CM Punk returning to professional wrestling has been greeted by near universal positivity from fans far and wide. However, one WWE Hall of Famer was seemingly less than impressed.
On August 20th, CM Punk made his AEW debut in his home town of Chicago, ending a seven year absence from pro wrestling. He proceeded to cut a passionate promo thanking fans and referencing his departure from WWE from 2014. Punk closed by laying down a challenge for Darby Allin at AEW All Out on September 5th.
While many have praised the return including Jim Cornette, who called it “perfect,” Booker T has been more critical. Speaking on his Hall Of Fame podcast, the former World Champion described the promo as a “total miss.”
“CM Punk is back man and I got a chance to witness the return of CM Punk, I really did. I don’t know, you guys out there that are big AEW fans, you guys agree to disagree with me. But me, I’m always telling it like it is, y’all know that… and I’m gonna tell it like it is on this one right there as well. I want all of the listeners, I need you guys to challenge me on this one. I’m begging you to challenge me on what I’m talking about.”
“CM Punk came back and he had 10 full television minutes to go out there and make his point as far as CM Punk being back. He had the perfect crowd to be able to go out there and really, I’m talking about have a party up in that United Center. But CM Punk came back and took his moment and chose to talk about WWE. That right there was just a total miss as far as I’m concerned, (he) struck out. I can only imagine if The Rock had that same 21,000 in Miami, Florida. The Rock would have talked about every landmark in Miami and that everybody in Miami frequented… he would have had those fans going crazy with excitement but CM Punk chose to talk about the WWE and that nine minutes went back so slow when it could have been a party going on in the United Center.”
Booker continued, explaining that he wouldn’t have spent as much time speaking about WWE if he were in that position. Although he did admit that he knew the AEW crowd would “eat it up.”
“I’m saying from a perspective to where I’m making my comeback and I’m thinking about the other side, that’s totally a place that I wouldn’t even be going. As well as you talk about how the moment started out on a rise and after the music stopped playing, the rise just started going down. It never came back up. That’s a moment for you? I get it, I understand that but my point is the moment, once the bell rings and the bell rings after the music stops as far as I’m concerned and I just don’t think CM Punk delivered the way he could have as far as a promo goes because I didn’t feel the promo. It felt like a guy talking about WWE and when you’re talking about the other side, only thing you’re doing is giving those guys airtime. Of course, I know the AEW crowd will eat that up but for me as a professional, that’s the last thing that I’m gonna be thinking about is the other side. I’m gonna be thinking about the here and the now. Like I said, I could be wrong but I just think he missed a moment there in front of his hometown (with) over 20,000 people.”
It has since been revealed that Punk’s return pulled in more than one million viewers to AEW Rampage.
As reported by Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics, the show brought in 1.129,000 viewers, with 692,000 of those being in the prized 18-49 year-old demographic. That equates to a rating of 0.53, which is higher than all but the debut episode of AEW Dynamite in 2019.
Thurston adds that the opening quarter-hour of the show featuring Punk, drew in 1.341,000 viewers with 842,000 in the 18-49 demographic. A rating of 0.65.
H/t to Wrestling News for the transcription.