It finally happened. At last night’s historic, second episode of AEW Rampage – aptly titled the “First Dance” – CM Punk made his long anticipated return to professional wrestling. If you caught his near 20 minute promo, his return to pro wrestling has arrived after 15 years; with Punk citing his joining WWE in 2006 as the real moment he left pro wrestling behind. That’s debatable, as it discounts the countless amounts of top tier pro wrestling matches and feuds he had during his WWE years. What is not up for debate, however, is that August 20th, 2021 was the day the Straight Edge “Voice of the Voiceless” came home to a hot wrestling crowd; a crowd who have never stopped chanting his name in his near-8 year absence from the ring, in Chicago, Illinois.
— player/coach (@CMPunk) August 21, 2021
It was a genuine heart-warming moment. CM Punk, during his time as a young, full-time pro wrestler, was a man whose passion for the art made him what he is today. There weren’t a whole lot more stars whose dedication to the craft, whose drive to keep improving, exceeded Punk’s. Reportedly All Elite Wrestling (AEW) bound Bryan Danielson is one such person whose own passion for wrestling rivaled Punk’s and a few years ago, he spoke with sorrow over Punk’s apparent complete loss of his love for professional wrestling. The grueling WWE schedule; toxic, overtly political locker room environment and countless injuries endured along the way crushed whatever love Punk had for the business. It is no surprise that it has taken him almost 8 years, 2,766 days, to rediscover the affection, the love he once had.
The return was done perfectly. It was never going to be kept a surprise. In these early days (yes, AEW is still little over two years old), ratings matter enormously to AEW. CM Punk has been, undoubtedly, the biggest free agent in the sport for well over 7 years and for that reason, there needed to be some promotion, some recognition that he was going to appear. A sold out United Center in Chicago, Illinois was the result and whereas the ratings are not yet in, the buzz created by his anticipated return will no doubt spike the viewership dramatically for this week. His mere name has been trending worldwide on Twitter for days now and the association with AEW will assist them in meeting their objectives. If his return was kept a surprise, as many hoped for, it would not be nearly as effective. The era of surprise returns of this magnitude is over – but it doesn’t matter.
CM Punk’s return was a true “drink it in, man” moment. It is a moment many thought would never happen – such was Punk’s reported disdain for pro wrestling, created by the sour, everlasting taste of his WWE departure. Seeing Punk come out to Cult of Personality; seeing him loudly exclaim “it’s clobbering time”; the stage dive and even just the way he sits in the ring, like only he can, made the moment special. To many, he is more than a pro wrestler. As Punk claimed himself, he is “one of you” – one of us; a regular fan of professional wrestling who just so happened to become one of its all-time greatest stars. With a future match with Darby Allin – a young, 28 year old star with an alternative style, who no doubt idolized Punk as a teenager – set up for AEW All Out, we are going to be seeing a lot more of CM Punk going forward. This return was special and no matter the eventual outcome, it will live long in the memory of every fan who attended the United Center and every fan watching at home; many of whom believed that they would never see CM Punk come home to pro wrestling. Make the most of this moment, as we may never see something of this magnitude in the sport we hold so dear 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.