Once upon a time, a wise man told CM Punk that leaving WWE and coming back was the only way to get anything out of it. He also said that wise man was right and gave a slight wink to the camera.
CM Punk is a lot of things to a lot of people, but regardless of one’s feelings towards him, he gets attention. Better yet, he knows how to maintain that attention once he gets it. To that end, this felt like a tale of two promos.
Punk shouted out Dusty Rhodes and the previously mentioned wise man. Those sounded like heartfelt conversations he had with two men who clearly mean the world to him. He gave props to the fans for keeping his name alive after 10 years and showing their love. I felt that and I believe him when he said he came back for them. “You never forgot about me even when I wanted to forget about me” is a poetic line that might be the realest thing I ever heard a wrestler say. It says so much with so few words and gives insight into the man behind the awesome theme song.
But the stuff about him being “home” didn’t work for me. Punk’s selling ability on that microphone is second to none, so I don’t doubt the performer saying it. It does, however, ring false after everything he said while working in AEW and, ya know, everything he said about WWE since 2013. Maybe that’s on me because those words still sound fresh in my brain. And to the WWE audience that ignores AEW, those words will certainly hit differently. I don’t begrudge them that but the “heartfelt” sentiments rang hollow there.
The most interesting moments came during the second half. That’s when it looked like CM Punk came out to play and tossed the script in his back pocket. He talked about the open arms greeting him since he came back while noting that not everyone feels that way. During his last comeback, he wanted to prove he still reigned supreme on the microphone, in the ring, and on commentary. This time, he’s not even questioning that prowess. And he believes no one is on his level.
While that sounds like traditional wrestling chest puffing, it carries a different vibe given his history. He’s not thinking about playing nice with anyone or putting anyone under his learning tree; he’s back to make money and not friends. WWE seems like a very Kumbaya place at the moment, so I wonder how it reacts when someone who couldn’t care less about any of that enters into its bloodstream. I’m not predicting anything bad but I foresee a new status quo.
Punk’s whole thing, and the reason I fell in love with him years ago, is about upsetting the natural order. He exists for rebellion and pushes against norms. WWE’s norm is in a good place at the moment. It needed Punk in 2011, probably more than it knew. And while his star rose, the company fumbled what they had when he truly became the biggest name in the company. Do they need the rabble rousing now? And how will those sitting comfortably react when he pushes against their standings? If you ask Punk, they’re scared. He says that partially in kayfabe but also real life.
I always hear Gorilla Monsoon’s voice in my head when I think about an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Well, his voice is on loop right now and sounding louder than ever. WWE is the unstoppable force and Punk is the immovable object.
Who breaks first?
The tag team turmoil match offered some clashing styles—shoutout to AJ Styles. We got the comedy with Alpha Academy going against the gritty DIY first. And, much to my surprise, DIY won. But just barely. The same went for their next victory over Indus Sheer. For a second, I thought maybe DIY gets the ultimate victory here. While it seems undeserving at the moment, a championship match with Judgment Day at least puts two very different teams together.
But that’s not what happened. Their luck ran out against the Brothers Creed, who also defeated New Day and finally, IMPERIUM. Really glad IMPERIUM didn’t get the W here because Ludwig Kaiser & Giovanni Vinci don’t even get along right now. While I might dig the drama that comes from them losing their championship match because they can’t stand each other, Julius & Brutus are the better choices. Finn Balor said that he and Damian Priest can’t take them lightly and he’s so correct.
I know it’s expected now but Ivar’s agility amazes me every week. The dude is incredibly nimble and moves like a cat. Look at him! None of that sounds even remotely possible, yet here we are. Bronson Reed is no slouch either but during their match, I just came away with more reverence for the big viking.
And it’s nowhere near over because the match ended in a double count out. It then evolved into these two cats going to war outside the ring. They launched each other through barricades, brawled into the crowd, and then launched a few security guards at one another.
If you love beef, this was for you. If you really love beef, then you gotta love this appetizer.
Nia Jax teased Zoey Stark earlier. Why? Well, she’s a jerk. But she also delivered the message that she’s putting the rest of the locker room on notice. She challenged Zoey in what I assume is the first step on her way to Rhea Ripley.
