In a sense, CM Punk can’t help it. Given every twist and turn and crash and surge his career has had, eyes are going to be on him wherever he is, even when that’s off camera. And if you believe there are those who still have knives out for him within AEW, well it’s not much of a surprise he’s being watched like a hawk and if he sneezes, Fightful and Meltzer are going to hear about it. That’s just how it is, and it very well may be how Punk and Tony Khan want it.
And that’s when events, taken individually, wouldn’t add up to all that much. But given the frequency and tone of everything rumored to be going on behind the curtain, some are either grabbing the popcorn and waiting for their turn or simply rolling their eyes.
To recap, and it’ll take some doing to do so, in the past month Punk has reportedly had run-ins with fellow wrestlers, ordered others to be sent home from the arena at which Collision was taking place, become a producer (?), and is cutting promos on wrestlers he also may have sent home? Of course, there’s always an explanation for it, with the added, “From Punk’s side.” Isn’t there always?
To run through it all. It started with Punk allegedly confronting Ryan Nemeth backstage after Nemeth had some choice thoughts on Twitter during Punk’s return to AEW. It’s not a huge surprise — and honestly, I had to look up Nemeth to remember who he was (Editor’s note: He’s Dolph Ziggler’s brother) — that Punk gets pretty irritable about derogatory things said about him online without his say-so. That’s what got everyone into this mess in the first place, after all. Reportedly Nemeth sort of backed down, claiming he was just piggybacking to get himself some heat with fans. Fair enough. On its own, probably a pretty normal thing backstage at a major wrestling show.
Moving on. During the tour of Canada, Punk got into some kind of discussion with Jungle Boy Jack Perry (I still don’t know what to call him, and honestly I don’t care enough to figure it out). Perry wanted to use real glass for a spot with Hook instead of the usual stunt glass, but was told by producers and the medical team that he couldn’t. He apparently went into a pretty big strop over this, and Punk was the last one to lay down the law on it. Again, on its own not a big deal, as the locker room vet is the one to calm down the younger wrestler getting a little out over his skis. Still, it feels like Punk is moving into a producer/booker role with this, and we know what happens when he starts feeling his oats.
To last Saturday, when it got a little silly no matter what actually happened and what didn’t. First, on Saturday, reports started leaking out that Hangman Page was called to the arena to film a backstage promo/video segment, but then was strangely told it would be done off-site. This isn’t quite as big as it sounds, as Page lives in Greensboro anyway where Collision was taking place. Still, it didn’t completely pass the smell test.
Then it came into the world that Christopher Daniels, who is head of Talent Relations — essentially the liaison between Khan and the wrestlers — and Matt Hardy were also booted off Collision for…reasons. Daniels had some role in Brawl Out a year ago, though we may never know what exactly, and thus has drawn the ire of Punk, who apparently draws enough water to decide who gets in the building or doesn’t. Especially when he’s retaliating for his cabana boy Ace Steel not being allowed at the arena either, which he reportedly was. Hardy is apparently too closely aligned with The Elite to get through the doors either.
After Collision, Punk cut an in-house promo bashing Page, though he later claimed it didn’t come out the way he wanted and he said later he sent a text apology to Page about it. Remember, Page is the only member of The Elite that Punk is legally allowed to talk about by name.
Meanwhile, Tony Khan remains silent, or a cheerleader. And to repeat, all of these incidents on their own aren’t going to twist anyone’s shorts. But taken together it starts to feel like a familiar path. Then again, this is wrestling and it could all just be a build to something, and that’s what Punk’s fans will tell you. Because Punk is always playing 4-D chess and isn’t actually just a dickbag, y’see.
On the other hand, it feels like Punk isn’t just the main attraction of Collision, but also running it, and throwing his weight around unchecked as Khan just sits around and smiles at the reactions in the arena and the ratings. Which is somewhat fair, as that’s the whole point of the thing. But Khan remaining the No. 1 fanboy instead of the boss is how Punk got off the leash the last time.
He’s deciding who is and who isn’t on the show, who can do what if they’re on it, and then calling out other wrestlers who he prevented from being at the show, or at least there was some sort of understanding that he was. We know where this road goes.
If it still feels like Punk is trying to goad the Elite into the match everyone wants to see, in whatever combination that would arise, all while doing his best to appear as the good guy…well, it’s probably not not that. He pulls something, and then apologizes in the, “Hey I’m just having a good time here!” fashion, claims he’s willing to sit down with everyone while not exactly ever owning up to the fact that he is the reason that match or those matches isn’t happening.
If you’re Hangman Page, you’ve watched this guy go off-script to make you look bad for his own pleasure, after you had to do a fair amount of leading him around while dropping the title to him, tell the world your career means nothing, send you home from the arena (according to some) and then cut a promo on you in your absence. Oh, and he accused you of intentionally trying to hurt him in that match you bumped your ass off in, perhaps the biggest sin a pro wrestler can make. Is it a shock you’d rather be left alone?
If you’re Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, you opened the door to this guy (to everyone’s benefit assuredly, not just Punk’s) gave him everything he wanted for a year and your reward was him telling the world your careers didn’t matter, you all were morons, and you didn’t know how to run a company, and possibly get hit with a chair. Again, not a huge shock they’d rather go their own way.
But hey, more people probably will tune in on Saturday, which is the idea. Then again, that was the idea a year ago too. Is Khan ever going to step in? Or just be the fan? Look where that got him last time.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social to watch the deluge of pissbabies descend on him.