CM Punk’s AEW career was short, explosive and memorable. From his electric debut to his disappointing firing after a Wembley Stadium epic, nobody could ever accuse the Best in the World of being boring or formulaic in AEW.
When CM Punk walked out on stage for his AEW debut, it felt like an incredible, special moment for professional wrestling. It had been seven years since fans last saw CM Punk in a wrestling ring, as he was unceremoniously thrown out of the Royal Rumble by an already eliminated Kane.
The next night on Raw, he had a meeting with Triple H and Vince McMahon backstage. He told them all his gripes, complained about his time in the company and walked out of the arena – this time, for good. He was eventually fired (on his wedding day, no less), but that didn’t matter – CM Punk had left the wrestling business for good.
However, after years of speculation (and one-off appearances in a mask on indie shows), the rumors began to swirl again, this time with much more credence.
CM Punk Debuted At AEW Rampage: The First Dance
In the years after he walked out of the WWE, there had been rumblings about a CM Punk return. Every time WWE ran a show in Chicago, or something hit a GTS anywhere around the world, there was an immediate frenzy about his impending return to wrestling.
There had been many rumors over the years about his return, but in 2021, they seemed to have legs. Fans mostly shrugged off these talks, knowing that Punk and WWE would never reconcile, and that the likes of TNA and ROH would never be able to afford to bring the former WWE Champion to their rosters.
However, July 2021 saw something different. Rather than baseless rumors, credibly reports were made about Punk’s future in wrestling. Fightful Select got the scoop about CM Punk and how he was training for an in-ring return – the first time this sort of report had been made for the past seven years. The report didn’t say much, but it was hope.
Many more articles were published over the next few weeks, leading fans into a frenzy. The rumors were still unsubstantiated, but they just felt different to before. Punk had never even teased coming back, but now he seemed to be posting more on social media, and teasing coming back to wrestling with cryptic posts and interesting captions.
Things heated up immensely on the July 28 episode of AEW Dynamite. After weeks of speculation, following the trademarking of a show name, Tony Khan announced “The First Dance” as the name of the second-ever episode of AEW Rampage. The show had debuted the week prior with Kenny Omega wrestling Christian Cage, but The First Dance proved to be even bigger.
AEW booked the unusually large United Center in Chicago, Illinois for the event. This was CM Punk’s home town, the place where he became a legend and fought so many of his legendary matches. His bout with John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011 took place in that very arena, and is still one of the best matches the WWE have ever put on (it is one of just a few of WWE’s five-star matches). The crowd saw him as a hero, a legend and a star, so Chicago would be the perfect place to debut CM Punk in AEW.
With just a rumor of CM Punk making a grand return to the wrestling business, AEW fans jumped on the chance to be there for this historic moment. 15,316 fans crammed into the arena, with The Last Dance being one of the hottest selling tickets in wrestling history. The event drew AEW’s biggest crowd at the time, a monumental event for a one-hour show that did not promise a CM Punk return at all – but we all knew he’d be there.
And he was. The show opened with all 15,000 fans yelling “CM Punk!” at the top of their lungs, almost willing the former WWE Champion to come out onto the stage and announce his long-awaited return to wrestling. The chants did not last long, as they were replaced by a cheer of relief as the opening notes of “Cult of Personality” by Living Color blared out from the speaker, and a familiar face walked out onto the stage, tears soon welling in his eyes at the response.
The man who walked out was a little bit older, with his beard having a few more greys in it, but make no mistake – CM Punk was back. Tony Khan had done what nobody ever expected by bringing the former WWE Champion back into professional wrestling, and fired a huge shot in his battle with the WWE.
Despite booking the show weeks in advance, the deal with CM Punk was definitely not certain. It was reported by ESPN that CM Punk only signed his contract with AEW half an hour before walking out on stage, which just shows the incredible trust Tony Khan has in his wrestlers. This is the same situation as other wrestlers, with Christian Cage signing his AEW contract on-stage at AEW Revolution 2021.
After an emotional walk down the ramp (which saw him take a stage dive into the crowd which will become very controversial later on), CM Punk sat cross-legged in the ring, ready to address the fans with his first promo in AEW.
