AEW Collision Announcement Proves Just How Much Tony Khan Needs CM Punk

The cat is out of the bag — CM Punk is returning to AEW to be part of the debut episode of "AEW Collision" on June 17. Tony Khan announced the big news on the May 31 edition of "AEW Dynamite," and in doing so, officially ended months of speculation about Punk's future.

The last time wrestling fans saw Punk, in the aftermath of AEW All Out 2022, he verbally lambasted "Hangman" Adam Page, Colt Cabana, and the company's EVPs — Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson — in a very public spotlight. Afterward, he reportedly got into a physical backstage altercation with Omega and the Young Bucks that culminated with chairs being thrown around and people getting bitten by Punk's friend, Ace Steel. Since then, Punk has used social media to call out both Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho, so it's safe to assume that he isn't everyone's favorite person behind the scenes in AEW. Bringing him back is a risk, but is it a necessary one? Judging by Khan's announcement on "Dynamite," it seems the company needs the "Second City Saint" right now, perhaps even more than anyone had suspected.

Why spoil CM Punk's return ahead of time?

In recent months, AEW has experienced some mammoth successes, including selling more than 60,000 tickets for All In at Wembley Stadium. However, the promotion has lost some momentum on the domestic front, as evidenced by topsy-turvy TV ratings and mixed reactions to the general product. Furthermore, AEW has reportedly struggled to sell tickets for upcoming "Collision" dates, revealing that anticipation for the brand-new show might not be as high as the top brass at Warner Bros. Discovery wants it to be.

Tony Khan's recent announcement about "Collision" debuting in Chicago more or less confirmed that CM Punk was going to be part of the first episode, but for a few days, it seemed that Khan was employing the same tactic that was used to hype Punk's initial AEW debut in 2021 — a smart promotional campaign that created just the right amount of intrigue to supplement wrestling's worst-kept secret. Fans won't get to enjoy that excitement this time around, despite rumors that Punk's name and likeness had been pulled from the original "Collision" announcement to maintain just such an illusion.

Khan flat-out stating that Punk will be at "Collision" indicates that he doesn't want to take any chances. Tickets need to be sold, and AEW's head honcho wants people to tune into the company's new flagship weekly series. Only time will tell if spoiling the surprise was worth it, but it comes off as a last-ditch attempt to guarantee results and proves that, now more than ever, AEW needs CM Punk.

Punk is a divisive presence, so why risk upsetting other AEW stars?

CM Punk is a polarizing figure whose presence risks disrupting the harmony of the AEW locker room. While the All Out situation proves that the former AEW World Champion isn't afraid to air his grievances and share the company's dirty laundry in public, announcing his return suggests that his commercial appeal is worth the risk of potentially creating more division behind the scenes. Most bosses would fire an employee for behaving the way Punk has in recent months, but they might have second thoughts if the disruptive worker brought lots of revenue to the business. Granted, Punk probably wasn't the only guilty party in the aforementioned fight, but he certainly played a massive part in creating a messy situation.

Still, if the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega can get a second chance, Punk deserves one, as well. He's already established himself as one of AEW's biggest draws, and his return following a tumultuous hiatus is bound to create interest in the product. Beyond that, Punk's real-life rivalries could inform several months' worth of main event storylines — if he and his alleged enemies can put their differences to the side. In wrestling, authentic beef can lead to entertaining television and big pay-per-view buys. Whether that actually happens, especially amidst conflicting reports of a brand split, remains to be seen, but regardless, Punk wouldn't be returning if his mercurial and argumentative nature wasn't ultimately seen as a benefit for AEW. After all, as successful wrestling promoters understand, controversy creates cash.