CM Punk's Drawing Power Reportedly Alienated Him From AEW Locker Room

CM Punk's popularity appears to have been a double-edged sword for the former AEW World Champion — partially because he wasn't popular enough.

According to Pro Wrestling Torch's Wade Keller, Punk didn't have the leverage in the locker room that many thought he would have. "He turned out to be a difference maker and a needle mover," Keller said, "especially with that first PPV buy rate, but it wasn't 'game changing.' It just wasn't."

Keller says he believed, and speculates that others in the AEW locker room believed, that Punk would bring a level of attention to All Elite Wrestling that they hadn't been able to grasp, which led many to initially put up with his "idiosyncrasies and eccentricities," but that patience waned as numbers didn't climb the way people expected.

"Because of that Punk carried less sway in the locker room, which had factions, but was largely an amiable place," Keller continued. "There was some jealousy of his rumored salary, upwards of $3 million per year, with some wrestlers thinking their spot on the card moved down a notch, and their potential push was delayed a year or two because of him ... Jon Moxley has made it clear he wanted to be an alpha top guy, Cody Rhodes wanted that, he saw himself as that, Kenny Omega was initially seen as being that." 

Keller also notes that Punk made Bryan Danielson "redundant" as a babyface, especially amongst fans of WWE and Ring of Honor. 

'Calculated and Unhinged'

Keller notes that Punk was initially approachable backstage, and that Punk not immediately getting a push into the main event scene was also a good omen. According to Keller, however, some AEW talent began feeling threatened almost immediately, when Punk's debut in late August 2021 was immediately followed by the AEW debuts of Danielson and Adam Cole, both of whom had also made names for themselves in WWE.

"Some rising midcard wrestlers saw themselves as being displaced by the alighting of Punk, Cole, and Danielson from the WWE fame into the AEW sphere all at once," Keller said. "By all accounts, he didn't make enough of an impression on those younger wrestlers to be the de facto erudite locker room leader he might have seen himself as."

According to Keller, the dissonance between Punk's perceptions of himself and the locker room's perception of him might've made it easier for Punk to put his position at risk with the now-infamous rant at All Out's post-show press conference, which Keller described as "both calculated and unhinged."

Keller notes that AEW has done as well in Punk's absence, and that current champion Jon Moxley is "seen as a leader" despite also being "an enigma" to the locker room.