What's Next for CM Punk After Epic AEW Rampage Debut?

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2021

Credit: All Elite Wrestling

CM Punk returned to professional wrestling Friday night in Chicago on All Elite Wrestling Rampage, marking the end of a seven-year hiatus from the sport he helped carry through the early 2010s.

The crowd inside the historic United Center greeted The Best in the World with one of the loudest reactions in recent memory and hung on every word of a promo that concluded with two words: I'm back.

All Elite Wrestling on TNT @AEWonTNT

It's clobberin' time @CMPunk #AEWRampage https://t.co/QMaDo1mAJr

Grown men cried. Others jumped for joy. Social media exploded, and the wrestling world stood still.

All Elite Wrestling @AEW

Welcome to the team… @CMPunk is #AllElite! #AEWRampage https://t.co/aGxq9uHA6S

With all of the rumors out of the way and The Straight Edge Superstar finally back in an industry that spent nearly a decade longing for his return, what's next for Punk following his Rampage debut?


September 5, All Out vs. Darby Allin

In the immediate future is a pay-per-view showdown with former TNT champion Darby Allin.

Much will be made of the wrestler Punk was when he stepped away from the industry in 2014, but we do not know what to expect of the former world champion when he makes the quick drive to the Now Arena for All Out on September 5.

All Elite Wrestling @AEW

.@CMPunk lays down the challenge to @DarbyAllin at #AEWAllOut back here in Chicago on Sept. 5! Tune into @tntdrama NOW to watch #AEWRampage #theFirstDance LIVE! https://t.co/Vda9B0YZYH

We do know is that his opponent that night is a fearless daredevil, a face-painted antihero whose popularity among the AEW faithful is undeniable and whose success has been astonishing. One of the breakout stars of the company thanks to his willingness to throw caution to the wind, he has already enjoyed one stint with the TNT Championship and is a regular top contender to the company's world title.

Punk was quick to caution Allin on wrestling him, equating it to the most fearless thing he will do. But if the hometown competitor is not careful, he will end up playing the same role everyone from Scorpio Sky to Cody Rhodes has in AEW: a stepping stone to the AEW Championship.

Assuming Punk wins his first match back, a fair assumption given the momentum AEW will look to build on with his immersion back into the pro wrestling business, where does he go from there?


Looking to the Future

The Voice of the Voiceless made mention of the wealth of young stars in the AEW locker room during his Rampage promo, citing them as the reason he decided to return, so it would make sense for him to channel his efforts into working with them.

A program with MJF feels inevitable. There are no two more different wrestlers on the roster. A feud between them would create gold on the mic, let alone in the ring, and help further elevate a young star who has already benefited exponentially from working alongside Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho.

Hangman Page, Jungle Boy, The Dark Order, Ethan Page, Scorpio Sky—all could experience career-making opportunities by working with Punk.

As much as that should be the focus of everyone involved, it seems unlikely that we could get Punk and Kenny Omega in the same company at the same time and not settle the argument over who is the best in the world.

Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com @SeanRossSapp

CM Punk mentions Jungle Boy, Kenny Omega, Young Bucks as people he wants to work with. "Who knows who else is coming? Well (Tony) probably knows."

Considering Omega's run as world champion and the seemingly insurmountable wall he has built around him in the form of The Elite, Punk feels like the only guy who could realistically take down The Belt Collector and rescue AEW from his tyrannical reign, even if the argument can be made that Page is still the best option available.

Punk will wear that title, just like previous major acquisitions Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley did before Omega. The question is timing and whether it happens before Punk has the opportunity to work with Danny Garcia, Private Party, Ricky Starks, Sammy Guevara and the thriving company's other young stars.

🔥Phoenix🔥 @AmyNemmity

CM Punk on his legacy and AEW I was the kid that Terry Funk, Harley Race, Eddie Guerrero and Dusty Rhodes loved. I'd like my legacy to be someone that helps build younger stars. The guy that helps people, instead of sitting there just being a dick. Q @JonAlba #AEWRampage

One thing is for certain: There is a buzz about professional wrestling that has not existed since the same man sat atop the WWE Raw stage and aired his grievances with the company live on television a little more than 10 years ago.

A trendsetter with a knack for understanding what buttons to push and when, his influence on this chapter of wrestling history is only now being recognized. For AEW, a company still writing its foreword, there is no better face to have associated with, and invested in, its product.