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CM Punk is back in AEW.

Not only is Punk thoroughly enjoying being part of AEW’s new weekly show, Collision, he is also fulfilling his wrestling destiny by giving back to the industry.

Alongside AEW CEO and booker Tony Khan, Punk is helping lead a collective effort from the Collision roster that, if executed correctly, could very well bring life back into weekly Saturday night wrestling.

Collision is on a bad night for television, but the trade off is that I think it’s a lot easier to sell a ticket to a Saturday night show than it is on a Wednesday or Monday or Friday,” says Punk. “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but we absolutely love the challenge. I think we’ve outdone ourselves so far.”

Still in its infancy, Collision has yet to hit the two-month mark. But in a short amount of time, the show has already produced some outstanding moments, like the extraordinary tag team bout between FTR and Bullet Club Gold, Punk’s match against Samoa Joe, and Ricky Starks defeating Punk to crown himself winner of the men’s Owen Hart Cup tournament.

Collision runs for two hours each week, and it should continue to benefit from a remarkably deep roster.

“It’s a team effort,” says Punk. “FTR is a big part of it. There is a group of people I want highlighted on Collision almost every Saturday. It’s a lot of people and it’s hard to get them in there, but it’s FTR, Samoa Joe, Jay White and Juice, the Gunns, Ricky Starks, all three members of House of Black, Andrade, and we just got Rush–that guy is f------ awesome, I want him on Collision, too–Hobbs, Miro, and I don’t want to forget anyone else.

“Give me a Statlander every week, give me a Toni Storm every week. That’s what is going to drive repeat viewers, knowing they’ll see these people every Saturday. That’s how we’ll hold a rating. It’s 100 percent a team effort.

“We want to bring new people up. That’s the rub. People recognize that. A perfect example is Gunn Club. They’re right there, and they need to associate with people who are perceived to be top guys.”

Punk has been involved in pro wrestling since 1999, and knew he wanted to be a pro wrestler as far back as 1983. Along his journey, where he reached heights known to only a few others, Punk has accumulated a plethora of knowledge that he wants to share with the Collision locker room about making the best show possible.

“It’s not about me at all, it’s about us,” says Punk. “It’s not just me on Collision. It’s not one single person. Sure, there is numerical evidence that points to people selling the most merchandise and doing everything else, but all that stuff is garbage if you’re not trying to bring people up into our orbit.

“From my perspective, I have to go out there and be excellent because I expect excellence out of everybody else. Dax expects that out of me, and I expect it out of Ricky, who expects it out of Hobbs, who expects it out of Miro. We’re trying to build something out of this show. I’m pleasantly surprised so far that we are doing just that.”

This Saturday’s edition of Collision features Punk wrestling against Ricky Starks, with the added caveat that Punk is defending the lineal AEW world title he won last September at All Out that was vacated three days after the match. Punk suffered a torn tricep during that All Out match, and likely would have been off camera following his remarks at the post-show press conference, but bringing the belt back makes for a captivating story.

The timing of Punk’s announcement was also noteworthy. Punk proclaimed he was the real world champion on July 29, which was the same day in 1991 that a segment on The Funeral Parlor aired where Bobby Heenan held the NWA worlds heavyweight title on WWE programming and announced that Ric Flair was the real world heavyweight champ. It is a fascinating parallel as, even though both Flair and Punk were forced to vacate the title, they each had a physical possession of the belt.

“You’re the first person to pick up on that,” says Punk. “I don’t know if everything I do is a happy accident or on purpose, but just sit back and enjoy the ride. Everything I do is trying to write a love letter to pro wrestling.”

Punk’s first defense of his belt will take place tomorrow against Starks. His talent in the ring and charisma caught Punk’s attention. An 11-year veteran, Starks is close to a breakout moment, and he is poised to make the most of his time in the ring with Punk.

“It’s recognizing how good Ricky is and giving him a shot,” says Punk. “That’s what Collision is at the end of the day–a lot of people that didn’t get the right chance on Dynamite, we do things a little different on Collision. It’s a perfect fit for a guy like Ricky, and so far, I think he’s stepped up to the plate and knocked everything out of the park.”

This week’s Collision airs at the same time as WWE’s SummerSlam, but Punk did not use the opportunity to throw a jab at his former employer. Instead, he detailed how his focus–making Collision an appointment-viewing endeavor every week for wrestling fans–remains unchanged regardless of what else is on.

“We are not competing with SummerSlam,” says Punk. “We are going to go up against college football soon. We have already been up against monster UFC cards every single Saturday. We are not competing with them. We are competing with what we did last Saturday. I am competing with who I was yesterday as a human being and a pro wrestler, and we, as the Collision team, are competing with what we did last Saturday. That’s always going to be what we are striving to do, and I think that’s an important message for the fans to understand.”

Punk and Starks will be joined by a wrestling legend, as Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat serves as their special guest referee. Punk and Steamboat share plenty of history, even teaming together once during a 10-man tag on Raw in 2009.

Steamboat also served as the referee in Punk’s Ring of Honor match against AJ Styles in March of 2004. After the match, which Styles won, a visibly frustrated Punk attacked Steamboat. But the iconic babyface was a step faster, and he taught Punk a lesson through arm drags and chops. Despite the grimace on Punk’s face in that moment, his heart was beating with pure joy.

“I was pretty ecstatic,” says Punk. “It’s always been strange to me that the old-timers would embrace me and love me as much as they have. A lot of my contemporaries didn’t like me, but the people that they idolized loved me to death–like Harley [Race], Dusty [Rhodes], Terry Funk, Ricky Steamboat, Steve Keirn. My contemporaries were worried about losing a spot. But the old guys loved me. And my love for them was very genuine, and it still is. That’s why I’m working with Ricky Steamboat on Saturday.”

“Hopefully people buy tickets to see Ricky Steamboat. To me, booking Ricky, giving him a nice payday, highlighting him and using him in a way that helps the show and hopefully helps some younger wrestlers maybe pick his brain, and just having him around, is spectacular. It’s a good way to give back to somebody like Ricky Steamboat. He’s a resource. AEW as a whole is an alternative, and it’s wise to tap into the knowledge some of these guys have. It’s only going to help the show.”

Wrestling is a more interesting place when Punk is prominently involved. He is pouring himself into making Collision a Saturday night destination, working with Khan to embed callbacks from the past and subtle nuances into his work as an added bonus for viewers.

Punk is aiming to bring the best out of the roster. With Khan in the role of head coach, Punk is effectively the team captain. As a hardcore hockey fan, he was asked if he sees himself as the Mark Messier of Collision.

Messier was a star on the Edmonton Oilers beside Wayne Gretzky, but he won a championship without Gretzky in Edmonton before bringing the New York Rangers a long-awaited Stanley Cup. Punk was a major part of WWE, and he is now part of the collective effort to build a new world-class show in AEW with Collision.

“Messier?” says Punk. “I mean, I’ll take it. I’m not going to be upset at that. He’s the f------ captain for a reason.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.