Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on CM Punk, Keith Lee and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2021

Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on CM Punk, Keith Lee and More

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    John Wolfsohn/Getty Images

    He definitely is, right?

    That is the question on the minds of wrestling fans around the world ahead of Friday's AEW Rampage at the United Center in Chicago, where CM Punk is expected to appear in one of the most eagerly anticipated moments in over a decade.

    According to a report in this week's collection of rumors, All Elite Wrestling's television partners are eager to highlight the former WWE star, making the answer to the aforementioned question a resounding "Yes."

    Punk isn't the only Superstar making headlines, though, as we finally have a reason for Keith Lee's most recent disappearance from television, an explanation that is so WWE that it's not nearly as surprising as it probably should be.

Latest on CM Punk's Impending AEW Debut

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    Any doubts that CM Punk is actually returning to pro wrestling with AEW should be eased as WarnerMedia and TNT are both eager to throw their marketing machine behind him upon his debut, as reported by Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select. 

    "We weren't told what exactly that would entail, but were told that TNT and WarnerMedia were both 'very aware' of this," he wrote.

    This is really a no-brainer. Punk will always be one of the hottest topics in the industry, and given the imprint his return will have on social media, he will garner mainstream media attention. It only makes sense that WarnerMedia and TNT would go all out (pun most definitely intended) to focus on him in their marketing pushes for AEW.

    That Punk is the one name who could bring fans who have stopped watching over the last decade back into the fold significantly enhances the desire to focus heavily on him in promotional materials, television spots and media ads.


    Editor's note: Bleacher Report and TNT are subsidiaries of WarnerMedia.

Why Has Keith Lee Been Relegated to Dark Matches?

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    Keith Lee has been noticeably absent from Raw in recent weeks, instead working dark matches prior to the shows. Mike Johnson of reported this has been done to "refine him" and figure out what works best for the performer.

    Refining a performer and figuring out what works best for them sounds an awful lot like something that should be done in NXT, a place where The Limitless One was a double champion before debuting on Raw a year ago with no real plan for him moving forward.

    The WWE system failed the 36-year-old, undercutting his development in the name of bolstering a roster that needed an injection of fresh faces, mostly because WWE Creative ran through them all.

    Now, the company is trying to play catch-up, figuring out how best to utilize a big, athletic heavyweight like Lee when all it really had to do was go back and watch his performances at Survivor Series in 2019 and the 2020 Royal Rumble.

    Instead, WWE is trying to find that out through noncompetitive squash matches that will never really highlight all that he does so well.

WWE to Hold Off-Site Shows

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    Major League Baseball celebrated the 30th anniversary of the iconic film Field of Dreams last week by holding a game in the very same field that the movie was filmed in.

    The visual, the presentation and the game itself was a success, and now WWE is looking into off-site locations from which to present its product.

    WrestleVotes reported: "With the success MLB had w/ the Field of Dreams game last week, WWE has begun very initial discussions about doing a few 'offsite events' in 2022. Some ideas discussed within creative include: Raw on the Roof, Hammerstein Ballroom & more direct festival shows a la Rolling Loud."

    The idea of WWE returning to iconic locations is an intriguing one. The roof of its headquarters, where it taped one of the more unique openings to Raw, is a solid option but also one that was explored with last year's Money in the Bank pay-per-view.

    The Hammerstein Ballroom is one of the coolest venues in wrestling and a staple of late-1990s ECW. Along with the beach from the 1995 Bash at the Beach PPV or the U.S.S. Intrepid, home to the July 4, 1993 bodyslam by Lex Luger on Yokozuna, it would make for a cool venue for a company that could use almost anything to freshen up its content.