The biggest story in pro wrestling this week is CM Punk going off on Colt Cabana, Hangman Page, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks at the All Out media scrum, leading to a backstage fight between Punk and The Elite.
The short-term fallout of this story includes suspensions for most of the people involved in the brawl. The long-term consequences might actually include CM Punk being fired by Tony Khan, pending the results of an ongoing investigation into the altercation.
In the immediate aftermath of the story, some folks argued that CM Punk had leverage here due to general assumption that he’s the biggest draw in AEW; Tony Khan’s decision to book Punk to win the AEW world title twice this year provides strong evidence that Khan agrees about Punk’s high value to the promotion.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that CM Punk doesn’t really have any reasonable backup options to continue his pro wrestling career at the highest dollar figure if he is fired by AEW. After all, the bridge between Punk and WWE was burned down in 2014 when Punk walked out of the company and they later terminated him on his wedding day.
Even if Punk was willing to return to WWE for the right price, the departure of Vince McMahon from the company makes a Punk return less likely than it’s ever been. That’s because Triple H now wields much more power and influence in WWE than he even did in 2014, and his relationship with Punk is probably broken and beyond repair. WWE is dripping in record profits without CM Punk in the locker room, and after seeing all the drama and turmoil his presence has brought to AEW, why would they risk bringing that mess into their locker room if he suddenly became a free agent?
Without WWE as a viable backup option, there’s really nowhere left for Punk to resurface if AEW fires him, unless he is willing to work for significantly less money than he’s currently making.
The latest wrinkle in this story is that Punk was injured in his match at All Out and needs surgery that will put him on the shelf for a long time. This could potentially allow a longer window of time for cooler heads to prevail. However, on the latest edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer mentioned that plenty of people in AEW want Punk gone, and an attitude adjustment will be needed for his return to be plausible:
“A lot of people want him gone, and if he stays, he has to have a completely different attitude. And I don’t know if that’s possible.”
CM Punk adopting a “completely different attitude” seems like something that has almost no chance to happen.
After listening to CM’s tirade at the media scrum, it seems that Jon Moxley’s recent promo about Punk’s fragile ego has proven to be true. Punk overreacted to Hangman Page’s “workers’ rights” promo and unprofessionally tried to bury Page on air as a result. Punk’s attack on the media during the scrum is based on some shaky assumptions, continuing his pattern of being way too confident in his conclusions about certain people based on a small amount of information.
Most alarming of all might be that Punk showed such ignorance and disrespect for what AEW has become in the pro wrestling industry. Punk’s dismissal of Page as someone “who hasn’t done a damn thing in this business” reinforces the bogus notion that a wrestler is only successful if they make it big in WWE. Page is a very accomplished wrestler who has played a key role in building and growing AEW to become a place where wrestlers around the world can get paid very well to ply their trade. The claim that he (or the Bucks and Omega) hasn’t done a damn thing in the business is a joke.
If Punk is insulted by younger wrestlers not following his advice, he should probably keep in mind that many of those wrestlers have made a lot of money by carefully filtering or outright rejecting advice from people who keep telling them they are doing it wrong. If anything, Punk comes off like a grumpy old man who is out of touch with the current pro wrestling landscape when he makes those complaints.
Punk’s presence in AEW appears to be a huge liability in the locker room. When that is compounded by his body failing him in his 40’s, and now a crazy backstage fight, the most obvious resolution to this problem appears to be Tony Khan firing him. And if that’s how this goes, then this is probably the end of CM Punk’s pro wrestling career. It will be a damn shame if that’s what this comes to, because Punk will have brought it all on himself this time while working for a company that is actually giving him just about everything he wants from a creative standpoint.