CM Punk wrestling again is a topic...again, after the apparent fallout with AEW and what it could mean for the pro wrestling landscape.
But for all the possibilities and fantasy booking, there's only one name who made sense before his big return from a seven-year hiatus and that one name remains as the only one able to justify a re-return.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Don't scoff. This is a dream feud that fans wanted to see for a decade or more but it never came to fruition despite the occasional wink or nod toward one.
Austin himself, regardless of age, just had a fun two-night performance at last year's WrestleMania in that feud with Kevin Owens. He can clearly still cut a promo, have a good feud and go in the ring and there's more room than ever over two-night events to make it work.
Wildy enough, the hangup in such an idea isn't the 57-year-old Austin, but the divisive Punk.
Punk's superb comeback and year or so of great showings screeched to a halt with the combo of an injury and the fallout with AEW that has him missing from the company and his future a question mark.
By the time Punk heals, perhaps time itself mends any wounds with stars within AEW and the promotion itself and all involved can turn it into a feud. But at this point, MJF getting more cheers than Punk in Chicago and some of the crowd reactions since then would seem to make his return to feud with the likes of Matt and Nick Jackson, plus others, too risky.
For Punk, there might be more in it to give WWE another look. For WWE, it's a no-brainer. It's abundantly clear he still moves the needle in a way 99 percent of pro wrestlers can't, so bringing him on in a part-time capacity for major feuds (or in this case a very specific one-off or series with one guy) would make perfect sense.
Punk might still have his issues with WWE and vice versa, but the company has always been willing to mend fences for the sake of the business. While the two didn't seem to mesh well, both Punk and Triple H could probably reach some sort of agreement—especially if the carrot dangling from the stick is a historic feud with Austin.
Think about how fun the build to one of the most-requested feuds ever would be. Austin would have plenty of ammo on Punk given his now two splits with companies, never mind the low-hanging fruit of poking fun at his non-wrestling stumbles in the MMA world, if not otherwise.
And Punk? Any shots fired at the "smaller" promotion AEW is a big win for WWE, never mind his blurring the lines by potentially taking shots at WWE and those within, too. Or, bonus points if he comes back some sort of heel-corporate character, letting Austin play an even bigger babyface. Never mind, of course, accusing Austin of being a sellout at his age and the standard-fare promo stuff.
General dislike for Punk probably goes away fast once that static hits again in either promotion (time heals all, too). And if it's in WWE, a much broader audience probably isn't even as tuned in to what went down in AEW. But WWE could really lean into that heel idea if it happens because it's straight-up impossible to name two guys on the opposite ends of the love-hate spectrum right now in a way that bleeds through to real life.
At this point, anything but Austin feels almost too risky for another Punk return. Sure, he could have some internet-savvy promos with "Hangman" Adam Page, Kenny Omega or someone similar, but is it really worth the roll of the dice? Same story in WWE, where the list of viable feuds just keeps shrinking.
Punk-Austin, at least, would keep both guys away from titles but still give WWE something capable of headlining one of the two nights of WrestleMania. Keep in mind we're not talking WrestleMania 39 in California, which seemingly belongs to The Rock, never mind Punk's current injury comeback schedule. This is more about 40 in Philadelphia.
WWE loves its spectacle at Mania and there are few bigger things on the road to Mania possible than the glass breaking to interrupt Punk or the static to interrupt Austin, signifying two similar legends from different eras who never linked up, finally doing so.
Time's almost out on a Punk-Austin dance, so everything else can wait. If Punk comes back to wrestling one more time, Austin would seemingly be right there and available to give fans the dream feud.