All Elite Wrestling is on the precipice of its first game-changing moment in its short but noteworthy history. In a similar vein to when WCW signed Hulk Hogan in 1994, AEW has presumably signed CM Punk.
Capitalizing on the fervent speculation, Tony Schiavone announced Rampage on August 20 will emanate from Punk’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, at the United Center. The sophomore episode is auspiciously dubbed “The First Dance.”
In his interview following the announcement, Darby Allin said, “AEW is where people prove themselves, even if they think they’re the best in the world.” Allin’s words are one of many examples to come where AEW will proclaim that CM Punk is coming without mentioning his name.
As AEW is earning higher television ratings than ever, CM Punk is the one name that can put the elite brand over the top. CM Punk hasn’t wrestled in seven years, and he’s coming off an unsuccessful two-fight run in the UFC.
That’s hasn’t stopped fans from campaigning for his return to the squared circle.
Punk’s infamous “pipe bomb” promo in 2011 captivated the masses and forced WWE’s hand, making him the last major superstar they’ve created. Simply put, CM Punk is a name that non-wrestling fans recognize.
The pros of CM Punk under the AEW banner outweigh the cons. Yes, there are some cons, primarily, ‘Hangman’ Adam Page not becoming AEW World Champion. Last week, Page was unquestionably the guy to dethrone Kenny Omega.
On Wednesday, Page lost to Omega and is no longer the number one contender. 24 minutes later, ‘The First Dance’ was announced, leading many to wonder if CM Punk will challenge Omega for the title instead of Page. Punk’s assumed debut occurs three weeks before the ‘All Out’ pay-per-view, both of which emanate from his hometown.
Does AEW sacrifice Page for a potentially bigger payoff with Punk? Or, does holding off on Page alienate the audience who’ve invested in his story? The live crowd was as dejected when Page lost as they were happy when Punk was teased. It is a question only the fans can honestly answer.
The promoter in me says the prospect of Punk chasing Omega for the title is too tempting to pass up. Adam Page, 32, has plenty of time to become a superstar, whereas the 42-year-old CM Punk is already a superstar and should win the title sooner than later.
However, the booker in me says Page is popular enough for fans to see him as a true world champion, regardless of who arrives in AEW. Cutting off Page repeats Impact Wrestling’s past mistakes by placing more value in the names that WWE created over homegrown talent. Adam Page beating Kenny Omega, on this run, turns him into a made guy.