CM Punk Debuts in AEW


If you ask some people, CM Punk has been gone from pro wrestling for over seven years. The last time CM Punk was in a WWE ring was at the 2014 Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh. But if you ask the man himself, CM Punk has been gone from pro wrestling for far longer.

The voice of the voiceless made his long-awaited, highly anticipated return to the squared circle on August 20th, 2021, for All Elite Wrestling in Chicago. The crowd rumble from the get-go, with everyone in attendance chanting the wrestler’s name. When Cult of Personality by Living Colour hit the speakers of the United Center in Chicago, the eruption rivaled that of any figure in any sport. Then CM Punk stepped onto the stage.

The return of the wrestler who struck a chord with jaded pro wrestling fans once he dropped the infamous “pipe bomb promo” one night on Monday Night Raw. The monologue from the wrestler was just that: raw. During the promo, Punk lambasted John Cena for being the chosen one of the company, hyped as the best wrestler around. CM Punk then name-dropped other promotions, highlighted friends not in the company, and even called out the WWE itself for its transgressions it tried to cover over. On that June night in 2011, CM Punk connected with the wrestling audience in a way that hadn’t been done in years. So it’s hard to believe that Punk, just three years after that promo, walked away from WWE, seemingly at peace with the thought of never wrestling again.

Thankfully, not only for CM Punk fans but pro wrestling fans that craved that authentic, raw, unfiltered attitude, he has returned.

On AEW’s second episode of Rampage, airing live from Chicago, CM Punk returned and brought fans to their feet, screaming their head off, some of them even giving way to tears of joy. The voice of the voiceless returned and told everyone he was back. One significant distinction CM Punk made when talking to the crowd at the United Center, though, was that CM Punk had been gone from pro wrestling far longer than many fans realized.

When professional wrestlers leave the machine that is WWE, many of them feel disgruntled, and rightfully so. WWE has challenged pro wrestlers in court for the right to their own name and even cut off their so-called independent contractor’s ability to make money on their own by using other social media platforms. Whether one agrees or disagrees with these conflicts is irrelevant. The point is that many feel a certain way and make known their grievances once they leave the company. CM Punk is no exception to this and had a highly publicized podcast interview after his release.

When CM Punk returned to a pro wrestling ring, standing in the middle of it, addressing thousands of fans in person and millions around the world, he said that he’d been gone from pro wrestling for longer than his well-known final days at World Wrestling Entertainment. No, his final day in pro wrestling wasn’t January 26th, 2014. According to CM Punk, his last day in pro wrestling was on August 13th, 2005. That was his last day in Ring of Honor. The day he came out to the ring with tears running down his face and left a place he helped build.

To read between the lines, CM Punk doesn’t count his time in WWE as pro wrestling. The company itself shies away from that very term. Sports entertainment is what it is called. They don’t house a roster or pro wrestlers, but rather a roster of WWE superstars. They don’t have an audience of fans; they have the WWE universe. It’s all on-brand to what WWE is and seemingly forever wants to be. It doesn’t want to be professional wrestling that is entertaining. It wants to be entertainment that has some professional wrestling.

So, when CM Punk told the crowd his last day in professional wrestling was August 13th of 2005, everyone knew what he was talking about. But his debut for AEW wasn’t about the past. Sure, he mentioned it, but it focused on the now and the future. CM Punk told everyone he was in AEW, and he wasn’t going anywhere. While there are many on the AEW roster that fans dream of seeing CM Punk wrestle against, and he called out “a couple scores to settle” with wrestlers backstage, he named dropped one specific wrestler. Darby Allin.

Allin, who’s aligned himself with Sting over the past few months, was with Sting high above the United Center. Calling up memories of classic WCW shows, high in the rafters stood Darby Allin and Sting, watching CM Punk. Listening to the wrestler call him out and tell him how impressed he was by his dangerous antics. Then he called out the young star of AEW and said there was nothing more dangerous than fighting CM Punk in Chicago at All Out.

So the first match for AEW All Out is set. CM Punk will face Darby Allin. CM Punk is back in pro wrestling. All Elite Wrestling contains not only some of the biggest names in the pro wrestling world but some of the hottest young stars, too. Kenny Omega is the AEW world champion at the time of this writing. Jungle Boy has crowds singing along to his entrance theme. MJF gets booed out of buildings. All of these wrestlers are possible future opponents for CM Punk, and I for one, am thankful for the return of CM Punk.

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