Long-Term CM Punk Booking for His 1st Year on AEW Dynamite
CM Punk's debut with All Elite Wrestling on Friday's episode of Rampage shook the wrestling world to its core, leaving The Straight Edge Superstar trending for five days straight and garnering over one million viewers for the show.
Throw in over 10 million YouTube views for his official AEW content, and you have a return to the ring that can only be described as a rousing success.
How does AEW follow up on that? By booking Punk in accordance with the promo he delivered on his first night with the company.
Let him work with the young talent, introduce some familiar foes, and when that is all settled, let him prove why he is still elite.
Working with Young Talent
One of the most memorable moments of Punk's promo in Chicago was his emphasis on the young talent in the AEW locker room and its passion; a passion that had been snuffed out in him during his time in WWE.
The 42-year-old is wasting little time making good on that commitment to youth by facing Darby Allin at All Out on Sept. 5 in his first match in seven years.
That should remain an emphasis of Punk's long-term booking with the company.
There are so many talented individuals looking to elevate their star in the industry that The Straight Edge Superstar should never really run out of new opponents.
Beyond Allin, there is a guy in "Absolute" Ricky Starks who would not only benefit from working with Punk in the ring but also on the microphone. Ditto someone like Jungle Boy, who has repeatedly proved his youthful excellence against top stars such as Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega.
Two bright young stars really stand out, though.
"Hangman" Adam Page is the exact opposite of Punk. He's less cerebral and straight edge, more emotional and beer-drinking. They both have an undeniable desire to be the best, something that would inevitably bring them to a crossroads.
Punk could help further elevate Page while also feeding off his passion as he looks to rekindle his own. The matches would be awesome, with Punk filling the role of de facto heel, and Page would benefit from yet another marquee match.
The other star? Maxwell Jacob Friedman himself, MJF.
The scarf-wearing brat has already mixed it up with Jericho, Rhodes and Jon Moxley in lengthy programs and is as ready as any other young star to ascend to the top of the card and be world champion right now.
The matches with Punk would be great, but the promos are where the magic is at.
MJF verbally sparring with Punk would make for some of the most engrossing television in recent memory while testing the heel at a level that, quite frankly, no one in AEW has been able to approach. There would be no jokes or Broadway musicals.
It would be straight-up Punk tearing him to shreds, then forcing MJF to put himself back together if he wanted to prove he belonged at that level. There is no reason to believe he doesn't, meaning a feud between them would be even more intriguing than any other option available.
Settling Old Scores
In his debut promo, Punk also mentioned a few old scores he had to settle.
Just prior to his exit from WWE seven years ago, he was embroiled in a rivalry with The Shield that saw him regularly battle Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.
With the latter moving to AEW and becoming one of the faces of the company as Jon Moxley, it would make sense for Punk to target the former world champion on his climb up the ladder.
Both are recognizable faces, incredibly over with the audience and would almost certainly draw viewers for Dynamite, Rampage and any prospective pay-per-view clash.
Despite the matches they did have in WWE, they never had the opportunity to mix it up in a high-profile, PPV setting that let the world see the magic they were able to create. That should absolutely change over the next year as AEW seeks to find the best and most effective way to utilize the star power of Punk.
For Moxley, it presents the opportunity to do something meaningful again.
He is a former world champion and has had a solid tag team feud with The Young Bucks as late as Double or Nothing in May, but he has wandered rather aimlessly since then.
Heating him back up, letting him show that Moxley attitude as he battles Punk in search of a second world title, would be beneficial to him and provide Punk with that first marquee program.
Beating the Elite
For all of the talk of young stars and scores to settle, Punk's endgame comes in the form of Kenny Omega.
The AEW world champion has spent the years that Punk has been away from the ring as the most celebrated in-ring performer in the world.
The only way for Punk to live up to his "Best in the World" moniker is to present Omega with his toughest test to date. In doing so, he puts himself in The Elite's crosshairs.
A feud with The Good Brothers or The Young Bucks, in which Punk turns to any of the young talents in the locker room for partnership, would be an ideal place to start. Not only does he overcome the heel champion's minions, but he can also elevate the stock of a young star by selecting them to stand by his side.
From there, with Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Matt and Nick Jackson vanquished, he can set his sights on Omega and proving just who the best really is.
It is a simple bit of booking but one that would sell itself.
Fans don't need a layered storyline. They don't need huge productions and overthought creative. They need two guys who claim to be the best settling their differences in the ring, once and for all. Simple, effective and a dream match AEW can simultaneously build to over time as Punk works elsewhere.