The CM Punk vs. AEW Controversy That Shocked The World (And 5 Reasons Why We Need It)

As Tony Khan announced, the prodigal son, the one who seems to be a wayward son (awesome theme song, to be honest) but whose return has been long awaited, appeared for his “Second Coming” on the pilot episode of “Collision”, the new AEW show airing live from United Center in Chicago.

There have been months of rumors, gossip, indiscretions, more or less fake news, and, in the meantime, a cross-social war of tweets and Instagram stories since the world-famous Brawl Out.

The world outside kept flocking to the latest gossip as TK quietly glued together the pieces, even filling cracks with gold, loyal to Kintsugi’s ancient Japanese art.

I would be dishonest if I did not say there are many things I did not appreciate about the handling of this affair, especially the stubborn lack of official news from AEW’s home, and I would be dishonest as well if I did not acknowledge this shocking and infamous event’s bitterness.

I have always considered CM Punk’s return home not only more likely but almost certain, but there is something about it that can’t be kept silent anymore, and I know that I will draw the ire of Punk’s detractors and Elite fans, too.

 We need to have a conversation that we are not ready to have: Punk needs wrestling just as wrestling (and AEW) needs Phil Brooks.  Here’s why:


There is nothing controversial about this take. Even “real” sports work this way. UFC and boxing buy rates are obvious examples, but even in team sports, ratings are driven by playoffs and rivalries. Every year, the Super Bowl has two weeks of character-building.

While this is true, it doesn’t diminish the importance of having great wrestlers and great matches. A UFC undercard is necessary, as are regular season games in pro sports to help build rivalries and anticipation for playoffs. Matches are crucial to the development of stars and storylines in wrestling.

In a recent interview, Chris Jericho stated this too: “Wrestling has always been and always will be storytelling. It’s about the characters and the story you tell to get people interested. The moves, the amazing acrobatics blow your mind, but it’s the story that sells tickets” he said.

However, an excellent story requires an excellent storyteller, and CM Punk is a great one, whether in terms of storylines or in-ring storytelling.

It takes only a moment to think of the epic he built around his gimmick, from his days as a young straight edge guy who coined the memorable “I’m better than you,” to the feud with Raven, from the Straight Edge Society and his messianic persona, to the dog collar Punk who, in a constant game of reversing orientations, becomes exactly what he hated (an old, bittersweet fool) in front of MJF, the Snake, who figuratively tries to kill his master.

CM Punk is a skillful storyteller: literate, chock-full of film, books or even biblical references, and capable of setting up multilayered, non-trivial stories (and matches) that can be fully appreciated with further watching.

An absolute one-of-a-kind in a world of wrestlers who are “pigeonholed.”

Should we deny ourselves this?


Backstage fights happen quite daily  throughout the entire pro wrestling industry.

Jericho has also fought other wrestlers throughout his career, so…Punk has done nothing new other than ranting at a press conference in real-time in front of the audience’s face, so to claim they invented something is baseless.

Brawl Out was no doubt a blow to All Elite Wrestling, a moment when both audience and company realized it would never be the same again, destined to become the Montreal Screwjob of our generation, remembered and discussed forever. It is the 2.0 version of  dirty laundry airing, which has become a phenomenon on Twitter, Reddit, and in the wrestling community. We constantly analyze, infer, and search for the latest rumors.

In light of this, let us consider the possibility, more than real, that CM Punk and the FTR (at the time of writing, at the center of rumors about a potential stable along with the Second City Saint) might have a money feud with the Elite. Dream matches could result from it: it would be awesome.

How about AEW making the biggest moment in professional wrestling this generation?


It’s time to put an end to the chit chat and let the numbers speak for themselves: per Brandon Thurston Punk’s appearances boosted viewership in his QTR-hrs, and his 5 PPVs are AEW’s five highest-selling. He featured two $1M main event gates. The year’s top-selling merchandise includes four of his.

Whether positive or unfavorable, the media buzz and engagement he generates are a plus: 16 million views on YouTube for his arrival at AEW video, an all-time high.

Even though Pepsi Phil is controversial, nobody can deny that he was AEW’s biggest draw. He was the top-selling merch item, appeared on segments that were the most watched in company history, as well as appeared on PPVs that were the most purchased in AEW records. It is certainly a big loss for AEW financially taking him out of the picture, and anybody who suggests otherwise is being disingenuous.

On the first day after the announcement, more than 500 of the 1270 tickets for CM Punk’s AEW Collision at the United Center were sold.

There’s nothing wrong with disliking him as a person, as a wrestler, or as a character; however, acting like he’s not a draw is ridiculous.


Let’s face it: the best CM Punk is the Pipebomb Punk, the one who would throw the whole company under the bus and drag us along with him, so that, even as he spits venom at colleagues, company, other performers, and the chairman, too, we all applaud as if it were a collective rite, a secular liturgy that ends with the very famous mic-drop, leaving us astonished and breathless, having witnessed something surely…intense.

The most brilliant CM Punk is not the one who gives ice cream bars to the audience, he is the one who needs an enemy to unleash his fury against: that’s why we need another feud with Samoa Joe and his ghosts of the past, or with new enemies to defeat with his charismatic and sly manner. And we need to enjoy them all.


It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the next interview, the next promo, the next angle, or in the next press conference. It’s a blessing for those who like to live constantly on the edge…we watch horror, thriller, and action movies for our daily dose of drama and suspense…why don’t we combine that with wrestling?

Amidst conspiracy theories, wounded pride, fights, real or alleged bites, antiheroes and sidekicks fired and rehired, little Larry and flying chairs…well, this is better than a television show.

Keep your eyes open, Netflix.