Is AEW firing CM Punk the biggest wrestling story of 2022?
AEW’s All Out 2022 pay per view is likely to be the last time fans see CM Punk wrestle again.
The two-time AEW Champion won the championship at the event, beating Jon Moxley in the main event to reclaim the belt he lost just two weeks prior.
However, he suffered an injury during the bout which was set to rule him out for a significant time period and force him to vacate the championship.
This would have been the biggest news of that weekend, had his post-match press conference and backstage antics, involving Kenny Omega, Adam Page, The Young Bucks and even Chris Jericho, set the stage for one of the most explosive blowouts in company history and the biggest firing wrestling has seen in a long, long time.
Did AEW fire CM Punk? Keep reading to find out all the details and whether CM Punk could return to wrestling one day – with WWE, AEW or even Ring of Honor?
CM Punk Returns To Wrestling In August 2021
To find out why AEW fired CM Punk after All Out 2022, we have to go all the way back to his return to wrestling in August 2021 and his debut match at All Out 2021.
In early August 2021, rumours about a potential CM Punk return were reported. They were just murmurs at first.
Many had claimed that the Best in the World could return to the ring for the first time since 2014 on multiple occasions, but these had never been treated as credible. They had come and gone and yet we never saw the Second City Saint in a wrestling ring, whether that be WWE, AEW, TNA or anyone else.
However, these were different. The reports on Punk kept on coming. Everyone seemed cautious to outright call his return but there was definitely fire with this smoke.
His return to wrestling after seven years out was all but confirmed when AEW booked the 15,000 seater United Centre in Chicago for an episode of AEW Rampage. Chicago is CM Punk’s home town and the arena was way too big for a regular episode of AEW.
This was big. CM Punk was back. The fans sold out the arena on nothing but a rumour of their hero returning. They didn’t have to wait long to see him, as the show opened on the familiar riff at the start of Living Colour’s Cult of Personality and CM Punk walked out into the ring for the first time since the 2014 Royal Rumble.
He soon kicked off his AEW career with a number of matches with up-and-coming talent. CM Punk vs Darby Allin was his first AEW match, taking place at All Out 2021, again in Chicago.
Punk won that match and moved on to other targets, more young talent like Will Hobbs and Daniel Garcia, and even pay per view matches against Eddie Kingston and MJF.
He won all of these matches (save for an AEW Dynamite loss against MJF) and quickly moved up the rankings in AEW.
He had been kept away from the top talent in so far, not locking horns with any of the Elite, Chris Jericho or Jon Moxley quite yet. However, his next target would be the AEW World Champion, Adam Page, and CM Punk would have gold in his sights for Double or Nothing 2022.
AEW Championship Victory and Injury Woes
At Double or Nothing, CM Punk won the AEW Championship from Adam Page. Their rivalry seemed based solely about the Championship at first but their were undercurrents of tension between the pair that would not come to a head until months down the line.
During a promo back in April 2022, Adam Page ran his mouth off at CM Punk in seemingly unscripted fashion, with jabs taken at the former WWE Champion not agreed upon between the pair. They made Punk irate, especially when Page mentioned “worker’s rights” – allegedly a thinly-veiled reference to CM Punk’s relationship with his former friend Colt Cabana.
This promo clearly struck a nerve with CM Punk. He won the championship from Page, before succumbing to injury a week later and missing months of TV time.
Once he returned, however, the first thing he decided to do was call out Page. This was completely unscripted and there was no way for Page to know it was happening, and no way to react.
CM Punk fired back and made Hangman look like an idiot, even calling him “Coward Shit” (A reference to his catchphrase “Cowboy Shit”)
Page and CM Punk were not booked to wrestle again, so the call out seemed like Punk going into business for himself to make his former opponent look bad (especially given how he won their last match together).
Instead, CM Punk was set to wrestle Jon Moxley to decide who was the true AEW Champion.
