CM Punk could really be done with AEW, according to the latest dirt sheet rumor. In today's edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Melter reported that AEW is currently negotiating to buy out Punk's contract, meaning, if true, that Punk will not return to the company after recovering from his injury. According to Meltzer, the major issue with the negotiation is that there is not a non-compete clause preventing Punk from signing with WWE in the event his contract is bought out. But would WWE even want to sign Punk, and would he want to go there?
CM Punk's issues with WWE are legendary, and the reason behind Punk's seven-year absence from wrestling before his return to AEW last year. Furthermore, Punk reportedly had issues specifically with Triple H, who is now running WWE creative. Could Punk, legendary for his ability to hold a grudge, put those issues with Triple H and WWE aside for the opportunity to exact revenge on Tony Khan, AEW, and The Elite? That probably depends on which grudge is bigger is Punk's mind and how many muffins he's eaten on any given day.
But even if Punk was willing to set aside his personal issues with WWE and Triple H, would WWE even want Punk? The company reportedly declined to try to sign him at Fox's request back with Punk was doing commentary for Fox's WWE Backstage. And then there's the question of how much responsibility Punk bears for the descent into toxicity of the AEW locker room, and whether WWE would want to risk bringing that toxicity into its own locker room at a time when morale is higher than its been in recent memory.
As everyone is aware of by now, rather than bask in the glory of a successful comeback and title victory, having apparently achieved all he'd ever wanted in wrestling, CM Punk used the post-PPV press conference at All Out to go on an epic 30-minute rant unleashing his grievances against former friend Colt Cabana, former AEW Champion Hangman Adam Page, and AEW EVPs The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega. Punk believed the latter had spread rumors to the dirt sheets that Punk tried to get Cabana fired from AEW, and took particular issue with a veiled reference Page made on TV to Punk back in June that nobody but Punk still remembered. Still, nobody in wrestling holds a grudge like CM Punk, and as the bloodied champion rammed chocolate muffins and lime seltzers down his face, he maligned his co-workers as incompetent and immature, all the while also belittling AEW owner Tony Khan, who sat next to Punk throughout the rant nodding sheepishly.
After Punk left the press conference, he returned to his dressing room with lackey Ace Steel, where he was reportedly confronted by The Elite (minus Page, who had already left the building). A fight broke out, and during that fight, Steel is reported to have bitten Kenny Omega in the arm and thrown a chair at the Young Bucks. In the aftermath, everyone involved, including bystanders, were suspended. The next week on Dynamite, Punk was stripped of his title, as were Omega and the Young Bucks, who had won the AEW Trios Championships at All Out. Since then, AEW has remained silent on the status of the four men, as the matter is believed to be under investigation with possible legal implications, and Tony Khan has been criticized for reusing to give even the simplest update to fans on the status of some of the company's top stars.
However, yesterday, news broke that Ace Steel had been released from AEW, a bad sign for those hoping for Punk to return. And now, with this report from the Observer, Punk's tenure in AEW looks more likely than ever to be over. WWE could sign Punk, which would have the mutually beneficial advantage of sticking it to AEW. But what's to stop Punk from repeating the same self-destructive behavior that caused the fallout with AEW? That's a risk Triple H will have to carefully consider, as bringing CM Punk back to WWE could either be a massive win for the new regime, or its first epic blunder, depending on how things work out.