CM Punk is back in WWE. And if Chicago’s favourite wrestling son is to be believed, he is back home.
Now, whether you believe Big Phil Brooks or not (here’s looking at you Seth Rollins), there is no denying that the former WWE Champions’ return to the land of Sports Entertainment conjures up limitless possibilities.
Cindy’s Bakery’s number one customer confirmed a few weeks ago on Raw that he would be participating in the 2024 men’s Royal Rumble match. This announcement coming just three days after Punk’s statement about realising his dream of main eventing WrestleMania.
Punk Is Already On A Collision Course
So these two announcements, coupled with his signing for Monday Night Raw, mapped out the return course Punk is looking to take in the very immediate future. Win the Royal Rumble, challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia next April.
Presumably, this challenge will come in the form of current title holder Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins.
Rollins stepped to Punk a couple of weeks ago on Raw in a segment almost 10 years in the making. The anticipated interaction between the pair drawing 400,000 extra viewers to the USA Network to witness it unfold live on Monday night.
Given the level of hype surrounding an eventual match between the pair, not to mention the associated promo back-and-forths that the months-long storyline will gift us, it’s safe to say that CM Punk vs Seth Rollins is the direction we’re headed for Philadelphia at the beginning of April.
First Rollins. Then Who?
But what else for CM Punk? This is a man, after all, with a decade of catching up to do. A man who, after his AEW run imploded in a collision of cowboys, Executive Vice Presidents and real glass, has more than a few points that he probably wants to prove.
There are those backstage who are none-too-pleased about the Straight Edge Superstar’s Survivor Series return. Rollins being one of them. However, unlike AEW, where problems were unable to be put aside to do business, any heat seems like it is being put to one side under Triple H’s leadership in Stamford, Connecticut, in order to elevate ratings, potential TV right deals and, overall, money.
A scintillating stand-off with Drew McIntyre saw a whole host of fans clamouring for a feud between the pair last night, but here are five other rivalries outside of the already heavily teased Rollins and Drew programmes that could give WWE a license to print money over the next few years.
1. ROMAN REIGNS
An obvious choice, admittedly, but one that makes far too much sense not to do. For the Paul Heyman interactions alone. Punk’s one time best friend is now The Wiseman to the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion. And there’s even more backstory already built in between the Tribal Chief and Punk.
Back when The Shield were being assembled for their main roster debut in 2012, Punk was instrumental in shaping the Hounds of Justice, who would aid him on-screen upon their dramatic arrival. But the then WWE Champion’s vision for the trio did not include Roman Reigns. Instead, Punk plugged Chris Hero aka Kassius Ohno for the gig instead. Of course, Vince McMahon thought differently and the former Big Dog wreaked havoc alongside Seth Rollins and the artist formerly known as Dean Ambrose for the next two years.
Roman also being the guy who is now the polar opposite to Rollins in his attitude to title defences and showing up every week also makes him a perfect target for Punk’s ammunition. Here’s the guy who treats the WWE as his personal plaything, dabbling with it whenever he feels like it. And then there’s the guy who wanted nothing to do with the place for almost a decade, now returned ‘home’ and wanting to put in the work. Reigns represents everything Punk ordinarily believes to be wrong in the wrestling industry – a pampered, part time champion who always gets handed the main event slot and ensures his famous family all get to come along for the ride. Watching Chicago’s sweetheart writhe under the skin of the Tribal Chief is something that would make for irresistible television.
2. KEVIN OWENS
We have already been blessed with an all-too-brief face-to-face between this pairing. Punk’s solo SmackDown appearance of his comeback so far saw a terse exchange with The Prizefighter backstage. Of course, away from our TV screens, Owens is a long-time friend of a certain pair of Young Bucks over in AEW, which naturally puts him at odds with the Jacksonville-based promotion’s former two-time World Champion.
Owens being one of the game’s best talkers as well as someone who shares a penchant with Punk for the more violent style of bout make the two a natural in-ring couple. Both became legends in Ring of Honor, both are as believable with their words as they are with their actions. They could produce wars. They could produce magic and they could produce a whole heap of f**king money.
3. CODY RHODES
I mean, come on. This one writes itself, doesn’t it? The man who helped create All Elite Wrestling, who helped give the wrestling world a viable big league alternative for the first time in 20 years. And the man who, depending on who you believe, lit 40,000 matches and fired a water cannon full of kerosene in their direction over there.
In the modern era, hyperbole is king, but it’s not being hyperbolic to suggest that this could be a feud for the ages. One that in 10-15 years from now, on whatever cesspit ridden minefield Twitter or X has evolved into, wrestling fans will remember fondly while groaning through their modern day product.
Even in the more lenient Triple H era, not too many mentions of the other place are allowed on air, but given Cody and Punk’s respective Jacksonville jaunts, their AEW adventures will surely form a large part of whatever rivalry they have within the confines of the WWE Universe. Just as Cody sets his eyes on the potential final few chapters of his story, he could write an entire sequel just with Punk alone.
While Roman Reigns is the main event marquee player, many people would argue that GUNTHER’s record breaking Intercontinental Title reign is even more impressive an accomplishment. Match quality wise, it’s certainly hard to argue against.
The brutally physical Austrian has orchestrated his own symphony of destruction over the last 18 months and is showing no signs of building to a crescendo just yet, despite Chad Gable’s recent heroic efforts. But with or without the IC Title he has brought back to prominence, the former WALTER would make for a tantalising clobberin’ partner for CM Punk.
Punk’s finest work always shines brightest in bouts against people who seemingly want to kill him, and GUNTHER seemingly wants to kill everyone he sees. So this is a perfect fit which could also help elevate the former NXT UK Champion into another stratosphere entirely. While GUNTHER is undoubtedly one of the greatest workers in the world and one of the best to ever step foot in a WWE ring, he still doesn’t quite have that one rivalry that defines him. Not yet, anyway.
5. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
It should have happened over 10 years ago. There’s still time, too. But not much. Austin proved in Dallas at WrestleMania 38 last year that he can still go with the right opponent, even after 19 years without a match. The Texas Rattlesnake and Kevin Owens brawled through a white hot crowd in the Lone Star State in last year’s WrestleMania to a litany of deserving adulation. Now, with even longer to prepare, and years upon years of backstory to draw from, imagine what the WWE Hall of Famer could put together with CM Punk.
The beer swilling Bionic Redneck facing off with the Straight Edge Superstar, two of the greatest to ever do it, whether than be on the mic or between the ropes of the squared circle, is too big an opportunity to pass up, even over 20 years since Austin officially retired.
Punk being a childhood Steve Austin fan (with the photos to prove it) only adds more depth and personal conflict to the story which will, in turn, add a ton more viewers to the weekly TV ratings and a ton more money to the TKO accounts.
Until then, we’re happy to see how Punk’s first Royal Rumble in 10 years plays out before his likely road to WrestleMania with Seth Rollins.
You can watch WWE Royal Rumble LIVE only on Peacock and the WWE Network on Saturday 27th January
Featured Image Credit: WWE