When CM Punk returned to All Elite Wrestling in June this year, there were numerous reports that Tony Khan was going to split the AEW roster in two.
Due to recent controversies between Punk and The Elite, the two parties had to be kept apart and out of each other’s way.
To facilitate this, Tony Khan planned an AEW brand split. Taking inspiration from the WWE after their purchase of WCW in 2001, he sought to create two separate rosters, each taking a TV show of their own.
This would encourage competition internally in AEW and put some breathing room between CM Punk and his enemies.
Luckily, AEW was set to debut a new TV show at this time, giving them the perfect excuse to split the roster down the middle.
AEW Collision hit our screens on June 17, 2023 and featured the return of CM Punk, for the first time since the AEW All Out post show media scrum.
This would be his home for the foreseeable future, giving him a playground to enact his creative control and keeping him separate from The Elite.
In April 2023, Dave Meltzer reported that Tony Khan was exploring the idea of a brand split between AEW Dynamite and Collision, in a bid to keep the pro-CM Punk and anti-CM Punk rosters apart from each other.
It was reported that the AEW brand split would “ease the dressing room problems” by copying the Raw vs Smackdown brand split of 2002, with Punk as the main star on Saturday Night Collision.
Over the months, the situation seemed to change. Tony Khan said in June on the Barstool Sports’ Rasslin’ podcast that the plan was more of a soft brand split, and that “I haven’t drawn any hard lines or locked us into any kind of split of a roster,”.
Clearly CM Punk was a bid headache for the company, with details of his return still being sorted out in the week prior to his return.
However, his comeback on June 17th was a huge night for AEW, as the live crowd chanted his name to a deafening volume and cheered every word he said (although the goodwill would run out soon after).
With the debut of AEW Collision, a soft brand split came into fruition. Lead by CM Punk, a number of talents were given almost exclusive status on Collision, although even Punk made the occasional appearance on Dynamite.
It wasn’t a hard and fast rule, but you knew (generally) which wrestlers you’d see if you tuned into Dynamite or Collision.
AEW Dynamite’s roster usually included:
- Kenny Omega
- The Young Bucks
- Adam Page
- The Acclaimed
- Bryan Danielson
- Adam Cole
- Chris Jericho
AEW Collision’s roster usually included:
- CM Punk
- House of Black
- Samoa Joe
- Andrade El Idolo
- Jungle Boy
- Bullet Club Gold
AEW certainly had the capability of having two very distinct rosters.
The debut of Collision and the brand split allowed forgotten stars like Andrade El Idolo, Miro and Scorpio Sky get the spotlight once again, while continuing the fantastic work of MJF, Adam Cole and The Elite on Dynamite.
It seemed like the best of both worlds, and important kept CM Punk happy as the top star on his own show.
Well, up until a point.
As we all know, CM Punk was fired by AEW in the week following AEW All In at Wembley Stadium.
Following some backstage incidents, which included arguments with William Regal and Jack Perry, Punk flew into a fury backstage at Wembley Stadium, attacking Perry and AEW boss Tony Khan just moments before his match against Samoa Joe.
The fight was over a spot Perry did with Hook on the event’s “kick off show”.
During the Jack Perry vs Hook match for the FTR Championship, Perry slammed Hook through the windscreen of the limousine that he was driven to the ring in.
After the spot, he looked into the camera and yelled, “It’s real glass! Go cry me a river!”.
This was a clear shot at CM Punk. The heat between Perry and Punk came during an episode of AEW Collision.
Perry needed to written off TV for a few weeks, with the plan for Hook to put him through a car windscreen (Jack Perry had been escaping Hook’s attacks for weeks by jumping into his SUV).
However, Perry was insistent on using real glass, something which the entire AEW roster thought was a stupid idea.
It took Tony Schiavone convincing Punk to talk to Perry to change his mind, although not before a backstage argument between the two broke out. (Learn more details about the Jack Perry vs CM Punk fight)
Despite the brand split meant to keep the peace between Punk and the rest of the roster, his ego still managed to rear its ugly head.
Amid a spate of him banning multiple wrestlers from appearing Collision (like Christopher Daniels and Matt Hardy), Punk attacked Perry after he called him out at All In, before even lunging at Tony Khan and threatening to quit the company entirely.
This completely put an end to the brand split. Tony Khan fired CM Punk less than a week later, even though Punk had a match with Ricky Starks planned for AEW All Out 2023 in Chicago, 7 days later.
It has been reported that Bryan Danielson made the decision to terminate his contract, helping bring harmony back to the All Elite Wrestling roster.
After Punk’s termination, the AEW brand split came to an end. It was never the most robust system – CM Punk appeared on Dynamite in June 2023 to attack Bullet Club Gold – but any pretense of the split roster system was gone.
Dave Meltzer reported just days after Punk’s firing that the roster split was ending, and that the two shows would work in tandem again, instead of competing with split rosters.
Despite this, the two shows still have their own distinct style, and some wrestlers are much more likely to be seen on one show than the other.
Dynamite is the “sports entertainment” show, with more focus on characters and storylines, although without neglecting some incredible matches taking place.
AEW Champion MJF is primarily featured on Dynamite, although does have a handful of matches on the Saturday Night show.
Since Punk’s firing, Bryan Danielson has taken him spot as the new head honcho of Collision.
Danielson is a key part of AEW creative, and somebody that Tony Khan sees as the William Regal to his Triple H (Khan even told his dad that Danielson should take over the company if he isn’t able to run the shows).
He wrestles primarily on Collision now, but features heavily on both shows as he continues the last year of his full-time run in wrestling.
Bryan Danielson taking the spot of CM Punk after he left the company is reminiscent of Daniel Bryan wrestling in the main event of WrestleMania 30 after Punk walked out of the WWE in 2014 (Read more about Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania 30 journey here).
As it stands, there is no AEW brand split. While some wrestlers work more on Wednesdays than Saturdays (or vice versa), there is nothing stopping any one wrestler making the jump from Dynamite to Collision.
The roster split is simply a relic of CM Punk’s ill-fated return to the company, and something that could have been a huge success for the company if not for one man things too far.
Learn more about why CM Punk’s AEW career ended in such disastrous fashion.