The Pros and Cons of CM Punk Signing with AEW over WWEJuly 27, 2021
The Pros and Cons of CM Punk Signing with AEW over WWE
With All Out approaching on Sept. 5, All Elite Wrestling is preparing to return to its birthplace: the Now Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
And much like All In in 2018 and the 2019 event, the pay-per-view has again opened the door for speculation on whether CM Punk will return to professional wrestling in the suburbs of his hometown, Chicago.
Rumors have picked up more steam than usual as Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com recently reported that The Second City Saint is in talks with AEW to make an in-ring comeback. Unlike two years ago, Punk hasn't squashed the report, giving his fans hope that he will finally grace a wrestling ring again.
The self-proclaimed Voice of the Voiceless has a mixed history with pro wrestling fans since his abrupt retirement from WWE in 2014. Many die-hard supporters dislike the elusive star while others have lionized him as a mythical figure of sorts.
His most vocal defenders see his journey from Ring of Honor stalwart to ultimate anti-authority provocateur as an inspirational but unfinished narrative of an all-time great. Meanwhile, his biggest detractors view him as nothing more than a loudmouthed false prophet who took his ball and went home when he didn't get everything he wanted.
Nevertheless, the 42-year-old remains one of the most talked-about men in the industry even though he hasn't wrestled in seven years. Love him or loathe him, the man who calls himself The Best in the World has left a lasting impression on fans at a time when transcendent stars are hard to come by.
So, what would CM Punk's return mean for AEW? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of signing the divisive Superstar.
Pro: The Endless Possibilities for Dream Matches
It should go without saying that Punk would be a tremendous draw for AEW. Lapsed fans will tune in initially just to see what the company does with him or what he will say next.
Of course, that will spark the imagination of fans who have dreamed of seeing him join the company and take on some new faces or reignite some old feuds. It would be a treat to see him face the likes of Jon Moxley, Cody Rhodes, and Chris Jericho again.
However, imagine how amazing it would be to see him standing across the ring from Malakai Black or another straight-edge wrestler in Darby Allin. A war of words with another provocative talker such as MJF would be worth the price of admission.
Punk also mentioned his sole interaction with "that Rusev guy" during the 2014 men's Royal Rumble match in the infamous two-part episode of Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcast. So, it would be fitting to see him cross paths with Miro, as well.
However, the contest everyone really wants is a first-time matchup with The Best Bout Machine, Kenny Omega. The AEW world champion spoke highly of the former WWE star during a recent interview on Wrestling Observer Radio about how exciting it would be to get in the ring with him or Daniel Bryan.
Con: Punk Could Interrupt Ongoing Storylines and Development
Punk would be a massive acquisition for AEW, but could the myth of the former WWE champion overshadow the goodwill it created?
One could argue that the relatively new company has done a great job differentiating itself from its distinguished competition. As such, signing another celebrated name who mainstream fans know as a WWE star would just draw more comparisons as opposed to creating a legitimate alternative.
Even more, someone who demands as much screen time as The Second City Saint could uproot up-and-coming names like "Hangman" Adam Page. AEW effectively turned the Virginia native into one of the most popular members of the roster, and it would be a shame to see all that work come undone.
Punk would be a welcomed addition to Dynamite for longtime fans, but his return could come at the expense of stories that are already in the works.
Admittedly, this isn't a major concern yet, but the AEW locker room is growing more and more crowded. Adding another established star could bump someone else who needs the reps off of television.
Pro: The Chance to See Punk with More Creative Control
During his interview on Wrestling Observer Radio, Omega praised Punk's mind for the business (h/t Gisberto Guzzo of Fightful):
"CM Punk, again, a guy who just has—he probably has a different line of thinking than your current day performer, the average performer, and he has this incredible reputation. He has fans to this day who would follow him to the end of the earth. Very dedicated fanbase. That fanbase believes that he is the best in the world and will be the best until the end of time. If you have people that follow your career so passionately, you probably have something very special about you. It just goes to show you that the way that he presented himself, the way that he spoke about himself, the way that he spoke to his opponents, how he performed in the ring, entrance music, his image, it was all very meticulous and he was very intelligent about how he went about it."
With that said, it would be exhilarating to see the creative mastermind behind The Straight Edge Society and the notorious pipebomb promo have free rein on network television. Who knows how he would reinvent his character or find a way to say something outrageous? But he can undoubtedly come up with something dynamic and innovative if given the opportunity.
Additionally, Punk has talked often about how stifled he felt toward the end of his stint with WWE. One would have to imagine creative control will be on his list of stipulations if he signs with AEW.
After everything he went through, it would be gratifying for him to enter a scenario in which his input is accepted and he can enjoy wrestling again.
Con: Unsurmountable High Expectation for His Return
The biggest drawback to Punk's potential comeback is the overwhelming level of hype surrounding anything he does next.
Fans have been waiting so long for the chance to see him return that there is no way it can possibly live up to some of their lofty expectations. Everything he does will be overanalyzed and any potential mistake will become fodder for his critics. That's just the nature of the beast.
Realistically, we don't even know if the 42-year-old can still perform at a high level following a seven-year hiatus. He could come back with some ring rust. Can he compete on the AEW roster, which is renowned for its high work rate?
Everyone knows that Punk's debut will garner a raucous reaction, especially if he appears at All Out in Chicago. But can he sustain that support and consistently bring in lapsed fans on a weekly basis? That's the million dollar question.
Honestly, even if Punk does show he can hang with younger stars like Christian did earlier this year, a certain section of fans will always pick his work apart. Similarly, nagging questions about what he can bring to AEW will dog him for months.
No matter what he does, he won't be able to please everyone.
Pro: Punk Can Finish His Career on His Terms
Nevertheless, signing with AEW gives Punk the chance to tell his own story and end his career on his terms.
Let's be honest, the chances of The Straight Edge Superstar mending his relationship with WWE and enjoying a satisfying final run with the company were slim. Yes, crazier things have happened in professional wrestling, but there is so much bad blood between both parties that is feels pretty far-fetched.
After all, Punk famously tried to make it work when he resigned in 2011 ahead of his iconic WWE Championship win at Money in the Bank. As such, he left the experience jaded and seemingly miserable because his dream job didn't pan out.
During his interview with Cabana on the Art of Wrestling podcast, he described in detail his attempts to go with the flow and prove he was a top star but there was always a new rung to climb. So, it's not hard to believe that even in the most amicable situation, WWE is never going to see him the way he wants it to.
Concurrently, his exit and the precedent he set at his peak are arguably the precursors for AEW's rise to prominence. To that end, The Elite, and the company as a whole, seem to target the crowd Punk initially lent his voice to. For that reason, it would make the most sense for him to continue to evoke change and help create a viable alternative to its unassailable competitor that diminished his passion for wrestling.
It seems like the most logical end to his journey from afar. However, this isn't about sticking it to his former employer. Instead, this is a way for him to finish what he started and end his illustrious career on a high note.