All Out 2021 saw CM Punk take on Darby Allin in one of the biggest matches in AEW history. It pitted Punk, the returning hero in his hometown of Chicago, battling the future of wrestling in young star Darby Allin. He had been hand chosen by Punk for his first match in seven years during his iconic promo during his his appearance in AEW.
But what happened during their legendary encounter and what was the consquence of their much hyped bout? In this article we look at what happened during their match and what the pair did afterwards – did it help or hinder the two wrestlers to do battle at All Out 2021.
CM Punk vs Darby Allin
CM Punk returned to wrestling in August 2021, appearing on AEW Rampage in his hometown of Chicago. The venue sold out on merely a whisper that their hero would return to wrestling after seven long years, and the fans in the arena’s prayers were answered when the show opened with the all too familiar opening riff of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”.
During the promo, he explained his return and revealed why he had to leave wrestling in the first place, claiming WWE was “the place that made me sick”. Most interestingly (apart from buying the entire arena ice cream) was how he called out Darby Allin as his first opponent.
Allin was sat high up in the rafters, accompanied by his tag team partner/enthusiastic grandpa Sting. He accepted the challenge to be Punk’s first opponent since the 2014 Royal Rumble and the match was set for All Out 2021 – CM Punk vs Darby Allin.
The match itself was a fine encounter. The beginning paid homage to a classic X-Pac vs Bret Hart, with the whole match seemingly like CM Punk doing his best impression of The Hitman. Allin used his youthful energy and speed to try and outwork the former WWE Champion, but it would be Punk who would win in the end and secure his victory in his debut match.
Picking Darby Allin as his opponent was a smart choice for all involved. It gave Punk a big name to defeat but also showed us that AEW had faith in Allin being a star for the future. But one year on, where do both men sit in the AEW ranks and how much did the match help each man?
One Year On
A year later and the landscape of AEW, and the world of pro-wrestling, has irreversibly changed. The world was tipped on it’s head in July 2022 when Vince McMahon retired from WWE and stepped down from his role as Chairman. This turned the world on it’s head, as wrestling entered a new age without McMahon at the helm and inspired new hope in the WWE.
Triple H took over as the head of creative in WWE. He had long been a favourite of wrestling fans for his work turning NXT into one of the hottest brands in the world. His “super indie” style of wrestling combined the talent and in-ring style of a PWG show mixed with the WWE’s own brand of “sports entertainment” story telling.
WWE became a much more attractive place to work while the opposite happened with AEW. Signing after signing came into the company much to the delight of Tony Khan. However, as the roster got more and more bloated, less and less time was afforded to stars hoping to make a name for themselves. The likes of Andrade and Malakai Black, once touted as main event talents, were lost in the shuffle and not regularly featured on TV as had been promised upon their signings.
This also extended to Darby Allin. After All Out 2021, he was on the cusp of becoming a main eventer in AEW. Working with CM Punk showed just how important he was viewed as backstage and his talent in the ring went without question. Being coupled with Sting, he had some ready-made star power to add to his own growing reputation and a unique look that made him stand out in a sea of stars in AEW.
However, since that match he has been seemingly cast aside and forgotten about by Tony Khan. He has been featured, but not as a singles star and never as the main man. His feuds have mainly been multi-man affairs – sometimes to cover up for Sting’s age ( he is over 60 years old) and sometimes to help get over new signings in AEW (him teaming with Jeff Hardy was a perfect example).
A never ending feud with Andrade has been the bulk of his 2022, with the number of matches he had with the Andrade Family Office were staggering. They were all good and featured multi-man matches and stipulation – but at some point, the fans just did not care to see Allin vs Andrade anymore.
He was included in the AEW Championship tournament after All Out 2022 (more on that later) but in general, Darby Allin has not been elevated into a main eventer like many would have expected. Here’s hoping that once MJF becomes AEW Champion we see two of the four pillars facing off the Championship, in a rematch that won our “match of the night” at Full Gear 2021.
Meanwhile CM Punk’s year since his match vs Darby Allin was very, very different. He ended All Out 2021 as the winner and with such optimism that we could never have imagined when he waked out of WWE in 2014. He was happy, excited and could not wait for what would come next in AEW. While he was clearly rusty in the ring and it would take many more matches for him to get back up to speed, it was like the old CM Punk was back.
He would be featured regularly on AEW Dynamite, being one of the focal points of the show and a huge ratings draw for TNT (and later TBS). He would face a variety of stars in AEW but mainly focused on wrestling the younger up and coming wrestlers, like when he faced Darby Allin. He wresteld, and defeated, future stars like Will Hobbs, Daniel Garcia and Max Caster, as well as already solidified ones like Eddie Kingston and Bobby Fish.
His most famous matches were against Eddie Kingston and MJF. His feud with Kingston was a short but memorable one, with some fantastic promos capped off with an exceptional, story driven match at Full Gear 2021, which (you guessed it) Punk won. His feud with MJF was the highlight of his AEW career and was the turning point between “what CM Punk could be” and “CM Punk is finally back where he belongs”.
The promos between the pair were fantastic. The first face to face meeting between the two had some hilarious insults thrown each way mixed with some tense moments that sold this not as a wrestling feud, but a fight between two men who simply don’t like each other.
The best part of the rivalry was MJF’s promo about his past relationship with CM Punk, when he was just a fan. He revealed his love for Punk he had as a child and how wrestling helped him to get through a childhood filled with bullying and ridicule. It was an extremely emotional affair which showed a new side to the young star and helped to gain sympathy with a crowd who were vitriolic toward MJF.
The feud was the most captivating in the company. It led to two matches (three if you listen to MJF). The first took place on AEW Dynamite, in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. MJF would pull out the shock victory – by cheating of course – after an incredible 38 minute bout which will go down as one of the best in AEW history.
The rematch at AEW Revolution 2022 was more intense – and bloody. Inspired by the Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine match, the pair laced up their boots and tied their collars around their necks as they faced off in a Dog Collar match. It was only the second time in AEW the match occurred, following Brodie Lee vs Cody Rhodes for the TNT Championship two years prior.
The match couldn’t have been more different to previous ones like CM Punk vs Darby Allin. Technical wrestling it was not. It was violence. Blood, weapons and thumb tacks were in plenty and neither men were shy of shedding as much blood as humanly possible. CM Punk won the bout thanks to Wardlow turning on MJF and it put him on the warpath to his next victim – AEW Champion Adam Page.
At Double or Nothing, CM Punk won the AEW Championship from Page. However, an injury suffered the next night would force him to relinquish the title. He would win it back again from Jon Moxley at All Out 2022, one year on from the legendary match against Darby Allin. However, the same thing would happen and injury would keep him out of action for 8 months as well as being suspended for fighting with The Elite backstage.
It now looks like CM Punk is leaving AEW – reports suggest Tony Khan could be looking to buy out the remainder of his contract. His match with Darby Allin was meant to cement both his and his opponents future as top stars in the company, but a year on and it looks like neither men will be a part of the AEW Championship scene for a long time, if ever again.
What did you think of CM Punk vs Darby Allin? Tell us in the comments or click below to read about why Chris Jericho left 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.