It’s been six months since the infamous BRAWL OUT incident. We’ve had two AEW World Champions and three Trios Champions since then. All the while, one question has remained (besides “Where’s the story?!”): will CM Punk ever return to AEW?
In the aftermath of the infamous scrum, Punk was also dealing with a torn tricep he suffered during his match at ALL OUT. Soon after the pay-per-view, Punk had surgery and has been on the road to recovery. At one point, there was allegedly the threat of a lawsuit on Punk’s end. In the months that have passed, there seemed to be some softening on the former AEW World Champion returning to the company.
CM Punk lashes out
Dave Meltzer said on his show that there was a short build for Punk versus Moxley because after agreeing to the match, “AEW got a legal letter saying he wasn’t down with it and wasn’t doing it.” Punk took to his Instastory to respond.
In a now deleted Instagram story, he says he wasn’t cleared to wrestle. “Then the plan was to do the PPV.” Punk went on to say he didn’t like the Rocky III story that was pitched by Jon Moxley, but Khan wanted it. Punk goes on to say he agreed to it, but needed to be cleared. “They kept saying it could just be a squash so I didn’t need to be cleared. I scoffed at it. My health is more important. (…) I’ll never put a company above my health again.”
On Friday, Fightful Select sent out a lengthy report about information related to Punk and AEW. They had previously reported that Moxley did pitch a squash match and also that Punk had communicated with those close to the situation that Punk didn’t feel comfortable competing without being cleared prior to their match on August 24.
It has believed that some company heat towards Punk had died down prior to Thursday. The report also says that Punk and Tony Khan have “spoken or had a couple meetings” although Fightful is unaware if anything came from them. There was a planned meeting for mid- February, but was apparently delayed due to Jerry Jarrett’s funeral.
The report also says that “at least one person claimed that Punk was willing to apologize for the scrum portion of the ALL OUT evening.” It was unclear that if Punk did apologize, who he’d apologize to and if it would be publicly or privately. It’s also noted that he felt some “form of regret.”
Fightful noted that Punk has not responded to emails regarding if he was actually suspended or having his pay docked while recovering from surgery. It is unclear if Punk is fully healthy and can be/has been cleared.
Should CM Punk return to AEW?
One thing that was made painfully obvious by Punk’s Instastory post is that there is still tension between himself, Moxley, and Chris Jericho. There’s still likely heat between him and Hangman Page. Fightful did report that Punk allegedly spoke to Kenny Omega in the minutes after the physical altercation and that he told Omega that he didn’t have an issue with him.
If Punk did feel like he was pressured to wrestle a squash without being cleared or ready, there could be some reservations with Khan, although that may have been resolved during the alleged conversations/meetings between the two.
It seems to be a given that if Punk were to return, he would have to make amends with the AEW locker room as well as the higher ups (like Megha Parekh, AEW’s chief legal counselor, who saw BRAWL OUT unfold in front of her).
Behavior from Punk like the Instastory post has worn thin for a lot of fans. That’s not to say that Punk shouldn’t be allowed to address stories or assumptions, but the way he went about it rubbed many fans the wrong way. He had a full on tantrum during a media scrum (again, he likely had valid criticisms, he just chose the absolute worst way to handle it) and Thursday seemed like a reminder of that. Can Punk promise he’ll never blow up like that again? Will everyone have to walk on eggshells around him? Will he get physical again? How will the locker room react to him?
Jericho reportedly called Punk a “cancer” after the media scrum. Jericho has a lot of pull within AEW, including a backstage position. After BRAWL OUT, Jericho along with Moxley and Danielson led a locker room meeting (Fightful did mention that there doesn’t appear to be heat between Punk and Danielson). Some of the people that have issues with Punk have a lot of sway in AEW. Bringing him back could upset that. Is it fair to the talent to be forced into a potentially uncomfortable work environment?
What happens if CM Punk returns?
Should Punk come back, he could reignite his feud with current AEW World Champion, MJF. Not because he deserves a title shot or should even be champion again. But because it was one of AEW’s best stories last year. Their dog collar match was Daily DDT’s AEW Match of the Year. Remember, MJF walked out on AEW nearly a year ago. Now he has the Triple B. There’s so much they could do now and that story doesn’t feel complete. If Punk and the company could reconcile, it would be best for business.
It would be a shame for Punk’s career to end like this. He was away from wrestling for seven years and came back to be the World Champion in a new company. He had the opportunity to rewrite the ending to his career. It was a Cinderella story until it wasn’t.
There’s no fairy godmother to fix this. If CM Punk wants to come back (and Khan allows it), he has to be an adult and make amends. He has to be the bigger person, even if there are others who have been in the wrong. Ideally, others would make amends for their part too. Everyone involved has to stop being children.