There was much speculation and wonder over whether or not CM Punk would make his return to WWE at Survivor Series last weekend in Chicago, his hometown. In the days since, so much has been made of the return of the Second City Saint to the WWE, the company he said made him sick both physically and mentally when he left there a decade ago. It’s now been a week, and I took a long time to process Punk’s return, understand the immensity of it, appreciate its magnificence, and prepare for what WWE will not be like with Punk back in the fold for (hopefully) years to come. With that, let’s dive in!
In January of 2014, CM Punk walked out of WWE. The drama that ensued from that became well documented over time, with his being fired on his wedding day and his appearance on Colt Cabana’s podcast dominating much of his story in the immediate aftermath. Soon thereafter, Punk went into the UFC, and while his attempt was far from fruitful, it was the next chapter of his story. Then, in August of 2021, he returned to professional wrestling in AEW. For just over 2 years there, the story of CM Punk took more twists and turns than anyone ever imagined. He had one of the best matches of the decade against. MJF at Revolution 2022, the infamous All Out 2022 press conference debacle, countless injuries costing him months of his tenure, and eventually, his departure following his altercation with Jack Perry in London. 24+ months of drama, action, and new tales in the saga of Punk, all leading to returning home, in his words on Raw this past Monday, to WWE.
3,589 days after Punk left WWE on his own terms, he walked back through Gorilla and onto the stage in Chicago, sending the wrestling world into a frenzy. Watching it live, Triple H pulled one of his classic moves, showing the show-closing trademark on the lower right-hand corner to make everyone think the night was over, only for the remastered version of “Cult of Personality” to blare through the arena, causing the crowd to pop harder than they have popped in a long, long time. Chants of his name, people singing his song, screaming “It’s Clobbering Time” as loudly as they could, it was a euphoric moment that will stand the test of time. Then, he returned to Raw 48 hours later and it was one of the craziest things to witness, CM Punk re-entered a WWE ring, held a microphone, and knowingly started off by saying “So, I guess Hell froze over.” It truly seems like it has, and though his promo has divided many, it felt a lot like a clean slate and a fresh start to me. It’s a chance to let Punk repair his perception in the eyes of the fans, to build back the burned-down bridge with WWE, and potentially end his career on much better terms.
Now that we’re all caught up, let’s do one of my favorite things to do: fantasy booking Punk’s impending WWE run. Who will he face, who will he feud with, where will he be on the card, all of the important aspects that need to be addressed. First and foremost, WWE must be careful not to book Punk straight to the World Heavyweight Championship and Seth Rollins. That’s the first money match that lies on the horizon but save that for Wrestlemania in Philly. Before then, have Punk enter the Royal Rumble Match. That can go one of two ways, first he could win it, setting up an instant Wrestlemania-classic, and the main event of the grandest stage of them all that he never got in his first run, against Seth “Freakin” Rollins. Or he doesn’t and he and Rollins meet up at Wrestlemania without the title on the line (Finn Balor winning the Rumble and facing Damian Priest, fresh off of a Money in the Bank cash-in, would be a better way to go, in my opinion), but there are options there. Beyond Rollins, who likely could fill much of the middle of 2024 feuding with Punk, there’s still a ton of untapped potential alternative feuds for Punk to indulge in both before Wrestlemania and after. Cody Rhodes and GUNTHER are the two very enticing choices, but Shinsuke Nakamura, Dominik Mysterio, and Drew McIntyre are all the ones I’d really want to see. We can go down the line, seeing Punk rehash some old WWE rivalries from back in the day against the likes of Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio, plus feuding with Logan Paul could be one of the most unique clashes ever.
Finally, there’s the biggest one of them all left to be desired: Roman Reigns. Punk already indirectly referenced Paul Heyman, Reigns’ Wiseman and Special Counsel, in his return promo on Raw, and that alone adds so much intrigue to the story that could be told. But, Roman is a man on an unstoppable mission, and Punk is the complete antithesis of what Roman has become: Reigns the unwavering heel who has completely taken over the company, while Punk may become the answer to the problem – the same types of problems he caused during his 434 day reign over a decade ago. It may not be the most desired match of Punk’s run, but it will for sure be one of the biggest stories WWE has ever done.
No matter where Punk goes or who he faces, so long as there’s no drama like what came out in AEW and Punk does not cause any major stirs, this run could do such great business for WWE and great wonders for Punk’s reputation. Time will tell if that remains the case, but for now, CM Punk is back in WWE, and we should all rejoice in that magnificent feeling for as long as we can!