As we approach tonight’s AEW Dynamite, I’ve been thinking about how different Collision was compared to other productions by the same company. Some of our readers noted how it felt more like a “wrestling show,” with proper selling and storytelling. The slower pace helped with this, as it meant that everything had more meaning. I was impressed with its flow, but I also saw Collision not being much different from any other wrestling product out there. Of course, most will remember it for the return of CM Punk.
It was very good, but it wasn’t unique, and there’s a lot of work to be done. AEW needs it to be taken seriously and not fall into the dark hole of mediocrity that is Rampage. However, for me, the most intriguing part about Saturday’s episode was CM Punk’s promo. And no, not because I am an avid follower who will blindly follow him into battle. What I heard was conflicting on several levels, and I am here today to try and make some sense of what happened. Although it could be that some of my questions are answered on tonight’s episode of Dynamite, if not, at least we’ve already gone over this.
Here’s a transcript (courtesy of Atletifo.com) of CM Punk’s promo below:
“I don’t know if you guys heard, but I’m tired of being nice. [Applause] Gone 10 months with a ruptured tricep tendon, tore it straight off the bone. But I’m still here, and as long as I am, this is the professional wrestling business. It’s a business of grown-ups; this has never been a popularity contest. We all know I probably would have lost that one a long time ago. So tonight, we’re gonna have a little conversation about the future, but first, I would like to have a little conversation about my past, which I don’t think is checkered. If you would have told 15-year-old me that you’re gonna sell out the Budokan, that you’re gonna sell out Madison Square Garden, that you’re gonna sell out multiple times over every single building in Chicago with a roof, well, I’m not sure little Punker would have believed you.
It’s because he didn’t experience what present me, standing here in front of all you crazy bastards, has experienced. I’m tired of being nice. Tell me when I’m telling lies. I did all these things and I got here to this place, riding a wave, riding the backs of smart, passionate professional wrestling fans like you. And, oh gosh, I never fit in somewhere more in my entire life than I have here in professional wrestling. I love you for it, I love you because you love me, and you love me because I have never compromised. I have been unapologetic my entire career, I am me, and I couldn’t have done all this without all of you. But it seems there are some people that hate me for the same reasons you all love me.
Hey, listen, I understand. The magnitude of me makes people uncomfortable. I very much understand that my mere presence makes people uncomfortable. That’s because I am the truth, and the truth is painful. [Applause] Thank you. [Applause] This sign right here says CM Punk is my hero, and you can call me that. This sign here says Pepsi Phil, you can call me that, this sign here says CM Junk, you can call me that. Boo me, cheer me, love me, hate me, you all do it because you know I’m right. You can call me whatever you want. You know what David Zasloff calls me? One Bill Phil. That’s because I am the one true genuine article in a business full of counterfeit bucks. [Applause] The king is back, baby, and I do have a lot of things to get off my chest. [Applause]
The crowd chant “F*** The Elite”
I got a question, Chicago, and then I’ll get out of your hair. Why would I change? This is what Joe Strummer trained me for. I will always speak truth to power, I will always be myself, I will never compromise. [Applause] And there are people that think that they’re owed an apology. [Applause] I’ve grown older and wiser in my years. Sometimes it’s better to be a bigger man. If you feel you’re here today and I owe you an apology, here it is: I am sorry that the only people softer than you are the wrestlers you like. Tell me what I’m telling lies. [Applause] The last time you saw me with my tricep meat hanging down, I held what’s in this bag above my head, and it’s not because I deserve it, it’s mine because I earned it.
And it’s not mine because I had the best dog collar match, it’s mine because I won the dog collar match. Tell me what I’m telling lies? “And this [picks up bag containing AEW Championship belt] – this belongs to me until somebody can pin me or submit me for it. [Applause] And there are those of you who, I’m sure, were praying to whatever God you believe in that I’m going to put these down here in this ring and walk into the sunset, never to be seen again. [Applause] But until there is somebody in this company that can fill these boots, they belong on my feet. Tell me when I’m telling lies.”
Despite reports of AEW not wanting to use the ‘All Out’ incident as part of its product, this promo is telling me otherwise. CM Punk had time to think about what he was going to say, and Tony Khan had plenty of opportunity to confirm what he would and wouldn’t say. Opening with “tired of being nice” confirms that, although he said in his ESPN interview that he would reconcile with The Elite in person if given the chance, the CM Punk character won’t be doing this.
Interestingly, him noting that the business is one of “grown-ups” and has never been a “popularity contest” is a lie. When has the wrestling business ever been full of grown-ups? And even more so… when has it not been a popularity contest? The whole point of wrestling is to garner popularity so more money can be made. If he’s specifically talking about backstage rapport, then that means nothing to us because it’s not like it affects us. He puts himself down in an attempt to get sympathy, but it falls flat because we all know how popular he is inside and outside the ring.
He quickly goes from fishing for sympathy to bragging about selling out venues that a 15-year-old Punk would never have imagined. Again, he reiterates how tired he is of being nice and to let him know when he is lying. He compliments the crowd for being smart, but then again, he throws in the lies thing, which is random and out of place. And then he says this: “I never fit in somewhere more in my entire life than I have here in professional wrestling” – Think about this statement for a moment. During the All Out media scrum, he legitimately told us how out of place he feels among others on the roster. He was clearly uncomfortable with how things were going in AEW, so why is he saying this now?
He says he has always been himself and unapologetically so. And that’s fine. Yes, we all want to be 100% authentic, but there is a line that he may have crossed a few times. He admitted as much during the ESPN interview when he apologized for what he said during the media scrum. How many times did he butt heads with management in WWE? There’s a pattern of behavior here. At this point, he suggests that his star power is so intimidating to others that it makes them feel uneasy. He says that fans can call him whatever they want because he is as genuine as it gets in a world full of counterfeit bucks (suggesting the Young Bucks are fake). Of course, being in Chicago, this pops the crowd and gets them to hate on The Elite, who aren’t around to defend themselves.
Probably the biggest hint of Punk fishing for heat is him giving a phony apology while calling those who oppose him soft. He ends by saying he never lost the AEW title and he will defend it later. To his doubters, he was never going to retire, and nobody is ready to carry the company like only he can. Again, he paints himself as the star AEW needs without any sense of being humble. The ego is on full display, and that is no lie.
While CM Punk’s promo was well-received by his die-hard Chicago fans, there was more to it than meets the eye. With reports of The Elite being absent from upcoming shows, it tells me that AEW will build on this narrative in the coming weeks, leading to a showdown between them at some point. It wouldn’t make sense for CM Punk to make these comments if they weren’t leading anywhere. If they aren’t, then all it accomplishes is embarrassing The Elite after their hard work over the past few months, with no incentive other than to cater to Punk’s ego.
He’s rallying the fans behind him while simultaneously making contradictory statements to provoke others. CM Punk is purposely playing a tweener role more so than ever before, but it’s a fine line that isn’t so easily balanced. Yet, he hasn’t got much choice because the events of September divided opinions, and the only way forward is to continue being as divisive as possible. I admire his drive to keep going, but I no longer hold the same level of respect for him as I used to. That’s just my perspective, and I understand that not everyone will agree, and that’s perfectly fine.
As CM Punk said, you can call him whatever you like. For me, Punk is a fireball who has the potential for great things, but if mishandled, it could lead to negative consequences for everyone involved. Tony Khan has a lot of work ahead of him to prevent implosions within the roster and manage the situation effectively. I wish him the best of luck. Thanks for reading.