After the conversation about Brawl Out finally seemed to simmer down in recent weeks, Dax Harwood and CM Punk brought it back to a boil with a new podcast and a one word Instagram comment.
The assumption for the past couple months has been that Punk’s done with AEW, it was just a matter of negotiating the terms of his exit. But all along, there have been hopes and theories he could eventually return to the company. Harwood’s “plea” on the debut episode of his FTR with Dax Harwood pod fanned those flames. It was also centered around something no one involved disputes — if Punk & The Elite can make any kind of peace, they can make themselves & AEW a bunch of money by turning their shoot issues into a work.
Punk’s “duh” response to Harwood’s quote shows that he knows it, and was also conceivably a strategic ploy to put the ball in Tony Khan and his executive vice-presidents Kenny Omega and Matt & Nick Jackson’s court. If Punk never returns to AEW and that money is left on the proverbial table, the argument can be made that’s on TK & The Elite since Punk’s now tacitly indicated he’s ready to do business.
In playing that scenario out in the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer wrote that it puts Khan in a tough spot — partly because the AEW locker room remains pretty divided on Punk:
“Several of the top guys, Chris Jericho being among them, told the rest of the locker room that they’d make sure Punk wasn’t brought back.”
Jericho’s had issues with Punk since he walked out of WWE. He was sharing unflattering stories about Punk before he signed with AEW. They didn’t work and were rarely seen together during the year Punk was active with the company, and Jericho is rumored to have told the two-time AEW World champ he was “a locker room cancer” following everything that happened after All Out. Since Labor Day weekend, Jericho’s received a contract extension and promotion from Khan, and presumably has even more pull behind-the-scenes than the already considerable amount he had before.
So it sounds like Jericho would be more motivated than ever to keep the company Punk-free. But as Meltzer points out, if AEW’s business metrics remain flat or down when Punk’s injuries have healed up, it’ll be difficult for TK to justify paying Punk to sit at home when he’s facing potentially difficult negotiations with Warner Bros Discovery on a new television deal.
The bigger question may be who the “several” other “top guys” are vowing to keep Punk out of the locker room. If it was Omega or The Bucks, there’s really no reason to not say it’s them. Others you could justify referring to that way — Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Sting, or even MJF — never seemed to have an issue with Punk being there, although it’s easy to imagine his gripebomb at the All Out media scrum rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.
We’ll see how it plays out. For now, you can factor this new tidbit into your already-in-progress debates and fantasy booking.