wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Will CM Punk Be Mired In Backstage Drama In WWE?

December 3, 2023 | Posted by Jake Chambers
WWE Raw CM Punk Image Credit: WWE

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

We’ve got a Survivor Series fallout edition today, a healthy dose of AEW as well, and some BONUS podcast-themed statements in the end.

Appropriately, I’ve brought along with me the FTR #1 mark, former 411 columnist and coverer of podcasts, comment section stalwart and Bryan Danielson lover, the great Jonathan Hunter!

Are we like Mussolini and Kennedy? Will we have you believing in everything we see-ee?

Let’s find out!

Statement #1: Backstage drama will continue to follow CM Punk upon his return to WWE.

Jake Chambers: FACT – And that’s not a bad thing. This is why we love wrestling. Backstage drama is what keeps us all interested. And since there are so few wrestlers left capable of creating great backstage drama, that’s what made Punk famous and why it’s huge news that he’s back. I hope he stirs up tons of shit. I prefer to live in a world where pro-wrestlers are giant, dangerous, weirdo maniacs, not smart-y, suit-wearing, worry-warts who treat this all like a Broadway show and want to tell us about the motivations of their “characters”. CM Punk is motivated to be the best in the world, and I want to believe it by the reckless way in which he tries to make that happen.

Jonathan Hunter: FACT – I think we will see Corporate Man Phil be on his best behavior at least through WrestleMania. It is possible he surprises the world and is a model employee and team player going forward for WWE. It’s simply hard to see that. Like when he joined AEW, his happiness at the fresh start won’t last. Punk’s ego won’t allow it. As things unraveled for CM Punk in AEW, I speculated that one of his “issues” was that for the first time in his career, there wasn’t anything to actually “rebel” against. He wasn’t the indie guy in b-ball shorts trying to prove he could go. He wasn’t a Heyman favorite that upper WWE brass didn’t see shit in. CM Punk was the clear #1 guy in All Elite Wrestling, beloved by his boss, Tony Khan, and given virtually everything he wanted. The chip on his shoulder had nowhere to go. It’s only a matter of time before Punk is asked to lose to somebody he considers beneath him; isn’t treated like the “top guy” he believes he is; or he rubs important people the wrong way by demanding, not earning, the “respect” CM Punk believes so strongly he is entitled to. 

Statement #2: If we’re not going to get traditional Survivor Series elimination tag team matches anymore then the War Games matches should include elimination rules in the end.

Jake Chambers: FACT – Feels like crying over the lack of Survivor Series matches at Survivor Series is an annual tradition, and yet I still do it. At least they could make the “Match Beyond” part of War Games an elimination style, no? Seems like it would be easy enough. It’s hardly like these War Games matches are anything like the old NWA/WCW versions anyways.

But this is definitely wishful thinking. WWE has settled into a repetitive groove already on War Games matches from NXT through these last two years on the main roster. The special thing about the Survivor Series matches was getting to see the interesting teams, the odd match ups, the debuts, and the surprising performances. You’re never going to get any of this in these WWE-style War Games matches, but it might be cooler if one team has to be completely eliminated to end the match.

Jonathan Hunter: FACT – My kneejerk response was FICTION. Then I thought about it. Over the years, we’ve all read reports about why Vince or WWE creative doesn’t really like the “traditional Survivor Series” matches. I love them. Seems like a lot of fans do. I don’t need a return of a full card of completely weird-teams (although I LOOOOVE a lot of that), but we’ve seen some tremendous team elimination matches that incorporate storylines or put people over. War Games has long been attached to Fall (Brawl), and makes sense for “Survivor” Series.

WWE/NXT War Games matches are fun, but we’ve seen over and over now that they are focused more on doing big spots and stunts than actually having a prolonged brawl and fight (probably why the Bloodline war games last year felt so good; it was physical and dramatic). The matches have all played out very similar, however enjoyable. The entire point of “The Match Beyond” not officially starting until all team members are in is for people to have been in a WAR leading to that final act. Doing survivor series rules in such an environment is a simple way to allow for more creativity in the end. We end up seeing 2/3 of the wrestlers just laying around “selling” to get to the end anyway. Fire off the spots and stunts, leading to *eliminations*, and actually cull the numbers. Then you get a more legitimate “three on one” or “down to the final two.” It opens up the stories that can be told while also giving us some of that good, good (American) Thanksgiving Tradition.

Statement #3: You blame the sale of WWE to Endeavor for the first hour of Survivor Series being one big commercial for Ruffles.

Jake Chambers: FACT – This has been slowly creeping in over the years as Vince has released more and more of his grip on the company, but the shilling for Ruffles on the pre-show, during the women’s War Games match, all the skits afterwards, were an all-time low. Endeavor paid almost $10 billion for WWE, and a return on that investment is probably gonna take more than just selling a lot of LA Knight t-shirts at house shows. If this is the first, shameless step towards recouping that money, I can only imagine the new depths they’ll be willing go: ads on wrestlers trunks, more YouTube influencer champions, commercial breaks during PLE matches, and that oh-so coveted North Korea sportswashing deal so they can finally break that old attendance record. Shame.

