CM Punk is officially back in wrestling.
The industry’s worst-kept secret was made official as the 42-year-old former WWE champion made his All Elite Wrestling debut Friday night to open “AEW Rampage” at United Center in his hometown of Chicago. It was the first appearance by Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, on a televised wrestling show since the 2014 Royal Rumble. His first match will be Sept. 5 against Darby Allin at “All Out” on pay-per-view back in Chicago.
“I look at it like this, August 13, 2005, I left professional wrestling, Punk told the raucous sold-out crowd. “August 20, 2021, I’m back. And I’m back for you. I’m not gonna lie, I’m back for me, too. I’m back because there’s a hell of a lot of young talent that I wished I was surrounded by 10 years ago.”
Promotions have tried to court Punk — a cult hero among fans — back to wrestling multiple times since then, but none came close to being successful until AEW president Tony Khan was able to finally sign him. Since leaving WWE, Punk has tried his hand at fighting in the UFC, acting and writing comic books among other things. He is currently an analyst for Cage Fury Fight Championship and had a role on the new wrestling-based Starz show “Heels.” Punk also worked on Fox Sports’ “WWE Backstage” studio show.
He did not leave WWE on the best of terms. At that time he cited numerous injuries, being ill and displeased with how he was being used creatively. In 2018, Punk won a civil lawsuit brought by former WWE doctor Chris Amann claiming Punk defamed him on a 2014 podcast with Colt Cabana discussing his frustrations with WWE and why he left. Punk claimed that during a European tour, Amann “Z-Pakked me to death” when he wasn’t feeling well.
Punk officially joining AEW – and potentially Daniel Bryan joining him — has been anticipated for a month. Reports surfaced in July that he and Bryan had signed with AEW. In an interview with The Post last month, Khan declined to comment on whether the company had signed both Punk and Bryan. Later that week on “AEW Dynamite,” Darby Allin referenced one of Punk’s monikers, “The Best in the World,” in a promo to hype the “Rampage” show at United Center, effectively foreshadowing what was to come .
Punk’s arrival is a huge shot in the arm for AEW, which is already riding a huge wave of momentum since fans returned. “AEW Dynamite” has drawn more than a million viewers four of the past five weeks and its viewership in the coveted 18-49 demo is moving toward challenging that of WWE’s “Monday Night Raw.” Punk will only add to that energy and could bring more lapsed wrestling fans to AEW or pique non-wrestling fans’ curiosity about the product.
Whatever happens, it’s “clobberin’ time” right now in AEW.
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