WATCH: AEW Teases CM Punk Debut Amid Reports Of Contract Agreement
By Jason Hall
July 29, 2021
The professional wrestling promotion seemingly teased the former WWE Champion's debut at an upcoming event in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, during the most recent episode of its TNT program Dynamite on Thursday (July 28).
Multiple wrestling outlets have reported that Punk has agreed to a contract with AEW, although nothing has been confirmed as of Thursday (July 29).
However, the company announced that its upcoming Rampage event in Chicago will not only be held at the United Center -- its largest host venue since launching in 2019 -- but also be called 'The First Dance,' which is believed to be linked to a story shared on Punk's Instagram account recently.
Immediately after the 'First Dance' announcement, former TNT Champion Darby Allin responded with a message to potential challengers.
"You know I've been around a lot of men in this world that have laid claim to how they're the greatest and there's only one place to really prove that. Right here in AEW. Even if you think you're the best in the world," Allin said.
"Best in the world" was, of course, the moniker Punk used to describe himself during his famous "Pipebomb" promo and subsequent emergence as one of professional wrestling's most popular characters in 2011.
Naturally, the live audience at the Dynamite taping erupted with "CM Punk" chants after Allin dropped the line.
Last week, Punk shared an Instagram story featuring a black background with The Alan Parsons Project instrumental Sirius, famously used during the Chicago Bulls' pregame introductions, most notably during the Michael Jordan era.
Shortly after, reports indicated that AEW trademarked the phrase 'The First Dance,' which wrestling fans correlated back to Punk's post given 'The Last Dance' was the title of the docuseries chronicling Jordan's last season in Chicago.
Punk's post coincided with a report by Fightful Select's Sean Ross Sapp claiming Punk had been involved in ongoing talks for a return to professional wrestling, with sources indicating a preference to join AEW over WWE, earlier this month.
Sapp reported there had been no confirmation on a contract being signed or a timetable for an appearance, but noted that WWE officials believed the former World Champion is headed to AEW at the time of the report.
Punk was released by WWE in 2014, with his only in-ring appearance since coming at an independent wrestling show, making a run-in while wearing a mask. The former champion claimed on The Art of Wrestling podcast that he was sent termination papers on the day of his wedding with former WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee, who was still employed by the company at the time.
The podcast appearance resulted in WWE filing a defamation lawsuit against Punk, which was won by the former pro wrestler.
Punk made two appearances in the UFC, posting an 0-1 record (one no contest), as well as pursuing an acting character during his seven years away from the squared circle.
WWE appeared to have made potential progress in mending its relationship with the former champion when he was brought on as an analyst for WWE Backstage, although officially signed by FOX Sports.