CM Punk opens up about WWE return, events that led to AEW exit

Photo Courtesy: WWE

Transcription By: Andrew Thompson

Since CM Punk exited AEW and made his shocking return to WWE, many questions have surrounded the prolific wrestler’s career.

How did his new WWE deal come together? What’s his full story with Jack Perry? How does he really feel about his AEW run in retrospect? These are just a few of the many questions that people have wondered about the veteran talent.

In an appearance on The MMA Hour this week, Punk provided answers. He told his side of many stories that people have wanted to know about in an interview that lasted nearly two hours. He discussed his WWE return, clashes with Jack Perry and Hangman Page in AEW, and many other topics he has rarely touched on in public.

When Punk made his WWE return at Survivor Series last year, word got around that his appearance came together on short notice. Punk provided an oral history of how his deal with the company came together:

“The action of it started the [beginning of the] week of Thanksgiving, maybe,” Punk said, discussing how his new WWE deal came together. For context, Survivor Series took place on November 25, just two days after Thanksgiving. “I’d have to look at a calendar and figure out dates exactly. I remember times and places of where I was when I would get phone calls and such. And I had a CFFC show coming up I think so I got a call from Nick Khan and he was just like, ‘Hey, I wanna talk to you’. And I was like, ‘Cool. On my way to the gym and I got this coming up, I got CFFC. I’ll be back then.’ ‘Cool. You wanna talk Monday? Great.’ So it was the week of Thanksgiving, Monday, I spoke to him. I think the call — I’m always so nervous about pulling the curtain back on stuff — but, I think the call was more of a, ‘Hey, we wanna talk to you about coming back. We’d love you for Royal Rumble,’ because they’d assumed that I probably had some sort of non-compete or something like that and were kind of floored when I was like, ‘No man, ready to go. Let’s do it. Saturday…’ No [I never had a non-compete]. Nick [Khan] said, ‘I really wish I knew that.’ Sorry man. I didn’t call or tell anybody. I just kind of laid low for a minute [after leaving AEW].”

Just days after Punk started to discuss a WWE deal, he was back in front of a loud live crowd. His contract was last minute, but Punk dispelled the rumor that he appeared before details were finalized: “I don’t think they would’ve ever allowed me to even be on television without signing something,” he said. “Literally on the phone with the lawyer like, ‘Okay, alright.’ Sign, go. I signed and then walked into Gorilla and it was like the most crowded elevator. There was just everyone, and everyone just turns and looks, and jaws drop on the floor and then people are like, ‘What!?’ And then, you know, the world saw what came next.”

Due to Survivor Series being a special event in Illinois shortly after Punk’s unceremonious AEW exit, unsurprisingly there was chatter about his potential appearance for weeks leading up to the show. Punk claimed he didn’t have any part in the whispers of a WWE return and that some of the teases surprised even him.

“I was in the same boat as everybody else where [during] the weeks leading up to it, they were doing all these weird little things that happened too often to seem to be coincidences. Oh, somebody uses the G.T.S., somebody says ‘Best in the World.’ And on their face, you go, ‘Ah, that doesn’t matter.’ But I’m sitting at home going, ‘Should I be tanning?’ I haven’t spoken to anybody, I don’t know what’s going on. People are messaging me, they’re like, ‘Oh! You’re coming back. We’re so excited.’ I’m just like, it’s just another day in professional wrestling where — for some reason, I’m like a magnet for that stuff.”

After joining the roster, Punk says that he felt love in the WWE.

“Somebody explained it to me like this, they said: ‘I’m super glad you’re back here so you can experience the culture backstage that you helped create. Because you were a catalyst for this and then you left and now you’re back and I’m glad you get to enjoy it and see the fruits of your labor.’ And that kind of — that hit me right here [in the heart].”

Punk’s current WWE run has gone, quite frankly, not like his supporters had hoped. An injury during the 2024 Royal Rumble match put Punk on the sidelines in January, stopping him from returning to Wrestlemania for the first time in more than a decade.

