CM Punk’s upcoming return has sparked diverse opinions within the wrestling community. Regardless of personal preferences, it’s undeniable that he holds significant value as a commodity in the industry.
In this list, we explore potential opponents who could bring intriguing matchups and contribute to CM Punk’s legacy in All Elite Wrestling. We also encourage readers to share their own dream matches in the comments section.
Before we continue, I asked our Facebook followers for the opponents they would like to see. Some serious answers I excluded from my own list include: Kenta, Samoa Joe (it’s happening anyway), and Adam Cole
Funny answers for your amusement include: Ryback, Mr. McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Goldberg, Delirious, Gordon Ramsey, Himself (Ego), and no one.
#10. Swerve Strickland
With Punk returning as a heel, I looked for fresh opponents with the momentum to make a program work. There aren’t many, but I believe Strickland is an example of someone who could pull it off. Not only would it shine a bright spotlight on him, but also, it would do wonders for the Mogul Embassy, who has spent much of its time working on Ring of Honor.
Strickland hasn’t done a lot since his feud with Keith Lee, and the less said about what transpired with Dustin Rhodes, the better. Punk should be looking to elevate guys who can lead AEW when his generation steps away. I doubt it will happen immediately, but in time, it bears thinking about proving his loyalty to building the future of the brand.
#9. Konosuke Takeshita
It has been decades since we saw a male Japanese talent go from relative unknown to household name to a Western audience. AEW is in the process of building new stars outside of those labeled “pillars” or “originals”, and pushing Takeshita with Don Callis as his manager is promising.
However, the push won’t work unless he’s given opportunities to work with AEW’s top stars, and that includes CM Punk. With Don Callis by his side, he has a heat magnet who can generate just enough to get most fans on Punk’s side, which is what they seriously need right now. If Tony Khan wants Punk to be a babyface so badly, he couldn’t do any worse than to throw Don Callis into the mix. The sooner it happens, the better, even if Takeshita takes a loss.
A long-term project should see Punk or Hook turning heel before their program. The problem with Hook is that, while he’s undefeated, he doesn’t wrestle enough to stay in the minds of fans. Couple that with him holding a meaningless title, and you have a recipe for disinterest. Hook isn’t as over with the crowds as he used to be because, despite being sold as a certifiable badass, his winning streak is treated as an afterthought.
I can’t help but shake my head at him being used in pointless, random tag matches. Hook needs a serious program with a threat to his winning streak while also doing away with the FTW title. Make Hook’s undefeated streak something that CM Punk would love to end. Even if he loses, it would take Hook to the next level of his career.
#7. Christian Cage
They last wrestled each other in WWE, but have both come a long way since those days. Imagine the promos! They can spit fire with the best of them. Let ’em go at it with the worked shoot promos while throwing in Luchasaurus to mix things up. No, Christian Cage doesn’t need this program, but the quality should be enough to warrant a mention.
I’d find it intriguing because these guys love to tell a story. They also love to sell everything. All they need is to figure out the motivation for Christian Cage to target Punk. They have the talent to conjure something up.
#6. Claudio Castagnoli
If they want to sell a PPV with the ROH World Championship as the main event, Castagnoli vs. Punk is as good as it gets. Punk is an ROH Hall of Famer and former champion, so the story writes itself. And it’s not a far-fetched idea because if Chris Jericho can have a run with the title… so can CM Punk.
He would gain the status of World Champion without getting involved with MJF, and then he’ll have something significant to defend on Collision. The match would be excellent, although predictable unless they plan on having someone interfere to set up a feud. How about one of Castagnoli’s fellow BCC members?
#5. Malakai Black
I remember seeing an image a few years back of CM Punk and Malakai Black sitting together during training. It was at that moment I had the dream match planted in my head. And with CM Punk seemingly teaming with FTR during the early days of his return, they could find themselves battling the House Of Black for the Trios Championship. However, I don’t feel it would be enough.
Feel free to correct me, but I believe Malakai Black hasn’t had a successful singles feud since Cody Rhodes in 2021. That’s wasted potential. There’s so much more AEW could be doing, other than lumping Black in with the Trios matches. Again, even if Black lost to Punk, getting close to taking him out would establish him as a threat to be taken seriously in his own right. AEW needs to do this more.
#4. Jeff Hardy
The history between them, in and outside the ring, is palpable. There’s so much they could do with this. Yes, I am aware it won’t be a barnburner. Meltzer won’t be grinning as he pulls seven-star stickers out of his bedside cabinet. But yet, and I need to stress this, sometimes all you need is a story. A match doesn’t need to be a gymnast’s wet dream to be great for television. It’s unnecessary to reach this high bar that is getting more ridiculous by the day.
A Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk rivalry would get people talking. Fans would want to see it because they’d be fascinated to know how well they’d work together. Matt Hardy knows how to tell a story, so he could always help out. There isn’t much of a window left for it to be a possibility. If it happens, it needs to get deeply personal in a hiccup. It would heavily rely on Jeff pulling his weight. I wouldn’t want it if he phones it in.
#3. Chris Jericho
It was reported that CM Punk lobbied not to have a program with Chris Jericho upon returning. However, given Chris Jericho’s status in the locker room, and the fact they’ve never done it in AEW, it would be dumb if they didn’t get around to it someday. To me, it feels like they don’t want to make money, which is what their rivalry will always produce. But not with the cheesy “I’m a wizard!” Jericho, hell no. We don’t need “Painmaker” either. I’d want the serious Chris Jericho back.
It’s simple. Take what happened in September and play on it. Perhaps Jericho hates how Punk spat on AEW and disrespected the locker room? There’s the motivation. It works because it has elements of truth to it. The best wrestling stories have always done this. Blur the lines and let fans wonder how much of the tension is real. The only problem I can see is that Punk wouldn’t want to be a heel, despite the potential to garner the kind of heat only Dominik Mysterio currently enjoys. I’m tired of wrestlers not doing what the stars of yesteryear would have done in a heartbeat.
#2. Bryan Danielson
Unsure how their relationship is in 2023, but I know in the past it was very respectful. Two of the biggest stars in Ring of Honor history who did what many thought unlikely by reaching the peak of sports entertainment. It feels like a massive oversight if they don’t give this a go. Bryan Danielson doesn’t care if he’s face or heel, he will go with the flow.
Not only that, but with Danielson and Punk wanting to be more involved in the creative process, what better way to prove that their ways work? By showing the guys in the back how it’s done? They have similar philosophies. Tell a story. Sell the shit out of everything. Make it meaningful. I’d love to see what they could produce in a wrestling match at this point in their careers.
#1. Kenny Omega
Let’s address the elephant in the room. The September incident between Punk and The Elite is never going away until all involved can let bygones be bygones. What better way to do that than to have a match between Omega & Punk? There isn’t any. By showing the world they are two professionals who aren’t having to avoid each other, they achieve so much. It’s a way for them to apologize on their parties’ behalf (without uttering any words) by giving the fans a dream match they can appreciate for a lifetime.
I don’t care if their chemistry is lacking and the match is only given 4 stars on Meltzer’s scale. What actually matters is putting the past behind them for their fans’ sake. What happened in September was dumb. It was petty. I’m sure they’ve all talked it out to death. But if AEW forever keeps them apart on TV, is it actually resolved?
Professional wrestling has always seen guys who hate each other working lengthy programs together. That’s the name of the game, and it’s also how it goes at any workplace. You can’t like everyone you work with, so throw the egos out of the window. Think about the company because business is business. It’s time to prove how professional they are. And with that said, I hope you enjoyed the list. Have a nice day! Thank you for reading.