AEW should bring back CM Punk


Editor's note: This was written before Punk lashed out on Instagram, which would seem to indicate his return to AEW is as far away as ever. Still, the following is a compelling case justifying a return. FanPost promoted to the front page.

I think I cared about the whole Brawl Out thing for about a week until I realized how much I didn't care.

That fight was none of my business. Those were professional grievances that turned into personal issues that blew up. In fact, probably no one would have been suspended over the incident if it didn't become public knowledge.

Sometimes, backstage issues require some degree of public accountability. No one is going to deny CM Punk's lack of professionalism on that evening in September, but I'm not sure about how much, as a fan, I should really care about it.

Pro wrestling is a unique industry. Even though I am a fan, I find it remarkable how performers, promoters, and even fans are protective about the business and the artform in ways that align with each other as much as they are disparate. But there's a clear dichotomy of sorts, and it rears its head more often than even the most ardent pro wrestling fans realize.

Public comments by Dax Harwood of FTR, Chris Jericho, and even Kenny Omega himself have been more, dare I say, diplomatic? Omega isn't saying much, nor it may not mean much, but Jericho had recently been complimentary on Punk and Harwood has been clear that he would like to see Punk back in AEW.

Pro wrestlers are ultimately businesspeople; and by that nature, they tend to be more pragmatic. Fans, obviously in the throes of their fandom, are far more idealistic. Oftentimes, fans hold pro wrestlers—and pro wrestling—to a standard that occasionally borders on being unrealistic; at the very least, a standard that performers and promoters have no interest in meeting for various reasons.

I could sit here and rant on and on about how I wish Tony Khan would book his AEW shows to be closer to weekly scripted television shows than just a live broadcast of a pro wrestling event. However, that's not how Khan wants to book as much as I feel it would make the shows a more pleasant viewing experience. It's incumbent on me as to whether or not to hold that standard—which he'll never, ever intend on meeting—against him. I began to learn not to as I have drastically cut back on watching pro wrestling in general.

Be that as it may—the overarching pragmatism of the industry clashing with the idealism of the fan—I've started to really regard things from that pragmatic perspective. I think I always have; considering that I lack a serious emotional attachment to any performer (okay, Thunder Rosa is still the lone exception). In other words, after thinking about it, I don't feel any sort of way about a "brawl" that I had nothing to do with, was between a bunch of celebrities, and was only public knowledge because word spread about it and it got online.

With that being said—and I am speaking from the point of pragmatism here—I feel that CM Punk should be brought back to AEW. It is the most sound business move that Tony Khan could make.

Based upon what is public knowledge, we can all agree that Punk exhibited a serious lack of professionalism. Punk, like many pro wrestlers, cares way too much about what the "Internet wrestling community" says. Don't get me wrong, these folks are still human beings and I'm not going to sit here tell them that having a thick skin is required, but I will say that not every opinion is an informed one. As such, the toxicity spewed by some fans is simply not worth derailing their own personal and professional lives over.

Punk may not draw enormous television audiences, but he serves an even bigger purpose: being the company's best TV act. Punk, better than almost anyone on the roster aside from Jericho, understands how to balance being a scripted television character and being a pro wrestler on television. It takes enormous skill to balance doing what is needed for television with what is needed for the pro wrestling artform. Punk has always been good at that, going back to his days on national TV in WWE's ECW. He beyond excelled at it, in my view, in AEW.

On a personal level, I feel Punk saw what I saw and still see now: AEW talent struggling with that pro wrestler-TV character balance. As talented of a wrestler as Hangman Adam Page is, he is underdeveloped as a scripted television character; Maxwell Jacob Friedman is a fantastic promo and a great in-ring performer, but he still needs work on nailing how to be a scripted television character. Ironically, both of their first feuds as World Champions featured Bryan Danielson, and their programs with Danielson inadvertently exposed the issue that has vexed many of AEW’s talent from the very beginning.

I could go on and on about this: a good chunk of the AEW roster needs help in developing as television characters. It is very hard to get that kind of development in AEW considering the company does not employ professional television writers.

And I get it, Punk got offended that some on the AEW roster felt that he had nothing to offer as a veteran. That's for him to get over. I hope that he has used the time he has spent away from the company to do it. However, he wanted to help teach it was important to be as good a TV asset as it is to be a good pro wrestler, or I should say being good at TV is essential to succeeding as a modern pro wrestler. To boot, there are plenty of performers in AEW that benefited from working with him, even if Khan didn't do a good enough job with capitalizing on what I would call the "TV potential" of a program involving Punk.

Look, there is nothing that transpired that night needed to result in Punk's AEW career being over. I think Punk still has a great deal to offer AEW and the industry at large even though he will be 45 this October. He is not the most exciting worker, but he is a brilliant storyteller. Whatever he lacked in so-called "workrate", he made up for it in his fantastic ability to utilize Bret Hart-like skills to tell stories in the ring.

For every negative backstage story that emerged about Punk during his AEW tenure, there were probably 2 to 3 stories that were definitely positive. As much as AEW tries to promote a big family backstage atmosphere, co-workers are not going to like each other. Even Thunder Rosa, my favorite wrestler, ruffled a great deal of feathers backstage, especially with Britt Baker. It didn't amount to a physical confrontation after a pay per view, but it was serious enough to where it was not unreasonable to wonder about her future with the company.

Echoing Dax, I feel that this is an issue that can be squashed. Scratch that—I know this is an issue that can be squashed. There is a lot of intrigue, interest, and money on the table. Nothing that transpired is worth someone losing their career over. I would feel the same way if it is someone even lower down the card.

With no guarantee that Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks will remain with AEW, Khan needs a cornerstone performer that he can heavily rely on. Yes he does have Jericho, Jon Moxley, and Bryan Danielson, but Punk is a valuable anchor as the best TV act AEW ever signed.

So hopefully Tony Khan will make the right decision and bring back CM Punk. I think the company would be better for it.

EDIT: I think we can say, with confidence, this is most likely not happening and, obviously, I wrote this before the Instagram lash out story broke.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.