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Tony Khan is AEW’s biggest problem, not CM Punk

AEW will continue to suffer until the boss acts like one.

AEW All Out Media Scrum

I never condoned CM Punk’s unprofessional conduct at the post-All Out media scrum, nor did I condone his actions weeks earlier during his initial tirade on an episode of Dynamite.

And rather than get worked up by rumor-rag observers and wannabe journalists printing one-sided accounts casting CM Punk in a negative light, I simply wanted an explanation for Punk’s actions as I called out the fickle fans who were quick to betray him. And though I had a hunch or two about what was provoking his outlandish behavior, some of which I postulated to readers, we finally have our answers.

In an interview with ESPN before his return to AEW on the premiere of its new show, Collision, Punk finally spoke in a more professional and less profane tone than when we last heard from him.

And it confirmed what I thought was painfully obvious: Punk’s actions, as boorish as they were, were that of a frustrated man whose issues (allegedly) went unresolved, as his comments to ESPN suggest.

In the piece, the former WWE and AEW World Champ said he apologized to AEW President and co-owner Tony Khan for his outburst. But as Punk explained, it wasn’t anything Khan hadn’t heard before.

“That’s not the first time he heard all that. It’s not the first time lawyers were told all that. And I was just looking for something to be done and nothing got done. So, if you want something done right, you got to do it yourself. And I just didn’t approach it in the right manner, but tension was high.”

Surprisingly, Punk’s issues, which began with an unscripted comment made by Adam Page before their championship match last year, have largely been dismissed by fans as Punk being too sensitive.

For all my braggadocio, even I’m not arrogant enough to say what someone should or shouldn’t be offended by. All I know is what I read. And what I read from Punk’s conduct last summer to his words to ESPN is that Page upset him, and the situation escalated, causing Punk to take his concerns to Khan.

And if Punk is being honest about legal being aware of his concerns, that tells me the situation behind the scenes had to be serious enough to warrant going that far.

Unfortunately, select sources began spilling potentially spoiled beans to the wrestling media where, since last summer, Punk has become the target of one hit piece after another by wrestling’s so-called journalists. And as he told ESPN, he wasn’t going to take that abuse lying down:

“So, I understand people want to say that, ‘Oh, man, Punk is a dick.’ Well yeah, because I’m defending myself and I will always defend myself. I’m open to have a full-blown f---ing sit-down powwow discussion with everybody about it. But it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s not because of my lack of trying.”

Even now, certain writers in wrestling’s press corps continue to needle at Punk, as do those in AEW with ties to the All Out brawl and their friend, Adam Page.

That’s why it’s no coincidence that on the day Punk’s explanation drops, Nick Jackson, who allegedly squared off with Punk and his buddy Ace Steel during the backstage scuffle, is publicly vouching for his cowboy compadre Adam Page.

But don’t expect AEW to spin this saga into an angle because, according to Punk’s words to ESPN, that’s not happening, which is too bad since issuing passive-aggressive digs is still permittable.

And it all speaks to AEW’s most glaring problem: feckless management.

Had Tony Khan lived up to his title, boss, and addressed matters decisively from the jump, most of AEW’s headaches since last September could’ve been avoided. Instead, he allowed tensions to rise and bubble over, causing a divide within his locker room and across AEW’s fan base that continues to hang over AEW like a guillotine.

Regardless, CM Punk is back, at least for now. And I wish him well in his return. It sounds like he’s going to need it. Because as long as AEW doesn’t address its real problem, Tony Khan and his inability to lead, I doubt that Punk or AEW will be around much longer.

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