CM Punk not debuting tonight would be stupid
While not confirmed, it feels pretty clear that All Elite Wrestling will be having CM Punk debut tonight on Rampage at 10pm EST on TNT/TSN Direct.
AEW has worked hard to tease it without outright saying it. Darby Allin made sure to say, “Best in the World” in a promo that the United Center is using to promote the show.
Not only that, but Jon Moxley cut a promo for his match tonight against Daniel Garcia, but it didn’t feel like he was actually talking to Garcia. He was actually talking about CM Punk. Unlike Punk, Jon Moxley left WWE and joined AEW when it was a risk. CM Punk rejected joining AEW initially but now that the company is on fire, he’s coming aboard.
“What makes them think it’s so easy?” asked Moxley. “Ask yourself if this is really, really where you want to be. Protect your neck, and make sure this is really where you want to be, on top of AEW!” shouted Moxley. If you know a little about Daniel Garcia it doesn’t make sense to ask him that. Garcia survived a vicious car accident to come back to pro wrestling better than ever, and is currently scouted by every major wrestling promotion. That question, however, makes sense if you’re returning to the ring after seven years off.
The bigger hint on Wednesday night was Kenny Omega wearing a Chick Magnet shirt, which references the original meaning of the CM in CM Punk (the week prior he wore a Cookie Monster shirt.) But the bigger hint is the fact this Rampage taping is taking place at the United Center. AEW had already booked three straight nights in Chicago for All Out. Dynamite, Rampage, and All Out are all scheduled for the Hoffman Estates located NOW Arena. And now they are booking the biggest arena in the city of Chicago where the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls have won championships.
It used to be frustrating to me that All Elite Wrestling was sticking to smaller venues like the NOW Arena when the company was getting hot, but it looks like after the sales on the Arthur Ashe Stadium show in New York in September that AEW realized they could take a gamble. Taking that gamble after you already have three shows booked in Illinois only makes sense if you have something that you know would pack that arena. Especially since this is not for a pay per view or for Dynamite. This is for the one hour 10PM new show Rampage. It’s not even the debut episode either. It’s the second episode. It only makes sense to do this if you got an ace up your sleeve, and that ace is Chicago native CM Punk.
Unfortunately, pro wrestling fans have been burned. Many times. Especially by the American promoters. Nobody has seen CM Punk in AEW yet so every hint they get, from Matt Hardy GIFs to Renee Paquette booking him on her show today to CM Punk making up a weak excuse to why he would be in Chicago that night, it feels like maybe they can’t seal the deal. And after AEW screwed up the finish to the deathmatch at Revolution in February? Once bitten twice shy.
Punk has also been away from the business for years, and at one point sounded like he hated pro wrestling. He tried mixed martial arts which felt like a rich guy playing tourist (I’m sure he worked hard to get ready for his fights but boy he did not belong.) He’s been doing movies and television (including the new show Heels though he hasn’t appeared yet) as well as comic books. His first toe back into pro wrestling was bewildering in the Fox Sports show WWE Backstage, which they insisted was Fox paying him to be there and not WWE’s idea. He walked out and said the bizarre, “Just when they think they know all the answers, I change the culture” and ended up being a non factor, with it being obvious he hadn’t kept up in current pro wrestling.
While WWE Backstage felt like a serious whiff, it might have helped set up why CM Punk is returning to the ring. Being on the show meant he had to watch current pro wrestling, and that meant him watching more than just WWE. He clearly spent time watching New Japan Pro Wrestling with recent comments about Will Ospreay. He also has watched AEW, putting over Powerhouse Hobbs and Darby Allin as guys he wanted to work with. Working on Heels has had people saying he looks like he never left the ring, so doing a television show about pro wrestling was a good way for him to get back in ring shape without it being obvious.
It’s still obvious. Or at least you would think it would be. Twitter for the past week has been all about CM Punk not coming to AEW. Everything from CM Punk should instead show up on Smackdown to wouldn’t it be funny if MJF walked out instead to even a bizarre, “they should announce he’s signed but he doesn’t show up.” Like I said, wrestling fans have been used to being disappointed. Being under the stupid fist of Vince McMahon has made us flinch when someone tries to hug us. We’ve become paranoid skeptics in an industry about deception.
I guess it’s possible this was all for nothing. That All Elite Wrestling, at the height of their popularity, is about to piss it all away and poison the well in Chicago before THREE MORE SHOWS INCLUDING A PAY PER VIEW IN THE SAME STATE, as well as piss off the network, and make their fans now doubt them whenever they tease something. Until we see him walk out, I guess it’s valid to have that bit of doubt. Maybe just so if he doesn’t come out you don’t feel like WWE fans are dunking on you so hard or something.
Whatever helps you go to sleep.