When wrestling fans — or just about anyone involved in the business, in any way — was checking their social media or favorite website before WWE’s regularly scheduled Monday show last night (April 24), no one expected to see “CM PUNK BACKSTAGE AT RAW”.
But that’s what we saw. And even on a night when Triple H introduced a new World title, and Vince McMahon allegedly ordered “major changes” to the script, Punk’s visit has remained a hot topic ever since.
So... what was up with that? A lengthy report from PWInsider has some answers, or at least answers from Mike Johnson’s sources you can factor into your own speculation and theorizing.
• Punk was in Florida last week for his regular side-gig as a color commentator for mixed martial arts promotion Cage Fury Fighting Championships, which has a show in Tampa last Thursday (April 20). He was flying home to Chicago yesterday, and several Raw-bound WWE talent & staff who live in Florida were on his flight.
• From them, he learned Raw was at Rosemont, Illinois’ Allstate Arena, which Insider says is near where he lives in Chicago. Punk stopped by the arena before the show started, and brought into the building by other talents.
CM PUNK AT #WWERaw pic.twitter.com/aAyR7OTRLY— Pro Wrestling Clips - WWE, AEW, ECW, WCW (@MagazinePics) April 24, 2023
• Inside, Punk never went behind a closed door or had a “secret meeting” with anyone. He was in a common area where anyone who walked by could see him.
• That’s where he briefly met with Paul Levesque, aka Triple H. Their exchange was one or two minutes long, tops. They shook hands, Punk asked if it was okay if he was there and if they could talk if the Chief Content Officer had time. Haitch said he needed to check with “the big guy”, referencing Vince McMahon.
• Punk stayed in that same location and talked to other talents who came by. This is when he spoke to Miz and they “cleared the air” from the time when Punk was working on WWE Backstage.
• Those who saw Punk “greeted him warmly”. The “WTF?” reactions came from people who heard he was there later, but didn’t actually see or interact with him.
• After about 20 minutes, security asked Punk to leave. He said his goodbyes and left. That and all of his exchanges were said to be respectful.
• Insider’s sources differed on why he was asked to leave. One said it was because Punk is under contract to AEW. Another pointed out that wasn’t an issue with having folks like Malakai Black and Andrade El Idolo attend the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony earlier this month, and speculated this history between Punk and the company — particularly legal history — was why he was treated differently.
• Johnson shoots down speculation this was Punk seeing if WWE would bring him back, pointing out he’s under contract to AEW for a “lengthy” amount of time still. He also dismissed the idea this was a publicity stunt on either Punk or AEW’s part.
• AEW and WWE people were shocked Punk was there, and even questioned whether the reports were fake or some sort of work.
And while all of that’s interesting, Johnson’s closing paragraph nicely sums up everything he heard:
So, it just happened that Punk was at his home in Chicago on the same day Raw was within minutes of his home and, apparently, said the hell with it and went over to visit. From all we have spoken to, it just happened to be the timing that led to Punk going there on a whim.
Even if that’s 100% accurate, there can still be public relations and political implications. Those will continue to drive theories, even when/if Punk returns to anchor AEW’s new Saturday show in July as has been reported.
Never a dull moment with our guy Phil.