When Colt Cabana showed up as the unnamed former ROH champion who would challenge Chris Jericho on the Nov. 2 episode of AEW Dynamite, it was widely interpreted as a statement on the company’s relationship with CM Punk.
Cabana’s only other 2022 matches in an AEW ring were back in March, and happened on their YouTube shows. During his absence (which did see him wrestle twice for ROH after AEW head honcho Tony Khan purchased that brand), rumors spread that Punk was responsible. A lot of that talk was apparently in the AEW locker room, and led to a lot of bad blood & drama. It came to a head after their Labor Day weekend PPV with Punk’s gripebomb at the presser and the backstage fight now known as Brawl Out, which resulted in suspensions for Punk and all three members of The Elite.
The Nov. 2 match was also one week after teases for the return of Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks started on Dynamite. We already had reports AEW & Punk were negotiating a buyout of his contract. Putting Colt on TV in addition to everything else felt like a message was being sent, and Punk reportedly didn’t interpret it as a good-natured one.
But Khan’s claimed it wasn’t intended that way, and Jericho is now backing that up. On the latest edition of his Talk is Jericho podcast, the reigning ROH World champ said:
“We wanted to bring Colt back onto the show, reintroduce him. He had a pretty rough year as well. [He’s a] former Ring of Honor champion. Always enjoyed his work, a very solid worker, and it was fun to have him back and that’s the reason why he came back, solely, was just because we wanted to have him on the show and reintroduce him. He hadn’t been on TV for a while.”
TK also used Cabana’s one ROH title reign in his explanation, but neither man mentioned how Cabana was a tag champion, or that his partner for that run was Punk. Another similarity between their comments on this issue is that both present Cabana as one of several options they considered throughout Jericho’s ongoing Ocho (the ROH belt is the eighth different World title he’s held in his career) storyline.
“Colt was always another guy that we had talked about doing something with as well. Colt and Dalton Castle and PCO but PCO wasn’t going to work out so we used Bandido, I think that’s what it was.”
Dragon Lee, Chris Hero, and PCO were considered at various times, but had injuries or scheduling conflicts. Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal were ruled out due to their roles in ongoing AEW/ROH angles. Other options like Dalton Castle, Bandido & Tomohiro Ishii were used in different spots.
So their explanation holds up. But that doesn’t mean the “message to Punk” interpretation can’t also be true. And if ends up costing Khan in his allegedly ongoing buyout negotiations with Punk, he’ll have to decide if even giving the impression it was an F-U to apparently former top draw was worth it.