CM Punk’s long-awaited return to pro wrestling finally took place last week on AEW Rampage. Punk’s signing with All Elite Wrestling is the number one story pro wrestling fans are talking about, even with the WWE returns of Brock Lesnar and Becky Lynch occurring one day later at SummerSlam.
I think this was our number one best weekend we’ve ever had. It was number one in so many metrics. We set our attendance record for the most fans we’ve ever had at the United Center on Friday night for AEW Rampage, for the debut of CM Punk. We broke every social metric. I heard...at ESPN that the traffic that they got was so beyond anything that anybody had anticipated. It was in fact, the most traffic on any one social post they’ve had since May, which includes the summer Olympics and the NBA Finals. So the amount of interest in CM Punk returning to wrestling and joining AEW is unprecedented in the world of wrestling, and really this year in the world of sports. It’s huge for our company. It’s huge for everyone who works here, it’s huge for all our fans...the First Dance was just a huge hit for us in every sense of the word.
After explaining that AEW is trying hard to keep up with the insane demand for Punk merchandise, Khan mentioned that Punk’s pop might have set a world record:
“When I say that everything is clicking so well, it’s an understatement. Because to set your merchandise record, our attendance record, and then have Guinness World Records today chiming in saying they think it might be the loudest applause, the biggest pop, any wrestler’s ever gotten, that’s pretty cool too.”
The audience noise for Punk was among the loudest I’ve ever heard, for sure, but Tony should go back and listen to the fans during Bobby Lashley vs. SLAPJACK if he needs a reminder about what a world record level pop truly sounds like.
Moving on, Khan believes this is one of the best deals he’s ever been a part of, and it’s about more than just the money:
“I believe this was one of the best deals I’ve ever done in my life. And I don’t think it was really all about money...[Punk is a] super friendly person and I just think some of the stuff he did in terms of helping our young wrestlers become stars at the next level, it’s really really really significant. And it’s gonna help us grow the business [and] sustain AEW for many many years to come. So I think it was one of the best deals I’ve ever done. And in so many ways it wasn’t about money.”
I’ve always felt that most of the criticism Punk has received for being a cantankerous curmudgeon was way overblown, and he has certainly said very positive and encouraging things about helping AEW’s young wrestlers going forward. But I think it’s a tad too early to say Punk’s already helped them become stars at the next level.
Finally, Khan was point-blank asked if Punk’s debut night for AEW already paid for the entire deal all by itself. Tony thinks that is indeed the case:
“Yeah. I mean, I do think so. In terms of what this has done for our business, I really believe that, as soon as we saw the results from this, before we even got started I knew this was the best deal we could’ve possibly done.”
If Khan’s guess is accurate, then Punk probably should have asked for a few more bucks on his AEW contract.
Whether or not Punk’s deal has already paid for itself isn’t really the thing that matters here. It’s pretty much undeniable that from the standpoint of competition, things in the wrestling business haven’t been this interesting since WCW and ECW folded over 20 years ago.
CM Punk’s return to pro wrestling for AEW is a big part of that, and hey, maybe Daniel Bryan will be next.