wrestling / Columns

CM Punk’s AEW Debut Delivers

August 21, 2021 | Posted by Blake Lovell
CM Punk AEW Rampage

I sat down to write this column not knowing what to say.

Surely someone who writes about pro wrestling could come up with a perfectly crafted feature on one of the sport’s biggest moments in many, many years? Yet, every time I tried to force things in a certain direction, the less real it felt.

Then I realized that was the story.

CM Punk’s return to professional wrestling was real, and it was spectacular. AEW delivered on its intentionally vague promise of changing the wrestling landscape, even if it’s still way too early to know exactly what that will mean one year, two years, or five years from now.

What we do know is the first two segments of Friday night’s AEW Rampage sparked an emotional response that’s impossible to describe in words. That’s part of being a wrestling fan, I guess. You don’t always know how to tell people why you enjoy something, you just know you enjoy it. It’s all about raw emotion.

From the first note of “Cult of Personality” to the Stone Cold-esque ovation when Punk walked out, everything was about pure emotion for all parties involved–for Punk, the fans at the United Center, and the fans watching on television. The long wait was over. He was indeed back.

People, both inside the arena and at home, were jumping up and down. Grown adults were crying. If there were ever a “marking out” moment, this was it.

Punk then proceeded to remind me of the reason I, like many others, became invested in him in the first place. What has always stood out with Punk is his authenticity. He does not feel like a person playing a professional wrestling character.

He is CM Punk, and there is no other CM Punk.

For that reason, there was no script that could effectively elicit the emotion surrounding what he had to say when he lifted a microphone to his mouth inside a wrestling ring for the first time in seven and a half years.

And that’s what made it historic.

It was Punk being Punk the professional wrestler, not Punk the sports entertainer. He felt he lost part of himself during his winding road with WWE, and now, he’s back to reclaim it. Simple, to-the-point storytelling that hit all the right notes.

Simply put, it was good pro wrestling. Or, put another way, it was good shit, pal. That’s not something that can be forced. It has to reel you in and dangle what you want right in front of you until finally–just at the right time–you get what you’ve waited for.

POST Wrestling’s John Pollock described that perfectly with this one sentence in his column ahead of Punk’s debut:

“When you boil it down, pro wrestling is about delivering what the audience wants but making them wait for it.”

Punk himself added another layer in a recent interview with TV Insider:

“It’s a fun world. There is nothing like it. Pro wrestling gets crapped on by a number of people. But when it’s done on a high level and it’s really good, there is nothing better.”

It may be hard to find something better this year or next than what wrestling fans witnessed with Punk’s return to wrestling. Moments like that do not come around often. When they do, you know it, and most importantly, you feel it deep down inside. They’re the type of moments that made you want to become a wrestling fan in the first place.

Every step of the way, from the first report of Punk’s potential arrival in AEW to his first step back into the ring, each moment built more anticipation and more excitement for the moment when you finally got the payoff, which was unquestionably the most important of that equation.

AEW delivered the payoff, and that will go a long way towards building even more trust with wrestling fans in the months and years ahead.

But I guess we should go back to where we started. I have a confession to make: I still don’t really know how to accurately describe CM Punk’s AEW debut.

However, sometimes, either as a wrestling fan, or a writer, or both, maybe it’s not about critiquing every minor detail or having the right words to properly place a match or moment in its historical context.

Sometimes, maybe it’s cool to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

And if Punk’s first night in AEW was an indication of the road ahead, well, save me a seat.

Because as a wise man once said, when pro wrestling is done on a high level and it’s really good, there truly is nothing better.

*For more of my thoughts on pro wrestling, subscribe to the 411 On Wrestling podcast and follow me on Twitter @wrestleblake. Thanks for reading!

article topics :

AEW, AEW Rampage, CM Punk, Blake Lovell