After seven-years away from the fans, CM Punk had a lot to say to the fans. He started off by name-dropping Britt Baker, before going into his reasons for leaving wrestling in the first place. Punk spoke about the WWE making him “sick” as the reason he left the company, before revealing a brand-new wrestling shirt that immediately crashed ProWrestlingTees, and earned AEW back the money in CM Punk’s contract straight away.
Punk went on to talk about how he left “wrestling” for “Sports Entertainment” in 2005 when he signed for the WWE, but that on August 20, 2021, he was back in pro wrestling. CM Punk ended his promo by challenging Darby Allin (who was stood up in the rafters, alongside his tag team partner Sting) to a match at All Out 2021, prompting a huge cheer from the crowd at the prospect of a first CM Punk match since the 2014 Royal Rumble match.
You can read the whole CM Punk AEW debut promo transcript by click this link.
His Debut Match Against Darby Allin Paid Tribute To Bret Hart
With CM Punk’s last WWE match being a fairly good performance in one of the worst Royal Rumble matches of all time, it is fair to say his career ended on quite a sour note. After the 2014 Royal Rumble, he walked out of the company following a heated backstage confrontation with Vince McMahon and Triple H, vowing never to return to the Squared Circle ever again.
When he left, CM Punk was incredibly bitter at the wrestling business. He had no love for wrestling anymore, simply going through the motions and not taking any interest in helping the future, or wrestling in any “dream matches” for his own personal and professional satisfaction.
However, his 2021 return to wrestling in AEW gave Punk a new lease on life. He vowed to wrestling the younger talent in AEW, helping to elevate them to another level and to build a roster that was capable of matching the talent that WWE and NJPW currently had in their ranks.
CM Punk’s AEW debut was a massive bout against Darby Allin at All Out 2021. Allin was one of the top young stars in the company, having feuded with some big stars like Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes and Jon Moxley, while also winning the TNT Championship along the way. He was also part of a tag team with the legendary Sting, who was helping to elevate Allin into a main event star – something that CM Punk would add to in their match.
CM Punk vs Darby Allin was a different match to what fans were expecting, and as time goes on has become more appreciated as a fantastically worked wrestling match.
The match paid homage to the iconic Bret Hart vs 1-2-3 Kid match from 1994, with Punk playing the veteran Hitman to Allin’s up-and-coming Kid. Punk used his experience and savvy to counter Darby Allin’s youthful exuberance, leading to a clash of styles that had all 10,000 fans enamored from the first bell.
The pair traded arm drags before they traded wrestling holds, Punk struggling to get a feel for the match. The years outside the ring had taken their toll, and Allin knew it. CM Punk needed to get up to the pace quickly if he was to defeat one of AEW’s top young stars, and used all the tricks he could to get the match back in his favor.
The story of the match was Punk trying to keep up with Darby Allin’s speed and agility, trying to hit the GTS to end the match as soon as he could. He attempted his finishing move a few times, although Allin managed to wriggle his way out of them on each occasion.
The best spot in the match was when Allin climbed to the top rope to hit own finishing move, the Coffin Drop. The move sees Allin jump from the top turnbuckle while facing away from his opponent, crashing down back-first on the stomach or back of his opposite wrestler. While it can be a very dangerous move, it looks spectacular and fits Allin’s daredevil wrestling style.
However, CM Punk used his veteran mindset to counter it. As Allin came crashing down, Punk emulated his WrestleMania 29 opponent, The Undertaker, and simply sat up, avoiding the impact at the very last second. His sat there, laughing at his genius, before the pair traded moves in the ring. Punk then countered a hold by Darby Allin, and hit him with a vicious-looking Go To Sleep (CM Punk’s finishing move), pinning Darby to win his first singles match since facing Billy Gunn on Raw in 2014.
The match was a perfect return for Punk. He clearly had some ring rust, but his style complimented his opponent’s perfectly, and the pair put on a great match for one of the hottest crowds in AEW history.
While some people have claimed that CM Punk should have lost the match, logically they are incorrect. If Darby Allin won the match, he would simply be beating an old, long-retired wrestler who didn’t have it anymore. A loss here doesn’t hurt Darby, facing a legend of the ring at the start of a run that would see him win world titles, and set up a potential rematch in the future where he could get his win back from Punk.
