While talking about his current program with Maxwell Jacob Friedman at C2E2 (h/t SEScoops for the quote from the Sat., Dec. 11 AEW panel at the comic book & pop culture convention in Chicago), CM Punk addressed a number of things fans have discussed regarding AEW booking.
In between talking about the anticipation for his feud with MJF and promising big things yet to come between them, Punk hit on the criticism of his (and Adam Cole’s) rollout in the company. That led to some thoughts about the way Tony Khan’s company delivers expected big moments without feeling the need to “swerve” the audience which indirectly compared AEW’s storytelling to WWE’s:
“I think that’s one matchup that everybody wanted to see. Before I even came back, I always heard about ‘oh, I want to see MJF and CM Punk go back and forth.’ A lot of people think I am off to a slow start and AEW doing certain things a certain way. But to me, just like Adam Cole just said, there’s five years worth of stuff with all these interchangeable characters and players. MJF is definitely somebody I wanted to share a ring with. I think now that we’re getting to it, people kind of can maybe see the bigger picture. And they can trust AEW as a whole for like the direction of where stuff goes.
“The fans I understand they want to know the behind the scene stuff. They want to peel back the curtain. Everybody’s an armchair booker. I am. Everybody’s an armchair coach or quarterback or whatever. That’s human nature. You watch sports and you’re like, ‘ Oh come on, why did you put that guy in? Why is he in the bench? Why is this guy a healthy scratch? Why didn’t you do this? blah, blah, blah. And it’s no different than I think pro wrestling and the fans.
“To me one of the best things about AEW is we enjoy payoffs. We like making the fans happy instead of just for some reason making them miserable. Doing stuff just to piss them off. Sometimes the happiest outcome is the most obvious one. We don’t really feel the need to beat anybody over the head with switching it just because they figured it out first, you know? I enjoy making the fans happy. The juice for being a pro wrestler is getting reactions out of the crowd. When it comes to me and him, without me trying to say anything too positive about him – you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
As someone who doesn’t see a problem with Cole being positioned like a star while working with very over acts like Jurassic Express & Orange Cassidy, and who is really enjoying the “Old Man Punk” tale AEW has been telling since The First Dance, everything Punk’s saying here makes sense to me. We don’t need everything immediately, especially when a promotion is proving they can be trusted to stick the landing on things (e.g. Hangman Page’s World title win at Full Gear).
Not that fans need permission, but it’s also nice to hear a company’s stars tell us it’s okay to have fun discussing the finer points of a story instead of telling us we ruin things when we don’t like what we’ve been presented.