Publish date:

CM Punk’s Long-Awaited Comeback Appears Imminent in AEW

In Thursday’s Hot Clicks: the potential for an enormous wrestling return, the latest on the Olympics and more.

Is it finally happening?

For seven years, wrestling fans have been begging to see CM Punk return to the ring. And now it sounds like it might finally be happening.

Punk was only 35 and at the height of his popularity when he retired in 2014. (Those unfamiliar with his career might think of him as the Barry Sanders of wrestling.) He had parlayed his success in the scrappy, much smaller Ring of Honor into a deal with WWE and quickly became one of the company’s biggest stars, winning the top men’s singles title five times. But his disagreements with Vince McMahon led to a messy exit from WWE and his retirement from wrestling altogether.

Since walking away, Punk has remained in the public eye. He tried his hand (unsuccessfully) at UFC, acted in a few movies and dabbled in WWE analysis for Fox Sports. But fans have never stopped clamoring for him to get back in the ring. Ever since he left, restless WWE crowds have chanted his name as a way to voice displeasure with Punk’s enemies in the corporate office. Aside from one masked cameo at a tiny show in Milwaukee two years ago, though, Punk hasn’t entered the ropes. At least until now.

On Wednesday’s episode of AEW Dynamite, Darby Allin cut a short promo that sounded very much like a challenge to Punk.

“You know, I’ve been around a lot of men in this world that have laid claim to how they’re the greatest,” Allin said. “There’s only one place to really prove that—right here in AEW—even if you think you are the best in the world.”

When Tony Schiavone announced that AEW was coming to Chicago on Aug. 20, before Allin’s promo, the crowd in Charlotte started chanting Punk’s name.

SI Recommends

There are a few hints that Punk’s return could be right around the corner. The first, and most obvious, is that Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp reported last week that Punk was in talks with AEW. And then there’s Allin’s promo. The “best in the world” line is a reference to Punk’s old catchphrase, the one that was on his WWE T-shirts. That, plus the fact that the show Allin is promoting will be held in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, is hardly a subtle hint. And AEW, which rarely runs shows in NBA/NHL arenas, has booked the United Center for this event. It must be expecting to sell plenty of tickets in the three weeks before the show.

It remains to be seen what Punk’s return will look like. It’s exceedingly unlikely that he’ll be resuming a full-time in-ring career, but even the possibility of his showing up for one more match is incredibly exciting. In an industry where over-the-hill performers are repeatedly trotted out for cheap pops and lousy matches, the prospect of a healthy 42-year-old coming back to give the fans what they have wanted for the better part of a decade is very enticing. 

The best of SI

Meet Cade Cunningham, the likely No. 1 pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft. ... Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, the first gold medalist in surfing, perfectly embodies the spirit of the sport. ... UConn’s James Bouknight is set to go in the top half of the first round but his path to the NBA was never a sure thing

Around the sports world

The top quarterback recruit in the nation might skip his final year of high school to cash in on new NIL laws at Ohio State. ... Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is accusing ESPN of conspiring with the AAC to attempt to dissolve the entire conference. ... The entire Australian track and field team was briefly quarantined after coming in contact with a U.S. pole vaulter who tested positive for COVID-19. ... An English man died 32 years after injuries sustained during the Hillsborough Disaster, becoming the 97th victim of the tragedy. ... San Marino became the smallest nation to win an Olympic medal

That’s some party

A really powerful statement

After keeping quiet all offseason, Aaron Rodgers said everything that was on his mind

Justin Thomas made 18 straight pars in his Olympic debut

He vaporizes the baseball

Badminton highlights are mesmerizing

Not sports

A man trying to walk from Florida to New York in a floating hamster wheel only made it 22 miles before the Coast Guard put an end to his journey. ... A man who went viral for his tale of surviving a bear attack in the Alaska wilderness might have made the whole thing up

A good song

Email dan.gartland@si.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.