CM Punk’s earth-shattering return to WWE was the best return ever in professional wrestling.
Why? Because it was never meant to happen.
When CM Punk walked out of WWE, he did so without looking back, other than to shout every expletive under the sun at Vince McMahon. Punk was legitimately done with WWE and who could blame him? This is the same guy who is on record as having called WWE’s concussion policy “bulls**t”, telling Colt Cabana (H/T The Washington Post):
“WWE doesn’t do anything to protect the wrestlers, they do things to protect themselves. … They don’t let everybody know that they’re doing all these fantastic things for concussions for ‘the boys'. They do it so it looks good on them in the public.”
The thing with CM Punk is that, while he’ll be quick to chastise the powers that be, he’ll provide you with a quality show in and out of the ring. That will continued in WWE, so long as Triple H, WWE’s esteemed Head of Creative and Punk’s infamous long-time rival, books it as such.
Join us now as Wrestlelamia looks at 10 Dream Opponents For CM Punk In WWE.
Pretend you’re Triple H for just a second. What sort of match do you book for CM Punk? A blockbuster collision vs. Roman Reigns? A mat-based masterpiece vs. Shinsuke Nakamura? A super-indie bloodbath vs. Kevin Owens?
No. You book the matches that have been longed after for over a decade and for CM Punk, that means a tussle with ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’.
CM Punk vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin was long-rumoured to be on the cards prior to Punk’s WWE departure, with the duo involved in a smattering of interactions with one another. Whether or not the match was ever official has become something of an urban myth amongst wrestling historians, but it was certainly in the minds of WWE creative for WrestleMania 39.
Punk, his AEW future in the air, was reportedly being eyed up by WWE officials in late-2022 with the view of placing him opposite Austin at ‘The Showcase of the Immortals’. Austin himself, though previously retired for nineteen years, had escaped the confinements of WWE’s retirement home the year prior, toppling Kevin Owens in a thrilling encounter at WrestleMania 38.
History tells us that Austin’s unthinkable comeback won’t be a one-off, so a match vs. CM Punk? Consider the needle moved.
The quality of celebrity involvement in wrestling has risen to such a point that the stinkers - Snooki, Kevin Federline, Tyson Fury, etc. - are now massively overshadowed by the genre experts - chiefly, Bad Bunny, Johnny Knoxville, and Pat McAfee. As for the Ace of the genre? It’s Logan Paul.
The older Paul brother, since debuting with WWE in early 2022, has become an Internet sensation all over again, irregularly wrestling banger matches against a modicum of top WWE Superstars who can make him look like a million bucks in the ring. Ricochet, Seth Rollins, and Rey Mysterio have all provided Logan with a scintillating contest, and CM Punk would be no different.
Though he’s the reigning United States Champion, a title that Punk definitely won’t be fussing over, the match would print excess money on the basis of the shedload of natural material there is to work with. CM Punk lashing Logan Paul for having never paid his dues. Paul bashing Punk for his AEW misfortunes. Quite literally, it writes itself.
Hold on, hold on, we know what you’re thinking, so before you go rogue on Twitter/X and say things you might regret, hear us out.
A CM Punk vs. Randy Orton feud in 2023 will only work if Punk is the heel and Orton is the babyface. That’s how it went last time, we know, but it’s the only acceptable way to do the story - and that’s because CM Punk stole Randy Orton’s spotlight.
In kayfabe, Orton’s comeback had been announced ahead of time, his face was on the men’s WarGames match graphic following the go-home Raw and everything, whereas CM Punk had nothing to do with WWE. The rumours of his hometown return were just that, rumours, until the morning of the show. He only agreed to terms that day, hours before ‘The Viper’ was due his anticipated re-emergence.
It would be incredibly easy for WWE to turn this into an angle, framing it from the viewpoint that Punk re-signed with WWE to screw with Orton. Their 2011 work together was fine but remember, who went over in BOTH of their pay-per-view encounters?
For storyline’s sake, CM Punk has been after Randy Orton ever since.
Until the events of Survivor Series, Cody Rhodes was the odds-on favourite to win the Royal Rumble match. Per Sky Bets, though, ‘The American Nightmare’s’ hopes of an American Dream at the Royal Rumble have been slashed. The bookies’ favourite as of this publication? CM Punk.
A CM Punk Royal Rumble victory and possible Universal Championship feud with Roman Reigns would be the easy choice, too, from both sides of the coin; the audience wants to see Roman’s reign end at the hands of a top babyface and will hijack the event a la 2014 if Punk doesn’t at least enter the Rumble, while for WWE’s side, it makes perfect business sense. It’s a money match, perhaps the biggest dollar they can make if The Rock isn’t available.
There’s the dynamic of Paul Heyman as well, who worked wonders as CM Punk’s advocate throughout 2012 and 2013 in the same way he’s done for ‘The Tribal Chief’ since 2020. His existence alone would add a mountain of layers to what could be an already elaborate angle.
It all sounds incredibly delectable until REIGNSWINSLOL which, to be fair, WWE may be over. They wouldn’t finally give CM Punk the ‘Mania main event and have him do the job, would they?
Or would they?
Chad Gable is a Vince McMahon tag team guy being pushed to the moon - justly so - as a Triple H singles guy, and he’s all the better for it. Gable, who was incredible as a tag team performer for that matter, has come into his own as a snappy, adept brute, proving his worth throughout the GUNTHER rivalry. Add his minuscule stature and picturesque Moonsault, and you’ve got yourselves a main eventer in the making, a main eventer who’d be perfectly suited opposite ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’.
