CM Punk is coming to AEW.
We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And not even Kenny Omega is trying to hide the five-alarm blaze developing in front of our eyes. No doubt wrestling fans are nestled in their beds with visions of Punk showing up at All Out dancing in their heads.
If When the Chicago native shows up, AEW’s annual fall show makes the most sense, and the reception may turn a few in the audience deaf.
But what to do with Punk?
When AEW introduced former WWE cats, Tony Khan put them right at the level they were when they left Vince McMahon’s traveling circus. Dean Ambrose was a top guy, so Jon Moxley gets the same courtesy. One could argue—and one often does—WWE hurt Rusev so much, AEW had to rebuild Miro from the ground up. Punk is different for many reasons, but mainly because he is still as popular today as he was in 2014.
His name still rings bells and echoes throughout sold-out arenas as a show of both adoration and protest. Even while muted or restrained to Twitter, Punk is still the voice of the voiceless. How do you not put Phillip Brooks in the main event picture the second “Cult of Personality” blasts through arena speakers?
Since it’s inevitable, and this is in no way a diss to Frankie Kazarian, CM Punk should play the role of the Elite Hunter. The story plays off real life and features Punk as an interloper on behalf of the people while setting up a potential showdown with Mr. Omega logically.
The rumor mill always believed Punk and AEW had a thing for each other. A couple years ago, Punk kept it real about those whispers during an ESPN interview. His chat contained not-so-subtle shade towards Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks for constantly keeping his name in their mouths. His words didn’t appear to carry any malice, and the man said as much, but it showed the disconnect between the way both parties do business.
Punk’s gift is his ability to never look like he’s working an angle or a gimmick. The Elite? That’s pretty much the thing that brought them to the dance, and Tony Khan follows suit. Their dedication to traditional pro wrestling tactics and theatrics are at odds with Punk’s much more laid-back and cavalier attitude towards, well, everything. One school of thought isn’t better than the other, but it’s easy to see how Punk’s low-key-like seashells approach conflicts with The Elite’s larger-than-life methods.
Each member of The Elite, minus Cody, is acting a little too big for their britches on TV. The Bucks dominate the tag division by hook or by crook, and Kenny is playing hopscotch with wrestling companies for their world titles. The jury is still out on whether Adam Page knocks Omega halfway off his perch—and he most definitely should— but as it stands today, these cats look untouchable. Kazarian is headhunting to avenge his partner, which makes all the sense in the world.
That said, AEW isn’t doing the best with telling the story of one man against the world on behalf of his fallen angelic friend. The “why” of it is irrelevant since we’re here now, but either way, AEW has a chance to tell a much more compelling story: Punk as a mystery elite hunter torturing the guys who run the company.
Punk doesn’t get along with authority figures. Never has and never will. While the Bucks and Omega aren’t bosses in the vein of Mr. McMahon or Triple H’s on-screen persona, they’re still essential people in powerful positions in the company. And they’re using said positions to do whatever they want at the expense of anyone they choose. Much like their real-life professional differences, their differences on AEW television practically write themselves. Punk is at his best when he’s rebelling with a couple of causes. Especially if a cause is symbolized in someone, like John Cena back in 2011.
Punk’s beef was more about what Cena represented and less about Cena personally. That’s an important distinction to tie these threads together, as it makes Punk’s presence in AEW about a more significant purpose than just championships. He’s not Miro, a guy looking for the glory that eluded him elsewhere. Nor is he trying to prove a point like Christian or do pro wrestling on his terms like Jon Moxley, wrestling’s DMX.
Phillip Brooks isn’t the type to show up for the giggles after seven years in retirement, and neither is CM Punk. Going to war with these loudmouth executive vice presidents who have way too much power and secretly inserting himself in their business for a couple weeks in August just to piss them off sounds like a CM Punk thing to do. Revealing himself as the mystery assailant in front of his hometown is definitely a CM Punk thing to do.
Punk vs. Omega doesn’t need a championship on the line. In a perfect world, by the time those two even think of crossing paths, the AEW World Championship is knee-deep in cowboy shit. Punk can thrive without cutting out the legs of the young talent AEW is building, but it starts with giving him glorious purpose, to quote another trickster not too fond of rules.
As an Elite Hunter, Punk puts everyone on notice that he still speaks for the little guy while doing everything he can to push the art form forward. Sticking it to the Young Bucks and Omega is just the cherry on top of the sundae.