CM Punk Wrestled Many Mid-Card Wrestlers Before His First Feud
After his debut match against Darby Allin in AEW, CM Punk stayed away from the spotlight in AEW. He worked on cutting promos in front of the live crowd, giving them the chance to see him for the first time in seven years, while also wrestling against some of the lesser-known wrestlers in AEW.
CM Punk claimed in his debut promo that he wanted to work with the younger wrestlers in AEW, teaching them and elevating them by wrestling him in the ring. While many fans wanted to see Punk immediately fired into the main event scene, against top wrestlers like Kenny Omega, Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley, his first few matches were much more in-line with his own vision.
In CM Punk’s first five matches, he didn’t wrestle any big stars. His first five opponents in AEW were all mid-card wrestlers, which was for two reasons. The first was to help elevate young talent (like Powerhouse Hobbs and Darby Allin), while also helping shaking off his ring rust and helping Punk get back into in-ring shape. The wrestlers he wrestled at the start of his AEW run were;
- Darby Allin
- Powerhouse Hobbs
- Daniel Garcia
- Matt Sydal
- Bobby Fish
Of those matches (minus the Darby Allin match at All Out), there is little to say. They were fairly standard matches, designed to showcase Punk while giving the other wrestlers the chance to stand out, in front of a bigger audience than they’d ever wrestled in front of before.
The only notable exception was the Bobby Fish match. At the end of the bout, Fish kicked out of the GTS at the two-count. Nobody had kicked out of it since his return, and Bobby Fish was certainly not the man to get that honor. It was clear that Fish went into business for himself, and it was not a shock that he was released from the company not too long after the incident.
Once Punk was firmly back in in-ring shape and ready to face some of the big boys in AEW, he moved on to his first big feud in the company. This was against Eddie Kingston, and brought us some of the best promos AEW has ever seen.
CM Punk vs Eddie Kingston
CM Punk’s first major feud in AEW was short, but incredibly memorable. His one match rivalry with Eddie Kingston was the turning point for CM Punk in AEW, showing glimpses of the old Punk while giving Kingston the spotlight to prove to the doubters that he is one of AEW’s finest wrestlers – both in the ring and on the microphone.
As all the best Punk rivalries do, the pair managed to blur the lines between reality and fiction, bringing in real-life issues between the two, and using them as a reason to see Kingston face Punk on PPV, with nothing and everything on the line between the pair.
The one promo between the two was one of the best in AEW history. Eddie Kingston was the star of the show, laying on some real-life truths about his history with Punk. He claimed that Punk held down Kingston and was mean to him in the past, which Punk rationalizes by saying that Kingston simply did not live up to the potential and standards which he (and others) thought he should have done.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we judged you and we held you to a standard of the potential that we saw in you.” Punk said about Kingston. “You’re the one who fell short of that mark. You can blame me and you can lose in the middle of the ring to a guy like Bryan Danielson and then you can walk in the back and you can try to blame me but it’s not my fault. I am not wrong for seeing greatness in you 15 years ago but I damn sure I’m a fool for trying to hold you to that standard and expect greatness.” Before adding, “Because you’re a bum!”
This ended with Kingston telling Punk to leave again for seven years, setting up the grudge match at Full Gear 2021. The match was fantastic, albeit short. They referenced Punk’s previous matches with John Cena, and actually saw him as a bit of a heel in the match – at least, fans cheered Kingston over Punk. This was the first sign of cracks between the relationship between Punk and the fans, which would lead to his eventual firing from the company.
The match ended with CM Punk hitting two GTS’ on Kingston and pinning him for the win. After the match, Punk offered to shake Kingston’s hand, who refused and walked out. This helped set up a future feud (which never happened), but also made Kingston a much bigger star in the eyes of the fans while keeping Punk’s record in AEW positive.
Learn more about CM Punk vs Eddie Kingston here.
MJF’s Feud With CM Punk Was One Of The Highlights Of AEW
CM Punk’s greatest feud – in AEW, and maybe among his entire career – was his pair of matches against MJF. As two of the best talkers in wrestling history, fans were clamoring to see the two AEW stars face off on the microphone, and lead into a match in the ring that would surely tear the house down.
