Ever since AEW secured a television deal with TNT last year, many pro wrestling fans were hoping that CM Punk would eventually sign with Tony Khan’s promotion. His name always comes up among the hottest free agents in the business, even though Punk has spent more time in MMA than pro wrestling over the last few years. AEW has never come to terms on a deal with Punk, and Punk himself has stated that no serious offer was ever made to him. If anything, it looked like Punk was moving closer to a WWE return once he joined WWE Backstage late last year.
The Punk/AEW story resurfaced in the news last week when Konnan mentioned that Punk asked AEW for “an astronomical amount of money” during last year’s negotiations.
Cody Rhodes was asked about Konnan’s remark by Alex McCarthy of talkSport, and here is Cody’s response:
“As far as the CM Punk negotiations go, everyone heard the famous ‘he got a text from us’. Yeah, of course there were negotiations and he did ask for a great amount of money and Punk is worth a great deal of money. But you also have to – and this isn’t speaking to Punk specifically, this is speaking to recruitment and what we’ve learned in wrestling in general – a lot of people think ‘these wrestlers are running this wrestling company’. These wrestlers are doing everything they can to run the creative, the brand and the marketing and things, but there are some very smart and fiscally conservative people who surround us and flank us because this isn’t my money. At all.
And I don’t want a situation that happened with WCW or Jim Crockett promotions where we think we’re flying so high that we can do anything. No – this is a business. And we have to turn a profit. The fact we were able to turn a profit as a company within only two years of being alive, very few other companies within wrestling – it’s real limited, you can count on one hand who’s been able to do that versus who has bled money – but in that situation the negotiations, I don’t think they ever got too serious. Doesn’t mean they won’t one day, but they never got entirely too serious.
I think there is a good relationship there. I think I have a good relationship with Phil, I believe Tony does too and I’m not sure really when it comes to him, it’s not so much about the money. It’s about are you interested in doing this? Because the price tag becomes a lot more justifiable if you’re genuinely interested in what we’re doing at the high speed we’re doing it. And again, that’s not even specific to him, just in general, if the passion is not there, the money is not there.”
This reads to me like a situation where it’s difficult for AEW to put an exact number on Punk’s worth, so they are staying away from his giant price tag for now. If it was obvious that they would turn a profit, they would have made a serious offer, because that’s how business works. Cody’s comments indicate that AEW is a young company that, while profitable, doesn’t necessarily have the financial cushion right now to take on the risk of a mega deal with CM Punk.
AEW did have the financial means to sign other top stars like Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley though, so either Punk is asking for much more money than those guys, or there is more to the story here. You know, like the possibility that CM Punk will never work for AEW. But if rumors that WWE will never work with Punk again are correct, then perhaps we should just accept the likelihood that Punk is done as a pro wrestler.
As far as Punk’s passion is concerned, most comments from Punk over the last few years suggest that he isn’t interested in pro wrestling. But it’s clear to me from his recent conversations with Ricky Steamboat and Daniel Bryan on WWE Backstage that Punk is very passionate about discussing pro wrestling, at the very least.
A lot of things need to line up correctly for Punk to sign with AEW, and I imagine that includes the return of live audiences to pro wrestling.
Do you still hope to see Punk sign with AEW at some point down the line?