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AEW Collision recap & reactions (June 17, 2023): CM Punk returns

AEW Collision (June 17, 2023) emanated from United Center in Chicago, IL. The debut show featured the return of CM Punk, a new TNT champion, Andrade picking up a big win, Miro in action, and much more.

Get caught up on all the Collision details with play-by-play from Geno Mrosko.

CM Punk returns

CM Punk is back in AEW. The long-awaited return from injury and other (redacted) incidents took place on the debut episode of Collision. To the surprise of no one, the Chicago crowd exploded when his music hit.

Punk opened the show with a promo to address the past, present, and future. His theme was telling no lies. Punk fired a veiled shot at the Elite by claiming to be the one true genuine article in a business full of counterfeit bucks.

Punk also carried a red sack, which held the AEW World Championship belt that he had previously won. He earned that title, and it belongs to him until someone can pin or submit him. Cue the chatter of Punk being the uncrowned champ.

Punk came back on screen for the main event teaming with FTR against Samoa Joe, “Switchblade” Jay White, and Juice Robinson. Everyone involved wrestled with energy, but this match was all about Punk in the ring. It was a long bout, and he spent a chuck of time on the apron letting FTR do the heavy lifting.

Punk’s first action was a few minutes in, and he went for a quick GTS on Juice. Robinson escaped and tagged in Joe. The crowd erupted to see this classic rivalry renewed. Punk gained the upper hand in that mat exchange, then he tagged out.

Later in the match, Punk had a hot tag flurry running wild on Bullet Club Gold.

Punk’s next round was icing on a superplex cake. FTR hit the superplex and flying splash combo, then Punk followed for a flying elbow drop. Punk wasn’t tested that much until the climax. Joe almost made Punk pass out in a sleeper. Punk’s eyes were bulging as Bullet Club prevented FTR from making the break. Eventually, FTR broke free for the save.

FTR exploded down the stretch for a Big Rig to Juice. Punk finished with a GTS to stand tall in victory as the show closed.

The CM Punk experience was certainly an experience. His star aura was on full display as if he never missed a beat. The promo was spicy and divisive. It had material for Punk fans to cheer and for Punk haters to hate. He hit his signature spots in the ring, and there didn’t appear to be any rust on his game. Part of that was helped by FTR carrying the load.

The big carrot moving forward will be Punk as the uncrowned champion. Punk showed the spark that made him great, although, he was not operating at a championship level. Joe put Punk in his place with that sleeper. Part of that impression was Punk’s over-the-top sell job with his facial expression. It was one of those little details that enhances the storytelling inside the ring.

Seeds have been planted for compelling Punk feuds in the coming months. He can have a singles match with Joe. Assuming Punk prevails there, he should be in peak fighting form for MJF. And then there is also the Elite, if AEW can ever swing that in the spirit of controversy creating cash.

New TNT champion

Trivia time! The first match of the Collision era was Wardlow versus Luchasaurus for the TNT Championship. That hoss fight lived up to the show’s name with a collision to start the match. It also made history in more ways than one when a new TNT champion was crowned.

Christian Cage was on the outside being a pest throughout. Wardlow was solo without Arn Anderson by his side after Christian and Luchasaurus bloodied the Enforcer on Dynamite. Christian played a factor in the finish by snatching a camera from the ringside photographer to use as a foreign object. Wardlow mounted Luchasaurus in the corner pounding punches. The dino slid down under Wardlow to escape. Luchasaurus grabbed the referee as a distraction, so Christian could crack Wardlow in the head with the camera.

Luchasaurus blasted a lariat from behind to pick up the winning pin. New champ. Christian grabbed the title belt to pose in glory claiming the gold as his own. He even sat atop Luchasaurus’ shoulders in celebration.

Well, that finish stunk. For starters, I don’t believe that being hit by a camera would be enough to stop Wardlow. Even if I play into that, the closing move was underwhelming. It didn’t do much to get me excited for the inevitable rematch. I didn’t even care that Wardlow lost the title. He’s been screwed before, and he comes back to reclaim gold. This seems like an attempt to make news for the sake of making news on the debut show, and it wasn’t convincing enough to feel major. The match itself was alright for a hoss fight. There were beefy stalemates, powerslams, chokeslams, powerbombs, and even a swanton.

Collision debut

Aside from CM Punk, the main curiosity for Collision was to see what the show was all about, especially in comparison to Dynamite.

One major difference was the Collision theme song. They used Elton John’s, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.”

Collision sported a red and yellow color scheme in graphics. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness were the primary commentary team with Dasha Gonzalez as ring announcer. Jim Ross joined the crew for the main event.