The feud started very simply, and with very little malice towards one another. CM Punk name-dropped a number of young wrestlers when he came back to AEW. He cited stars like Darby Allin, Will Hobbs and Brian Pillman Jr as talents he would like to face, but neglected to mention MJF as the future of AEW.
This clearly got to MJF. He got into the ring on the November 17, 2021 episode of AEW Dynamite to claim that nobody was on his level, before being confronted by a silent, stoic CM Punk. Punk simply stood in the ring, saying absolutely nothing to Max, before refusing his handshake and walking to the back. MJF is somebody who thrives on confrontation, so completely ignoring him was worse than any insult he could throw at him in the ring.
Just one week later, MJF returned the favor. He interrupted CM Punk in the ring on the Thanksgiving episode of AEW Dynamite, and the pair began the greatest “promo battle” ever seen in AEW. MJF first rattled off his insults, before giving Punk the chance to respond in kind.
Neither man disappointed. MJF rattled off some hilarious quips, claiming Punk was straight-edge but “looks so much like a meth head”, and stating that while CM Punk drops “pipe bombs”, he drops “nukes”. He did note that he respects Punk, but that he would “verbally finish” him “quicker than your UFC career”.
Punk responded by claiming he was disappointed by MJF, claiming his initials stood for “My Jealous Fan” (referencing the photo of MJF meeting Punk as a child, and his admittance of being a big fan of CM Punk). MJF then referenced both Triple H and John Cena, in one of the most charged promos AEW has ever seen (you can click here to read the whole MJF vs CM Punk promo transcript).
The feud continued with more promos and two singles matches, although MJF ran from CM Punk at every opportunity. This was most apparent in the match where MJF and FTR took on CM Punk, Sting and Darby Allin, where CM Punk chased Maxwell around the arena, trying to finally get his hands on his young rival.
The two singles matches between the pair were some of the best in AEW. The first was a 40-minute plus match in Chicago, that Last Word on Sport called “The Perfect Modern American Wrestling Match”. It had fantastic technical wrestling, character work and playing to the crowd, all wrapped up in a blood feud to prove who was the best man of the two. Punk also brought back the Pepsi Plunge for the match, which would end up being the last move he ever did in AEW (more on that later).
In their first encounter, MJF shocked the world by beating CM Punk in his hometown – twice, as MJF claims. He “won” the match by choking Punk out with his wrist tape, but once the referee realised MJF cheated he reversed the decision and forced the match to continue. The pair continued to wrestle for 20 more minutes, before Wardlow made his appearance.
MJF’s lackey entered the ring, distracting the referee for MJF to hit Punk with his Dynamite Diamond ring, pinning him to a chorus of boos and inflicting CM Punk’s first loss in AEW upon him – with the biggest win of MJF’s career so far.
The rematch happened at AEW Revolution 2022. Being inspired by Roddy Piper’s match against Greg Valentine, the pair fought in a brutal and bloody “Dog Collar Match” – only the second in AEW history, after Cody Rhodes vs Brodie Lee two years prior. Both men were admitted fans of Piper, paying tribute to him in the only way they knew how – in a fantastic wrestling match.
CM Punk won this match with the help of Wardlow, who turned on MJF and began their feud. This gave Punk enough wins to earn him a shot against Adam Page for the AEW Championship, which would be the beginning of the end for his time in AEW.
CM Punk vs Adam Page Started The Backstage Controversy
There is no doubt that the point where CM Punk’s AEW career went wrong was during his feud with Adam Page. The entire CM Punk vs Adam Page feud was a dream match that turned into a nightmare, that started with one innocuous comment that most fans saw nothing wrong with at the time.
CM Punk indicating that he was targeting AEW Champion “Hangman” Adam Page after AEW Revolution – even though Punk didn’t really want to belt – following his win over MJF. Page had just defended the title against Adam Cole, after winning the AEW Championship at the end a legendary storyline rivalry with Kenny Omega.
The pair cut promos on one another, before finally meeting in the ring on an episode of AEW Dynamite in May 2022.