And the match backed up Nia’s claims. Zoey got some offense in but Nia dominated most of the proceedings. She’s better in the ring than she was during her last stint in WWE and looks like a genuine threat every single time. It helps that within story, Zoey wasn’t 100 percent, so selling power moves came easy. As per usual with most women’s matches, their time felt limited but they also did the most with it. Solid match that hopefully leads to something more. And by “more” I mean truly building Rhea’s next competitor. I hate going into her matches slightly disinterested because the woman across the ring from her has no credibility.
Keeping this short with Cody because the his promo’s main point came into focus towards the end.
He’s ready to finish the story and became the first entrant for the 2024 Royal Rumble.
The second thing? Well, that’s on Shinsuke Nakamura. After cryptic messages for weeks, Shinsuke finally revealed that he wants Cody. Actually, no, he needs Cody. And while Cody looked and listened with confusion, Shinsuke jumped him.
Drew McIntyre lost his ever-loving mind. But I love it so much. Seth Rollins hit the ring and encouraged the crowd to get their Punk chants out the way. The champ says he doesn’t want to spend any more time on that “hypocrite” than necessary. Well, that’s a shot.
Seth talked his talk about elevating the World Heavyweight championship, along with wanting another fight on the next Monday Night Raw.
Drew hit the ring and that’s when he showed his insanity. He talked about moving on from Jey and refocusing on Seth’s championship. Moving on from Jey felt like a false note to me but okay, the chip means more. No argument here. He talked about deserving the L Seth handed him during their championship match because for one second, he showed Seth mercy. I loved all of that. Drew went back in time, picked on a moment, and called it the inciting incident for where he is now. And now he wants another shot at the gold.
Seth appreciated his honesty but told him he’s defending his championship against someone more deserving: Jey Uso.
Drew headbutted Seth, drew bled his own blood, and barked on Seth! He believes the only reason Seth granted Jey a championship match is because of Seth’s supposed personal vendetta with himself. Someone who believes everything is about them is perfect villainy. In Drew’s mind, the only way anyone but him gets a title shot, especially Jey, is indirectly related to him. He went nuts on Seth, but Jey broke it up. The champ and his challenger took out the big man then showed their respect for one another.
Oh but there’s more.
Sami Zayn approached Drew backstage and told him about himself. And everything he said was true.
Drew’s mad about losing in front of his family? So did Sami.
Drew’s mad about almost defeating Seth? So did Sami.
Sami’s disappointment list runs long and deeper than Drew’s. And to Sami’s point, Drew’s future probably looks brighter than his simply because he looks like he does.
Needless to say, Drew heard none of that correctly. Sami suggested dusting himself off and getting right back to it. So Drew, the villain he is, said he’s starting over with Sami as his first opponent.
Dope segments back to back that showed everyone’s humanity and motivations. If Jey vs. Seth ends because of Drew’s chicanery, color me not surprised.
Randy Orton returned and made his intentions clear: He wants the Bloodline. Rhea interrupted and, of course, noted that Judgment Day runs things now, not the Bloodline. Randy, in amazing form, told Rhea that he’s well aware about Mami. But Daddy is back.
Great interactions between these two, but Rhea usually does well in these situations. Randy slid right back into character he portrayed before the injury, minus the Bro energy. Judgment Day jumped him and threw off that whole vibe, but he challenged Dirty Dom as Judgment Day left the ring.
The match showcased Randy. Dom is the perfect foil for anyone because the crowd loves watching him get slapped around. JD McDonagh, sporting a comical neck brace, tried getting involved but he caught those hands too.
Country music isn’t really my thing so I have no comments on Jellyroll’s ringside involvement either way. I know he’s a big deal in Nashville, he sold a lot of records, and has a CMA to his name. JD and Dom got in his face and he pushed them back some serious force.
Randy, Dom, JD, and Jellyroll had one job: Keep the crowd hot for the true main event.
Fun three hours. ‘Nuff said, as Stan Lee used to write.
Actually, if I lied. If I have one complaint, it’s that I wish the Women’s tag championship match got more time. I know I’m a broken record on the women’s matches but it’s a championship match! Most of it transpired through picture-in-picture. Chelsea Green & Piper Niven retained and both teams looked good. I just wanted more.
Still though, excellent show for the most part.
What say you, Cagsiders?