Consider two pitches for CM Punk’s impending WWE return. If you’d have told us a year ago that Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland would be wrestling for AEW, we’d have laughed at you. If you’d have told us that CM Punk could be on the brink of a WWE return a decade from his acrimonious exit, we’d have sent you for psychiatric evaluation. But here we are in the fall of 2023, and the former of those two things has happened, will the latter also?
It turned out that the Second City Saint’s return to All Elite Wrestling was a short-lived affair. A backstage altercation with Jack Perry during the recent All-In show at Wembley Stadium – Punk’s second helping of backstage drama during his short stint with Tony Khan’s company – was enough to send him to the unemployment line. Now, an unthinkable reunion with WWE is on the cards.
Ten years ago, 35-year-old CM Punk left WWE when he walked out on the company. He aired plenty of his grievances on a podcast with friend-turned-bitter-enemy Colt Cabana a couple of years later, and there were many of them. In the years since he has fought in the UFC, however, the less said about that run, the better. The most reliable UFC odds made him a massive underdog for both of his bouts in the Octagon against Mickey Gall and Mike Jackson, and the bookies were proven right when Punk was handily defeated in both.
However, his stock as a professional wrestler remained as high as it was when he left the company in January 2014. That was proven when he made his AEW debut in the summer of 2021. However, Two years later, that perfect return certainly feels like a distant memory. But AEW’s loss could well be WWE’s gain. Here are two ways in which CM Punk could return home.
CM Punk Returns in Chicago
And when we say return home, we mean literally. That’s because this year’s Survivor Series takes place on November 25th and it emanates from Chicago’s All State Arena, Punk’s hometown. With the 44-year-old already in talks with WWE over a return, it’s the logical place for the Second City’s prodigal son to return. There are multiple ways in which he could do so though.
Perhaps the perfect way would be similar to the way the late Bray Wyatt returned at Extreme Rules in 2022. Not to attack anyone, not to start a feud but to announce: “I’m back” in true Chicago fashion. If Cult of Personality hits at the night’s end and Punk makes his way to the ring, the 18,500-capacity arena will lose its roof. If he utters the words “Do I Have Everybody’s Attention now?” it may lose even more than that.
Another way to do it would be to place him directly into a feud. The only way to do this, though without the return losing its sparkle, would be sending him straight to the very top. That could mean a face-off with current Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns.
The Tribal Chief is currently aligned with Paul Heyman, who managed Punk to a 434-day reign as WWE Champion, so a ready-made story is already there for the telling. Alternatively, you could have him return as a heel and stun everybody by attacking Cody Rhodes, the current top face in the company and the man expected to battle it out with Reigns for the second straight WrestleMania.
Surprise Entrant at the Royal Rumble
Another option is a surprise return in the Royal Rumble match at the event with the same namesake, taking place at the 42,000-capacity Tropicana Field in Florida. The 30-man extravaganza is a place where fans can expect the unexpected. As the show is a stadium show, the eruption when Punk’s music hits will be one of the biggest ovations in professional wrestling history.
The best way to do this would probably be taking the AJ Styles approach. The Phenomenal One made his WWE Debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble, coming out as the third entrant to a thunderous ovation and squaring off with WWE Champion Reigns, who was entering at number one and attempting to defend his title. As the champion was the only man in the ring – having already eliminated number two entrant Rusev – the spotlight was shone brightly on Styles, and he didn’t disappoint.
As Reigns will not be defending his title in the match this year, Punk must have the right dance partner. The aforementioned Cody Rhodes will be attempting to become the first man since Stone Cold Steve Austin at the turn of the millennium to win two straight Rumbles. Perhaps Punk can face off with him? Alternatively, someone like John Cena, arguably Punk’s greatest-ever rival, could be waiting to greet him.
Whatever happens, the next few months are sure to be an exciting time in the world of professional wrestling. The will-he-won’t-he saga will rage on, and when that music finally hits, it will be a moment that will live on forever. Which one of our two pitches for CM Punk’s impending WWE return do you prefer?