Darby Allin, Powerhouse Hobbs, Daniel Garcia, Matt Sydal, Bobby Fish, Eddie Kingston, QT Marshall, Lee Moriarty, FTR & MJF, Wardlow, Shawn Spears, Max Caster, Penta Oscuro, Dustin Rhodes, John Silver.
If you’d of told me back in August, on the day of AEW’s ‘The First Dance’, to list the opponents of CM Punk’s first 9 months or so back in professional wrestling (after a 9+ year absence by the way)… firstly I don’t think I’d of said such a variety, and secondly I don’t think I’d of listed such a volume. Sure, CM Punk did tell us that he had the time ‘Wednesdays, Fridays, 4 Saturdays or Sundays a year’, but I didn’t expect him to be nearly as visible and as active as he had been. And I will say right off the bat, something that I thought would be an unpopular opinion, but after seeking counsel on it and asking for other’s opinion it appears this is actually quite a commonly shared view…
I think this incarnation of CM Punk (the AEW version) is the best CM Punk we have ever seen in his entire professional wrestling career. It has been an absolute joy to witness so far, and I’m sure it will continue. There are still so many moments and dream matches ahead in the future, one in particular that is the sole purpose for me putting together this blog at this time… but I will get onto that later, for now let me take you back to where it all began… In the house that Michael Jordan made famous, the Best In The World of professional wrestling came home. We knew it was coming and we knew it would be special, but I for one didn’t know just how special a moment it would be.
This is probably my favourite moment I’ve ever witnessed during my time as a professional wrestling fan. And I don’t think I personally can give it any higher praise than that.
As I’ve said, I don’t think I could’ve imagined quite how CM Punk’s run would work out after this incredible debut. But I didn’t imagine it would go how it has done… Don’t get me wrong, I presumed the Darby Allin match would be as good as it was. But what I loved the most after that was the fact he faced guys between PPVs that were up and coming, and those who wouldn’t usually get big matches against top names. And sure, none of them were ever going to beat CM Punk, but that’s not the point. To see him go out there, and have good matches on TV with these names benefited Punk’s return as much as it shone a spotlight on those names (particularly Hobbs and Garcia who hadn’t really been on TV prior to AEW). Going from Darby Allin and that respectful, old school vs new school story into a proper FEUD with Eddie Kingston was masterful.
Because up to that point, all we heard was how wonderful it was and that everyone was so happy to see CM Punk return to professional wrestling and come to AEW. But then they put him with Eddie Kingston, someone who has some legitimate history and reason to want to bring it to the ‘beloved’ returnee, and for those who didn’t know they explained the history so well. Kingston and Punk are two of the best promos on the roster, because what they say comes across as REAL … this segment seemed that to me at least…
The following report is from my AEW Full Gear PPV blog: https://nobodyisready.com/2021/11/15/aew-full-gear-2021-review/
CM Punk defeated Eddie Kingston
This was a real personal feud going in, and the match reflected that… this was a FIGHT! Punk had UFC-style shorts, and right as the match started Kingston hit a big spinning backfist that took Punk down… From here it was a proper fight, with the crowd unsure of who they wanted to win at different points. Punk even got some boos at one stage, and he kind of indulged them by hitting some JOHN CENA moves and teased a 5 knuckle shuffle, but he just gave Kingston the bid instead. Crowd booed that, but cheered when he did the 3 amigos. For the finish both guys missed moves and seemed exhausted, Punk got elbows and knees and then hit a second GTS for the win. He tried to go for a handshake after the match, but Eddie didn’t shake it. Crowd were lively for this, but went back and forth on who they were behind which made it interesting. Good match though.
The next major rivalry for the great CM Punk in AEW was one that we had all waited for from day one. It did not disappoint, and when this CM Punk Last Dance is over I think we will look back at this feud as the peak.
It began all so simply, the Dynamite show after Full Gear 2021, MJF came out, talked, CM Punk came out, MJF put out his hand, CM Punk walked away. Without saying a word, it was on.
From here the feud got underway, or certainly ramped up to another level, with one of the all time classic promo segments. Two geniuses of the microphone delivered a masterclass.
They did a great job of stretching this feud out, and knowing when to give us the big moments and when to hold fire. on the 22nd December Holiday edition of Dynamite, CM Punk and MJF finally shared the ring together… in a 6 man tag also including MJF with his fellow Pinnacle members FTR up against the dream babyface team of Sting, Darby Allin and CM Punk. We got the big babyface win, but still we wanted and needed this match one on one. And we got it on the February 2nd 2022 Dynamite episode. Of all places it simply had to be in Chicago.