During their heated confrontation on AEW Dynamite in May 2022, Adam Page apparently went off scrip on Punk, claiming that he has “protecting” AEW from CM Punk, a jab which Punk looked confused about and took to heart. The segment was an all-time great one but one which the former AEW Champion remembered for months, even after beating Page at Double or Nothing 2022.
The match between Punk and Page at AEW Double or Nothing 2022 was a great one, even though Punk managed to botch two Buckshot Lariats and looked out of his depth against Page. Nevertheless, the fans were being the Straight-Edge Superstar, willing him on as he hit Hangman with a GTS to win his first World Title since dropping the WWE Championship to The Rock at Royal Rumble 2013.
The comment about Punk by Page was one he would not forget, but the new AEW Champion would have to wait months to finally respond, due to an accident just days later on AEW Dynamite.
An Injury Cost AEW “The Summer Of Punk”
Sadly, just four days after winning the AEW Championship, CM Punk suffered an injury that forced him to miss the “Summer of Punk” he had planned for AEW in 2022. On the Dynamite after Double or Nothing 2022, Punk wrestled alongside FTR to take on Max Caster and The Gunns in a six-man tag team match. Before the match, he leaped into the crowd (mimicking his debut in AEW) to celebrate winning the AEW Championship for the first time.
Punk wrestled the entire match, helping his side pick up the win. Afterward, he was challenged to a title match by NJPW’s Hiroshi Tanahashi, as the main event match for the upcoming crossover event, called Forbidden Door. CM Punk vs Hiroshi Tanahashi was booked immediately, with this dream match causing huge waves online for fans of both promotions.
Sadly, this match would never happen. When Punk jumped into the crowd, he banged it on the railing quite hard. Unbeknownst to him, he broke his foot in the process, causing him untold pain and forcing doctors to keep him out of the ring for months. This forced him to miss Forbidden Door, but Punk did not vacate the title. Instead, Jon Moxley won the Interim AEW Championship and faced Tanahashi, setting up a match with Punk upon his return.
His Return Was Short And Disappointing
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.
The following week, CM Punk first called out Adam Page to fight him inside the ring. This was also unscripted and there was never any intention of having Hangman come out to the ring. Punk’s shoot comment was purely a power move by the Best in the World (a “receipt” of sorts) for the shot that Page took at him earlier in the year.
His return was short and disappointing. Punk only spent a few weeks back in AEW, and wrestled just twice. The first was against Jon Moxley on the 24th August episode of AEW Dynamite, in a match to unify the AEW and Interim Championships. In a shock result, Moxley beat Punk in a matter of minutes, ending his reign with 0 successful title defenses.
However, Punk was not at all happy with the match. He was not originally cleared to wrestle in the bout, taking legal action against AEW for forcing him to compete (although he later was happy to fight Moxley on Dynamite). He was also unhappy with Moxley’s suggestion of a “Rocky III” style situation, where the champion loses in shocking fashion at first, before winning the belt back at the end of the movie.
While Moxley and Tony Khan were happy with this, CM Punk was not. However, he eventually relented and agreed to the plan, losing to Moxley on Dynamite and setting up a rematch for AEW All Out 2022. He answered Moxley’s open challenge, thanks to a debut from his controversial friend Ace Steel (more on him soon enough), and beat Jon Moxley for the AEW Championship.
You’d think this would have been huge news, but the match is rarely talked about. This is because what happened after the show would come to define CM Punk’s AEW run going forward.
All Out Press Conference and “Brawl Out”
After All Out 2022, CM Punk was the guest of honor alongside Tony Khan at the post-show media scrum. This press conference has happened after every AEW pay per view, and is largely used by wrestlers to provide kayfabe answers to questions to help further feuds and build on their characters.
However, CM Punk had a much different idea. Instead of building up a feud with MJF (who returned to AEW after the main event to challenge CM Punk for the AEW Championship), he instead took the time to insult his coworkers, accusing them of sabotaging the show and generally shooting off his mouth at whoever would listen.
He first accused the EVP’s of AEW (Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks) for lying about Punk getting Colt Cabana fired from AEW. CM Punk and Colt Cabana were not on good terms by the time Punk joined AEW, and many reporters claimed that Punk was the reason why Cabana had not been seen on AEW for months.
