When AEW began, rumors were rife about which big stars would sign for the promotion – including CM Punk.
After the likes of Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley joined the company, it seemed only a matter of time before Punk was coaxed out of retired.
The former WWE Champion walked away from the wrestling business in 2014, owing to a tumultuous few years in the WWE, thanks to Triple H and Vince McMahon (you can read about why CM Punk left WWE here).
He stayed away from wrestling for seven years (outside some indie appearances in disguise), before rumors began to fly in 2021 about him signing for AEW.
It was talked about for months – exacerbated by Tony Khan booking the United Center for an episode of AEW Rampage titled “The First Dance”.
This was in CM Punk’s hometown of Chicago, and the arena sold out in days, just on the rumor that the Best in the World would be making his debut.
The show began with fans chanting for CM Punk, and then the famous opening notes of “Cult of Personality” hit – CM Punk was back!
Tony Khan had pulled off a huge coup by picking up CM Punk, the biggest star AEW had signed (alongside Chris Jericho).
However, this came two years after Khan tried to sign CM Punk in the first place, wanting the star to help establish AEW in their opening year.
Speaking with Sunday Night’s Main Event, CM Punk revealed Tony Khan contacted him to sign for AEW in 2019, although the two-time AEW Champion didn’t take him seriously.
He revealed that multiple people have claimed to be starting a promotion over the years, and likened it to the slew of promotions attempting to revive ECW in the early 2000s.
“Yeah, I talked to Tony. You know, my perception on this, and I said this to Tony, to his face at that time… I’m a guy who has constantly heard, ‘Hey I got a money guy, hey I got TV’.”
“I’ve heard that at least once or twice a year for 15-20 years of my wrestling career. I’ve gotten bounced checks from those gentlemen. You watched it happen, especially after ECW folded, it was everybody was re-starting ECW, everybody was going to be the ECW guys.”
CM Punk then revealed that he thought a new promotion should focus on themselves, and not signing new talent like himself.
It was then mentioned that CM Punk rejected AEW because he was not interested in pro wrestling anymore, instead wanting to focus on acting (although clearly that did not last long for Punk).
“There was a dude named John Collins, who did time in prison for bouncing checks, and it always seems like somebody’s gonna, ‘Oh we’re going to start up and we’re going to compete with Vince (McMahon)’, and I always thought that came from a bad spot because if you want to start up a pro-wrestling company, I think you should always just focus on yourself.
“So, I more or less took a wait-and-see approach. And I wasn’t, or I am not, interested in pro-wrestling, in that respect. We’re here, we’re talking about ‘Heels’ and it just so happened, maybe it could be luck that the next role I got is set in the world of professional wrestling, but you know, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
“I’m focused on bring an actor, and just like I was when I was a wrestler, focused on being the best I could be, I’m focused on being the best actor I could be.”
Punk also revealed, when speaking in an interview at Starrcast III, that he received offers to join AEW from Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks via text – something he thought unprofessional, and not how business should be done.
“The last thing I got — I got a text from Cody [Rhodes], and again, I almost don’t even know how to reply to them sometimes, because if I reply, they do interviews and are like, ‘Oh yeah, I just talked to Punk.’ I’m kind of damned if I do, damned if I don’t.“
“I always think if somebody wants to do business with me, they can come talk to me. Texting offers isn’t really a way to do good business, at least. It was texted through three people and an offer came in through text. This is like a month ago, maybe.I think it was just a general offer. I never could have done the last one in Vegas [Double or Nothing], because I was in California for CFFC.” Punk said.
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.