Punk believes that if it wasn’t for an injury at the Rumble, he would likely faced Seth Rollins in a title match.

“The plan I think was gonna be me and Seth [Rollins] … There’s history there, there’s a story there. 100 percent [I was content with that matchup].

Punk discusses AEW run, issues with Hangman Page and Jack Perry

The conversation eventually turned to Punk’s exit from AEW last year. Punk got into a physical confrontation with AEW wrestler Jack Perry at the promotion’s Wembley Stadium pay-per-view event, All In, resulting in his departure a few days later.

Punk claimed that the confrontation stemmed from an incident between the two at a taping of AEW Collision, where he told Perry to not do a spot on the windshield of a rental car. Perry later mocked Punk for telling him not to utilize the car, mentioning the usage of “real glass” during the All In card.

Punk started by explaining that he didn’t want to join AEW’s roster when the Saturday night program Collision was launched. Shortly after the show debuted, he says he ran into an issue with Perry.

This is one of those things where it’s just like, there’s all these rumors about NDAs. There’s a big difference between not being allowed to talk about some sh*t or just not wanting to talk about some sh*t. I don’t necessarily want to litigate this again… Tony [Khan]’s big idea was a separate show. We’re gonna separate everybody and I said, ‘That’ll never work. Just let me go, just get me out of here. Just pay me my money. I’ve already been off TV, I hurt this arm. Just get me out of here.’ ‘No, can’t let you go.’ ‘Why? Just let me go, who cares? … These guys don’t want me here.’ This isn’t a real business. This isn’t a business predicated on making money, drawing money, selling tickets, doing business. It’s not what it was sold to me as. ‘Let me go.’ ‘No, I can’t let you go. I’m gonna do this new show.’

And then the second day we have this show, I’m sitting in catering minding my own business and Tony Schiavone comes and gets me and he’s like, ‘Hey, I really need your help’ and I was like, ‘What?’ He’s like, ‘Jack [Perry] is cussing me out and he’s cussed out Mike Mansury and he cussed out Darryl from production, he’s cussing out the doctor right now.’ ‘Why?’ And I was already immediately like, ‘Dude isn’t supposed to be here.’ I was told people are getting separated so there’s no problems and you don’t want me involved in this because just like everything else I’ve explained before, y’all need to handle this because if you don’t, I’m gonna handle it and you’re not gonna like the way I handle it. Prophetic words. So he’s begging me, ‘Please.’ He drags me out of catering, I go up. HOOK and Jack are doing an angle. I don’t know anything about Jack going on vacation. All I know is there’s a litany of people — they work one day a week and they don’t want to so they want to show up and wrestle and then film vignettes and then sit at home for four weeks. Great, not my company. Do what you want, but not on my show. That was my attitude. So I said, ‘Tony, you really want me doing this?’ ‘Yeah’ and I walked up to Jack and he was sitting in a car… It was a rental car. What he wanted to do smash the window of a rental car with a pipe and I was just like, ‘It’s a rental car’ and I very politely, because I like Jack, I was just like, ‘Doc’s told you no, Darryl’s told you no, Mike’s told you no, Schiavone’s told you no and now I have to tell you no and apparently, you’ve cussed them all out so I’m telling you no. We don’t do that here. If you wanna do this, go to Wednesday and do it’ and he had no problem. He said, ‘Okay.’ He said, ‘Well I just thought it was a really cool idea’ and I said, ‘It might be but, it’s a rental car. Boys ruin it for the boys. You’re gonna smash the window of a rental car and you’re gonna return it with no f*cking window?’ And now, whatever, National, Budget, Hertz, whatever is gonna be like, don’t rent cars to pro wrestlers anymore. This is a thing that’s happened. So, I wasn’t trying to throw my weight around, I wasn’t like, ‘This is my show and you gotta get out of here.’ I was just like, this is f*cking dumb and he wanted to do it, so he didn’t have to fly back to Canada. Sorry man, we’re privileged to be in this business, we’re privileged to do this for a living. I get it, I didn’t wanna go to Canada either. All the flights were delayed, canceled. Everybody’s travel sucked. But to come to this new show when everyone’s supposed to be separated to get rid of the drama and then swearing at the doctor because the doctor’s like, ‘It’s real glass.’ Sh*t’s gonna go in your eye and I get it. I used to be that kid that was young and I wanna do this, but there’s a safer way to do it and I politely explained that to him. I didn’t raise my voice, I didn’t cuss at him. I very much just said, ‘We don’t do that here. This is Saturday, it’s a different show. You wanna do stuff like this? Do it on Wednesday.’ That was it. I didn’t think there was gonna be a problem. He obviously took something very business-minded very personally and that’s fine because I’ve done that before too. But it’s very much who he’s friends with, and you know, sh*t never got squashed, nobody’s in charge and it turned into what it turned into…

