CM Punk’s first comments as AEW World champion at the media scrum after Double or Nothing were very much of a piece with the gracious, grateful persona we’ve seen from him since his return at The First Dance last August.
He repeatedly talked about the team approach of the company, and praised others’ role in raising its profile and helping him to be as successful as he’s been there: “I like to say, if you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go together.” He spoke of the responsibility he feels as champion and face of the company, and how his connection to the audience is making him comfortable playing a good guy — something he wasn’t able to do throughout his Ring of Honor and WWE title runs.
But a major theme of most of his AEW feuds has been that Punk isn’t really that good guy. The man he took the belt from at Double or Nothing, Hangman Page explicitly made their program about protecting the promotion from Punk. He hinted at issues in the locker room, and Punk’s outward presentation not matching wrestlers’ experiences with him behind-the-scenes.
Asked about how he’s fitting in with the rest of the roster, the new champ said:
“I’ve grown so wise in my old age that I’ll do my best to be as diplomatic as I possibly can with this answer. If there’s people backstage that don’t like me, it’s a minority. And if anybody says that nobody wants me here or nobody likes me, I like to say that nobodies don’t like me and nobodies don’t want me here. Run with that.”
Will the story of Punk’s reign be about the Best in the World finally suppressing his egomania and proving people like Page & Eddie Kingston wrong? Or will the old heel Punk finally shows his face in AEW? The presser gave us evidence of both.
It’s gonna be an interesting Summer (of Punk III).