All Out 2022
CM Punk returned to AEW TV in August 2022, setting up a match with Jon Moxley. Punk had not vacated the title after his injury, and instead kept a hold of the belt while AEW decided on a new interim AEW Champion.
This interim championship would be won by Jon Moxley after he pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi at Forbidden Door.
Their match was booked for AEW Dynamite, two weeks before All Out 2022. It was odd to book such a huge match so close to a pay per view, with the two heavily rumoured to main event the show.
However the match made perfect sense when Moxley pinned Punk in three minutes, setting up a huge rematch for All Out with Punk’s dignity,, as well as the title, on the line.
CM Punk would win the belt at All Out 2022, winning his second AEW Championship. This tied him with Moxley’s two reigns as the most in company history. although he has since be overtaken by Moxley again by his victory at AEW Grand Slam 2022.
After the show, the new champion would take to the post-show press conference for a standard interview with journalists. However, it would be this interview which would be the catalyst behind CM Punk being fired by AEW.
Post Show Press Conference
The AEW All Out 2022 post show scrum featured a press conference where a very irate CM Punk.
He started off by question a reporter over their perceived friendship with Colt Cabana and began to run his mouth about the situation between the two men that has lead to legal issues (you can read all about that here).
He also decided to call out The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega. He claimed they were the ones who leaked information about his legal battle with Cabana and questioned their integrity in their roles as Executive Vice Presidents of AEW.
His final jab was toward Adam Page regarding the previously mentioned comments during this AEW Championship feud. He called him a “disgrace to this company” and accused him of jeopardising AEW’s first ever $1,000,000 gate for their match at Double or Nothing 2022.
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
The press conference shocked the world, yet after spouting so much vitriol toward his co-workers, CM Punk ended it by saying “It may be hard to believe, but I am a nice guy” before going back to his locker room.
However, he did also say that if anyone had a problem with him they should go to him to talk, which was exactly what was about to happen and what got CM Punk fired by AEW.
Backstage Fight With The Elite
After the press conference caused a huge stir in the world of wrestling, CM Punk retired to his private locker room with his friend Ace Steel, his dog Larry and Steel’s wife. The injury suffered during the match with Moxley was clearly affecting his mood and he did not want to be bothered.
However, the three EVP’s of AEW has to get the situation straightened out. They had been accused of leaking things to the press to make Punk look bad and their integrity had been questioned.
So, to quell the situation and get to the bottom of his gripes, the three of them grabbed AEW’ legal advisor and confronted the then-AEW Champion.
The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and AEW Head of Legal Megha Parekh went to CM Punk’s locker room after the press conference, in order to discuss his comments pertaining to the “EVP’s”.
There were various versions claiming the Bucks kicked the door down, which didn’t happen. CM Punk fired a punch Matt Jackson while Ace Steel hit Nick Jackson with a steel chair and bit Kenny Omega on the arm.
During the fight, CM Punk’s dog Larry seemed to get distressed by it’s owners actions and would have been in danger.
However, Kenny Omega was said to have picked up the dog to get it out of danger, with Punk seemingly not caring about the safety of his pet. It was said it was here where Steel bit Omega. According to some sources, Punk came accross as a “complete psycho”.
There were lawyers involved almost immediately from all sides, but as of right now, there has been no legal action and The Elite decided not to press charges. AEW did a thorough investigation and appear to have sided with The Elite on the matter.
Ace Steel has since been fired and CM Punk is in talks to have his contract bought out and be fired by the company.
Why Did AEW Fire CM Punk?
AEW fired CM Punk because he attacked The Elite backstage after an unprofessional and expletive laden press conference made Tony Khan and AEW look like idiots.
He tore down three of the companies Executive Vice Presidents and continually spoke over and interrupted AEW President Tony Khan.
He then attacked The Elite backstage, punching Nick Jackson in the face, which his friend Ace Steel bit Kenny Omega in the arm and threw a steel chair at Matt Jackson. These actions caused Steel to be fired from AEW and he is unlikely to be hired at a major wrestling promotion again.
