On August 20th, 2021, something happened that many people believed never would, CM Punk returned to pro wrestling. On the Friday night episode of AEW Rampage, fans in Chicago were privileged to hear once again the fantastic sounds of Living Colour’s Cult of Personality. And out came the Chicago native to one of the most thunderous ovations that could be heard over the television screen. The atmosphere in the United Center could only be described as electric, as cliché as that is pro wrestling.
HOW WE GOT HERE (PART ONE)
It’s essential to understand the context of what it means that CM Punk is back in professional wrestling. CM Punk was a favorite among the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) prior to entering the world of WWE back in 2005. And as was expected, the WWE did not understand the wrestler that they had in their midst. CM Punk wasn’t correctly used for his entire tenure in World Wrestling Entertainment. From 2005 through his departure in 2014, CM Punk was treated as a second-rate citizen.
In 2011, the WWE did the one thing Punk wanted for his entire tenure, they gave him a live microphone and let him speak his mind. And on the June 27th episode of Monday Night Raw, CM Punk lit the wrestling world ablaze with the now-infamous “Pipebomb” promo.
HOW WE GOT HERE (PART TWO)
Following the “Pipebomb” promo, CM Punk was the hottest story in the wrestling community. However, despite bringing a new life to what felt like a dying brand (WWE), Punk was cast as a second fiddle to lesser talented “Superstars.” And while WWE would finally crown CM Punk the champion, they wouldn’t treat him as the main event. Throughout it, all Punk would put his body through the paces each and every night. Even after the championship was taken from him, he continued to go out night after night, sacrificing his body. Ultimately, his body would begin to pay the consequences, and Punk would walk away from the WWE.
7 YEARS AWAY
During his absence from professional wrestling, CM Punk would engage in several activities, from writing graphic novels to acting. But most notably, CM Punk would join the UFC. Now, Punk’s tenure in UFC did not go how Punk intended. However, it was an experience that he wanted to have and knock off his bucket list.
Having so much time away from his original love would reignite the passion that was all but stomped out by the WWE. Now, let’s be clear, I like many wrestling fans, and even more specifically, CM Punk fans did not believe he would ever return to professional wrestling. And we were absolutely sure he would never return to “sports entertainment” again. But the first inkling that began to spark my “he could come back” thoughts were hearing that he would guest star on the STARZ series Heels, starring fellow wrestling fan Stephen Amell. Punk would follow that up by joining Fox’s WWE Backstage show as a guest critic. Then I knew there was a chance.
ALL ELITE WRESTLING
Enter All Elite Wrestling. When AEW began a few years ago, there were a couple of schools of thought. First, they wouldn’t truly be able to be competition for WWE. And, secondly, they would become just like WCW and scoop up any and all ex-WWE with some sort of a name to feign success. Gladly, I can report both of these are false reports. But some may disagree with my second point, so let’s tackle it, shall we?
AEW IS NOT WCW
We begin tackling the undeniable similarities between AEW and WCW. Yes, they brought in former WWE guys. And yes, they both aired on TNT and had billionaire sports team owners as their financiers. But here’s where the differences come in between the two companies. AEW has brought in former WWE guys who were looking to reenter the world of professional wrestling and help but AEW as an alternative.
All Elite Wrestling is building their brand not on the backs of former WWE guys but alongside them. Stars like Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, the late Brodie Lee, Malaki Black, among others, were brought in to help elevate newer talent, not just collect a fat check.
BACK TO PUNK
CM was away from wrestling for seven long years despite fans clamoring and begging for his return. The mere rumor of his return to wrestling sold out the United Center in Chicago. The House that (Michael) Jordan Built was for a night, the House of CM Punk. Punk returns to pro wrestling after leaving her in 2005 when he left Ring of Honor. The return to wrestling, the return home for Phil Brooks, was precisely what we all expected it to be as wrestling fans. So I for one can not wait for tonight as CM Punk makes his long awaited return to professional wrestling.