Landing spots for CM Punk, and why AEW makes most sense

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: CM Punk attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: CM Punk attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images) /

A certain CM Punk is rumored to be returning to the ring soon. As one of the preeminent wrestlers for the past 20 years, his potential return has sparked lots of debate on which promotion he’ll sign with.

While C.M. Punk would be a boon to any promotion, it makes the most sense for Punk to sign with AEW and not WWE, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, or others.

(That being said, if he’s able to sign non-exclusive contracts, then only WWE is really out of the question.)

Let me state this first: I’m not as big a fan of Punk as most. I don’t think his in-ring work was as great as he claimed, but few wrestlers had characters and promo ability like Punk. I’m not oblivious to that fact.

I also tend to be more critical of AEW than others, mostly based on AEW not necessarily living up to all of their initial mission statements. I also think AEW can be too self-indulgent at times, but it has a different energy, passion, and presentation than WWE. I understand the appeal of AEW.

It might seem weird that I, admitted critic, am writing this article. I would argue it gives me a better perspective as I don’t find myself with promotional allegiances or stringent fandom of individual wrestlers, I just do my best to lob criticisms when necessary, but give praise as well.

I try to be like beat writers in professional sports: unattached to the teams and players, but attached to the sport.

With that out of the way, I want to briefly touch on each of the major promotions that Punk could sign with, but might not be the most prudent move.


A decade ago, Punk engaged in WWE’s version of “Summer of Punk,” culminating in Punk’s victory over John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011 and the iconic walk out with the title from above (it cuts before the famous image of Punk walking out the doors).

Unfortunately, the aftermath of the angle failed to capitalize on the momentum. A few years later, Punk was out of WWE.

While Punk did return for FOX Sports’ WWE Backstage, we have to remember that, by all accounts, it was FOX Sports who brought in Punk, and Punk only negotiated and had a contract with FOX Sports, not WWE.

Signing with WWE probably makes little sense. Some of the main people he had issues with (that he discussed on Colt Cabana’s podcast) are still there, some having gained more power. Some of his main rivals in WWE are also on the backend of their careers.

His main issue was even at his peak, when he was the most popular wrestler in the world, he never main evented WrestleMania. That is unlikely to happen…unless he comes back in his 50s.

Ring of Honor

The promotion where Punk made his name and helped make their name, the best run of his career, returning to Ring of Honor would have all the nostalgia. Punk was one of the four pillars of ROH (to borrow from the Four Pillars of Heaven of All Japan Pro Wrestling) alongside Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels (or Nigel McGuiness or KENTA).

However, that’s the thing: very few people are left in ROH from his days there. The nostalgia only works so far.

It would be great to see Punk tangle with the likes of Bandido, Jay Lethal, Jay Briscoe, Matt Taven, Brody King, and others. ROH, one of the best promotions of the past 18 months, would definitely receive a boost and draw more viewers.

Still, while a return would make all the news sites and overload wrestling Twitter, it’s just not as game-changing as signing with AEW. I don’t think signing Punk makes ROH that much more competition to WWE than it currently stands, unfortunately.

New Japan Pro Wrestling


In all seriousness, this is one promotion that in my research, Punk has never wrestled in, let alone appeared. That is enough to be enticing as a fan considering all of the first-time and potential dream matches: Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Tama Tonga, KENTA, EVIL, SANADA, Yoshi Hashi (shoutout Chris Maitland), and of course, Toru Yano.

However, would adding Punk actually give New Japan the foothold in the United States they’ve sought so long, enough to challenge WWE? I doubt it. It might draw more fans to the product, but there is now a complete generation of people who view wrestling as what WWE produces and may find the presentation in New Japan to their distaste.

There is also the big, non-wrestling factor of the COVID-19 pandemic, the low rate of vaccinations in Japan that is adding to the debacle that is the 2021 Olympic Games (mostly due to the International Olympic Committee), and the increasing dominance of the contagious delta variant.

Impact Wrestling/Major League Wrestling/etc.

What helped Punk catch on in WWE was he had a unique style that incorporated elements of a (then) budding sport in the United States known as mixed martial arts; his first finisher in WWE was the Anaconda Vice.

Major League Wrestling has set itself apart from other promotions as being more sports-like and realistic. There are a myriad of styles within MLW, from grappling to striking to Lucha to brawling and everything in-between.

