Is CM Punk Worth The Hassle?

(Photo Credit: AEW)

The CM Punk saga continues.

As the time frame for CM Punk’s recovery from a torn triceps nears its conclusion, of course there continues to be speculation that prehaps the former All Elite Wrestling World champion could return to the company. The story of the infamous All Out media scrum and the aftermath was discussed by almost everyone so there’s no need to rehash all of those details again. However, a few social media posts within the past few weeks, including Punk’s response to a fan on social media, seemed to imply that he was at least willing to consider a comeback to the organization.

But, in typical CM Punk fashion, the drama continues.

The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer posted on his site’s message board in response to fan questions, claiming that the circumstances around the CM Punk/Jon Moxley matches last year were murky because “Punk sent a legal letter” and implied that Punk initially refused the match.

This prompted Punk to post an Instagram story with his side, claiming that he wasn’t cleared to wrestle and that he disagreed with Moxley’s idea of a Rocky 3 scenario, an angle that I’m assuming saw Punk lose quickly first before he won at the pay-per-view. The real-life Phil Brooks claimed that he never saw any Rocky movies, but agreed to the angle if that’s what Tony Khan wanted because he’s the boss of the organization. Punk also said that Moxley originally refused to lose the match. The 44-year-old grappler went on to say that Meltzer is a liar and continued with claims that Chris Jericho is “a liar and a stooge.” Punk concluded with saying that his health was more important.
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In response, Chris Jericho posted an Instagram story with a Matt Hardy “Delete” gif, and then Punk actually deleted the Instagram post, but several fans took screen shots to post it online.

This all sounds like middle school drama, not a scenario that could draw money in pro wrestling.

There’s a lot to unpack with this situation, but to attempt to make a few key points, I think it’s best to try to discuss them in the order that they were posted online. Meltzer’s implication that Punk sent a legal letter as a way to dodge the Moxley match seems doubtful, only because the pay-per-view was almost six months ago, and a legal hurdle to avoid it would’ve been in the news prior to this. As much as Punk probably is a self-centered jerk in real life, it’s completely fair to question Meltzer’s credibility, not only because it was proven that he printed false information in the past, (the Dragon Gate fiasco made him look terrible) but he undoubtedly has a conflict of interest in coverage with AEW. Keep in mind, Tony Khan said himself that he is a longtime subscriber to the Observer newsletter, and has taken the time to be interviewed on Wrestling Observer Radio in the past. In many ways, Dave Meltzer has full access to AEW because of his friendship with Khan. Obviously, Meltzer doesn’t have this type of access to WWE and didn’t have that type of access to WCW in its heyday. Vince McMahon or Triple H aren’t going to appear on Meltzer’s podcast.

In some respects, this speaks to a bigger issue that could be a discussion of its own, as far as how The Wrestling Observer, both in its coverage and the perception of the publication, changed as the industry evolved. Dave always sprinkled in his opinions, but didn’t necessarily have a horse in the race prior to the modern era. Dirt sheet readers were by nature a niche demographic, especially during and at any point before the Monday night wars. Within the past two decades, as the internet became a household item and even today, the vast majority of wrestling news sites use The Observer as their primary source for information. A major portion of Meltzer’s content in some form or fashion was distributed for free rather than through a newsletter subscription. Sure, The Observer added more to its subscription service with Wrestling Observer Radio and a myriad of podcasts, but the bottom line is, the main selling point is still the backstage news in the industry. Keep in mind, Dave Meltzer is a reporter, but he’s not a journalist in the traditional sense. Meltzer makes a living for subscriptions so it’s quite literally in his financial interest to serve a base audience. The slat that there often was against the WWE in the post-WCW era served the contrarian audience that wanted to claim that an obscure company in Japan or an underground indy group in The United States had a better product than Vince McMahon. Similar to that, Meltzer’s slat toward the success of All Elite Wrestling serves that diehard audience, which is the same demographic that follow the dirt sheets. Considering that Meltzer sold tickets to Q & A sessions during a few of the All Elite pay-per-view weekends, he quite literally has a vested interest in the success of the company. Does this mean that everything Meltzer says is wrong or that he doesn’t make fair points? Absolutely not, in fact, from a historical perspective Dave Meltzer is one of the best resources in the history of the industry. However, the point is, that it wouldn’t be shocking if CM Punk was right about Meltzer’s bias toward putting The Elite in a favorable light.

As far as Punk’s claim that Moxley refused to put him over, it’s possible, but I’m not sure how much stock to put into it. It’s very possible that given Punk’s reputation and the fact that Moxley had to put the company on his back while Punk was on the shelf with the foot injury, it might’ve been a situation where Moxley wanted to see if Punk was willing to put him over before he dropped the title. Still, I find it difficult to believe that Moxley refused to do the job since he’s a smart businessman.

Next. Punk called Jericho a liar and a stooge, with the implication that Jericho gave information to either Meltzer or the AEW office. Punk didn’t cite any specific examples, but maybe it was a reference to Jericho’s friendship with Tony Khan? Don’t get me wrong, Jericho definitely keeps himself strong on television and part of the reason he remains relevant in the business, aside from his stellar skills, is that he knows how to navigate the political shark tank of the industry. That being said, I doubt that Chris Jericho would sabotage CM Punk’s stint in AEW. Jericho is smart enough to know that the more well established AEW is, the longer he can make money in the company.

Of course, the cynical nature of wrestling will make people question if the whole situation is a work.

If it’s a work, it’s a poorly-constructed work, as random and brief exchanges on Instagram don’t have a payoff. Punk took issue with Meltzer, Moxley, and Jericho, but the money that still be on the table is a feud against The Elite so an Instagram angle just dilutes the narrative of a CM Punk return. As mentioned, Punk indicated on social media that he would be willing to mend fences in AEW, but if it’s not a work, this latest riff doesn’t accomplish that. More than anything, it might be proof that CM Punk is more of a hassle than he’s worth for the company. Granted, this was a short term boost after his return, but the majority of the numbers, both for ratings and pay-per-view buys, were the same before he debuted as they were prior to his stint with the promotion.

After the backstage turmoil overshadowed the in-ring product for much of 2022, does AEW really need more behind-the-scenes drama? Does this latest riff, work or not, generate anything that can be translated into a payoff? CM Punk couldn’t work with the WWE and now he can’t work with AEW, at this point, does Punk have enough star power that his next move will make a measurable difference for the organization? If not, maybe it’s better for everyone involved if Phil Brooks stays home for the duration of the contract.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail [email protected] | You can follow me on Instagram & Facebook @jimlamotta89