It has been quite an eventful few weeks since CM Punk returned to AEW in the segment of the Aug. 10 episode of Dynamite. There was some concern that the Chicago native wouldn’t return in time to compete at All Out. Nevertheless, the company’s fifth world champion re-emerged and raised even more questions about the upcoming event.
Punk quickly made it clear that he was ready to defend his title, setting his sights on the interim titleholder Jon Moxley. However, the Death Rider has been a tremendous asset to AEW for the past two months, carrying the company’s main event scene on his back.
While the lineal champion was recovering from a foot injury, Mox finally secured a dream matchup with Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of Forbidden Door. In the process, he cemented his position as a key player in the relationship between AEW and NJPW and staked his claim as the top guy.
The 36-year-old didn’t stop there as he went on to produce three impressive title defenses and strong performances against Mance Warner and Konosuke Takeshita. There was only one thing left: silence all the voices who thought he was merely keeping someone else’s seat warm.
On Wednesday, Mox did just that as he stunned the wrestling world, vanquishing Punk in three minutes and 10 seconds. Some 244 miles from his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, he defiantly landed two high-angle double-arm DDTs and flipped off his detractors as he became the undisputed AEW world champion.
It was an incredible moment for the man who has arguably been one of the most consistent performers of the year. So, what’s next for CM Punk as the main event of All Out is surprisingly in question again?
From the Jaws of Defeat
When he reappeared on AEW Dynamite, the former champion looked like the Punk of old and less like the emotional and grateful hero who returned to wrestling last August. He had a gigantic chip on his shoulder this time. One could argue that he underestimated Mox as he cut a savage promo on him on Aug. 17.
Maybe his arrogance led him to accept the challenge two weeks before All Out with a surgically repaired foot. Even more, he came back and stirred up controversy just like we would expect from such a polarizing figure. In his need to be respected as the one true champion, he aimed at his Double or Nothing opponent, Adam Page.
The seemingly random jab at Hangman revealed unresolved issues between the two stemming from their feud. Admittedly, it felt like the same stories we’ve heard before. Some could say the reports that followed made him appear unreliable, but it actually made him look distracted.
The returning champion wasn’t as focused on his opponent and his growing hunger. Mox had been waiting for his chance to knock him off, and it didn’t seem like The Second City Saint took him as seriously. The 43-year-old was so sure that it was his time that he overcompensated following his recovery and misjudged the threat in front of him.
In truth, Moxley is probably his toughest test since his comeback. When Punk seemingly reaggravated his injury, Mox smelled the blood in the water and ferociously attacked the sore limb. He didn’t give him a second to react as he went on to dominate for the remainder of the match.
The look on Punk’s face as his mentor, Ace Steel, and the official carried him to the back said it all. The loss humbled him. Fans who once cheered for him during his comeback tour embraced the man he mocked just a week ago.
The Cinderella story was over. Time had taken its toll on him, and he was in enemy territory at the Wolstein Center.
Evening Up The Score
Of course, this isn’t the end of this feud. No, this is just the beginning. According to Dave Meltzer, a rematch for the AEW World Championship will be the main event of All Out.
It was a curious decision to book such a high-profile match on Dynamite instead of saving it for the pay-per-view. However, the move added more layers to what could’ve been a fairly predictable build and outcome.
Moxley’s win gives him the official second reign he deserved after he held the mantle during two unfortunate situations. Even more, it made him look like a more significant threat because so many fans assumed he would just drop the title when Punk was ready to return.
The recent events proved that the undisputed AEW world champion isn’t someone who can be easily written off or dismissed as a flavor of the month. Now, he has bragging rights heading into Chicago next week.
When Punk returned, he told Darby Allin his beloved hometown was the most dangerous place to face him. However, Mox has already secured two title wins in The Windy City.
Considering his injury and growing doubts about his reliability, the hometown favorite is kind of the underdog now. Yes, he will still have a partisan crowd on his side, but the honeymoon phase with AEW is over. The straight-edge star just suffered his most devastating loss with the company to date, and some of its fans are turning on him.
Punk has a lot to prove as prepares to make his second appearance at All Out, but that’s exactly why he will prevail. The unconventional wrestler is at his best when his back is against the wall.
Back to His Old Ways
We laid out a similar scenario when we attempted to predict how AEW could book the third Summer of Punk. Punk has gotten by relying on mind games, his experience, and sheer guile up to this point. However, Mox is someone he can’t simply outsmart or outwrestle.
Unlike Hangman or MJF, he can’t hope to capitalize on his insecurities or rely on help from a mutual enemy. No, this rivalry and ascent to the top have forced him to dredge up the past and grow closer to the persona that made him famous.
To beat Moxley, Punk will have to ask himself what he is willing to do to remain on top when his body is failing him. His drive to be the best in the world has certainly changed him and other competitors before him. So, don’t be surprised if he cheats next weekend or makes a step closer to turning heel.
At any rate, The Voice of the Voiceless will likely enter his rematch with Mox fired up and ready to prove the world wrong again. Given his track record, that’s the best time to bet on him. After all, his headstrong march into Money in the Bank 2011 led to the biggest win of his career.