I think it’s safe to say that AEW has been a success so far. You can argue about their audience/demo (or please don’t) but it is clear that they have made an impact and shaken things up. That is something that is not exactly easy to do but AEW has not only hit the ground running but picked up all kinds of momentum, especially in the last few months. A lot of that is due to the last few months and we are going to be looking at two of the bigger moves today.
Back on August 20, CM Punk made his AEW debut in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois on the second episode of Rampage. This very well may have been the greatest moment that the company has had to date, as Punk received the hero’s welcome to end them all, driving him to near tears (or maybe all the way there) in response. Throw in the “have a free ice cream bar on me” to make it even better and this could not have gone much better.
Fast forward to All Out on September 5, when Bryan Danielson appeared as the big surprise to end the show. Danielson was instantly one of the biggest names in the company, as he headlined WrestleMania 37 about four months prior to his AEW debut. That’s up there with Kurt Angle debuting with Impact Wrestling in 2006 after losing the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22 and then showing up elsewhere later in the year. AEW gets an instant big star and Danielson is already in the main event scene.
Here we have two people who came into the company with some wildly different backstories and paths to AEW before going in wildly different directions since arriving. It has become quite the time for AEW and these two have been a huge reason why. Today we are going to look at how the two of them have done so far and seeing just how well they have been doing in AEW.
One of the interesting things about these two is how they both got here. Danielson had been headlining for WWE less than six months earlier, but Punk had not been seen in wrestling in seven years, which might as well be forever. Those are two very different ways to get here, yet they were both seen as huge deals. You have two different kinds of star power as well, as Punk is better known for what he does on the microphone but can back it up in the ring, while the opposite is true for Danielson.
That’s partially what makes their time in AEW less surprising, as they have barely been similar so faro. You have two wrestlers who are being presented in entirely different ways but are both still coming off as two of the biggest and most important names the company has ever seen. It ties right back into how they have been seen for years and shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.
We’ll start with Punk, who came into AEW with very little surprise, as Tony Khan all but flat out said Punk would be at Rampage in Chicago. It was a great moment and the show was all about him, as there was no way AEW was going to be able to act like anything else mattered after Punk’s debut. Punk was instantly a star on a different level and that has been the case for him for a long time now.
It hasn’t just been talking for Punk though, as he has gotten in the AEW ring as well. He even started fast by setting up his first match in his debut promo. Punk has wrestled five times in AEW to date, defeating Darby Allin, Powerhouse Hobbs, Daniel Garcia, Matt Sydal and Bobby Fish, with the shortest match being about 13 minutes long. Commentary has presented Punk as this aged star who is trying to prove he still has it against this generation. It’s an interesting take on Punk, and something he hasn’t done before.
Then we have Danielson, and believe it or not, he’s about as opposite from Punk as you can get. Danielson is being presented as the exact same guy that he has been since he became a main eventer: the one who will wrestle anyone in any style and can put in the long matches at the drop of a hat. Danielson has wrestled eight televised matches (plus one more which hasn’t aired yet) for AEW, ranging in time from about nine and a half minutes to half an hour, albeit with one time limit draw and one loss (in a tag match, where Danielson wasn’t pinned).
The other interesting part is Danielson has gone head first into major stories. He started by going after Kenny Omega and is now heading for a #1 contenders match at Full Gear. Danielson showed up and was instantly in the main event scene. He wants to prove that he is the best and hasn’t missed a beat from WWE, which makes perfect sense as he more or less took a long summer vacation rather than walking away from wrestling altogether. This is what Danielson would do and it isn’t a surprise to see him doing it again in his new environment.
Compare this to Punk, who feels like he is having one off matches against people and handpicking everything he wants to do. Punk has yet to mention anything involving a championship or dealing with any of the main event stars in the company. It seemed like he was going to feud with Team Taz but it was a quick build to a match against Hobbs and nothing else, at least so far. I’m sure Punk will get some bigger matches later on, but he has mainly been used as a special attraction so far.
I’ll leave out anything trying to say which is better, as they really aren’t things that can be compared. Punk’s return was amazing, but Danielson might not have even had the most memorable debut of his segment. They have both had some rather good matches, but should Punk get more credit for coming back into the ring so ice cold after a long hiatus from the sport?
It’s a case where you can’t go wrong either way and that is not something that happens very often. What matters is that both guys are being treated as top level names in AEW because the company knows what they have. You don’t get two legends in their own time like this and it is a very encouraging sign that AEW has figured out good ways to use both of them. I want to see what they two of them do in the future and that is more than I can say for a lot of current wrestlers.
It isn’t much of a surprise to see two polar opposite stars having different runs in AEW, but both of them have been presented as some of the most important things to ever happen in the company. They will both continue to come off as major names and I’m curious to see where both of them go. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them cross paths at some point either, as AEW certainly does like dream matches.
Overall, both Punk and Bryan have looked great in AEW so far, even if they have been so different. The good thing is that they have both played to their strengths and what they are doing makes sense. Danielson is wrestling as often as he can and wants titles, while Punk just seems happy to be there and is having a great time soaking in all of the adulation that he seemed annoyed about not getting back in WWE. These are both success stories for AEW, and they should both include a happy ending somewhere down the line.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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