Most of the wrestling world was legitimately surprised when Tony Khan announced that AEW would be holding its first United Kingdom event at Wembley Stadium. But, once the shock wore off, many people had the same question: How are they going to fill that stadium?
Now, to be fair, we don’t know how many tickets AEW will try to sell for the August 27th event. They are likely not expecting a 90,000 seat sell out. When WWE held SummerSlam in the original Wembley in 1992, the announced attendance was 80,355 (though that’s disputed, of course). More recently, WWE Clash at the Castle had an announced attendance of 62,296 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Though it’s a different building in a different place, that number could be rough guide for how AEW may do in the UK.
So the company may not even try to sell the 90,000 or so tickets that the stadium could hold. They might only list 50,000 or 65,000 available, for example. However, the All In name has a history of selling more tickets than expected (which is likely why the name was used), so the company will clearly try to beat expectations by selling more than anyone thinks is possible.
However, to do that, AEW will need as much star power as it can get – and that may mean bringing back CM Punk.
Does AEW Need CM Punk to Sell Tickets to All In London?
The situation between AEW and CM Punk has been very, very, very well documented, so there’s no reason to go over it here. At this point, no one really knows what to expect. He may return or he may not. There’s not much point in speculating about it right now. What is worth discussing, however, is if he’s going to be needed to sell tickets to All In.
Dax Harwood thinks Punk being involved will help, telling Raj Prashad of Uproxx that booking CM Punk and FTR versus The Elite is the way to “sell 50,000 tickets and take this company to the next level, that’s it, that’s me dreaming. That’s the dream match. That six-man tag in Wembley Stadium could help launch AEW to the next level.”
Of course, the friendship between Harwood and Punk is well-known, so it’s not like Dax is an impartial analyst. Plus, he’s booking himself in that dream scenario, so it’s not like he’s even trying to be unbiased.
To get as impartial as possible, you need to look at the numbers – and many of those numbers seem to be in CM Punk’s favor.
CM Punk’s Effect on AEW Ratings, Buyrates, and More
Punk arrived in AEW on August 20, 2021. He was a mainstay of the company’s shows until the June 3rd, 2022 episode of Rampage where he announced that he was injured and would be taking time off. He returned in late-August, but the numbers of that period are skewed since the company almost immediately booked a title match between Punk and Jon Moxley. World title matches almost always bring more interest no matter who is competing, so it’s not fair to include that period when trying to determine Punk’s impact on ratings.
This means the period between August 2021 and June 2022 is where the focus will be.
The first place to look is television rating. These are from the United States (and not the UK), they can still provide some information about CM Punk’s popularity compared to AEW’s overall popularity.
By looking at the ratings for AEW Dynamite (via Fightful), and firing up Excel for some quick math, it can be determined that the average Dynamite rating between August 25th, 2021 and June 1, 2022 was 977,927.
Between August 24, 2022 and April 6, 2023, the average Dynamite rating was 902,376.
Of course, the numbers aren’t 100% comparable. Dynamite moved from TNT to TBS in January 2022, which could have impacted the ratings. The show was also occasionally preempted for sports and there are always nights where another big event or news story crushes it in ratings. Also, the CM Punk period lasted from August 2021 to June 2022, and the same period (August 2022 to June 2023) isn’t available to compare it with. However, it still provides some comparison.
Another data point that matters comes from Wrestlenomics. The AEW pay-per-views with the highest buyrates are All Out 2021 (215,000 buys), Full Gear 2021 (155,000 buys), Revolution 2022 (175,000 buys) and Double or Nothing 2022 (165,000 buys). All of those events happened while CM Punk was a member of the active roster. Double or Nothing 2022 was also the company’s first million-dollar gate.
It’s also worth noting that AEW ticket sales dropped off following the summer of 2022. Paid attendance was down 25% in July and August compared to May and June and those problems continued through Q4 2022. Was that directly due to Punk not being there? No one knows. The economy started to struggle at that time, inflation started to rise, and AEW was hitting the same markets quite often back then. All of those factors could have contributed.
The last possible data point? CM Punk was AEW’s second-highest merchandise seller in 2022, despite being out for several months of the year. That shows his popularity.
AEW’s Strength on its Own
Looking at the numbers, it may seem that CM Punk had a positive effect on AEW’s popularity while he was on the active roster – and that he himself was very popular. But the question remains: is he needed to sell tickets at Wembley Stadium? There are some reasons to believe he isn’t.
The first is how pre-registration has been going. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via Twitter), about 25,000 people signed up for the presale initially – with that number having now reached 45,000. If each of those people were to buy an average of two tickets, that’s 50,000 tickets sold already.
Of course, there’s a chance that not all 25,000 buy tickets. Thanks to Ticketmaster and how tickets are priced and sold these days, it’s often a confusing ordeal to get tickets to anything. It might turn out that many of the people who signed up see the prices when tickets go on sale and change their mind. However, the number of sign-ups show that the AEW brand is quite popular on its own.
And that is the last point, and perhaps the strongest evidence that CM Punk won’t be needed to sell tickets in London. That point is AEW’s popularity in the United Kingdom. According to a recent article in talkSPORT, AEW now holds the title of being the most watched wrestling show in the UK. A big reason for this is that Dynamite and Rampage are freely available ITV4, while WWE shows air on BT Sport, which is a pay channel.
So, with a show that popular, does AEW risk bringing back a potential locker room headache?
If they think they need him to sell tickets, they probably would. So, perhaps, CM Punk’s AEW fate depends on that presale on Friday May 5th. If things go well, they may decide against having him return. If they’re not hitting expectations, “Cult of Personality” might be playing at an AEW show sooner rather than later.
More From LWOS Pro Wrestling
Photo Header Credits: All Elite 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 TBS and AEW Dark: Elevation (Monday nights) and AEW: Dark (Tuesday nights) at 7 PM ET on YouTube. AEW Rampage airs on TNT at 10 PM EST every Friday night.