The new AEW Champion also ran down Adam Page, claiming he “jeopardized” the main event match at Double or Nothing 2022 with his shoot comments, calling him a “disgrace to the company” and not holding back on his criticism of the former AEW Champion.
When somebody [Page] who hasn’t done a damn thing in this business jeopardizes the first million-dollar house that this company has ever drawn off of my back and goes on national television and does that, it’s a disgrace to this industry. It’s a disgrace to this company. Now, we’re far beyond apologies. I gave him a fucking chance. It did not get handled and you saw what I had to do, which is very regrettable, lowering myself to his fucking level, but that’s where we’re at right now.”CM Punk on Adam Page at All Out 2022.
CM Punk also challenged anybody who had a problem with him to meet him backstage to discuss it – so The Elite did exactly that. While Punk was in his dressing room with his dog (Larry) and his friend Ace Steel (as well as many other wrestlers, which were rumored to include MJF and Chris Jericho), Kenny Omega, Nick & Matt Jackson, Christopher Daniels and AEW lawler Megha Parekh confronted Punk in order to try and quash the beef between them.
This did not go well. Reports about what happened differ, but the story is generally considered to be that CM Punk sucker punched Matt Jackson during the altercation, while Ace Steel threw a chair at Nick Jackson, while biting Kenny Omega on the arm as he tried to get Larry out of the way of the fight. All the people involved in the fight were suspended (except Ace Steel, who was fired), with Punk and The Elite stripped of their respective championship titles.
Not only was Punk suspended for his comments and backstage antics, he was also injured. CM Punk’s injury was a torn bicep, suffered during a suicide dive he did during the match with Jon Moxley. He was likely in extreme pain during the explosive press conference, and during the backstage fight that has become known as “Brawl Out” among the AEW fan base.
CM Punk Returned With His Own Show and His Own World Championship
Due to his injury, CM Punk was on the shelf for nine months. He was unable to wrestle, and the friction with The Elite caused speculation about whether he would even be able to work for AEW going forward. It was said that Kenny Omega was happy to work with Punk, but the Young Bucks were hesitant for him to return.
Eventually, a compromise was found. AEW employed a soft “brand split” upon the creation of their new TV show, AEW Collision. Punk would lead a young, hungry roster on AEW Collision, while Omega and The Young Bucks continued to work primarily on AEW Dynamite.
CM Punk returned on the debut episode AEW Collision, bringing with him a red velvet bag. He later revealed the bag contained the AEW Championship belt he won at All Out 2022, the one he never lost in a wrestling match. Punk declared himself the “Real World Champion“, which seemed to be the set-up for a long-awaited rematch with MJF down the line.
CM Punk only defended the “Real World Championship” twice. The first was against Ricky Starks, who beat Punk in the final of the second annual “Owen Hart Cup”, while the second was against Samoa Joe in CM Punk’s last AEW match, in front of 81,035 fans at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium.
AEW All In At Wembley Stadium
AEW All In was supposed to be a special show for CM Punk. It was his first time wrestling in the UK in over a decade, and gave British fans the chance to see him for the first time since his retirement in 2014. He was one of the biggest stars in AEW, and had always been loved by the UK fans. His match was to be one of the biggest on the card, but it almost never happened.
At All In, CM Punk defended his “Real World’s Championship” against Samoa Joe. He had been feuding with both Joe and Ricky Starks in the build up to the event, with fans not sure which man would take him on at Wembley Stadium. However, his two-decade long rivalry with Samoa Joe made the most sense for the historic Wembley show, which drew over 81,000 fans to London for AEW’s debut in the UK.
The match at Wembley Stadium was great. It was one of CM Punk’s best matches in AEW, and he let Samoa Joe knock him all over the ring and on the outside, with some of the best selling seen in a long time. The pair opened the show, with an electric crowd singing along to Punk’s entrance theme, before booing him throughout the match. It was a start reminder of how far he had fallen in the eyes of the fans, from his historic return just two-years prior.
CM Punk won the match with a “Pepsi Plunge” – which is a top-rope “pedigree “Pedigree” – after previous attempts to hit the GTS on Joe had not gone well (due to Joe’s immense size) had gone awry. While it was a fantastic match, and many fans left the stadium thinking it was the match of the night, it wasn’t until they got home that the true picture of what happened that night was formed.
