CM Punk recently suffered a serious injury and is out for the foreseeable future. In the aftermath of this, he declared that his comeback would be the greatest of all time. This comeback is going to take place in AEW, finishing a storyline that started when CM Punk began feuding with Adam Page over the AEW World Title.
Adam Page and CM Punk came face to face on Dynamite on May 25, 2022.before their title match at Double or Nothing 2022. During this promo it was rumored that Adam Page went off script, bringing up Punk's contentious history with fellow AEW wrestler Colt Cabana among other things. Punk later said that he feared for his safety during the match at Double or Nothing that ultimately resulted in him defeating Page and winning the title. He almost immediately vacated the title due to injury, revealing that an interim champion would be crowned in a long, rambling promo on the June 3rd, 2022 episode of Rampage.
Punk returned from injury on the August 10th, 2022 edition of AEW Dynamite. The following week he confronted interim champion John Moxley, but not before he allegedly went off-script and called out Adam Page for what transpired between them in the lead up to Double or Nothing. Adam Page was supposedly completely caught off guard and embarrassed by Punk's actions.
The match between Moxley and Punk to determine the rightful champion took place on the August 24th edition of Dynamite and saw Punk lose quickly and decisively to Moxley due to Punk reaggravating the injury that created the interim title scenario in the first place. This match also marks the first appearance of Ace Steel in this storyline, as he accompanied Punk to the ring for this match.
After officially becoming the AEW Champion John Moxley issued an open challenge for a title match at All Out, scheduled for September 4th. Punk accepted the challenge and the match was set..Punk won the match at All Out, regaining his title and setting the stage for his infamous press conference that was to follow.
At the post-show media scrum, Punk went on an unhinged rant, calling out the Elite and Colt Cabana while Tony Khan sat next to him smiling awkwardly. This press conference lead to a backstage brawl between the Elite and Punk over his inflammatory comments about the group. On the following episode of Dynamite, On the episode of Dynamite following All Out, Tony Khan announced that the Elite were stripped of their newly won Trios titles and Punk was stripped of the AEW title and all parties were suspended indefinitely. Ace Steel was fired for his participation in the brawl.
The first clue that the press conference and subsequent fall out are part of a storyline is the content of the press conference himself. Punk's behavior during the press conference is ridiculous. It is hard to believe that very many of the wrestling fans who bought into the veracity of this incident have actually seen the press conference.
Ace Steel entering the storyline in Punk's corner, just in time for his firing to be meaningful to the audience is suspicious timing. The timing is perfect for the narrative but it's hard to believe the timing in real life. Steel had been employed by AEW for awhile at this point and his only previous appearances were as Ruby Soho's mentor. Why, after working together for over a year did Steel suddenly enter the picture as an ally of Punk?
It is also hard to believe that the press conference would have been allowed to continue with Tony Khan sitting right there. Even if you are to believe the narrative that Tony Khan is a spineless coward under the thrall of a big star, there would have been countless other members of the AEW management team present. Surely somebody would have done the right thing and cut the microphone if the reason was as simple as cowardice on Tony Khan's part. The targets of Punk's invective are themselves part of AEW management.
CM Punk was actually out indefinitely due to an injury suffered during his match at All Out. He eventually returned on the debut episode of Collision, a return which culminated in his firing following another fight, this time with Jack Perry at All In 2023.
CM Punk is actually the Devil in AEW. MJF first wore the devil mask during his return at All Out 2022. He subsequently challenged Punk for his AEW title, a match that never happened due to Punk's suspension and later firing.
The Devil first appeared on the September 27th episode of Dynamite, attacking Jay White backstage. The devil made multiple brief appearances on AEW programming, including leading another attack against the Acclaimed, before leading yet another attack, this time against Adam Page, on the December 13 episode of Dynamite. The Devil was subsequently revealed to be Adam Cole at World's End on December 30th when Adam Cole pulled the devil mask from his jacket following MJF losing the title to Samoa Joe.
It is very suspicious that the devil reveal didn't include an unmasking. The Devil in the attack on Jay White appears to be a different person than the one that lead the attack against Adam Page. The attack against Adam Page took place after CM Punk's return to WWE, the attacks against Jay White and the Acclaimed took place before. When confronted by both groups on the Dynamite following World's End Adam Cole looked confused. This is because he wasn't the original devil.
CM Punk's return to WWE at Survivor Series is a part of this storyline. WWE has incentive to prove they aren't engaged in anti-competitive practices. ESPN, which has a close relationship with WWE, created a section covering AEW the day after Punk showed up in WWE. They had largely ignored AEW up to this point.