The CM Punk/AEW situation took a major turn this past week. Punk still hasn't been seen or mentioned in any capacity since the infamous "Brawl Out" incident following last month's All Out pay-per-view. It was initially unclear if Punk had been hit with the same indefinite suspension placed upon everyone else involved or if he was outright trying to get out of his AEW contract and leave the promotion, but now it would appear the latter is correct. Dave Meltzer reported via this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter that discussions of AEW buying out the rest of Punk's deal are underway and that it's "doubtful" he'll be back.
The report also mentioned one of the big hang-ups with those negotiations is the non-compete period Punk would have to face, which would likely keep him from signing with WWE for quite some time. The fact that this was being brought up came as a shock to fans, as Punk's infamous departure from WWE in 2014 and the many comments he made about the company during his AEW run made it seem like that bridge had been thoroughly burned.
How Does WWE Feel About CM Punk?
Fightful Select dropped a report on Friday that gave some insight into how WWE might feel about bringing Punk back. Sean Ross Sapp noted that it is believed Vince McMahon wouldn't agree to it was he still in charge, but that Triple H might be open to it under the right circumstances.
"Triple H wants to be a success and make compelling programming more than anything. CM Punk back in WWE is compelling programming, but I can't see it being a full-time deal like what he has in AEW, because of exactly what happened in AEW. That's even if he as interest. If he gets a buyout he may not need to work again," one source told the outlet.
Another source, this time with PWTorch's Wade Keller, seemed much less optimistic about the idea. Keller recently said on a PWTorch Audio Show, "As I talked about this fall, Paul Levesque is more likely to bring Punk back than Vince McMahon would have been, not less. That doesn't mean Paul Levesque was a fan of CM Punk. But Paul Levesque is in a different position than Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon never believed in CM Punk. And therefore, in the way he pushed Punk never really fully got behind him. Paul Levesque, while he thinks Punk personality wise might be more trouble than he's worth, has shown a history of recognizing wrestlers who are over with today's fans that he himself might not have predicted would be over..."
"Somebody who's currently in WWE, and is within the sphere of influence of Paul Levesque's decision-making would be a hard 'No' as of me asking this person today," Keller continued. "A hard 'No' on endorsing the return of CM Punk, even if it would help business. I won't go into exactly what was said. But when I asked, I got a long paragraph of one sentence after another of negative comments about how they feel about Punk now, compared to 8, 9, 10 years ago, based on what's happened in AEW, in the last 13 months. And by the way, related to this, I talked to three people of significant stature in AEW in the last couple of days...I asked how would a vote go in the AEW locker room if they were asked if they wanted Punk to return? One person said he wouldn't fare very well. Another person said he thinks he might not get a single vote. And someone else says he doesn't think he'd get many votes...I think he'd get some personally just based on conversations I've had the last six weeks with others. The three people I just talked to in the last few days are higher, prominent people of influence in that locker room. So that tells you something about his standing and why I think if Punk were to return it wouldn't necessarily go well for him in either place. And I think that's going to that falls into the calculation of Tony Khan right now. And it might fall into the calculation of Paul Levesque. I still believe Levesque would be more likely to bring him in than Vince McMahon for the reasons I said, but I think there would be some pushback by people in Levesque's sphere of influence."