WILPW: Another Summer of Punk

Almost seven years ago, I wrote about CM Punk. I was going through a difficult time as a fan. My emotions were still raw from Phil Brooks walking out on pro-wrestling as I wrote that blog post a mere ten months after Punk left. I had struggled because Punk had been my favorite at the time and I felt like I resonated on a similar wavelength with the guy. He was a comic book geek, a pro-wrestling geek, and just seemed to be very creative. As I wrote before, a lot of things came to light when Brooks was ready to talk about it. It was clear to me that he had suffered from burnout and physical ailments that caused his love of pro-wrestling to die. I did not realize how hard I took that.

Shortly after I last posted on the subject, I found more out from Punk’s own words. He walked out for a lot of reasons. The first and foremost reason was his health. He was suffering from broken ribs, injured knees, and multiple concussions. This was before the WWE’s current concussion protocol which is allegedly better at protecting against this. Looking back you could definitely tell a lot of this from his performance near the end of his WWE run. He looked tired and broken down at the time. He was also feeling frustrated by the way his career was going. He felt like WWE was holding him back. He was having a crisis of faith caused by all of his frustrations with creative control of his character and not being compensated for his sacrifices.

Punk and his friend Colt Cabana were sued for Punk’s statements against the WWE on Colt’s podcast. They were cleared of all liability. The lawsuit caused a falling out between the two friends. At the same time, I felt like I was struggling to find my own love of pro-wrestling again. I discovered NXT, a breath of fresh air in the WWE product. I began to search for content from other companies. In 2015, I started watching Lucha Underground and I was in love again. I began to see clips from Mexico and Japan and the indies in the United States. Slowly, my love for the product came back.

When All Elite Wrestling premiered, I was excited. I was well-studied on the independents that birthed the company. I finally gave up on watching WWE when they failed to sever ties with Saudi Arabia, sheltered sexual abusers, and kept killing the careers of performers I loved. Meanwhile, AEW had its problems (mostly Chris Jericho for me) but it was creatively fulfilling for performers. The company truly embraced the three-ring circus element of good pro-wrestling. There is something for everyone. I am a big fan of the goofy weirdos but also the amazing technical skill. As my love of the business reignites, I need to write about this company (and MLW).

On Friday, August 20, 2021, a hole in my fandom heart was repaired when CM Punk returned to pro-wrestling in the middle of an All Elite Wrestling ring. They teased it for weeks, they hyped up their audience, and I tuned in to watch live for the first time in a long while. They wasted no time and Punk came out right away. There were tears in his eyes as he looked out and smiled and my own heart swelled watching him be happy. He had found his love again. I am excited to see where it goes but that moment was worth it. Pro-wrestling is a strange business and it has its ups and downs but sometimes there are very pure moments worth getting happy over.

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