Several of the rumors about tension backstage at AEW have centered on CM Punk. The former AEW World champ called attention to the issues himself with his unscripted call out Hangman Page on the Aug. 17 Dynamite. Since then, we’ve heard reports that Page & his friends have beef with Punk because they believe he’s responsible for Colt Cabana’s reduced role with AEW. There have also been general stories of Punk alienating the locker room with his attitude.
Punk addressed the talk in a general way, telling those who have a problem with him to talk to him face-to-face. Recently, DAZN asked two of his closest associates at the company about the controversy. Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler of FTR chalked it up to a lot of things, including Punk’s pre-AEW reputation, other people’s insecurities, and misinterpreting his passion.
Wheeler: I think it’s a lot of things from the past, mostly. I think there’s a lot of old grudges. I think there’s a lot of old biases. I think there’s a lot of unresolved issues that are tainting how people react to seeing him now sometimes because he’s been nothing but nice and helpful to anybody that wants it. I know there’s underlying animosity between... once you’re in wrestling for so long, and especially at the top of it, there’s gonna be guys who don’t get along because you’re all vying for the same thing. You all want the same title. Egos are going to hit. It’s inevitable. I know there’s going to be old tension.
But as far as how he is as a person now, he couldn’t be more inviting. He couldn’t be more company-oriented as far as what he’s thinking and anything to the contrary; I really think it’s uneducated to go off of it because there’s only been one side [and] that’s all been the negative stuff. He hasn’t even really commented on it publicly because he’s not going to give it that much time of day and that much notoriety because it doesn’t deserve it.
But I will say there’s two sides to every story, and then somewhere in the middle, that’s the truth. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. He’s been nothing but a great person, a great mentor to a lot of guys there, somebody who wants the best for the company. That’s why he’s wanting the biggest houses, the biggest gates, and the most fans in the arena. I think it’s just going to be one of those things where time will tell. Over time, you’ll see that he has been well-meaning, he has been doing some good stuff, and like I said, anything to the contrary is, in my opinion, just people being childish and behaving like middle-schoolers.
Harwood: And insecurity. I’m not gonna speak much on it because all that was perfectly put. But I’ll tell you this, what’s the better headline? ’CM Punk goes into business for himself and shoots on somebody?’ Or, ‘CM Punk invites Will Hobbs into his locker room and explains to him for 30 minutes what he could have done to better himself for the match earlier?’ Or if the headline says, ‘CM Punk goes to Danhausen, who came to him and asked for advice, watched his match, and CM Punk gave him notes of advice on what he could do to better the match next time?’ Or if Brock Anderson says, ‘Hey, do you mind watching our tag match tonight?’ CM Punk sits there even though he’s got a busy night and watches it and says, ‘Hey, come into my locker room. Anybody else want to come into my locker room? Let’s talk about this.’
What’s the better headline? The more juicy headline is the one of him going into business for himself.
Wheeler: The old Punk, and it’s not the old Punk.
Harwood: Right now, I think I can safely say he’s one of our best friends because we all share the same passion for professional wrestling, and sometimes passion gets mistaken for being an asshole because you just want the best. He wants the best for AEW. He wants the best for himself as well. We all do. But he wants the best for AEW and puts AEW above himself. I haven’t met too many guys who have the love and passion for professional wrestling that he has.
And I’ll close on CM Punk with this, and we’ll move on. I wish a lot of people, a lot of the guys look at it instead of saying, ‘Oh my God, this guy from WWE is here in AEW, and he might be taking my spot’ to say, ‘Oh my God, this is a guy who has a legit Hall of Fame background guy who is drawn money, who’s made money for a big company, who doesn’t want to go back to the big company.’
Wheeler: He came from nothing. He made something of himself.
None of Punk’s alleged detractors behind-the-scenes at AEW have gone on the record, and they’re unlikely to. So for the foreseeable future, we’ll just have rumors about what Wheeler calls “the negative stuff” against accounts like this from his supporters. It’ll be up to individual fans and observers to decide what they believe is the truth between those extremes.
Check out DAZN’s entire interview with Dax & Cash here.