CM Punk always makes headlines.
He didn’t have to do anything after he walked through the curtain and onto the stage to become the top news story of the night. In fact, that’s exactly what happened. He didn’t do anything. Punk wasn’t the fifth member of the men’s WarGames match, a theory that some had. He wasn’t even there to call out anyone involved in the main event. He was simply there to be there. But that alone was enough for him to become the biggest story of the night, and that was reflected in the post-show press conference for Survivor Series: WarGames.
“Love him, hate him, positive, negative, whatever you want to say, people talk about him,” said WWE Chief Content Officer Paul Levesque, commenting on why they signed Punk shortly after his sudden and controversial departure from AEW.
The way that Punk left WWE in 2014, on a sour note which he publicly documented when he joined Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast, could cause fair speculation that he would never be back in the promotion. However, Triple H, a name who Punk has publicly voiced his frustrations about in the past, believes that time heals all wounds. He stated that enough time has passed for all parties involved to be ready to work together once again.
“If you are the same person you were 10 years ago, 10 years later, you’ve messed up,” Levesque said, reflecting on Punk’s first WWE departure. “Everybody grows. Everybody changes. I’m a different person. He’s a different person. This is a different company. We’re all on the same even starting ground. What’s next for CM Punk is going to be an interesting one.”
Heading into this weekend, many thought that Punk would show up. It was a large event in his home state of Illinois. On the other side of things, there were many who were quite skeptical that Punk would come back this weekend, let alone ever. However, we live in a time where there isn’t much that is certain about him. When he left WWE nearly a whole decade ago, the assumption was that he had retired from wrestling. Past events showed that Punk likely wouldn’t be back in the WWE someday. But what Levesque said is right: Things do change over time.
When discussing the deal to bring in Punk, Triple H was simple with his reason: He remains a popular and in-demand name.
“If our fans want it, if the WWE universe is excited to have it, then let’s go. And we’ll figure out the rest from there. This came together super quick, which I’m sure is why it stayed very tight,” he said.” He brushed off the prior rumors about Punk appearing, claiming that nothing was sorted out on their end at that time: “There was a lot of speculation. At that point, it was nothing but speculation.”
The impromptu nature of Punk’s WWE appearance arguably shows that the promotion clearly isn’t worried about his presence. While Punk is certainly a controversial figure — loved by many, disliked by others — they seem to be confident enough that he can manage inside their work environment to stick around. It’s worth noting that even though Punk is a big name, it’s not like WWE is desperate for talent currently. Live tickets are doing quite well, and there’s a long number of wrestlers that float around the main event picture. Punk obviously adds something, but he’s not a key player that the promotion lacked either. If you have all of these big names in the main event, you could make the case that there’s not much reason to incur risk and pick up another person to add to the equation. All this to say: Punk being a risk to the promotion doesn’t seem like something WWE is worried about. Whether his run with WWE will end sour, like his first run with them and his sole AEW campaign, is something we simply don’t know yet.
Levesque offered another piece of insight when asking about another former AEW talent who is now in WWE, Jade Cargill. After making appearances on WWE programming in recent months and teasing her eventual debut, nothing much followed. Levesque mentioned that this was all part of their plan for her.
“I want to make sure that no matter what is thrown at Jade Cargill she’s ready. And at no fault of her own, I think that she was limited in that, right? So, the idea is, we exposed her, we made her be seen, people are understanding and they’re waiting and they’re excited for her to come. And when she does, it’s going to be massive.”
These comments make sense, although it does call into question how long it will be before she returns. Will we see Cargill more before her eventual in-ring WWE debut? And how long will it be until that happens? And at what point does her brief appearances from months before become outdated and possibly forgotten by some viewers?
Cody Rhodes commented on Punk as well when he appeared at the press conference. Rhodes was coming off a WarGames win with the team of Jey Uso, Randy Orton, Sami Zayn, and Seth Rollins. Rhodes, who had his time in AEW cross-over when Punk was with the promotion, didn’t have any qualms about his arrival.
“If he can help with where we’re going and what we’re doing, absolutely [join us],” Rhodes said. “Welcome aboard. I have a feeling that the CM Punk that we’re potentially getting is hungry, and that’s the best.”
Despite both being in AEW at the same time, the last instance where Punk and Rhodes shared a ring was the 2014 Royal Rumble. When Rhodes left AEW in 2022 and started his second stint with WWE, many might have thought that the chance of them meeting in the ring once again was officially shut. But this weekend, that door opened once again.