Following his debut at AEW Rampage: The First Dance and his official return to pro wrestling, AEW star CM Punk answered questions at the post Rampage media scrum. When asked how long this took to come together, Punk revealed that he and AEW President Tony Khan, sitting right next to him, had been discussing this for quite awhile.
“I’ve been talking to Tony for probably a year and a half about this,” Punk said. “Some girls are easy to get into bed, I am not. I need to be wined and dined. And that’s not an ‘Oh, I need more money and less dates’ or, ‘Oh, I need this and that.’ It was literally just talking to Tony and getting to know him. And the more people he employed that I knew, I’d ask questions and they’d tell me things. I’ve been in the game for a few minutes. So I’ve seen, and I think I traced it back to the downfall of ECW, every six months to a year, somebody pops up. ‘I have money and we’re going to have TV and we’re going to use all the ECW guys.’
“This is not a slight on Tony at all, it’s more of a slight on me being a paranoid, neurotic, anxiety ridden, very careful person. I wasn’t in a hurry, and the pandemic kind of helped that out. I knew I couldn’t debut if there was no people in the building. I always say timing is everything, and there were a lot of happy accidents along the way that made this possible.”
Punk also talked about how nervous he was prior to his appearance, which surprised some of the people in the AEW locker room. He attributed it to him finding his love for pro wrestling once again.
“I was extremely nervous. And I was,” Punk revealed. “Eddie Kingston was like ‘What are you talking about? Why are you nervous?’ Because I’m nervous. I haven’t been on the bike in a minute. Being nervous is an extremely good thing, because I’ve been a part of moments like that, maybe not as big as that because that’s a big moment, where I didn’t care at all. I wanted to be anywhere else.
“So being nervous meant that I cared and I was emotional walking out on that stage, knowing that, ‘Hey man, this is fun. I love this again.’ I’ve been a lifelong wrestling fan. And sometimes you fall in and out of love with stuff. If you set something free and it comes back to you, it’s true love.”
Punk’s appearance has already been compared to his victory over John Cena at the 2011 Money in the Bank, where he won the WWE Championship. When asked how this moment measured up to that, Punk stated he preferred his appearance at the First Dance.
“This felt more organic,” Punk admitted. “Everything I ever did prior to being here felt like a fight, and it kind of squeezed the life out of stuff. This was a joyful moment that didn’t need to get overproduced. It didn’t need everybody’s input, it needed a few select people’s input and just an understanding that it’s pro wrestling. You don’t need to slip it up and lather it and shine it up too much. It needed to be real. So to compare the two moments, this one did not feel like a job.”
Punk also revealed that, despite his seven year absence, he never really hated pro wrestling like many thought. Rather he despised what WWE brought to the table, which Punk, who didn’t mention WWE by name, ultimately doesn’t consider to be pro wrestling.
“I do not want to give negative answers and talk badly about anybody,” Punk said. “This is why I made the distinction on August 13, 2005, I left professional wrestling. And on August 20, 2021, I am back in professional wrestling. I don’t think I ever hated professional wrestling. I could watch a Terry Funk match, I could watch a Bill Watts UWF/Mid South, I could watch Jim Crockett Promotions and enjoy it. Rest in Power, Bobby Eaton, I could watch a Midnight Express match. I could listen to Steve Austin, ‘Stunning’ or otherwise cut promos.
“I just think there needs to be a real distinction made of what I despised, and it wasn’t professional wrestling. And they don’t try to pretend that it is. So why are we going to continue to try to pretend that’s what it is? Because it’s not. So if everybody’s happy going forward, we’re pro wrestling. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
You can watch the full media scrum below.
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW and give a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.