The classic story in professional wrestling is to build up a villain enough for you to pay the money to see the good guy give them what they have coming to them. The fact AEW had the sense of mind to ramp it up by having MJF beat the hero, and give him even more ammunition in his hatred of CM Punk was a tremendous decision. It was a brave move to, the fact they gave CM Punk his first loss on TV (not PPV), in CHICAGO, and to MJF as opposed to a name like Jericho, or Bryan Danielson for example was in hindsight an excellent move. And of course the lack of a clean finish sets up the rematch.
CM Punk had fire in him now. The next week MJF offered Punk the chance of that, should he and a partner of his choice be able to beat FTR. Punk chose his partner well…
After Punk and Mox got the win, Punk would get his chance at redemption. and revenge.
Now, although this is a blog about CM Punk, it takes two to tango. And as incredible as this feud was, MJF produced possibly the best promo in AEW history, certainly of his young career so far. And once again, like Eddie Kingston before him, MJF now had legitimate reasons to have a gripe with the babyface CM Punk. The February 16th Dynamite was where Punk made his challenge to MJF and really let loose.
We never really knew why MJF hated CM Punk so vigorously and why it was so personal. On the February 23rd 2022 Dynamite, he told us why.
Naturally, CM Punk was taken a back by how personal and deep MJF had been affected by his actions. He would respond the next week, where MJF’s hurt would turn into furious anger, with bloody consequences.
Revoltuion 2022 was a great PPV, as all those by AEW seem to be. But for many, me included, it was all about this Dog Collar match. The entrances alone were spectacular, with MJF pulling the classic of having CM Punk’s music play, before his own and then he brashly made his way to the ring. But then, CM Punk took us back to his ROH days, and as Excalibur so beautifully explained on commentary he came out with his old attire and to his old entrance music. Seriously go out of your way to find this entrance, it was incredible.
Once again a big MJF match had all the build up, and again it didn’t disappoint. The same goes for CM Punk in what was surely the biggest match of his return so far.
The match was everything we had hoped for and more. Bloody and brutal for both men. Although the finish was all about Wardlow and his long awaited babyface turn, it did put a conclusive end on this incredible rivalry… for now…
So what next for CM Punk? He’d had some brilliant matches against a variety of opponents and having avenged the one loss on his record, he now wanted to go to the very top, after the AEW World Championship.
After the MJF win, a couple of weeks off for Punk was followed with some routine TV victories. And he made it very clear what was next for him, after one win he did the classic motion signifying he wanted the title belt next. But other than the fact Hangman was the man in possession of the World Championship, we didn’t really have much of a ‘feud’ or a grudge between the two going in… but very quickly the two developed some real animosity. Two huge babyfaces, two crowd favourites, but over the few weeks that these two have been going back and forth they really seem to of gotten to the other. I don’t think either are being billed as ‘heels’ now, but depending on who you like or can relate to more, there might be someone you think is more of a heel than the other. For me, as a HUGE fan of both, I’m just quite enjoying this feud, and I for one cannot wait for the match itself. The build started a little odd, given Hangman got Covid, we had one stare down between the two… and then the next week suddenly it was official!
With Hangman absent, Punk had the chance to talk about the match first.
A VERY babyface promo talking about how the fans have helped him get to this point, of competing for the world championship. Ok, great. How would Adam Page respond? Bare in mind a few PPVs ago he was our absolute hero, whiter than white babyface who fought his way to the ultimate goal. We all love The Hangman right? Well… This was what Page had to say about his upcoming match with CM Punk.
Well, we all like Page because he does have that babyface fire within him… but this is CM PUNK he’s referring to. Saying stuff like there wont be a handshake, and that he wants to ‘DESTROY’ him… not exactly friendly and respectful is it? And what about the ‘mastubatory Bret Hart tribute match’ line… yikes… An interesting element to this ongoing story, we have a little bit of needle between these two ‘faces’ now…
The next week we got what we really wanted. These two going back and forth, face to face…
Again, it is interesting that it is CM Punk that’s trying to be respectful but Page is the one literally giving Punk the middle finger. Amazing given where Page’s journey to this point has taken him now being the more heelish of the two for this world title PPV main event match.
