk in the mix, for the sake of doing good business? There’s every chance that bringing him back would turn the locker room into a dumpster fire, the kind that’s riddled with altercations and dramatic situations, just as fans saw in 2022. Unanswered questions abound, and it’s surely not a black-and-white discussion. Instead, there’s clearly a lot of gray.
At least at this juncture, this is all hypothetical, but the rumors surrounding CM Punk continue to pick up steam, and his return is increasingly feeling like a “when” rather than an “if.” No matter what happens next, Khan faces an undesirable dilemma that borders on a no-win scenario. Let’s just hope that the path forward yields more success and smooth sailing for AEW as a whole, even if the latter may be a tall order, given the variables that are in play.
The post CM Punk’s Potential Return To AEW Raises Plenty Of Questions appeared first on Wrestlezone.