I would love to see Punk take on Jacob Fatu, Alexander Hammerstone, Calvin Tankman, Tom Lawlor, El Hijo de LA Park, LA Park, Jr., and others.

Again, I just don’t think it would be as significant a move.

With Impact, Punk would immediately be the biggest draw and shoot to the top of the card, as I believe he would in ROH and MLW, though not necessarily New Japan. Impact has a lot of good talkers, so seeing Punk battle them on the mic would be fun.

However, Impact has also made a more concerted effort to build younger and/or newer talent after their great run that ended in 2016 after the departures of wrestlers such as Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, and M.V.P. Punk wouldn’t fit the vision that signed Chris Bey or currently presenting Josh Alexander as an absolute dominator.

Other promotions, like GCW, would definitely make waves if Punk signed with them, but the big question for smaller promotions like that is can they afford what Punk demands, whatever number that may be?


Regardless of what’s been reported, AEW should be the destination for Punk, and AEW should do whatever they can to sign him.

I have criticized AEW in the past for signing many former WWE wrestlers. There is truth that with the monopoly of the last two decades, it’s hard to sign someone who hasn’t been through WWE.

I would give that argument more weight if AEW didn’t show they could sign and build wrestlers into fan favorites without having been in WWE (Darby Allin and Adam Page are the big ones).

Still, Punk has a name and cache that goes beyond his association with WWE. Again, I think ROH was his best run, and many fans still think of him fondly from his days there.

Further, many WWE fans pine for Punk to return; what better way to draw more viewers away from WWE and to AEW? Punk signing with AEW could be one of those pivotal moments in wrestling history, such as when Hulk Hogan signed with WCW, the sale of WCW, and the launch of AEW.

There are also many people in AEW that have histories with Punk, and AEW has shown us they’re keen to channel this history without detriment to their wrestlers or promotion (the Matt Hardy vs. Christian Cage feud is a good example).

Imagine if Cody defeated Malakai Black and was then confronted by “Cult of Personality” blaring over the speakers and Punk walking out to a thunderous reaction? What if Punk interrupted a Kenny Omega promo and declared he wanted the AEW World Championship?

What if he just randomly appears on the stage, sits down, and delivers a promo?

Any of those would be the talk of the wrestling world and may put AEW over WWE into the top spot for wrestling promotions.

There’s also another reason I think Punk in AEW makes the most sense: the rumored signing of Danielson.

This would be a substantial blow to WWE, far more than I think they’re anticipating. These are the two wrestlers with the biggest fan support over the past 15 years in WWE. They might literally lose them for nothing, like a professional team letting a pending free agent walk then trade for some value.

Eventually, I think most fans would love to see another feud between Punk and Danielson. Yes, it won’t be what we saw in ROH, but it might be better because they’ve had more time to learn, grow, and adjust. I imagine the building would be buzzing during their match, similar to The Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan at WrestleMania X-8.

That wasn’t either man’s best match in the physical sense, but it’s still considered one of the best matches of the past 20 years.

Further, with Tony Khan’s “forbidden door” firmly open, signing with AEW seems to be the best way for wrestlers to feel creatively satisfied, make good money, and work with other promotions. Punk could sign with AEW and still appear on Impact and New Japan (for now), and potentially others in the future.

In theory, that should give a boost to AEW and any promotion that is able to have Punk appear on their programming.

Lastly, there is always the shadow of his falling out with Cabana. Years have passed and wounds may have healed, but in professional wrestling, nothing is off the table. Because of the virality of that podcast and the eventual issues between the two, a well-written and performed angle between them centering on these events could prove to be a significant feud.

Punk signing with AEW just makes too much sense for it not to happen (especially if Danielson also signs), but this is wrestling and weirder things have happened.

Next. Friday Night SmackDown Results: Finn Balor challenges Roman Reigns. dark

None of this is to say that Punk shouldn’t sign with other promotions. I think there would be benefits to both Punk and any promotion he signs with. I just think the maximum benefit to both will occur if Punk signs with AEW.

For now, I’ll just stay tuned to see what happens, and hopefully, word doesn’t leak so that if/when Punk (and Danielson) appear for a promotion, I am truly surprised and excited for what’s next.