CM Punk Was Fired For Backstage Fight With Jack Perry
AEW All In 2023 was meant to be a historic event for AEW, but it did not start well for CM Punk. When he landed at the airport in London, he found radio silence from the AEW management scene. After leaving Heathrow airport in the days before All In, Punk realized that there were no travel arrangements made for him to get to his hotel, irking the former AEW Champion.
No travel was arranged for Punk, and much to his dismay, the number he was given to contact AEW officials with came back dead. Whether it was a wrong number, or an issue with being abroad, he was stranded. While he could have taken an Uber or a taxi, Punk opted to take the underground to find his own way to the hotel (and was helped along the way by a selection of AEW fans).
This put Pink in enough of a mood as it was, but a backstage confrontation with Jack Perry put him over the edge, ultimately costing the Chicago wrestler his job with All Elite Wrestling. This stemmed from an argument weeks before the show, which carried on backstage at Wembley Stadium.
Weeks before, Jack Perry had attempted to get it cleared for him to smash through a real pain of glass during an angle, in order to write him off for two weeks to go on holiday. Multiple people (including Tony Schiavone) warned Perry about this, before instructing Punk to talk him out of the insane stunt.
CM Punk allegedly told Jack Perry that “we don’t do that here” (referring to AEW Collision), and offering him the chance to move over to AEW Dynamite instead. This caused friction between the two, but there was reportedly an understanding found between them and the pair did not come to blows.
However, Perry referenced this argument during his match with Hook at All In. On the Kick Off Show, Perry slammed Hook through the windscreen of the limousine that he was driven to the ring in. As Hook peel the glass from his broken body, Perry looked into the camera and said, “Real glass. Go cry me a river” – a clear reference to his argument with CM Punk.
This did not go down well. Punk was due on next (he and Joe’s match opened the main show at All In), but the bout almost never happened. Reports on the altercation vary from source to source, so take each piece of information with a grain of salt.
According to Nick Hausman, Jack Perry came backstage and made a beeline straight to Punk as soon as he got backstage after his match. Perry allegedly asked Punk to “do something about it”, following him calling out Punk on camera. Punk then put Perry in a chokehold, before it was broken up by Samoa Joe.
However, Bryan Alvarez of F4WOnline has another side of the story. In his version, Punk accosted Perry, asking if he “had a problem” with him. Punk then claimed he could “beat up” Perry, before pushing him and getting him into a chokehold. This was then broken up, and Punk threatened to quit the company and miss out on his match at Wembley Stadium.
In all telling of the incident, Samoa Joe broke up the fight, convincing Punk to go out for the match and give the fans the huge match between the two rivals. However, information late came out that Punk was said to have lunged at Tony Khan during the fight, threatening to attack his boss, before claiming he wanted to quit the company.
After his match with Samoa Joe, CM Punk was sent back to his hotel and away from Wembley Stadium. This would be his last action as an AEW wrestler, as an investigation into his behavior in the following weeks would be concluded by only one suggested action.
These three words showed just how far the Best in the World had fallen. Just two-years after he was brought into the company as some messiah figure, back from the dead after seven-years and ready to deliver this new company to the promising land, he had burned all his bridges in wrestling and turned seven-years of pent-up anticipation into, at best, apathy and at worst, hatred.
There was no other option. After the horrendous action at All Out 2022, Punk had used all his lifelines. All the goodwill had been eroded, and not even giving him his own show and his own title belt would keep him docile enough to be on his best behavior, stopping him exploding at any slight that may befall him.
It all went wrong for CM Punk when his reaction to Adam Page’s shoot comment went unchecked by Tony Khan. Had Khan reprimanded Page for his unscripted reply, and stopping Punk from retaliating upon his return to TV, then the whole Brawl Out situation could have been avoided, and none of this would have ever happened.
CM Punk in AEW started off as a dream for fans all over the world, but soon turned into a nightmare that nobody could have prophesized.
At Survivor Series 2023, CM Punk made a shocking return to the WWE, re-debuting in the company after the main event of the show. This was his second debut in the company, coming 17-years after his first and nearly a decade after CM Punk’s last match in the WWE.
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.