CM Punk won the AEW Championship for the first time at AEW Double or Nothing 2022, pinning “Hangman” Adam Page to win the belt. That would be the high point of his reign, which was dogged by injuries and backstage issues that ended his wrestling career for good.
During his 90 days (well, not really, but we’ll explain that) as champion, CM Punk only defended the AEW Championship once, and he lost the belt in that match. Punk had zero title defenses and is considered the worst AEW Champion of all time, an accolade unlikely to be taken by any champion any time soon.
CM Punk’s AEW Champion Defenses
CM Punk had no successful AEW Championship defenses, and only actually defended the belt once in AEW. Both of his reigns were dogged by injuries, although it would be hard to blame his injury (which did eventually leave him on the shelf for eight months) as the reason for his second reign ending.
After winning the AEW Championship from “Hangman” Adam Page, CM Punk looked forward to a new “Summer of Punk”, with a number of big title defenses planned. Wrestlers like Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega were being lined up to face him, but his first challenger actually came from outside of AEW.
NJPW’s Hiroshi Tanahashi turned up on the Dynamite after Double or Nothing 2022, challenging Punk for the AEW Championship. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs CM Punk was booked to take place at the first AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door PPV, and was a dream match for both men involved, as well as the millions of fans at home.
However, this match did not happen. The match was cancelled after CM Punk broke his foot while jumping into the crowd during his match on that very same Dynamite. He managed to finish the six-man tag team match, where he wrestled alongside FTR against The Gunns and Max Caster, but was ruled out for months after the match, and after the match with Tanahashi was already confirmed.
Punk did not vacate the belt, and Jon Moxley beat Tanahashi to become the Interim AEW Champion at Forbidden Door instead. This set up a match between Punk and Moxley for when he returned, which would be in the middle of August later that summer. This is what became CM Punk’s one and only AEW title defense, and it would be too short to really even consider a true match.
CM Punk made a surprise return to AEW on the August 10, 2022 episode of AEW Dynamite. He saved interim AEW Champion Jon Moxley from an attack by the Jericho Appreciation Society, running in and clearing the ring until it was just him and Moxley standing across from one another.
Two weeks later, CM Punk defended the AEW Championship for the first time ever, battling Jon Moxley in the middle of an episode of AEW Dynamite. This was the most unique AEW Championship match, as it was so short. Moxley immediately targeted the previously broken foot of Punk, reducing him to a heap on the mat as he beat him in less than five-minutes and becoming the official AEW Champion (for the second time).
This came as a huge shock to everybody. CM Punk almost refused to do the match, threatening to sue to the company for making him work when he still injured (although he was fine by the time the match came around). This was CM Punk’s only AEW Championship defense, leaving his AEW title run with one defense, and zero successful defenses.
Punk did win the belt back from Moxley at All Out 2022, but his reign lasted only three days. Immediately after the show, he took Colt Cabana and the Elite to town in the post-show media scrum. He refuted rumors that he got Cabana fired by AEW, and criticized Adam Page for his “shoot” comments before Double or Nothing 2022.
This led to a backstage fight with The Elite. They went to his dressing room after the show, and it is reported that Punk attacked the group, while Ace Steel threw a chair and bit the group in the fracas. All the wrestlers involved were suspended, while Punk was stripped of the AEW Championship and ending his reign at three days, with zero title defenses.
Even if that fight did not occur, he still would have had no title defenses. Punk tore his tricep during the match with Moxley, which eventually led to him missing eight months of action due to injury. He only lasted a few months after returning in June 2023 before being fired, following a backstage fight with Jack Perry at Wembley Stadium.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.