Tony Khan’s decision to introduce an interim AEW World Championship was met with backlash – but Khan’s logic behind the choice makes perfect sense.
When CM Punk first lifted the AEW World Championship from ‘Hangman’ Adam Page, the initial fan reaction was that of excitement. ‘The Best In The World’ is synonymous with the summer wrestling schedule, having enjoyed a ‘Summer of Punk’ in both WWE and ROH previously.
The news of Punk’s injury-caused absence from AEW programming was therefore upsetting. He addressed his injury on that Friday’s Rampage, confirming he’d be taking an undetermined period of time away from the company as he undergoes surgery.
Crucially, the AEW World Championship has not been declared vacant. Instead, an interim champion will be crowned at Forbidden Door, setting up a must-see unification match to create an undisputed champion. Tony Khan defended this decision while appearing on Busted Open Radio (h/t Fightful):
“Based on what happens in real fights, in the world of fighting, this is what you do. You have a great champion, and if they are injured, you name an interim champion and set up an exciting unification fight. We have a great chance to set something exciting up.”
Tony Khan continued, expressing his concerns ahead of CM Punk’s surgery but general remained optimistic about the situation:
“It is a setback, but we’re really excited to get CM Punk back. He’s going to have surgery here quickly and I’m very nervous, but pretty optimistic because he’s going to be seeing one of the top doctors in the entire world and someone really renowned in sports medicine. We were fortunate to get him in quickly. We’re excited to get him back.”
The interim AEW World Champion will be crowned on 26 June. Jon Moxley has already advanced to that match following his victory over Kyle O’Reilly on the 8 June Dynamite broadcast. He’ll meet either Hiroshi Tanahashi or Hirooki Goto at the pay-per-view, depending on who emerges victorious at New Japan’s Dominion.
CM Punk was originally scheduled to defend the World Championship against Tanahashi at Forbidden Door, following ‘The Ace of NJPW’ walking through the metaphorical Forbidden Door. Punk has since been offered the opportunity of holding the match at Wrestle Kingdom 17.