On the latest episode of his The Hall of Fame podcast/radio show, WWE Hall of Famer Booker T offered up his opinion on CM Punk’s arrival in AEW on Rampage last Friday (Aug. 20).
It was not Book’s Shucky Ducky Quack Quack moment of the weekend.
“CM Punk came back and he had 10 full television minutes to go out there and make his point as far as CM Punk being back. He had the perfect crowd to be able to go out there and really, I’m talking about have a party up in that United Center. But CM Punk came back and took his moment and chose to talk about WWE. That right there was just a total miss as far as I’m concerned... [he] struck out.
“I can only imagine... if The Rock had that same 21,000 in Miami, Florida. The Rock would have talked about every landmark in Miami, that everybody in Miami frequented since they were little bitty kids, he would have talked about the bridge that they had to come across, he would have talked about the school that we had to come up fighting in - he would have had those fans going crazy with excitement. But CM Punk chose to talk about the WWE, and that 9 minutes went back so slow when it could have been a party going on in the United Center.”
Co-host Brad Gilmore pushed back a bit, saying how electric the entrance was. But Gilmore agreed the promo “was lackluster.” Following up on his talk of how The Rock would have handled this spot, Booker then explained what he would do had he been in Punk’s shoes last Friday.
“I’m saying from a perspective to where I’m making my comeback and I’m thinking about the other side [WWE], that’s totally a place that I wouldn’t even be going. As well as you talk about how the moment started out like this, on a rise and after the music stopped playing, the rise just started going down. It never came back up. That’s a moment for you? I get it, I understand that. But my point is, the moment is once the bell ring, and the bell rings after the music stops as far as I’m concerned, and I just don’t think CM Punk delivered the way he could have as far as a promo go.
“Because I didn’t feel the promo. I felt like a guy talking about WWE, and when you talking about the other side, only thing you’re doing is giving those guys airtime. And of course, I know the AEW crowd will eat that up. But for me as a professional, that’s the last thing that I’m gonna be thinking about is the other side. I’m gonna be thinking about the here and the now. Like I said, I could be wrong but I just think he missed a moment there in front of his hometown.”
The five-time WCW World champ would then compare Rampage to the Manny Pacquiao fight he attended in Las Vegas after SummerSlam, which he said was a celebration of the legendary Filipino boxer - even when it became clear Pacquiao wasn’t winning. Booker denied he was biased toward WWE when a listener brought it up. Then he went after the ice cream bars.
“For me, it was the same promo that was given in WWE. It was about WWE. It had nothing meaningful to it as far as what I’m gonna create, who I’m gonna blow up, how I’m gonna take AEW by – coming in being a nice guy and throwing out freaking ice cream bars, who gives a damn about that?”
Booker says he like Punk, and isn’t saying his return isn’t a big deal for AEW. He just thought his promo was a snooze, and a swing-and-a-miss.
Repeatedly while giving his take, Book invites fans to disagree with him. Here goes...
For starters, I’m not even sure we listened to the same promo. Punk made several indirect references to WWE, and they weren’t compliments. But he didn’t deliver a nine minute rant about how Vince McMahon sucks. The focus, to my ears, was more on why AEW was the place he felt he could return to. He bookended his time hyping two rising stars in Britt Baker and Darby Allin, with mentions of the locker room full of hungry young talent in between. He promised to be back on Wednesdays, Fridays & four weekends a year, set-up his first match, and teased several more. That’s not looking backwards.
As for the shots Punk did direct at Stamford, as Booker admits, that’s what a lot of the AEW audience wants to hear. You can’t be a wrestling promotion in the 21st century without operating in the shadow of McMahon’s sports entertainment empire. Tony Khan & team sometimes go overboard with jokes about WWE for my taste, but they can’t ignore it when their entire business plan is built on providing an alternative to WWE.
Punk is a perfect fit for AEW, because even when he was in WWE, he represented that alternative to a lot of people. He’s The Voice of The Voiceless, and to go out there at “The First Dance” and not shout what many of us think would be a disappointment at best, and a betrayal at worst. Shooting straight is Punk’s brand, and dancing around the elephant in the room isn’t what we want from the brand.
Speaking of what we want from a Punk promo, Booker mentions the pipe bomb. Taking a few thinly veiled shots at The ‘E isn’t just a smark-y way to get a cheap pop. It’s actually part of Punk’s character. His exit from the company, and the shoot interview with Colt Cabana that followed, and everything that Punk’s done or said since - it’s a story we’re every bit as invested in as any worked feud he ever had. To pretend last Friday night wasn’t part of that story? That would have been the “total miss” Booker’s worried about.
Last but not least, in addition to delivering a classic CM Punk promo, Punk also did the stuff Booker says he didn’t. There were plenty of references to Chicago, and how Chicagoans are tough, and what Chi-town means to Phil Brooks. It may not have included mentions of Navy Pier, Italian Beef, or The L (and really, could even Dwayne Johnson get away with a rambling wrestling promo about their hometown in 2021?), but the whole thing was a riff on one of the city’s biggest sports heroes. Chicago got that, even if Booker T didn’t.
I can’t even fathom having an issue with the ten seconds Punk spent on the ice cream bars.
Book, you said you wanted to be challenged on your latest contribution to the take economy. There you go.