CM Punk Highlights WWE's Main Problem—While Hinting at Potential AEW Future

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2021

WWE Superstar CM Punk appears at Madison Square Garden, Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, in New York, during a rally leading up to the 25th Anniversary of Survivor Series, taking place Sunday at Madison Square Garden.  The event will feature actor and wrestling favorite Dwayne
DAVE ALLOCCA/Associated Press

WWE fans' hope of a CM Punk return just took another hit based on comments from the former Superstar.

All Elite Wrestling fans, not so much.

Punk taking a shot at WWE in a public interview isn't exactly groundbreaking news. And given how the split happened, both in the run up to his walking out of the company in 2014 and afterward, his taking shots at WWE is fair.

But as they say, the truth hurts too. And Punk, as he usually does with a microphone, spit the truth that cut deep when asked about a return to wrestling. Here's what he told Sports Illustrated's Justin Barrasso:

"I don't need the money. And the way the wrestling business is now, it's wacky. You've got WWE, who has multiple billion-dollar television deals, and the television's awful. I go back there, I'm just another guy. And it's not even that—I'd be just another guy that's doing not-good television. I want to do stuff that's good. I want my name attached to quality projects, where it's fun and it makes people laugh, smile, think and people don't hate watching it. I want to do fun stuff."

That's an ouch.

Punk's comments tally with some of the complaints WWE fans have had for a long time. The WWE format, even with a roster split, has just led to some awful television. The recent Raw after WrestleMania was probably the worst Raw after WrestleMania of all time, a special event just brutalized by the typical weekly show booking.

A few prominent examples of poor booking stand out. Drew McIntyre's stock has been pounded into the dirt after losing at 'Mania, but his feud with Bobby Lashley has been extended. Now he's getting jumped and sparring with no-names who give poor promos backstage.

Then there's Samoa Joe, who was horrendously misused during his time in the company. The only man not named McIntyre who felt like a threat in the ring with Brock Lesnar—and by far one of the best in the world on the mic—never got a big push, got hurt and was never permitted to leave the announcer desk before his recent release.

And darn if it doesn't feel like Joe and Punk could work some magic together in AEW in true blast-from-the-past fashion.

That's the rub, right? Punk would get lost on WWE programming if he came back. Maybe not right away, but the company suffers from the success of having the most talented, deepest roster in the sport's history. Sure, he would start in something high-profile against Triple H or Roman Reigns that smartly works in the real-life angle, but it wouldn't be long before he's toiling away in skippable segments—just watch how Edge's presence fades from here on out.

The same just can't be said of AEW programming. The company has bite, it's the underdog that elbowed its way into relevancy and isn't going anywhere. It's almost counterculture to the mainstream that is WWE, which is oh-so CM Punk.

It's more about the creativity and passion behind AEW than it is the fact that Punk would get to partake in feuds he hasn't contested in the past. That's probably a big chunk of the reason he's been doing comics, movies and whatever else instead of returning to the WWE treadmill.

But now there's an alternative that seems to speak to his creative interests. Maybe it's too late, sure. Punk says all the time he's not returning to wrestling and that he's plenty happy doing what he's doing. But a prominent alternative exists that would seem to fit him well. And rest assured, he would surely be free to do whatever he wants given the attention he would bring the upstart company.

And while the whole WWE vs. AEW thing is probably blown out of proportion in the grand scheme of things, it's very real in how it appeals to both Superstars such as Punk and fans alike. WWE has been stagnant for a while, and AEW has been anything but—and has plenty of room to grow.

While harsh, as usual, Punk's comments ring true. And maybe that's just enough to keep a slim hope alive for a wrestling return at some point. But more than anything else, the number of fans who probably nodded in agreement with the commentary should serve as a wake-up call for WWE.


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