Why A CM Punk WWE Return Wouldn’t Work

CM Punk hasn’t been in a WWE ring since the Royal Rumble in 2014, but rampant speculation—and a dash of reporting—led to speculation that could change soon. As far as the public knows, the self-proclaimed Best in the World is still under contract with AEW. That is up in the air, though, after the events of All Out. Following the September 4 pay-per-view, Punk publicly declared his grievances with All Elite Wrestling, Colt Cabana, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega. This airing of dirty laundry reportedly resulted in a physical backstage confrontation, which AEW is only starting to recover from. The Elite returned to action at Full Gear, while Tony Khan has repeatedly refused to comment on the Punk situation.


In late October, it was reported that AEW and CM Punk had discussed the possibility of a contract buyout. There has yet to be much follow-up there, but it still led to rumors such as Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. CM Punk being a possibility for WrestleMania 39. After the report, there was some pushback from those backstage in WWE, however. Dave Meltzer reported that some in the company would rather not see Punk return. Given how things ended in 2014 and how things shook out in AEW, that’s an understandable response. The issues CM Punk had during his time in WWE still exist and came to the surface after just one year in All Elite Wrestling.

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WWE Doesn’t Need CM Punk

AEW is in a position where it needs CM Punk on the marquee. The company’s five best-selling pay-per-views were shows that Punk was on. The best period in Rampage‘s history was when it was being treated like the CM Punk Show. More than a million people were tuning in every Friday night. These days, the broadcast struggles to reach more than 500,000 people a week. Punk was one of the company’s top merchandise movers and brought a fleet of loyal fans. The end of his run with AEW is marred by what happened at All Out, but it makes way more sense for AEW to mend that fence than WWE.

That’s because WWE doesn’t need Punk back. Viewership for Raw and SmackDown has been steady, and once wrestling fans learn that Triple H is putting on fantastic shows week in and week out, more will begin to return. They have the biggest star in modern wrestling in Roman Reigns, and, more importantly, are building up new stars such as Austin Theory. Over the past six months, that’s been the most significant difference between AEW and WWE. The former can’t go a single Dynamite without showing 52-year-old ROH Champion Chris Jericho two or three times while young stars like Wardlow languish. In WWE, Triple H has an eye toward the future. CM Punk is a lot of things to many people, but the 44-year-old veteran isn’t the future.

CM Punk wouldn’t work in WWE because there’s no space at the top of the card for him. It’d make no sense for him to come in and beat someone like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, or even Theory. Those builds and matches would be fun, but it’s tough to imagine Punk being down to do the j-o-b for many of the younger talents on the roster. That lack of main event space, combined with what’s waiting for him back in AEW, means that CM Punk returning to WWE doesn’t make much sense.

There’s Big Money For AEW In The Elite Vs. CM Punk

CM Punk returning to WWE would be a drop in their bucket. He’d be a fun part of their shows, but the Second City Saint wouldn’t change the company’s trajectory. The same can’t be said for Punk and AEW, where his comeback would lead to the biggest storylines in All Elite Wrestling history. We’re talking NWO-invading-WCW level of possible hype. After burying the company and its EVPs following All Out, there’s no bigger heel in AEW than CM Punk. “F*** CM Punk!” chants rained down during the Full Gear pay-per-view, and outside of Chicago, he’s the top villain in the company.

AEW is very short on detestable heels. The only way Khan can get people to boo MJF is by having him not show up as advertised to shows, and acts like Powerhouse Hobbs aren’t to the main-event level yet. Adding CM Punk back into the mix and having him go toe-to-toe with Omega and The Young Bucks would be a massive shot in the arm at a time when it seems like All Elite Wrestling is losing steam. There are always ebbs and flows in the wrestling business, but AEW has been stuck in neutral since the build to Forbidden Door.

Khan’s insistence on shoehorning ROH belts and stars onto every episode of Dynamite badly hurts the company’s ability to build new stars. Punk doesn’t need building, though. He’d need to eat crow and apologize to Omega and The Young Bucks before coming back and printing money. But a CM Punk-led faction butting up against The Elite could be a central storyline throughout all of 2023 for AEW, and it’s just another reason why Punk returning to WWE doesn’t make sense.

Next: Sami Zayn, The Betrayer, Will One Day Be WWE’s Most White Hot Face

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