We all knew it would happen, and it did on the 20th August episode of AEW Rampage. After 7 long years, the song Cult of Personality by Living Color was heard in the wrestling ring. Millions of wrestling fans worldwide celebrated as CM Punk returned to the squared circle, in an AEW ring. Yes, everyone is high on nostalgia. But with competition in wrestling being top-notch for a long time, what can this lead to? Here’s how CM Punk’s move affects AEW (and the WWE).
Pandemonium reigned over wrestling fans as Punk didn’t show up on the Raw after Royal Rumble 2014. It was then revealed that he had taken his ball and gone home. After a while, he broke his silence on Colt Cabana’s podcast with complete vitriol. He said that he struggled with overload and problems with creative while having numerous health issues.
He blamed the WWE’s doctor for misdiagnosing his staph infection, which could’ve been fatal. After quitting, he received his termination papers on his wedding day. These comments didn’t fare well at Stanford and led to a court battle, which Punk would win.
Punk then ventured into MMA, signing with the UFC. In a span of four years, he showed a pathetic performance, losing both his fights. The UFC fans hated an amateur newcomer like him, but the UFC knew of his brand value. It was an awkward time, but Punk said that he wouldn’t return to wrestling.
He returned backstage to the WWE, but the covid-era started, and the company ditched the whole idea.
Punk and AEW
Punk’s AEW Debut
After years of speculation, he finally debuted on AEW. The video of his debut posted by AEW’s official YouTube channel has garnered around 7 million views in less than a week. Even the ratings blew up, despite his appearance being on AEW’s B-show. This was the second episode of Rampage, and the viewership was around 1.3 million, compared to the 0.75 million for the first one.
This shows that Punk is still a draw and one of the best ones ever. AEW likes to showcase wrestling, as opposed to WWE’s sports entertainment idea. This resonates with a different crowd of fans. So, this will be the beginning of a large group of people returning to watching wrestling, specifically AEW.
But will Punk’s arrival just trigger merch sales?
Punk’s Effect on AEW’s Ratings
While AEW currently has a boost of momentum, it is too early to suggest how good the ratings could be. Yes, the move has brought AEW to the mainstream and has legitimized them as the alternative. It’s just going to grow and grow from here on out. The ratings will go up slightly, but it won’t be an overnight thing.
Brian Danielson is expected to join AEW as well. He’s going to shake things up immensely – maybe on the level of Punk. Dynamite could draw above 1.1 million as the new baseline for a while. If AEW can get a few more top talents, they can hit the 1.5 routinely by this time next year. This could help them outdo Raw and Smackdown in the key demo.
Punk, AEW, and Creative
The fans have lauded AEW because of the creative freedom they give to their roster. This is a big factor in them scooping up WWE’s disgruntled talent. Punk was infamous for butting heads with WWE’s creative, including Triple H. He won’t be having any problems here.
Punk’s debut will set them up perfectly for All Out and give them some hype should Adam Cole join. This will build up to the hype further with Danielson’s debut, followed possibly by Bray Wyatt.
AEW will continue to grow off the buzz long term, but it’s all up to Tony Khan’s decision-making. He has proven that AEW is learning from the mistakes of WCW and WWE. This is why he must use all this talent well and create engaging stories.
He’s also got to keep happy the people coming in and the future stars. This means to decide who won’t be used in the long term and when to ease off the old-timers. Khan should who will carry the show forward and decide whether he has enough airtime to showcase everyone.
Punk’s Effect on WWE
Punk’s debut must have WWE worried, no matter how much they talk it down publicly. If they had their eye on TNA years ago, then they’ve got to be concerned about AEW’s rise. But, what will happen to them? Nothing, apart from them possibly stepping up their game.
WWE has existed for longer than most people in AEW. They have enough deals not to produce any more wrestling and still make a lot of money. They are titans in the wrestling industry the way Apple and Google are in theirs.
Even if they do in a few years start to draw less than AEW, it doesn’t matter as long as their numbers stay roughly where they are. AEW’s numbers going up doesn’t mean WWE’s have to go down.
So, with Punk’s debut, AEW is in for the long haul. The company does have great momentum, but it’s yet to be seen what they do with it. Tony Khan’s got all the ingredients he needs. He just needs to put them together to create a fine dish. Right now, his objective is obviously to increase ratings and PPV sales to pay all the new wages.
Undoubtedly, this is the start of something great. Will AEW overtake WWE? Probably not. Should they or anyone else care about that? Nope, especially not wrestling fans. Fans should enjoy all the extra content they’re getting and hope that both the companies do well.