Jonathan Hunter: FICTION – To Jake’s point, this has been creeping in plenty before the sale. We literally had a Mountain Dew match before the sale. We had the “Army of the Dead” movie tie-in. Is it likely that the product placement will increase under Endeavor? Yeah, sure. But it’s not new to WWE, and would have likely continued to balloon if WWE remained under McMahon control.


Statement #4: Will Ospreay made the right move signing with AEW.

Jonathan Hunter: FACT – I think Ospreay could succeed in WWE. He’s good enough, he has an international flavour that has been increasingly important to the fed. But the promotion that will best SHOWCASE what Willy the Wanker can do is All Elite Wrestling. This is where he can go out and have 20-35 minute classics, and get over primarily by wrestling. With Wembley Stadium continuing to be a big part of AEW’s future, Ospreay is sure to have plenty of promotion and push behind him so that a Top English Bruv can be a Main Event for All In 2024. Plus, Ospreay can still work NJPW, TNA, and other promotions while under AEW contract — something WWE would not allow. 

Plus, he doesn’t get saddled with a stupid new name. He’d probably be Billy O’Cockles (to go with the absolute horrid JD McDonough name — DEVLIN IS IRISH, WHY DOES HE HAVE A SCOTTISH LAST NAME, RAAARGH). AEW + Will Ospreay = Easy FACT.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Ospreay has done all he can do in the “super indy” style, which is all AEW really is, let’s be honest. He doesn’t need more “classic matches” under his belt, he needs to evolve to the next level – the true, mainstream main event level that only WWE can provide. The WWE has been this place for decades, all the way back to the territory system. A guy like Junkyard Dog will be more famous forever from his WWF years despite being the workhorse star of Mid-South Wrestling for years. Ospreay needed to become the next HBK, and he could have literally learned how to do that under Shawn Michaels in the WWE.

Statement #5: The best tag team wrestling is in AEW.

Jonathan Hunter: FICTION FACT – I’d love to say FACT, but AEW’s tag division is not what it arguably should be. I will say that since Collision started, which gave FTR a weekly spotlight, the tag scene has been on the rise. But the first half of 2023 was strangely mediocre, and that was in the back half of 2022 as well. Injuries have played a role, as well. Truth be told, I don’t know where the best tag team wrestling in the world of wrestling is. New Japan’s tag scene is woefully random with both weight class tag titles changing constantly. Impact/TNA has a pretty good scene but I don’t really rate any of their full-time teams besides the MCMG, who have both largely been singles lately. WWE’s is fine, but as soon as the Usos dropped the straps, WWE once again relegated the tag titles to an afterthought. No, not entirely, but there aren’t any real stories since they wrapped up KO/Sami vs the Bloodline. Just “good matches” and title changes…

I think I just talked myself into “FACT” with a caveat. AEW does have the best tag team wrestling, even with some wobbly bits, simply because it’s not really spectacular anywhere. The best tag team match of the year is FTR vs Bullet Club Gold; one of the top ten is also FTR v Bullet Club Gold. The Tag Titles are the most valuable in AEW. Jericho & Omega going for them is a big main event. Big Bill and Ricky Starks have had a surprising and awesome run that is elevating both guys. The Gunns have improved dramatically in the last six months. So… yeah, FACT. lol

Jake Chambers: FICTION – NXT is where the best tag team wrestling is today. And this is not because they are able to have near 60-minute TV matches like the Bullet Club/FTR were in AEW, but because they are giving fresh new tag teams time to debut, develop, work storylines, create personalities, as well as having really good matches. AEW tag team wrestling is kind of coasting on wrestlers who developed outside of their system or got over in the earlier years. And the AEW variety just isn’t there like it is in NXT, it’s all super serious and same-y. Everything about NXT now is fun, including the tag teams, which is kind of a miracle in 2023.

Statement #6: It is already clear that AEW doesn’t know what to do with Adam Copeland.

Jonathan Hunter: EASY FICTION – This is a laughable question. Copeland has had clear direction from the moment he debuted. He came in to have fun and round out his career with his best friend, Jay Reso. Turns out, Jay doesn’t want anything to do with ADAMMMMMMMM — Adam (ahem). Copeland has quickly regained his “edge” (SUCK IT), showcased especially the past couple episodes with his brutal assaults on Nick Wayne and LuchaKillSwitchaSaurus. Copeland reminded everybody he is the RATED R… SUUUUUUUUPERRRRSTARRRRR. He’s worked a few solid, fun matches, none of which were the overwrought, overlong shits he was wrestling in WWE. He’s been active on programming and in a clear lane. Sting, Darby, and Edge at Full Gear was fucking BADASS. 

