CM Punk returned to pro wrestling last August with AEW and immediately became one of the biggest stars in the company. Punk is showcased nearly every week on Dynamite or Rampage, but in some ways he’s still finding his footing in the pro wrestling landscape eight years after his established peak.
Paul Heyman has a deep history with helping and advising Punk throughout his career. During an interview on The Masked Man Show, Heyman was asked to give his thoughts on Punk’s return. Heyman responded with a challenge for Punk to find a way to once again rebel against the system and be on the cutting edge. Here is the transcript of his response, courtesy of Wrestling Inc:
“I think what will be interesting is, what happens when the novelty that he’s back wears off? Both for the audience and for him. I’m sure for him this is still like ‘I can’t believe I’m back! I’m actually walking into an arena, holy shit.’”
“I think it’s still very fresh for him. What happens a year from now? How’s he going to feel? How will the audience look at him and accept him in a year? If he can continue to drive himself, to being a progressive, compelling, riveting character on the cutting edge that presents himself in a different manner than anyone else can present, then he’s going to be a fascinating character to watch.”
“If he doesn’t, then he’s going to be someone that came back, rode a wave of nostalgia but didn’t progress into the future when he as a rebel was always looking forward in the business and never trying to live off what the business had already accomplished or what he had already accomplished in the business. So the fascinating thing for me to watch is his mindset is his vision for that character, for that persona, for himself as a performer a year from now. We’re still in the honeymoon period.”
It wouldn’t be a Paul Heyman response without hyping up his own man, so he goes on to compare Punk’s situation to Roman Reigns:
“Where does Phil Brooks want to take CM Punk? It’s the same thing, it’s the same conversation I had with Roman Reigns before we debuted in public together. It’s again, it’s taking the ‘Big Dog’ and moving him into the role of the ‘Tribal Chief.’ Everything that you’ve done only leads up till now. That was just the appetizer. And now you’re going to be the main course.”
“I told Roman ‘you’ve had four WrestleMania main events and you have to look at that as just the audition to be the Tribal Chief. It’s just the lead-up to it. Because everything you’ve done before now is just the lead to the moment you emerge as the Tribal Chief. This is where your legacy gets crafted. This is your Hall Of Fame run. This is what you will be remembered for. And everything before was just getting you here. Including four WrestleMania main events.’”
Where do you think CM Punk will progress to one year from now? Is he just a pro wrestling nostalgia act in 2022? Or will he find a way to rise to the top of the business in a new and compelling manner?