Known as the “best in the world”, CM Punk has had a long and illustrious career in the professional wrestling world. Officially debuting in 1999, he went through a few wrestling promotions before finding himself working for World Wrestling Entertainment.
For a good while, Punk became one of WWE’s biggest stars. He held the WWE championship for 434 days, which at the time was the longest reign since 1988. He was even one of the few lucky superstars to face the Undertaker at WrestleMania. But that all changed in 2014.
After an appearance at the 2014 Royal Rumble in January, Punk didn’t appear on WWE for months. Fans would soon find out he left them, and not on good terms. In the coming months, stories were told of his bad experience, and Punk claimed he would never work for them again or even ever return to professional wrestling.
As many people know by now, besides basketball, professional wrestling is my favorite sport. I’ve been watching it since 2011, which was the peak of Punk’s feud with John Cena, the top star of WWE. At the time, 11-year-old me didn’t understand the difference between a heel and a face, but I knew I liked both Punk and Cena.
But something about Punk made him more appealing to me. Maybe it was his ability to talk on the mic. His iconic “pipebomb” promo had people raving for months and regardless of whether he was a heel or face, he always drew a reaction from the crowd. Maybe it was his agility and move set in the ring. Maybe it was the fact that he was so cool. He was someone who was a straight edge and comic book nerd just like me (at the time I was getting bullied for liking comic books.) Or maybe it was the fact that I met him in 2013, and he was one of the nicest famous people I’d ever met.
So when I found out he would never wrestle again, I bawled my eyes out. And to top it all off, a short while later, his wife AJ Lee would soon leave the WWE as well. She was the only female superstar I cared about at the time, so it was like a double punch in the gut.
I stopped watching wrestling for a little bit after that. It just didn’t feel the same without him. Of course, that changed a while later when I got hooked back in because of Sasha Banks, but at the time I was extremely disheartened with the news of Punk’s exit.
Since his departure in 2014, he made a few unpromoted appearances in independent wrestling companies, but none were full matches. He made his way over to UFC until 2018 and by then no matter how many wrestling shows still had CM Punk chants, I knew he was never coming back. But in late 2019, Punk joined the Fox Sports 1 series “WWE Backstage” as an analyst. Rather than being under contract with WWE, he was working under Fox. My hopefulness was that this gig would lead to his in-ring return. Sadly, COVID-19 ended the “WWE Backstage” series for good, and once again my dreams of Punk returning were crushed.
Enter All Elite Wrestling, the first wrestling promotion since the 90s to be legitimate competition for WWE. It officially started in 2019, but I didn’t start watching it until 2020. The program features some familiar faces from WWE and others I had never seen before but started to enjoy. So when rumors started flying that Punk would debut in AEW this year I started to lose it.
Last Friday I was moving into my apartment but made sure I had a live stream of AEW going on my phone, just in case the rumors were true. I legit screamed when I heard “Cult of Personality” blast from my phone. Punk was back with the same look, similar t-shirt and same iconic theme music from when I first saw him.
He cut a promo about his return and challenged Darby Allin to a match on Sept. 5. This will mark his first time returning to a wrestling ring in seven years. It has been a long time coming in my opinion, and I couldn’t be happier that my favorite wrestler is back. He will once again remind everyone why he’s the best in the world and maybe inspire some kids as he inspired me all those years ago.