Darby Allin wants the “Best in the World.” Jon Moxley, by all accounts, wants the one who also calls themselves the “Best in the World.” As AEW Rampage: The First Dance gets closer to arriving, the hype surrounding it continues to grow into its own being. All eyes will be on Rampage this Friday night as AEW holds their biggest show to date inside the United Center in Chicago. Every moment leading to this has continuously added pressure to this show, whether it be by fans or those in AEW themselves. Week after week the teases become more apparent and clear. All signs point to only one result of this excitement — CM Punk makes his long-awaited return to professional wrestling after seven years away from the business.
It’s the return that has been teased more than any in wrestling history. No one has left a more impressive legacy while being completely absent from the profession. The fans have not forgotten him. Every single time a wrestling show was in Chicago, the crowd made it known that Punk was still on their mind and in their hearts. The chant of “CM Punk” has become a staple in the wrestling world and for the first time in seven years, it seems to have legs to it. Some fans have moved on from the hope of Punk showing up. Yet those who have dreamt of this day coming could finally be the ones proven right. AEW is adding a major player in CM Punk, which is why what he has done and what he could do with the promotion could solidify his legendary status.
The Straight Edge Punk Helps Lead the Charge in the Indies with Honor
No matter where he has gone, CM Punk has always had a special connection with fans. While many like to attribute that to his rebellious nature in WWE, it all started back in Ring of Honor (ROH). Punk was at the forefront of what would eventually be an independent wrestling boom of sorts. Next to the likes of Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, and Homicide, ROH became the place for independent wrestling in the early 2000s. CM Punk was a two-time ROH World Tag Team Champion with Colt Cabana and held the ROH World Championship once in his career. That one time created one of the more prominent runs in ROH history. Slated as the “Summer of Punk,” the “Straight Edge Savior” promised to bring the championship with him to WWE after signing with them.
Punk instantly became enemy number one in ROH as fans and wrestlers alike worried that all the work that ROH had put in to become what it was would go right out the window with the world title. His heat was nuclear and yet when it came to his last night with the company, the crowd and Punk embraced at the moment. The chants were loud as tears poured down the face of Punk who was ready for his next challenge. After losing the ROH World Championship, it truly signaled the end of a historic run in the company. His matches and rivalry with Samoa Joe are, after all, are still talked about today as some of the best ever.
For those who doubt how special and beloved Punk is, his ROH run from beginning to end is where you look to be reminded why the fans adore him to this day.
Breaking Through the Machine as the “Best in the World”
Roman Reigns can tell Ariel Helwani that CM Punk wasn’t on the level of John Cena as much as he wants. That doesn’t change the fact that Punk in every way got to the same level as Cena back in 2011. He became the first wrestler in years to be the top merchandise-seller not named Cena. And that’s our next stop in the pro wrestling career of “The Voice of the Voiceless.” The story and career of CM Punk in WWE are notorious by now. On January 27, 2014, “The Cult of Personality” said goodbye to WWE and the business for what is now seven years. He had enough and went home. But what he did in his eight years in the business is what made him the ultimate needle mover that many believe him to be now if (and when) he joins AEW.
The legitimacy and realness of Punk are what brought back fans and made new fans. To think that none of that almost happened is even more stunning. Time and time again, Punk fought for his career in the WWE, nearly being released on various occasions while in WWE’s developmental system. This is what ultimately led to the “I’m a Paul Heyman guy” part of the Pipebomb after all. He somehow managed to push through rather than fall, showing that he was not going to be held back by his smaller stature but instead rise to the top as one of the best in the entire world.
What people love to overlook is the part of Punk’s WWE career that happened before the aforementioned Pipebomb. Punk was a four-time world champion, holding the World Heavyweight Championship three times and ECW World Championship once. Add in a tag team title reign with Kofi Kingston and a run with the Intercontinental Championship would make anyone think that before he changed the trajectory of his career, he was already plenty accomplished in WWE. But of course, that’s not how history sees it and it was the Pipebomb that shot the “Chicago Made Punk” into the stratosphere of wrestling popularity among diehard fans and casuals. He brought together fans from the past and present, giving a realness factor as he made the effort to leave the company with the WWE Championship in his grasp.
Punk would feud with Cena multiple times and prove to be the rival that Cena needed. He’d face Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, The Rock to lose the gold, and only a few months later would give Brock Lesnar his best match since returning to WWE. Everything Punk did from 2011 to 2014 felt must-see and that all goes back to Money in the Bank in 2011.
One crazy night in Chicago is what made Punk a bona fide star forever. He would go on to win the WWE Championship twice, with his second reign being the longest WWE Championship reign in the Modern Era at 434 days. He’d leave a mark that was almost unfillable for years in the wrestling world and when people were finally to accept that Punk was out of the game for good, all signs point to that not being the case. And with that, we look to the future.
What Could Come in AEW: New Rivals, Unlimited Possibilities, and an Open Microphone
Is it Darby Allin? Is it Jon Moxley? Whoever it is, it’s going to be the match of All Out. CM Punk is returning to professional wrestling and it will be in AEW. The next question after that is what will he do? Can Punk find that magic he had all over again? With the freedom allowed in AEW, the answer is yes. The amount of talent that he has not faced in that promotion is what should excite everyone. Kenny Omega is the big one. But so are feuds with Eddie Kingston and MJF for the promos alone. It’s an unlimited number of possibilities that range from in the ring to out of it. All that people need to know is that it will be CM Punk and an open microphone once again. No limits. No scripting. Just Punk sharing his thoughts with the fans. It’s that which should be most exciting.
Punk doesn’t need gold around his waist to be important. He will almost certainly win that AEW World Championship one day, but that doesn’t matter to him. He is a wrestling purist in the end. If the story is good and something he can bite into, we are going to experience the magic that made his aura so real to this day. The Elite have made it a point when starting AEW that they wanted to start a revolution in pro wrestling. This is the move to solidify that this is a revolution that has to be believed by everyone that has ever loved this sport.
On Friday night, “it’s clobberin’ time” once again.
More from LWOS Pro Wrestling
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite Wednesday nights at 8 PM ET on TNT and AEW Dark: Elevation (Monday nights) and AEW: Dark (Tuesday nights) at 7 PM ET on YouTube. AEW’s new show, AEW Rampage, airs on TNT at 10 PM EST every Friday night.