All Elite Wrestling has been without its lineal champion for over two months. Just days after his AEW World Title victory at AEW Double or Nothing, CM Punk suffered a foot injury on the June 1st edition of AEW Dynamite. Shortly after, Punk announced that the unexpected injury would require surgery, and he would consequently be out of action in the meantime. Rather than have him vacate the championship, AEW President Tony Khan elected to crown an AEW Interim World Champion, which culminated at AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door. At that event, Jon Moxley defeated New Japan's Hiroshi Tanahashi to become the temporary titleholder.
Tonight on AEW Dynamite: Quake by the Lake, AEW Interim World Champion Jon Moxley retained his title against "Lionheart" Chris Jericho in a bloody battle that garnered "this is awesome!" and "fight forever!" chants. After the bell, the Jericho Appreciation Society attacked Moxley, while the Blackpool Combat Club came out to make the save. While the brawl was going on, "Cult of Personality" hit.
AEW World Champion CM Punk made his long-awaited return, joining the brawl and taking out the JAS. It's worth noting that Punk came out without his title. With the ring cleared, Punk and Moxley remained. In a stare down reminiscent of Punk and John Cena on the July 25th, 2011 edition of Monday Night Raw, the two champions looked each other down before Moxley flipped off Punk. This all but confirms the main event of AEW All Out next month, as Khan previously promised that a unification bout between Punk and the Interim World Champion would go down once the Second City Saint was cleared to compete.
Punk's return comes as a bit of a surprise, as the AEW World Champion did not sound too optimistic about his foot when speaking last month at San Diego Comic-Con.
"It's healing. It's not healed. It feels like it's on fire every day, partly probably because of how much you know I was on my feet all day yesterday," Punk said in July. "I just don't wear the boot, but that's mostly because I want people to recognize that I don't want them near my foot. I'm working hard to come back. It's just, it's a s---ty injury you know, not being able to walk and like my entire calf on that side kind of shut down so learning how to walk again is fucking frustrating, but I'm better than I was yesterday, I'll be better tomorrow, and hopefully I'll see everybody soon."
Khan also recently weighed in on Punk's recovery, noting he was on schedule at the time of SDCC.
"So, he's doing well. He's not behind in his recovery. Going into the [Comic-Con] panel, he's doing well and on track, and we look forward to a great unification match when he's back, whoever the Interim champion is," Khan said. "I can't rule out [All Out on Sept. 4] but I also can't promise because I don't want to say anything when it comes to somebody's recovery from a real, serious injury."
Punk's return tonight comes just under one year after he made his AEW debut. The Voice of the Voiceless made his first appearance in a squared circle in over seven years on the August 20th, 2021 edition of AEW Rampage, showing love to the Chicago crowd and AEW for the comeback opportunity. He would set his sights on Darby Allin, who he would defeat at AEW All Out 2021. The AEW success for Punk would gradually increase every week, and would culminate at AEW Double or Nothing the following May where he would dethrone Hangman Page for the AEW World Title.
Stay tuned to ComicBook.com for updates on Punk's AEW future.0comments