CM Punk is officially All Elite. Punk’s AEW debut came on the August 20 edition of Rampage, in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago, Illinois. The man once called The Second City Saint came out to his trademark Cult of Personality entrance music, while the United Center crowd roared its approval.
Punk’s arrival in AEW was one of the worst kept secrets in pro wrestling. The company had been hinting at Punk’s signing over the past several weeks, leading to an explosion of fan speculation online. Now that speculation is over. CM Punk is back and he’s with a company that is absolutely the right fit for him.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 21, 2021
Punk And The Pipebomb
Punk’s Rampage: First Dance promo was exactly what it needed to be and then some. He thanked the fans for their support and acknowledged that he heard their chants over the past seven years. Punk also said that he never wanted to leave the business, but essentially had no choice.
The Straight-Edge star was mentally and emotionally drained when he left WWE in 2014. But he was also physically sick, a fact that was well documented in the recent court case involving WWE physician Doctor Chris Amann. Punk’s health and safety were his primary concerns and he simply did not feel that WWE was interested in either.
Therein lays the key to why CM Punk’s arrival in AEW, instead of a return to WWE, was the only course of action for him. Simply put, CM Punk could not go back to the company that he felt didn’t have his back. He also couldn’t bring himself to once more do business with the company that fired him via FedEx on his wedding day.
But in AEW, CM Punk has a new home. He’s now in a world with company officials who respect and support him. They want to see him succeed and they surely want to help facilitate that process every step of the way.
Then there’s the young talent of AEW. Punk addressed that talent during his Rampage promo and made it known they were part of the reason he signed with Tony Khan’s company. Punk believes he can help nurture that talent and chief among them is Darby Allin.
Darby called Punk out on the July 28 edition of Dynamite and since then, fans have predicted Allin versus Punk at AEW All Out on September 5. This is exactly the match fans will see at the event. Of course if all of this happened in WWE, the results would perhaps be very different.
Punk Debut Versus Punk Return
If CM Punk decided to return to WWE and that return aired on live television, then trouble would surely follow. An arrogant heel would likely interrupt him. This heel would then go on to belittle Punk on the mic and then proceed to cheap-shot him in the ring. That cheap-shot results in Punk flat on his back while the heel celebrates over him.
While this would undoubtedly set the stage for a major pay-per-view match, it wouldn’t do much for Punk’s character. That character lay in the hands of WWE creative. WWE creative focuses on making one man—Vince McMahon—happy.
But in AEW, CM Punk’s career is up to him. AEW does not employ a team of writers and because of that, Punk is free to say what he wants. He’s also free to work who he wants, a perk that he also addressed during his August 20 promo.
All Elite Wrestling is the company where CM Punk can have a say in what happens with his career. He’s free to not only pitch ideas behind the scenes, but also to pick his opponents. The former was certainly true in WWE, but the latter? Perhaps not so much. Again, WWE operates on one man’s vision and that vision often does not leave much room for anyone else.
It's great having you back, @CMPunk!
FUN FACT: The full @AEW roster signed @NHLBlackhawks and @ChicagoBulls jerseys. We'll frame them and keep them in our archive to commemorate their debut event here. #AEWRampage #AEW pic.twitter.com/2mEfrI326a
— United Center (@UnitedCenter) August 21, 2021
There’s more on the line here than just creative freedom for CM Punk. There’s also the opportunity for him to move his pro wrestling legacy in a new direction. He learned a lot while working under Paul Heyman in FCW, including how to put a TV show together.
Punk later learned how to adapt his game to the WWE style. He worked a variety of opponents during his tenure with the company. He tasted the main event spotlight and was a top guy. Punk did all of this during an era in which John Cena was arguably the only real talent to actually get over for any extended period of time.
Part of CM Punk’s motivation for dropping the infamous pipebomb in 2011 was to lend a hand to the men and women in the WWE locker room. Punk saw their struggles to excel despite the odds being against them. He knew what it was like to endure that fight, because he was in that fight for years. He could help and he knew it.
— Abe Kanan (@abekanan) August 21, 2021
But his forward progress, including a backstage role, main event supremacy and locker room mentorship, were all for naught in WWE. He had a ceiling in that company and when he hit it, he could go no further. That is not the case in AEW.
CM Punk’s fate is now in his own hands. He can control his destiny and that includes anything he decides to do. If he wants to compete in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he would certainly have the chance to do it. If acting is still important to him, then AEW would surely give him the time he needs to pursue it.
Most importantly, when Punk has something to say, AEW will listen. He’s in the right company with the right people and he’s in the right frame of mind to do some work. CM Punk is back and he’s ready to get rolling.
Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, YouTube and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live