As CM Punk readies for his AEW Dynamite debut tonight from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the buzz from his AEW debut and return to wrestling at AEW Rampage: The First Dance from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois this past Friday continues to grow. On his podcast What Happened When with Conrad Thompson, AEW commentator Tony Schiavone gave a behind the scenes look at Punk’s return, starting with the production meeting the day before.
“We have our meetings a day before, and our meetings are usually on the telephone now,” Schiavone explained. “We used to meet in person, we don’t anymore. Even though most of us, almost everybody, you either have had your vaccine or you’ve tested negatively, it’s become a thing just to do it on the phone. So Tony Khan read over the format and the format had said ‘special guest’. And Tony referred to him as ‘a special guest’. True to form, Tony did not say CM Punk’s name at all. And then he contacted me later in the night, and via text he said ‘listen, I’m thinking that I’m gonna have you introduce him. I think that’s what I’m gonna do’. I said ‘I’d be honored’ and I said ‘but we need to talk about what I’m gonna say because what I’m gonna say should be minimal. I don’t need to go on some big thing.’ And he said ‘okay’.
“So I go to the building. My name was on the format ‘Tony Schiavone introduces Special Guest.’ CM Punk arrived and I was told he was in his room, the room, by the way, was marked ‘Special Guest.’ So he arrives and he has a couple of people with him. One’s an old ECW guy, let me think for a second, Lou Dangerously. And there was someone else and I know he has wrestled before, he’s a friend of his. So he had a couple of guys with him. I sat there and talked to him for a little bit, and Tony Khan came in and we all three sat and talked, and it was decided, and I really think rightfully so even though I really wanted to be a part of this, it was rightfully so that he would come out on his own. Punk said ‘listen, I want you to interview me, we’ll do it on Dynamite. I want you to hold the microphone, I don’t want to jerk it out of your hands like people have done.’ And I said ‘okay.’ So that apparently is going to air tonight, me talking to him in Milwaukee.”
From there Schiavone detailed watching Punk’s promo from the Gorilla position (or Go position) and how the promo came together, revealing that all but one part of the promo was thought up from Punk’s perspective. Schiavone also put over Punk’s star power and praised the reaction he was able to get.
“During Rampage I’m one of the three people in the back that sat at the Go position,” Schiavone said. “There’s Tony Khan, there’s the coach in the middle and then there’s me on the right. And he stayed in the back and talked to everybody and was very, very nice as you might imagine. So I talked to him about his promo and he said ‘I really don’t know. I’ve been thinking about so many things to say and I really don’t know what I’m going to say.’ We just did know that the one thing he was going to touch on was Darby, to set up the pay per view match.
“From then on we had no idea what he was going to say or how he was going to say it. And to be honest with you, if he did, he didn’t let us on. It really looked like to me he was really, really thinking about this hard and had weighed on him for some time. You know you’ve been gone for seven years, you’re such a star and a great talker and a great worker. And you’re back in Chicago and you sell out, you, sell out the building based off a rumor. That’s star power buddy.”
Schiavone described how much, if not all, of the AEW roster found themselves in the Go position to watch Punk’s promo. He also talked about staying up all night after the show, which included him going to dinner with AEW President Tony Khan, Punk, Punk’s entourage and several other AEW stars.
“So he walks out of the Go position,” Schiavone recalled. “Everybody kind of bumps fists, we’re all excited. Tony is excited. And then everybody starts to come out to the Go position, because we’ve got a monitor out there. I’m telling you Kenny was out there, the Young Bucks, everybody. They didn’t want to sit in the back and watch it, they wanted to come out, right behind the curtain, and feel it. And I’m going to be honest with you, it was one of those from the heart, just ass kicking moments. It just was. So he did it, he came back and people were so excited about it. Britt was beside herself that he mentioned her name. And then, I had to get up early to fly the next morning to fly to Detroit to work the Astronomic Con in Ann Arbor. So I waited, after the show is over I usually ride with Jeff Jones, and Jeff Jones has some things he got to do with social media. We hung around a little bit, they had the social media scrum, we hung around a little bit and Jones says ‘alright lets go.’
“I walk out and we’re talking about 11:30, maybe midnight, we walk out and Tony Khan is there with his girlfriend, his driver, some other people. He says ‘what are you doing?’ I said ‘I was going to go back to the hotel.’ He said ‘come on. Hop in with me.’ So I hopped in with him and we went out to dinner with Punk and his entourage, and we had some of our people there. Rebel was there, Britt was there, Orange Cassidy stopped by. And I sat beside Tony at the table and CM Punk sat across from us and we talked about his return. It was just a very special moment. Now the fact is I had to wake up at 3:30 for a 5 a.m. flight. So I got back to my room at 2:30 a.m. So I stayed up all night. I didn’t go to bed, first time I’ve stayed up all night since I don’t know when. But I was really riding a high. I think we all were riding a high, feeling good about our company, about what Tony has done.”
Finally Thompson asked Schiavone where he would rank Punk’s return to wrestling in terms of all time moments. Even after having been in the business for 38 years and calling many spectacular moments, Schiavone had no problem ranking this one.
“It’s top five, it definitely is,” Schiavone stated. “It’s top five for crowd anticipation. There was a shot of a kid crying. I don’t think we’ve ever witnessed that. I don’t think anyone ever cried when Goldberg beat Hogan, although they were excited. But it’s top five. I kind of jokingly told Tony, I said ‘maybe I should send out a tweet saying this is the greatest moment in the history of our sport.’ He went ‘yes! Yes! That would be great!’ So I did. Most people agreed, some people s--t on it.
“So anyway, that was a top five moment. And because of the anticipation and because of the response, and because I think he, as we like to say, knocked it out of the park on the promo, which we knew he would. Obviously he’s been one of the great promos. For some reason I found an interview of his, not the Pipebomb one, but another interview in the ring. And I remember thinking ‘this f****r can do a promo old school style.’ And I think he lit it up. Of course he could’ve said anything out there and people would’ve loved it. But he was tremendous.”
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