Mark Henry on CM Punk, Bryan AEW Rumor; Punk Training for Return; Riddle on Adam Cole

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 11, 2021

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 1: Phil Brooks aka CM Punk attends C2E2 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo at McCormick Place on March 1, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

Bleacher Report catches you up on the latest news from the WWE Universe.

Henry Comments on Punk and Bryan Possibly Signing with AEW

Amid rumors that CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are both set to join All Elite Wrestling, Rampage commentator and WWE Hall of Famer Mark Henry discussed that possibility.

Speaking to Joseph Staszewski of the New York Post, Henry said:

"I think it would be great for [any company] because you have unbelievable talent and two of the more master psychologists that I've worked with, guys that you sit down and you think, what's not being done in pro wrestling. When you have a mindset of, 'I want to do something everybody else don't do,' then automatically you are ahead of the game. You already have everybody. They're gonna be on edge because once they see something they haven't seen in years and it was really, really cool and you see someone who is well established and it's gonna get over."

Both Punk and Bryan would be huge additions to AEW given what they have accomplished throughout their careers, including during their time in WWE.

Punk, who was a multi-time world champion in WWE, has not wrestled since January 2014, meaning he has been the most coveted free agent in wrestling for more than seven years.

He has long been viewed as a potential game-changer during that time since fans have so badly wanted to see him back in the ring, and it may finally happen.

Meanwhile, Bryan isn't at all far removed from his WWE tenure, as he was part of the main event of WrestleMania 37 in April, losing in a Triple Threat match that also included Roman Reigns and Edge.

Like Punk, Bryan is a multi-time WWE world champion, plus he main evented WrestleMania twice and established himself as one of the most popular stars of the past 15 years.

AEW is already making gains in terms of television ratings, plus it is adding a new weekly show to Dynamite in the form of Rampage, which will air on Friday nights.

The company is building anticipation to the point where it could be poised to take another step forward if and when Punk and Bryan arrive.

Bringing back lapsed fans and convincing some WWE fans to tune in could be the biggest key to AEW truly competing with WWE in terms of ratings, and if signing Punk and Bryan doesn't accomplish that, then perhaps nothing will.

Punk Reportedly Looks Good During In-Ring Training

Ahead of his rumored AEW debut, Punk reportedly looks to be on top of his game from an in-ring perspective.

In preparation for his role on the Starz series Heels, Punk recently got in the ring and sharpened his skills. According to Fightful Select (h/t Felix Upton of Ringside News), a source said "it was as if he'd never left" regarding how Punk looked in the ring.

The source also said Punk looked "completely healthy," and added that Punk "was very good in the ring, to the point where they wondered if he'd been training in private leading up to being in the ring with them."

Given that it has been more than seven years since Punk's last match, which was the 2014 Royal Rumble, it is fair to assume he may have to knock off some ring rust in preparation for an AEW run.

Punk is 42 years of age, and while it isn't known if he did any wrestling training during his time away from the business, it stands to reason that his age coupled with the layoff could create a learning curve of sorts in terms of getting his body used to taking bumps again.

Based on the accounts of those who saw him training for Heels, however, Punk is firing on all cylinders and prepared to get back in the ring, which is good news for AEW if it has indeed signed him.

The assumption is that Punk's AEW debut will occur on next week's episode of Rampage in Punk's hometown of Chicago, which is being called "The First Dance."

If that happens, a match at All Out on Sept. 5 would seemingly be a strong possibility, meaning Punk doesn't have much time to be truly in-ring ready.

Punk was one of the best in the world during his heyday, though, and there is reason to believe he can get back to that level with some repetition.

Riddle Talks Cole's WWE Main Roster Prospects

Riddle is one of the few clear examples of an NXT call-up thriving on the main roster in recent times, making him something of an authority on that transition.

WrestlingInc.com's Raj Giri reported last week that Cole's WWE NXT contract is set to expire this month following his match against Kyle O'Reilly at NXT TakeOver 36.

It was subsequently reported by Fightful (h/t WrestlingInc.com's Joshua Gagnon) that Cole had a "high-level meeting" with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon at SmackDown.

McMahon reportedly took a liking to Cole, wants him on the main roster and set the wheels in motion for creative plans to be made for him on the main roster should he re-sign with the company.

In an interview with SportsKeeda (h/t Subhojeet Mukherjee of Ringside News), Riddle praised Cole but also expressed some uncertainty regarding how he would translate to the main roster:

"Adam Cole is amazing at what he does. He's one of the best wrestlers in the world, in my personal opinion. He's very charismatic, has a good look, everything else. I don't know, the main roster's the main roster.

"A lot of people dread going up there because they don't know what’s gonna happen to them or what have you, you know, and as they should be. I would say going from the indies, which is like a small pond, and then NXT is like a small ocean, and when you get to the main roster you are in the ocean with all the wild animals and the currents and everything else. It's just a different beast and sometimes you get lost in the shuffle."

One of WWE's biggest issues in recent years has been an inability or unwillingness to take the success of Superstars in NXT and translate it to the main roster.

Riddle has beaten the odds in that regard since McMahon has seemingly taken a liking to his comedic chops. As a result, Riddle is teaming with Randy Orton and could be poised for a run at the top in the near future.

Cole may not have prototypical size, but he is one of the best in the business on the microphone, and that alone may be enough to captivate McMahon.

Smaller wrestlers have thrived in WWE in the past under certain circumstances, and Cole's skill set is such that he could join that group.

It remains to be seen if Cole will re-sign with WWE, but if he does, there is reason to believe he could avoid the trials and tribulations many other NXT call-ups have experienced.

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