While his Intercontinental Championship pilgrimage put Gable’s name back on the map, it’s working with a CM Punk that’ll help him break through to the next level. Punk himself was once in a similar position to Chad and how did he get to the top? By beating Edge, Chris Jericho, William Regal, and several others.
By 2009, CM Punk was a household name, but he doesn’t get there without those wins, just like Chad Gable doesn’t get there without this rivalry.
CM Punk, oddly, wasn’t the hot topic of discussion during the post-Survivor Series press conference outside of Triple H’s opening remarks, but Cody Rhodes, calmly and poetically, issued the following statement when quizzed on the return of the Punker by Haus of Wrestling’s Nick Hausman (H/T Wrestling Inc.):
"I don't want to be short with my response, but it truly is this. If he can help with where we're going and what we're doing, absolutely. Welcome aboard. I have a feeling that the CM Punk that potentially we're getting is hungry, and that's the best."
WWE, Cody Rhodes especially, understand the dangers that accompany CM Punk’s comeback but where there’s a risk, there’s a reward, and Cody Rhodes facing CM Punk? That’s a mighty fine reward.
It’d be interesting to see how this one played out alignment-wise. Cody is WWE’s top babyface and could be for the remainder of his career. There’s no push from fans to see ‘The American Nightmare’ make a turn to the dark side, nor has there been any foreshadowing that would justify it. Punk, meanwhile, could lean more into the heelish tactics in a tweener role, but he’s just come back to WWE, the very place he slammed for almost a decade. He’s going to be eternally cheered regardless unless he kicks a puppy or something.
Their last singles showdown was on a December 2008 Raw. Obviously, that was a long, long time ago and their wrestling styles have changed, but both men are world-class professional wrestlers and high-ranking sports entertainers. They’ll make it work.
Spoiler alert everyone!
Brock Lesnar actually cares now.
The man who once seemed to call everything he did on the fly has cared about his work since his aura-defining SummerSlam 2021 comeback as Farmer Brock. Roman Reigns, Bobby Lashley, Omos, and Cody Rhodes can attest to this. Brock gave all them a phenomenal performance, even dragging Omos to a seminal WrestleMania opener in a feat once deemed impossible. His latest work vs. Cody Rhodes saw Brock hark back to his days as a rampaging beast steamrolling his through ‘The American Nightmare’, and it’s exactly that kind of Brock Lesnar that CM Punk needs to face.
The massive size discrepancy guarantees a David vs. Goliath format, which is how all of Lesnar’s best bouts are contested, and CM Punk would serve as perfect foil for the walking action movie that is Brock Lesnar. Their original tale from the summer of 2013, concluding in a modern-day SummerSlam classic, a belter of a No Holds Barred match, is the only justification you need for a second go at this one.
It was a masterpiece worthy of an encore.
Until only a few weeks ago, LA Knight was considered the top/second-top babyface in WWE, depending on your taste for Cody Rhodes. He had built a following for himself not seen since the days of The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, getting himself genuinely over. His Undisputed Universal Championship conquest vs. Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel was never going to have a positive outcome for Knight, but it needn’t. LA Knight had gotten the Saudi Arabia World Title match; that was enough of an indication as to where he stood on the WWE pecking order.
Now? He was absent from a Big Four Premium Live Event, the last overall PLE of the year, with no reports of what the next plans for him are.
Although CM Punk will seemingly be a Raw Superstar moving forward, while Knight is currently SmackDown-associated, it would be idiotic of WWE - this Triple H-booked WWE who gives the audience what it craves - to avoid putting Punk and Knight in the same room. Microphones or no microphones, the verbal exchanges would be incredulous and the matches would follow a similar route as a result.
What’s next for Drew McIntyre?
That may read as a rhetorical question, but it’s not. Drew was once the leading man of sports entertainment, carrying WWE throughout the pandemic era as a superhuman of a WWE Champion, but the minute he dropped the title to The Miz, McIntyre’s success was over and he was back to pay-per-view encounters vs. Jinder Mahal.
The latest word on Drew McIntyre is that he is still unable to come to terms on a new contract with WWE, with his current deal due to expire after WrestleMania 40 and further to this, he caused a scene backstage when he fled the Allstate Arena immediately following Survivor Series. Drew was reportedly seen slamming doors and cursing while clearing his locker room, this going down while CM Punk made his WWE return.
Fightful Select’s latest update on the Scotsman is that many within the company are of the belief that, although Drew doesn’t take kindly to CM Punk waltzing back into the company, he is “wise enough to capitalise” on the potential a Punk programme could have on his career.
So long as Drew can stick it out in WWE long enough, a date with ‘The Best in the World’ awaits.
Here is what Seth Rollins infamously declared to Nick Hausman, then of Wrestling Inc., when asked about the possibility of CM Punk returning to WWE in January 2023 (H/T Sportskeeda Wrestling):
“Oh, Philly Phil. Stay away. Stay away, you cancer. Get away from me forever. I don’t like Phil. I don’t like Phil. He’s a jerk. Did we just figure that out? Do we just figure that out? No. Everybody in the room is like, ‘Oh no, did he say that?’ Yeah, no. He’s a jerk. Come on. We figured it out over there. We knew it over here. I don’t want him back. Go do something else. See you later.”
Rollins, again infamously, kicked up a fuss at ringside upon Punk taking to the stage at the end of Survivor Series, flipping off his old rival and having to be restrained by Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and a gaggle of officials.
Needless to say, Rollins doesn’t want Punk in WWE - or does he?
Per Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio, Seth Rollins’ tirade was “all an angle”, with the two reportedly due to work a match with each other at the Royal Rumble, presumably for Rollins’ World Heavyweight Championship.
The match is happening - and it’s going to be intoxicating.