But when you think about what CM Punk said I find that interesting also. It really isn’t personal to him, like it is to Page. As much as Page is just a fighting champion, Punk simply wants to be the world champion, and it just so happens to be Adam Page who he must beat to accomplish that. Punk has tried to be the good guy, it’s Page who has chosen to go against that.
I think this picture/GIF (taken from the 18/5 Dynamite) is really telling. As much as Adam Page is our hero right now, CM Punk has always been our hero. And I do truly believe that whatever Page does, he wont ever reach the popularity levels of CM Punk. And you gotta believe, for the character of Adam Page, with everything he has overcome to be the AEW Champion, that has to eat away at him just a little bit? Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to go along with the ‘nicey-nicey’ bullshit? Why has he taken it so personally that someone wants to challenge him for the world championship? Is it that he sees Punk as a threat? Is he just jealous? Who knows. But what I said in my blog about Page (it’s one of my better pieces by the way, so go seek it out) is that he was relatable because he wasn’t perfect. Nobody is. Neither is CM punk. And what makes this match so great is both have valid points, both have flaws, and it simply depends on personal point of view and preferences who you side with. Babyface vs Babyface matches can often be tricky to book, they’ve done great with this one I think.
I’m writing this part of the blog less than 24 hours after the go-home show for the PPV. And… my oh my this promo segment between Punk and Page was… something else… They really fed in to everything I’ve written so far about how Punk sees this as just business, and how Page is taking things far more personally. Only this time, The Hangman added a new layer to his reasons for hating CM Punk, proclaiming himself as the ‘savior of AEW’. As go-home segments go, this was exceptional.
As I’ve said, I don’t think Adam Page has ‘turned heel’, nor do I think Punk has either. As fans it is left up to us to decide who we want to win, cheer or boo, or not… and again, that depends on your own tastes and point of view.
On top of everything else, I think this will be a GREAT ‘rasslin match. And that has been an aspect which maybe has taken me most by surprise during this return of CM Punk. The actual matches themselves, each one different yes but that’s a given with the vast variety of opponents, but they have all been of a solid standard. As much as most are about the story going in, the matches on PPV with Darby, Kingston both great. The Dog Collar match might be my AEW match of the year so far, and for a promotion with the incredible roster they have that is known for the great matches they produce, that is some accolade. He really is the complete package now, and more and more as time goes on, my proclamation that I believed this AEW version of CM Punk is the best one we’ve seen continues to be validated.
So… I guess the only thing for me left to say is… who do I think will win? And I think with literally every other AEW World title match on PPV up to this point I could’ve told you with a pretty decent degree of certainty who I thought would win, but this really is by a long way the most unpredictable title match we’ve seen from AEW so far. And that makes this match so much more exciting! The great thing about AEW is their commitment to long term storytelling, but with that things can often become predictable, not so much this time around. If I’m picking the winner, for me it’s Punk. For a number of reasons that I think could serve a few masters… Adam Page needs a little bit of a refresh, not a major one but just something to keep his story-arc going just a little bit longer. I absolutely don’t think he should go heel, nor do I think that after this CM Punk match is over (win or lose) he will continue and increase the heel-ish tendencies he has shown the last few weeks. So the way I see it going is Punk beats Page for the title, Punk has whatever ‘dream’ match he is going to do at the joint show with New Japan, and then either at this years All Out or next year’s (presuming both are in Chicago, which given the Forbidden Door PPV is there, All Out 2022 may not be, but regardless is it crucial for me that the next part of the story is in Chicago), I would then have CM Punk lose the title… to MJF! This would harken back to MJF stating that (after the dog collar match) ‘the next time I face CM Punk it will be the most humiliating loss of his career’… For me you can’t get much worse than losing the world title to your most hated rival in your home town. And that would give you time maybe to of told another redemption story by then of having Adam Page win the title back from MJF. WWF had Steve Austin win the title at WrestleMania 2 years in a row once, I’m sure AEW can more than make it make sense to have Page be the first 2x AEW World Champion.
But that’s all ifs, buts and maybes. I have eternal trust in AEW to do stuff that makes sense always. I just believe it is more CM Punk’s time than Page’s. Just like I thought it was time for Jon Moxley to beat Chris Jericho, Omega’s time to beat Mox, and of course it was time for The Hangman to beat Kenny Omega. But as I’ve said maybe Page will win, who knows? I certainly don’t for sure, and I trust AEW with either result will make it all work out in the end.
I just think if CM Punk really is The Best In The World, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have him called the World Champion as well?