CM Punk to AEW Rampage? All the return rumors explained

CM Punk at his WWE peak.


Friday night is AEW Rampage’s second epsiode, dubbed The First Dance, and the wrestling world is expecting CM Punk to show up. Reports that Punk was returning to the ring have been swirling for the past month, with the expectation that the former WWE Champion will appear on Friday’s show ahead of September’s All Out pay-per-view. 

The last time CM Punk wrestled a full match was January of 2014. In the time since, Punk has become a successful comic book writer, an unsuccessful UFC fighter, and has developed an acting career. 

Friday’s Rampage TV show takes place in Chicago’s United Center, and it’s one of four major shows the company is running out of Chicago, culminating with Sept. 5’s All Out.  It’s become a foregoing conclusion for many fans that CM Punk is show up before the pay-per-view. Here’s why. 

CM Punk return rumors

CM Punk is expected by many fans to appear on this Friday’s episode of Rampage, AEW’s new one-hour TV show on TNT. But to be clear: CM Punk is not confirmed to have signed with AEW.

The whispers started with a report from Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp, one of wrestling’s most reliable journalists. Sapp reported on July 22 that CM Punk has been in talks with AEW for an in-ring return. These whispers became shouts on the July 28 episode of Dynamite.

At the beginning of the show, a special edition of Rampage was announced. (Note: Rampage debuted last Friday, so this Friday’s episode is only the second episode.) It’ll be called The First Dance, and will broadcast out of Chicago’s United Center. With Punk being synonymous with Chicago, the Dynamite crowd broke out into a “CM Punk” chant. In the very next segment, Darby Allin said AEW is the only place to prove you’re the greatest — “even if you think you’re the best in the world.”

“The Best in the World” was CM Punk’s moniker during his run in WWE. With Darby’s allusion to Punk coming straight after the announcement of Chicago’s show, the wrestling world has taken that as a confirmation that Punk is bound to appear at Friday’s Rampage to set up a match, probably against Darby, at All Out. 

And again, Chicago will be home to Friday’s episode of Rampage, next Wednesday’s Dynamite, next Friday’s Rampage and next Sunday’s All Out. Having so many major shows in the same market one after the other isn’t unprecedented, but it’s certainly unusual. Fans have reasoned that AEW must have an ace up its sleeve to attract fans back show after show. 

On Aug. 11, Fightul’s Sapp reported that CM Punk has been training for an in-ring return.

Kenny Omega, AEW’s reigning world champion, has also fueled the rumors through the T-shirts he’s been wearing on Dynamite. Last week he wore a Cookie Monster shirt, and on Wednesday night’s show he donned a Cookie Monster shirt while he attacked All Out opponent Christian. CM Punk in the past has joked about the “CM” standing for “Cookie Monster” and “Chick Magnet”. 

Perhaps the biggest hint has come from AEW owner Tony Khan, who on Thursday tweeted that big things were in AEW’s immediate future. “I’m betting that excitement from the most anticipated announcement in AEW history at AEW Rampage The First Dance will build up through All Out on PPV,” he said on Thursday. “We’ll make new fans + we’ll welcome dormant wrestling households worldwide back into the fold; a new era in AEW begins tomorrow.”

What has Punk said?

On Aug. 12 Punk appeared on radio show Sunday Night’s Main Event in which he implausibly claimed he can’t make Friday’s Rampage because he may be hosting a screening of an episode of Heelz, a pro-wrestling themed TV show, and that the “best in the world” reference from Darby was probably a reference to Daniel Bryan. Punk didn’t hint that he’d signed to AEW, but he was noticeably more aloof than usual, as in the past he’s defiantly rebuffed any suggestion that he’s returning to the ring. 

In recent days Punk has more actively fueled rumors through social media. After following AEW on Twitter in July, he’s been posting cryptic Stories on Instagram. Most notable was a post in which he used the phrase “Nothing’s over ’till you’re underground,” which is Darby Allin’s catchphrase. 

“I do think the landscape of pro wrestling in general really needs a kick in the d***,” he told TV Insider while promoting Heelz. “I think we are about there. I think there are people out there stirring the pot and causing trouble in a good way. It’s a fun world. There is nothing like it. Pro wrestling gets crapped on by a number of people. But when it’s done on a high level and it’s really good, there is nothing better.”

How to watch All Out, Start times 

AEW All Out is available via PPV at $60, but it’s also available on streaming services. If you’re in the US, it’ll be $50 through B/R Live. In the UK and Australia, you’ll instead watch it through Fite TV, where it costs $20 (£14, AU$25).  

The Bleacher Report Live app is available on RokuAmazon Fire TVApple TVAndroid TViOS and Android. Fite TV is available on all of the above plus XboxPlayStation and Smart TVs from SamsungLGSharpSony and Panasonic.

The main show kicks off at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, with a preshow starting an hour before that. For grappling fans in the UK, All Out’s main show begins early Monday at 1 a.m. GMT (midnight Sunday preshow). Down Under, the show begins at 10 a.m. AEST (9 a.m. preshow).    

The announced matches, much more of which are to come, are as follows:

  • AEW Championship: Kenny Omega (c) vs. Christian Cage.
  • Pac vs. Andrade El Idolo.
  • Paul White vs. QT Marshall.
  • Women’s Casino Battle Royale.

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