CM Punk returns to WWE at Survivor Series after AEW firing

CM Punk returns to WWE at Survivor Series after AEW firing

CM Punk is getting his wrestling second chance in WWE.

The self-proclaimed “best in the world” made a stunning return to company for the first time since the Royal Rumble in 2014 to close Survivor Series at Allstate Arena in his hometown of Chicago on Saturday night. 

The 45-year-old Punk’s appearance was about as well-kept a secret as there can be in wrestling as, despite speculation that it could happened because of the location of the venue, all the reporting going into the event was that he was unlikely to be there.

He’s back in WWE after being fired with cause from chief competitor AEW on Sept. 2 after getting into a physical altercation with Jack Perry backstage at the company’s All In event at Wembley Stadium in London on Aug. 27. 

Triple H, WWE’s chief content officer, said during the press conference after the show that this was “one of those lightning-in-the-bottle moments that came together very quickly” and WWE is “incredibly excited about it.”

“It’s been a long time and in some ways been a long time coming,” Triple H said. “You can say this about CM Punk. Love him, hate him, positive. negative, whatever you want to say, people talk about him all the time. He is a magnet for that. He is a conversation starter and it’s tough to look past that. “For me, if our fans want it. If the WWE Universe is excited to have it, then let’s go. We’ll figure out the rest of it from there.”

It’s unclear exactly who in WWE knew Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, was returning, but it clearly was a select few.

Triple H said it all came together “super quick”, which is why it was kept secret — stating it was nothing but speculation for most of the time it was speculation and came to be when everyone stopped thinking it was happening.

“Then all of a sudden, it was happening,” he said.

He said the decision came from him and WWE President Nick Khan and not anyone from their parent company TKO.

TKO also includes the UFC, in which Punk has fought.  

“Very few people knew about it past that,” Triple H said. “We are trusted to do our thing and trusted what we feel is right for business. I’ll be honest. Probably the top people at TKO were watching the show going, ‘Holy s–t’, which is a good thing.

WWE recently merged with Endeavor and is no longer owned and run day-to-day by Vince McMahon.

This is also Punk’s third return since he ended his seven-year hiatus from wrestling to join AEW in August 2021 at the United Center in Chicago.

He came back to AEW, again at the United Center in May.

He was away from AEW because he tore his triceps and needed to get surgery and was also suspended following the infamous All Out press conference in September 2022 in which he bashed Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks Matt and Nick Jackson — AEW’s executive vice presidents — and had a backstage brawl with them and their Elite faction in the locker room afterward. 

CM Punk returned to WWE at Survivor Series.
CM Punk returned to WWE at Survivor Series.

WWE milked the Punk surprise until the final minutes of Survivor Series. 

It announced Randy Orton as Cody Rhodes’ WarGames team’s final member this Monday on Raw, quieting speculation Punk would be back.

During the show itself, WWE teased Orton may not show up for the match.

He eventually did help lead his team to victory in the main event against The Judgment Day.

The show was all but off the air, the end graphic on the screen when Punk’s “Cult of Personality” blared and the Allstate Arena erupted. 

Punk walked out in a white T-shirt and jeans and looked straight at the babyfaces in the ring before getting hugs from the fans.

Punk’s history with WWE is a complicated one as he did not leave WWE on the best of terms. 

CM Punk is back in WWE.
CM Punk is back in WWE.

He walked out shortly after Royal Rumble in 2014, eventually citing numerous injuries, being ill and being displeased with how he had been used creatively. 

He was suspended for two months before being officially fired on his wedding day in February 2014. 

In 2018, Punk won a civil lawsuit brought by former WWE doctor Chris Amann claiming Punk defamed him on a 2014 podcast with Colt Cabana discussing his frustrations with WWE and why he left. 

Punk claimed that during a European tour, Amann “Z-Pakked me to death” when he wasn’t feeling well. 

“A lot of time has gone by, almost 10 years and if you are the same person you were 10 years ago 10 years later, you’ve messed up,” Triple H said. “Everybody grows. Everybody changes. I’m a different person. He’s a different person. This is a different company and we’re all on the same even starting ground.”

Despite all the baggage he brings, Punk now gets a second chance in WWE that many thought might never happen until he was fired from AEW, which has lost some momentum. 

Cody Rhodes, who came to WWE in April 2021 after not re-signing with AEW, happily welcomed Punk aboard.

“I have a feeling that the CM Punk that potentially we’re getting is hungry and that’s the best,” Rhodes said at the press conference. “The best when someone is hungry, when someone wants to be. When it’s real… You could ask all the boys and girls [on the roster] ’till they’re blue in the face, hey how you feel. You might get up. You might get down, a wide range of emotions, but the first thing always his business.”

With all that went on in AEW and The Elite being signed long-term, this could also be Punk’s last good chance at sticking in one of world’s two major wrestling companies.

“What’s next for CM Punk?” Triple H said. “That will be interesting. I’m interested to see myself. Whatever it is. It will be talked about. It will be exciting and it will be a thrill ride for the WWE Universe no matter what it is. We’re all thrilled to have him back here.”

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