AEW Would Be Elevated to a Whole New Level by Signing CM Punk and Daniel Bryan

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2021


All Elite Wrestling landing both Daniel Bryan and CM Punk would be among the most unprecedented moves in pro wrestling history.

The column could end right there too. A promotion not named WWE giving wrestling fans more Daniel Bryan and the long wished-for Punk return—in the same calendar year, if not month—would be unparalleled in terms of scope given today's wrestling landscape.

So with Bryan apparently on the way to AEW, according to Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t Jason Ounpraseuth of Wrestling Inc), in part because of its relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and Punk in talks, according to Fightful (h/t Wrestling Inc's Joshua Gagnon), fans just entered a we're-living-history moment.

AEW bringing in Bryan alone is wild. We're talking about one of the best performers in WWE history, one of the most over Superstars of his generation and a guy who main-evented WrestleMania. Only the most negative person would fool themselves into thinking Bryan's WWE fans who haven't watched AEW wouldn't go check him out there.

The Punk angle isn't hard to figure out, either. He's been fantasy-booked into endless returns for close to a decade, whether it's fans hoping for his entry in a Royal Rumble to even working with AEW when the company was in its infancy.

That's a short way of saying he would bring in a ton of new fans too. Remember the pipe bomb and how many lapsed fans it brought back? Imagine Part II. How many of those people who turned off would be lured right back into the thick of things if Punk returns? How many new fans does he pull into the business outright thanks to his forays into things like the UFC, comics and movies?

It helps that AEW is already stacked roster-wise. How many dream matches are we talking here? Bryan and Kenny Omega would light the world on fire. Punk verbally sparring with Adam "Hangman" Page would be legendary. We're talking encounters with Sting, a rejuvenated Jon Moxley, Darby Allin, fun rehashes like Punk vs. Chris Jericho, never mind crossovers with NJPW and other promotions.

Comparisons only make this greater point all the more salient. WWE recently brought back Goldberg for another title match he hasn't earned. As fun as it might be, it's running John Cena and Roman Reigns again. It's cutting loose talent like Aleister Black and not making the most of guys like Keith Lee.

In short, we would go from wondering whether AEW can sell out a mid-sized arena to one that seats 50,000 or more. We'd go from spitballing whether Tony Khan's promotion could ever consistently beat Raw in all ratings metrics to a matter of when.

Yes, there are risks involved. Both are at least 40. Bryan has past injury issues. Punk hasn't been in the ring in years, at least that we know of, and his most recent stint with a promotion didn't end so well. But right now? Bryan is still one of the best wrestlers on the planet, Punk was criminally underrated for his in-ring work and, if nothing else, is probably still the best in the world on the mic.

It's saying something that the only thing bigger than this would be John Cena or Roman Reigns defecting to AEW. The risks just come with the territory—and are totally worth it.

In a way, it's funny to have this conversation. Bryan and Punk were the two biggest ex-indy stars to change WWE's big guys only thing with its main event scene. They are apparently walking out the exact door they swung open in order to join AEW, which says as much about WWE as it does AEW.

None of this is meant to discredit AEW. The company went from a fun upstart that gives a niche segment of fans exactly what it wants to an industry juggernaut faster than most would have ever felt comfortable predicting.

But adding Bryan and Punk? That would be historic and could possibly swing the balance of power in the industry more than anything to date this century.