I went to Tony Khan [at All In after Perry’s ‘real glass comment’] and I was like, ‘Please handle that, please.’ And he was like, ‘What do you want me to do?’ And I was like, ‘I’m not telling you what to do. Just be the boss, please. I’m tired of this sh*t. I told you it was a mistake and I told you separate shows wasn’t gonna work and now we’re all here. Please, handle it because if you don’t, you’re not gonna like the way I handle it.’ No [he didn’t handle it]… Jack came back from his match, I was the next match, I’m sitting there and I got people with me. I’m not gonna say who they are, because I got a lot of friends who work there and I wish them all well and I don’t want them to be punished because they’re friends with me. And I walk up to him and I’m just like, ‘Jack, why do you insist on doing this dumb internet sh*t on TV?’ And he’s just like, ‘Well if you got a problem about it then do something about it’ and I was just like, ‘Man, come on. I will f*cking kill you. What are we doing?’ And it’s like Chael [Sonnen] said, sometimes, can’t let you get close. I thought I was doing a responsible thing. I didn’t punch anybody. I just choked somebody a little bit. Samoa Joe was there, told me to stop and then I quit. I turned to Tony and I said, ‘This place is a f*cking joke. You’re a clown, I quit.’ I went to my room and then Joe and Jerry Lynn came and got me and they’re like, ‘Let’s just go out there and kill it.’ And I was just too fired up and I’m fired up now and I’m probably gonna regret talking about all this sh*t but that’s what happened.”

After the incident, Punk went out and performed against Samoa Joe in what would be his last AEW bout. “That match, I was just like, this is the last time I’m gonna wrestle Samoa Joe. This is my last match in this company,” he remembered thinking. “I quit, I said, ‘I f*cking quit.’ For Joe [is why I wrestled]. For Joe, for Paul Turner the referee, for Jerry Lynn, the agent on the match because I respect him and I thought it was the professional thing to do. All the fans, a lot of fans there. Probably a lot of them to see me. So, go out there and give them a show. ”

In early September, AEW announced that Punk was “terminated with cause” following the incident with Perry at All In. Punk said that he was “slandered” during the fallout of the firing, and pushed back on Khan’s comment that he was scared for his life during the backstage altercation.

Punk claims that he intended to stay at Wembley Stadium for the remainder of All In, but decided to leave following a conversation with the promotion’s head of security.

“They told me Jack was told to leave and I was like, ‘Do I gotta leave?’ I was like, ‘I wanna watch the show’ and they’re like, ‘No, it’s fine’ and then, I don’t know, a couple matches later, a very nice man by the name of Sam [Hemingway], he was in charge of security, he’s like, ‘What are your plans for the rest of the night?’ And I was like, ‘I was just gonna shower and hang out, watch the show’ because, the whole solo locker room thing is f*cking lame. I had Joe, I had House of Black, I had all these guys with me and I was like, ‘I just wanna watch their match.’ He just kind of looked at me and I went, ‘Is it easier for you and your job if I leave?’ And he’s just like, ‘Yeah, it might be.’ He’s like, ‘But nobody’s telling you-you gotta go’ and I was just like, ‘Well Sam, I’m a man, man-to-man, I’m not trying to f*ck up your day. You got a job to do so, if it’s easier for you if I split, I’ll split and then I went and got Nandos for a bunch of the boys and then went to my hotel room and when the show was over, they came by and we ate chicken… No [I have not talked to Tony Khan since Wembley].”

