The newest update on AEW’s plans for the return of CM Punk lines up with most of what we’ve been hearing for the past few weeks. It is a bit more specific — and some of the key details are at odds with a report from a different outlet last week. The latest also includes an interesting possible justification for why Tony Khan is bringing back Punk despite the alleged protestations of many on his talent roster.
In this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer writes that AEW is planning to bring Punk back at a show in Chicago’s United Center on Sat., June 17. While everything hasn’t been finalized yet, the venue is locked in for that date — a sign that Khan is confident everything will be finalized soon:
The building is booked and it likely will be announced very shortly, when the Punk deal and the TV deal are finalized. Obviously with the building deal in place, the TV deal has to either be done or they must be almost certain of it.
The decision on Punk returning was made many weeks ago, although there was a snag two weeks back that has evidently been worked out.
Meltzer offers no details on that “snag”. The flap involving him, Punk, and Jon Moxley happened back in March. That’s more than “two weeks back”, but still our best guess as to what Dave’s referring to.
As to what is delineated in the WON’s report, United Center is the biggest and most prestigious of the indoor arenas where AEW and WWE run shows in the greater Chicago area. It’s where Punk returned to pro wrestling in 2021 at “The First Dance” edition of Rampage.
“The First Dance” was the second-ever episode of Rampage, AEW’s second weekly show on cable networks now owned by Warner Bros Discovery. The Saturday date for Punk’s comeback show is believed to be the premiere of its third. Based on a trademark filing, it looks like that two-hour series will be called Collision — but Meltzer writes the June 17 show will also “have a theme name, which evidently has been decided upon.”
Moving into the rumor and speculation portion of this Observer item, Meltzer writes that Punk was key to Khan getting WBD to commit to AEW’s new Saturday show. Some of his sources even said the deal was dependent on Punk. He goes on theorize what that means for AEW’s annual income statement:
If AEW only makes what Discovery has been paying for first run shows as a general rule ($500,000 per hour in general is what Discovery pays for first-run programming), that’s $52 million per year and that’s a game changing financial deal for AEW.
Saturday nights aren’t exactly known for generating huge ratings, so it’s conceivable WBD will be paying Khan less than their regular primetime rates. But even so, if Punk’s return was essential to AEW getting tens of millions of dollars a year... you can see why the owner would overrule the locker room, and develop a plan for a roster split to keep those who aren’t interested in working with Punk on Wednesdays while the Straight-Edge Chicagoan headlines the new Saturday show.
Sounds like we’ll get to see how that works out for Khan & AEW in a couple months.