August 20th, 2021 is a date that AEW fans, and wrestling fans as a whole, will remember as the day CM Punk debuted on AEW Rampage. One of the worst kept secrets, Punks debut sparked major interest, especially considering his first appearance in pro wrestling was in his hometown of Chicago. During his debut promo, Punk challenged Darby Allin to a match at All Out, which he won.
Following this was a short feud with Eddie Kingston, ending with a Punk win at Full Gear 2021. Following this, Punk entered a feud with MJF for a number of months, leading to MJF handing Punk his first loss in AEW. This rivalry ended at Revolution 2022 in a Dog Collar match, which Punk won.
This led to Punk feuding with Adam Page over the World Championship. At Double or Nothing 2022, the match was set. “Hangman” Adam Page vs CM Punk in the main event. The match ended with Punk winning his first championship in 8 years. 2 nights later, on the June 1st episode of Dynamite, Punk took part in a 6 man tag match with FTR against Max Caster and The Gunns. This would be Punks last match for nearly 3 months, as on the following Rampage, Punk announced that he had suffered an injury and would be taking time off but still remain champion.
At AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door, Jon Moxley became Interim AEW World Champion, defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi. On August 10th, at Quake by the Lake, Punk returned and confronted Mox. This created dispute over the World Championship. 2 weeks later on Dynamite, they faced off, with Mox getting the win and becoming the Undisputed AEW World Champion. Following this, Mox issued an open challenge for the World Championship at All Out, which Punk accepted, and won. During the post show media scrum, and addressed some rumours that he’d gotten Colt Cabana fired and accused Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks (at the time, serving as EVPs) of spreading said rumours. This led to a backstage confrontation and fight, resulting in all 4 wrestlers getting indefinitely suspended and all Championships stripped (Omega and the Bucks had won the newly introduced World Trio’s Championships).
During the suspension, Punk had surgery on a torn tricep, and stated that he didn’t handle the media scrum issues in the right manner. On June 17th, 2023, AEW premiered a new TV show called Collision. This also happened to be when CM Punk returned to AEW after suspension/injury, teaming with FTR to face Samoa Joe and Bullet Club Gold. He came back with a mysterious red bag.
At Forbidden Door, Punk defeated Satoshi Kajima to advance in the second annual Owen Hart Cup tournament. He followed this up with a victory over Samoa Joe, something he could never achieve in a one on one match in the past. This led to CM Punk vs Ricky Starks in the Finals, which Starks would win, turning heel in the process.
2 weeks later, CM Punk revealed the contents of the bag he’d been carrying, pulling out the AEW World Championship. Punk would claim that he was the real World Champion since he never lost it. He would follow this by spraying an X on the centre plate, claiming it was his signature symbol since 1997.
He would then challenge Ricky Starks in a title defence, claiming the Starks couldn’t beat him without cheating. To combat the cheating, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was announced as the outside enforcer. On August 5th, Punk would defeat Starks after Steamboat stopped Starks from holding the ropes.
A week later, CMFTR would have House of Black for the World Trio’s Championships in a losing fashion. After this, Punk would resume his feud with Samoa Joe, stemming from their Owen Hart Cup match. At All In London, they would have off for the “Real” World Championship. They opened the show in a solid match, which saw Punk retained.
During the All In pre show, Jack Perry made a comment directly to the camera which referenced Punk denying Perry the use of real glass. This comment led to a backstage altercation between the two, resulting in both stars being suspended indefinitely. Further investigation had taken place into the incident. This investigation led to the termination for cause of CM Punk on September 2nd, after 2 years of service, on unanimous recommendation from the AEW discipline committee and outside legal advice.
So, what can be said about CM Punks time in AEW? It brought a renewed interest in the promotion. A renewed love for the industry for Punk. There are some great moments, great matches, great promos. But it was also filled with controversy, heartache, and injury, leading to termination. Many people had called for Punk to be fired after the first altercation, due to his history of being difficult dating back to his time in WWE. Many aren’t happy that only Punk got fired after All In.
One thing is for certain, Punk got people talking, and all publicity is good publicity, as they say. CM Punk will go down as one of the more controversial names in wresting, which is big a good thing and a bad thing for whoever does business with him. As for what the future holds for Punk, who knows. Well he return to AEW? Will he return to WWE? Or what about an Impact Wrestling return? There’s still options for him, but it’s up to him a to who he wants to go with. Until then, we have to play the waiting game.