After Punk was asked about his incident with Perry, the conversation later addressed other controversial moments in his AEW run. Punk discussed his beef with Hangman Page, which he says started after an on-screen battle between them on a 2022 episode of Dynamite. Punk said he took issue with Page going off-script during the segment.

“What he [Hangman Adam Page] said, it didn’t matter to me but, when you sit — peeling the curtain back ladies and gentlemen and again, if you believe all the bad things about me, please do, just leave me alone. If I’m working with you and we sit and we talk — I think one of the biggest criticisms about WWE was, ‘It’s overly scripted. There’s writers. Pro wrestlers don’t need writers.’ Some people don’t, some people do, some people prefer it. But I sat down with him. I was very gracious, hammered out this promo. ‘Well if you say this, what if you say this. Okay, I’ll say this. Oh, if you say that, I’ll say this. Okay, great. Great. Awesome, great’ and then he proceeds to go on live TV and not say any of the sh*t we talked about. I can’t hear him because the crowd’s so loud and I’m looking at him and I have to really pay attention to what he’s saying because my responses matter. I can’t just say what I had planned because it’s not gonna match what he’s saying to me and he’s saying some sh*t, I don’t know what he’s talking about and I’m just like, man, why would you do this? Why would you ruin — TV is very expensive. Every minute of TV is hundreds of thousands of dollars between production and all that stuff and you’re just sh*tting on me and you’re sh*tting on the business. Why would you do this? And I knew the promo ended with him punching me and I had to fight — just double leg him. Just double leg him. Why is he doing this? I don’t know what’s going on but I was professional and afterwards, I spoke to him and I was like, ‘Why’d you do that?’ And you know, he thinks I got one of his friends who hasn’t been fired, fired. But I went to Tony [Khan] and the lawyer and I said, ‘You need to fix that, because if I do, you’re not gonna like the way I fix it’ and I thought I was being professional by not just murdering him on television. I know some people are gonna be upset about that and some people are gonna be like, oh, he’s talking about this guy again. But with me, respect is the default. I respect everybody, until you do something that makes me lose my respect for you and I had never done anything to any of those guys. If they’re basing how their attitude towards me [is] based on the bullsh*t their friend told them, well I can’t help you.”

Punk has a sour relationship with many big names in AEW after his exit. He believes that The Elite “100 percent” didn’t want him there, and says he won’t speak to Colt Cabana without a lawyer present. But despite many publicly known rivalries, a lengthy suspension and a sudden exit, Punk looks back on his run with the promotion in a positive light.

“Yeah [there’s things in my AEW run I’m proud of], because I think people expect me to be like, ‘Blah, burn it all down, blah, blah, blah,’ but I made a lot of great friends there. Which is ironic because I’m the guy that’s like, ‘I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to make money.’ But again, the people you work with, you wind up becoming friends with, and I did cool stuff. I got to work with Sting. Let’s talk about a weird thing. It’s not even on the bucket list because it’s just something you don’t consider that as a possibility. I worked with Sting in the Greensboro Coliseum. It’s f*cking wild. It’s pretty crazy. I think the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I look at it more like: I thought I was coming in to help. To help business. If I could teach something, great and I think I was just brought in for other reasons. Their business — and I know a lot of people are gonna be upset — it’s not real business. It’s not about selling tickets, it’s not about drawing money, it’s not about making money. It’s just not… I don’t know. I think having good matches maybe and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

About Jack Wannan 176 Articles
Jack Wannan is a journalist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He writes and reports on professional wrestling, along with other topics like MMA, boxing, music, local news, and more. He graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]