After an internal investigation was concluded, AEW discovered that the blame was laid firmly at CM Punk’s feet.
His words forced The Elite, accompanied by AEW’s legal department head, to confront the former AEW Champion in his locker room. Feeling threatened, CM Punk lashed out and attacked them, with no regard for his dog Larry being caught up in the crossfire.
Both teams sets of lawyers have investigated and The Elite have decided not to press charges. AEW have started the proceedings to buy-out CM Punk’s contract so that they can fire him from the company.
He is considered a pariah backstage, with former AEW Champion Chris Jericho calling him a “cancer” to the locker room after the fight.
Multiple talents, including Jericho, have now refused to work with Punk if he is brought back into the fold.
He is the biggest star in the company but has become too toxic backstage that Tony Khan had no choice but to terminate his contract and remove him from his deal.
CM punk has burnt bridges with both AEW and WWE in recent years and is quickly running out of promotions to wrestle in.
His other option could have been Ring of Honor, but a CM Punk ROH run seems out oft he question now the company has been bought by Tony Khan. It looks likely he will sidle back into retirement and that we have seen CM Punk’s last match in wrestling, in victory over Jon Moxley at All Out 2022.
There has been recent talks from various AEW talent about bringing Punk back. Chris Jericho is reported to have forbid any return for the former WWE star, whilst Dax Harwood said on his new “FTR” podcast that he hopes CM Punk and The Elite can reconcile and continue to make money together.
With the recent tease of his return on AEW Dynamite, it seems that CM Punk and The Elite could have put their differences aside, ready to work the biggest match in AEW history – CM Punk vs Kenny Omega.
The Instagram Story
On the 23rd March, 2023, AEW put on a fantastic episode of Dynamite, headlined by Kenny Omega vs El Hijo Del Vikingo.
However, a storm was brewing online, started by a simple post by Dave Meltzer on the Figure4 Online wrestling forums.
Talking about the Jon Moxley vs CM Punk match from AEW Dynamite, just weeks before AEW All Out 2022, he revealed that Punk originally refused to wrestle the AEW interim champion, before having his lawyers send a letter detailing his refusal.
However, it was said that Tony Khan then put his foot down, and CM Punk was forced into the match, where he was squashed by Jon Moxley to lose his AEW Championship.
This caused quote the stir. Most people noted that the information was 7 months later, and likely given to Meltzer by Chris Jericho – who has previously spoken about not wanting CM Punk back in an AEW ring.
However, CM Punk, tired of all the posts about him without response, decided to address the information claimed by Meltzer about him.
Calling Chris Jericho a “stooge”, he shot down the rumours and claimed that he wasn’t medically cleared when AEW wanted to do the match with Moxley – with AEW trying to force him to wrestle, hence the message from his lawyers.
In his Instagram post, CM Punk talked about his match with Jon Moxley, revealing he hated the idea that the former WWE Champion had, taking inspiration from Rocky III.
“SIGH. I wasn’t cleared to come back to wrestle yet. Then plan was to wrestle at the ppv. I sat and listened to moxleys Rocky three idea. I explained how I’d never seen a Rocky movie. I and thought the idea sucked but if the boss wanted to do it whatever.
He said he wouldn’t lose to me. I’d never experienced someone refusing to lose to me. I just laughed. I asked Tony if this was what he wanted. He said yes. He’s the boss so I said okay but I’d need to be cleared first. They kept saying it could just be a squash so I didn’t need to be cleared.
I scoffed at that. My health is more important. Dave Meltzer is a liar. Jericho is a liar and a stooge. There were plans but plans always change but I’ll never put a company above my health ever again.”
If this is all true and not a work, this surely rules out any chance of CM Punk ever returning to AEW. It is a sad end to a great career, and we can only hope he moves to WWE for one last run, and a Hall of Fame run down the road.
If it is all a work, AEW are crafting the greatest story ever and should be awarded an Emmy for Tony Khan’s vision.
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.