– The Best In the World –
The Merriam-Webster definition of ENIGMA is: someone or something that is difficult to understand or explain; an inscrutable or mysterious person.
If you’re a fan of professional wrestling, whether it be WWE, AEW, Ring Of Honor, Impact Wrestling, New Japan, MLW, or more, then you know the name CM Punk. And if you know the name CM Punk, then you know the story or the legend of CM Punk. Punk, real name Phil Brooks, disappeared from WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and the wrestling world in 2014, just before Wrestlemania season. In multiple interviews since Punk has covered why he stepped away. Both his mind and body needed a break from the WWE and from the wrestling business. He hasn’t set foot in a WWE ring in over 7 years now, but his name is still present and relevant. Many, many, MANY times during a WWE show you hear the fans chant, “CM Punk, CM Punk, CM Punk, CM Punk!” The fans never stopped adoring him and many were always hoping to see him return to Vince McMahon and the WWE.
Fast forward 7 years and CM Punk is back in mainstream wrestling, only this time he’s a part of AEW (All Elite Wrestling). The long awaited return has finally come to be. Punk made his return on the August 20, 2021 edition of AEW: Rampage, fittingly being held in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. The crowd reaction was LOUD. The social media buzz was LOUD too. But what is it about CM Punk that makes him liked by so many? What is it that makes him disliked by many as well? Punk has been described by some as being hard headed, stubborn, and difficult to work with. In the same breath, he’s also been described as one of the best pure wrestlers in the ring, one of the best performers on the microphone, one of the most talented, all around storytellers of this generation (and all-time). Punk has barely been back two months, and while the fans still give him a huge pop, there are some fans and wrestling analysts that are already questioning the value and effect of his return. Many aren’t liking his slow build, many want him right away in the main even picture.
The Cult of Personality…
“I’m an artist painting my picture. Let me paint my picture.”
Those are words from Punk himself, in an interview with Tony Maglio of The Wrap. Some may not like this “slow build” but I am all for it. I believe this is the BEST way to bring CM Punk back. He didn’t wrestle for SEVEN years, that’s a lot of ring rust. He needs time to wrestle away said rust. Right now the wrestling community (as a whole) is glad to have their hero back and just want to cheer him. Let him work in the midcard with the younger guys, let him help put them over while building up his Won-Lost record. Bringing back Punk and making him challenge AEW champion Kenny Omega right away would have been a mistake.
Right now many of you are thinking, “But hey, wait… that’s what they did with Bryan Danielson and it’s working?” You’re right, it is working with Bryan Danielson. The reason this storyline is working with him is because HE IS BRYAN DANIELSON!!! In the years since Punk stepped away, one can make the argument that there hasn’t been a more popular wrestler than Bryan Danielson. He just main evented Wrestlemania while still with the WWE (under the name Daniel Bryan for those just crawling out from under a rock) and he has no ring rust that he needs to shake. It wouldn’t work (or be fair to many wrestlers in the back) if BOTH Punk and Danielson immediately came in, entered the main event picture, and challenged for the heavyweight championship. That works best for Danielson, not Punk. Milk the crowd reaction as long as you can. Let him shake off the rust. Let him get his groove back. Soon enough, him and Tony Khan will pull the trigger.
The Enigma Strikes Back…
I compare this CM Punk that we’re seeing in AEW with famed painter Bob Ross. Watch a Bob Ross video. He’s painting lines, making squiggles, one broad brushstroke here, two over there, etc. More often than not you can’t even tell what he’s painting. Then, when you least expect it, something great happens. He adds that one brushstroke, adds that one line, one circle, one squiggle, he adds the final move that then reveals the full masterpiece. That’s what I see Punk doing. He’s slowly painting. He has his canvas (AEW), he’s gathered his paints and paintbrushes, he’s making his lines, circles, and squiggles, and even though we may not see where he’s going, he knows fully well what the final picture will look like. Like the true enigma that he is, he keeps us guessing. He’s letting us comment, critique, complain, and conject all we want, all while he paints. He’s probably chuckling too, hearing all the speculation, all the potential dream matches we want to see him in, all as he continues his masterpiece, brushstroke after brushstroke. The day will come, when we think we’ve figured out what the big picture will be, that Punk will add that final brushstroke, give that final reveal, and we’ll all be left in amazement. Of course some will still hate on the final work. They have to. You can’t be an enigma if everyone likes you, it doesn’t work that way.
But I say thank you CM Punk! Thank you for coming back. I can’t wait to see what you paint for us next.