Kelly and Nigel are knowledgeable in their roles, but there is a missing ingredient to success. They lack charisma in the booth. Both have dry deliveries. The Collision team needs a third member who is naturally funny but can allow them space for technical analysis. I’m thinking someone with panache. As I write that, Dalton Castle comes to mind. I wonder if he would be good on commentary.

Overall, the Collision format didn’t deviate too far from a typical Dynamite. It might be too soon to tell right now, since it has only been one show. For example, the main event was given the final half hour. That could have been for the special occasion of Punk’s return in Chicago or perhaps Collision evolves into that style of main event on a regular basis.

Let’s jam through the rest of Collision.

Andrade defeated Buddy Matthews. Julia Hart was ringside. El Idolo wrestled solo without backup from Los Ingobernables or Jose The Assistant. The story was targeting previous injuries. Andrade attacked Matthews’ knee, and Matthews attacked Andrade’s shoulder. It got to the point that both had to be checked out by ringside physicians. That set up a spot of waving off the doctors and engaging in fiery fisticuffs despite the pain.

The finish came down to a submission exchange paying homage to their better halves in WWE. Matthews secured a standing inverted cloverleaf, which girlfriend Rhea Ripley is fond of using. Andrade rolled out to send Matthews crashing into the corner. El Idolo pounced for a figure-four, then he bridged for added pressure, which wife Charlotte Flair often utilizes. Matthews was forced to tap out in defeat.

Afterward, Andrade held his hand out as a sign of respect. Lights out, lights on. The full House of Black crew was in the ring. Brody King clobbered Andrade with a lariat.

This match was very good. Both stars strut their stuff athletically. The running back elbow strike from Andrade never gets old.

The injury element elevated the story overall as a chess match between a one-armed man and a one-legged man. The longer the match went, the more interesting it became. That was a big win for Andrade. Beating Matthews clean puts El Idolo back into title contention, if that’s what he desires.

Entering this match, I was curious how the babyface and heel dynamics would play. In my mind, both are heels, or tweeners at best. I don’t think either character swayed one way or the other during the contest. Andrade did receive a pop for his return to the ring, but that didn’t really factor into behavior during the match. It was a hard-fought contest with both digging deep trying to win. Afterward, Andrade might have the babyface rub by showing respect and getting ambushed by the House of Black. It will be interesting to see if Andrade leans to the hero side going forward.

Miro defeated Tony Nese. The Redeemer mauled his opponent and even punched Mark Sterling when attempting to influence the match. Nese scored some offense, but it had no effect on Miro. The Game Over camel clutch finished the bout.

This was a refresher to present Miro as a beast of a competitor. The Redeemer is back, and he looked impressive.

The standout moment for me in this segment came before the match when Nese trashed the fans as fat slobs. He offered to shut down the show to conduct group training. I’ll always laugh at wrestlers poking fun at the sweathogs in attendance. Shout out to Rick Rude.

Skye Blue & Willow Nightingale defeated Toni Storm & Ruby Soho. Blue was the hometown hero. The Outcasts went for shenanigans in the end, and it backfired. Willow knocked Storm into spray painting Soho in the face. Willow slammed Storm, then Blue hit a Code Blue on the blinded Soho for victory.

Blue’s star momentum continued after the great showing on Dynamite. The Code Blue is so much better than the Sky Fall finisher she was using. The sidestep setup makes it unique, and the impact looks powerful.

Notes: Will Hobbs is entering the Owen Hart tournament. Powerhouse is the face of TNT, and this will be a story of redemption when he wins.

Ricky Starks is also in the Owen Hart tournament. It will be an honor and a privilege to represent Owen.

Scorpio Sky is back for Collision. He has been watching and waiting for the perfect opportunity.

Jeff Jarrett challenged Mark Briscoe to a concession stand brawl on Dynamite. Double J claimed that he would rumble solo without his crew. The Last Outlaw has been playing the long game, and he never loses the long game.

The Acclaimed and Billy Gunn were interviewed in the ring by Tony Schiavone to make history with the first scissoring of Collision.

Stud of the Show: CM Punk

Punk showed that his star power is still tops in the company.

Match of the Night: Andrade vs. Buddy Matthews

Great chess match of strategy demonstrating intestinal fortitude.

Grade: B

Solid action all night long. The draw was Punk, and he delivered entertainment. The show was handicapped in a story sense, since it was the debut. Collision will need some time to develop fresh angles.

Share your thoughts about Collision. How do you rate it? What were your favorite moments from the show?

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