Is the complaint “why is he working with Christian again???” Because Christian Cage is one of the top three acts in AEW. He is white-hot, doing career best work. Also, if Copeland just avoided Christian, then the cry would be “what are they doing, this is so dumb, we know they’re best friends!” You had to lean into it, you can’t just ignore it. I suspect Christian v Edge in Montreal won’t be the climax, leading to a match at Full Gear. Now, is Adam Copeland being the one to dethrone Christian for the TNT title the “right” move? Maybe, maybe not. You could say Christian should drop it to a young babyface to put them over. Buuuuuut Copeland can beat Christian, and then some young HEEL can drop Adam for the belt. Wouldn’t be the worst thing to see Jay White or Swerve Strickland take the now-prestigious-again TNT title off of FUCKING EDGE. 

Edge’s WWE return was fine, but the amount of “time off” TV he had, overproduced matches, and dull booking weren’t it. I’m enjoying Adam Copeland in AEW much more than I enjoyed anything he did in his WWE return; and frankly, I’ll take him over CM Punk. 

(is that why Punk really left? Beth Phoenix’s husband was rumoured to be joining? lol)

Jake Chambers: FACT – Do we really want to debut a WrestleMania main event-er, arguably the most famous wrestler on your roster, in a mid-card multi-man tag team match. Sure, the match was “good”, but that instantly branded Adam Copeland as someone in AEW who will be comfortable challenging for mid-card belts on TV episodes.

I just wonder if AEW would debut Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Roman Reigns, or the Undertaker that way? I highly doubt it. These are Edge’s contemporaries. He main event-ed PPVs against all of them. Big shows for big money, around the world.

As much as we love Christian right now and during his WWE career, he was not at Edge’s level. Despite their real-life friendship, the optics of Adam Copeland chasing Christian in AEW is kind of sad. Instead, they should have debuted him in the main event at Full Gear against one of their biggest stars who he’s never fought, like Kenny Omega, and then put him straight into the Continental Classic and win.

The WWE spent the last few years treating this guy like an all-time legend and super special attraction, as he deserved. Now he’s gotta work his way up the ladder in AEW? This is just another demonstration of how AEW doesn’t seem to know how to promote big stars in a spectacular manner.


Statement #7: Cheap Heat is the best pro-wrestling podcast.

Jonathan Hunter: FICTION – Fiction, because The Gentleman Villain podcast existed. Also, I’ve never listened to Cheap heat. =D 

Jake Chambers: FACT – For me, Cheap Heat has always masterfully skirted the line between insider perspective and passionate fandom. Most other podcasts lean too heavily to one side or the other for me, while Cheap Heat is level-headed conversation for those who grew up watching wrestling in the 80s-90s, have busy adult lives and responsibilities outside of wrestling that shape their opinions but who really just want to be talking about wrestling all the time. It’s that kind of dichotomy that helps host Peter Rosenberg evolve the show as it goes, undoubtedly due to his storied career as a broadcaster (outside of WWE) that informs how he produces compelling radio, an art that is quickly disappearing in the modern media landscape. Rosenberg and his co-hosts Greg Hyde and Bryan Diperstein, a lawyer and Hollywood agent respectively, each have very distinct points of view: Hyde the crafty debater who uses precedent to argue for seemingly contrarian views, Diperstein the assured decision-maker who coldly measures everything against the peaks of WWF history, with Rosenberg in the middle as the gruff mediator who never lets a discussion outstay its welcome. And for the loyal listeners, glimpses into their private lives actually turn out to be more interesting that whatever backstage knowledge Rosenberg could share from being at all WWE PLEs. So for my “money” Cheap Heat has been the best wrestling podcast out there for years and worth checking out if you still haven’t.

Statement #8: You would pay to listen to a podcast.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Although not an exclusively wrestling statement, I do find this interesting… why do we all think podcasts should be permanently free content? I know I do. And that includes a lot of podcasts that really can’t be making any real income from the few ads they may have.

I love listening to podcasts, but I would never pay to listen to one. I even feel entitled that they should always be free. Like I’m mad if I think someone wants me to pay for their podcast or even listen to the ads. It’s an embarrassingly contradictory feeling that I’m not sure I fully understand.

Jonathan Hunter: FICTION – Not a chance. There are literally tens of thousands of podcasts out there. Many are poorly-produced, rambling messes, but most are good. Locking an entire podcast behind a paywall seems like a recipe for failure. I would argue that the most successful podcasts offer their content for free. They likely run ads, but there is NO BARRIER to a new listener getting in on it. I’ve seen a few that offer 20 minutes “free” and the rest is locked behind a Patreon. Lol. What nonsense. You can do what How Did This Get Made? and other podcasts have done, and lock some of your ARCHIVE behind a paywall (RIP Stitcher Premium?)… there are too many podcasts out there for me to waste time with a paywalled one. I have absolutely subscribed to Patreons for podcasts I enjoy. Paywalled is the wrong way to build a podcast audience. 

Big thanks to Jonathan Hunter for joining me this week! Find him in the comments section of any article here at 411 and let him know what you think!

If you’ve got the itch to battle it out in a FoF column with me in the future, send me an email – [email protected] – I’m always looking to squeeze in some new voices!