One of the most anticipated matches in recent professional wrestling history will take place Sunday night as CM Punk returns to in-ring action.
More than seven years after leaving WWE, Punk will step back into the ring as he faces Darby Allin at AEW's All Out pay-per-view. With the show being held at the NOW Arena near his hometown of Chicago, Punk will be looking to continue what has been a fairytale start to his AEW career.
For a while, it felt like Punk was never going to return to pro wrestling. While others who leave usually come back sooner rather than later, Punk spent the better part of a decade away from the industry. After walking out of WWE in January 2014, Punk stayed away from wrestling for what would have been a huge portion of the prime of his career.
Now 42 years old, Punk is entering a pro wrestling scene that is vastly different from the one he left behind. WWE was the only major league option in the United States then, and it hadn’t faced any truly formidable competition since WCW went out of business in 2001. The idea of a new promotion actually competing with WWE felt like a pipe dream in 2014. At best, it was a far-away possibility that could maybe happen one day if the stars aligned and all of the right circumstances fell into place.
The emergence of AEW during his time away set the stage for Punk’s return to happen. Punk no longer viewed WWE—a company Punk said he had to leave in order to get physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally healthy—as the only viable option. There was now an alternative where Punk could show up and be a difference maker.
Even though he was gone for so long, the current wrestling landscape is one that Punk helped create. Punk is one of the most influential wrestlers of his era. He’s hugely responsible for the changes the business saw over the past decade. The success of Punk and Daniel Bryan forced WWE to reevaluate what a top star could look like. Punk paved the way for the indie wrestlers who came after him and helped set the stage for non-WWE wrestling to become more popular than it had been in nearly two decades.
There are so many possible dream matches for Punk in AEW. Whether it’s stars who emerged while he was gone from wrestling, young wrestlers who are just breaking through or opponents he has a history with, everything is a fresh matchup for Punk right now.
Punk hasn’t lost the presence and promo ability that made him such a special talent. Those things don’t go away. But Punk will need to prove that he’s still worthy of his “Best in the World” nickname in the ring. Seven years is a long layoff, but Punk isn’t someone who relied on athletic ability to carry his matches. He’s an expert at putting matches together and telling a story in the ring.
Allin is the first opponent that Punk will cross off his dream match list. A daredevil in the ring, Allin is already one of AEW’s breakout performers. All Out will be by far the biggest night of his career to date. Allin will be as motivated as possible to do his part in making Punk’s return match a success.
All Out comes at an exciting time for AEW and pro wrestling as a whole. With Punk’s return as the centerpiece, it would be a disappointment if this isn’t the biggest PPV that AEW has produced since launching in 2019. Sustaining that momentum will be AEW’s goal in the weeks and months ahead.
Here’s a rundown of the card for Sunday’s PPV, along with predictions for each match:
CM Punk vs. Darby Allin
Punk vs. Allin is the true main event of All Out, but whether it will go on last remains to be seen. The only thing that could generate anything close to the same level of excitement for the Chicago-area crowd would be seeing Daniel Bryan make his AEW debut.
Punk getting the win is the only option here. It would be unwise to present him as anything other than the biggest star in the promotion on Sunday night. Just sharing the ring with Punk is already a huge win for Allin.
Prediction: CM Punk wins
AEW world championship match: Kenny Omega vs. Christian Cage
Christian Cage defeating Kenny Omega for the Impact world championship on the premiere episode of Rampage last month was so pivotal in building excitement for their match on Sunday. Fans were initially disappointed when “Hangman” Adam Page wasn’t Omega’s challenger for All Out, but that first Omega vs. Christian match showed how well they work together. It was a preview for a PPV match that will likely be even better.
It’s all but certain that Omega is going to retain the AEW world championship against Christian. Page should still be the person to take the title from Omega. But with Punk’s arrival and Bryan expected to join AEW soon, getting the timing of that title change right will be tricky. Omega vs. Punk and Omega vs. Bryan are the biggest possible matches AEW could put on at this moment. One or both of those title defenses should happen before Omega faces Page.
Prediction: Kenny Omega retains
AEW tag team championship match: The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Brothers (steel cage match)
The Young Bucks have had an incredible reign as AEW tag-team champions. Always one of the in-ring highlights of AEW television each week, they’ve upped their game as characters since their heel turn.
If the Young Bucks are the best tag team in AEW, the Lucha Brothers aren’t far behind. Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fénix are two of the best wrestlers in the company. They should be tag team champions at some point. The only question is whether the Young Bucks should be losing their titles right now.
No matter which team wins, it’ll be difficult for any other match at All Out to top this. The Young Bucks and Lucha Brothers are always great together, and the steel cage will add an element that hasn’t existed in any of their previous matches.
Prediction: The Lucha Brothers win
AEW women’s championship match: Britt Baker vs. Kris Statlander
The result of this match isn’t in doubt. Britt Baker is the face of AEW’s women’s division and will remain its champion.
Though she isn’t going to win, the title match should help further solidify Kris Statlander as one of the other featured players in the women’s division. After spending 10 months out of action with a torn ACL, Statlander is undefeated in AEW since making her in-ring return in March. She has a lot of potential and will be AEW women’s champion in the future if she continues to develop.
Prediction: Britt Baker retains
TNT championship match: Miro vs. Eddie Kingston
The heel vs. babyface dynamic for this title match should be great. Miro has found his footing in AEW as a dominant champion, while Eddie Kingston has such a strong connection with the audience. It’ll be a special moment when Kingston finally wins a title in AEW, but that shouldn’t happen on Sunday. Miro should retain the TNT title. Kingston’s loss will only make fans want to see him become a champion even more once the right time comes.
Prediction: Miro retains
The Final Fight: Chris Jericho vs. MJF
As a stipulation of this match, Chris Jericho can never wrestle in AEW again if he loses. MJF has had Jericho’s number during their feud, and there needed to be meaningful stakes if they were going to face each other again. MJF defeated Jericho in each of their two previous singles matches.
Sunday’s result just depends on what Jericho wants to do with his future. If he’s intent on stepping away from the ring and becoming a full-time member of the commentary team, giving MJF the bragging rights of ending his career would be a fitting way for Jericho to go out. But it would be a mistake for Jericho to end his AEW in-ring career when he’s still so valuable as a wrestler. Given how much AEW believes in sticking to its stipulations, it seems unlikely that Jericho is actually going to lose here.
Prediction: Chris Jericho wins
Jon Moxley vs. Satoshi Kojima
A showcase match against a New Japan Pro Wrestling legend allows Jon Moxley to get a featured spot on the All Out card without being involved in a title program or extended feud. Satoshi Kojima can still have great matches at 50 years old and will be motivated to wrestle in front of an American crowd on such a big stage. Hopefully more NJPW stars, including a match against Hiroshi Tanahashi that AEW has teased, are on the horizon for Moxley after he defeats Kojima.
Prediction: Jon Moxley wins
Paul Wight vs. QT Marshall
Formerly known as the Big Show in WWE, Paul Wight will make his AEW in-ring debut at All Out. He’s served as a color commentator and on-screen personality since signing with AEW, and he’ll now wrestle for the first time since July 2020.
Used sparingly, Wight can still be a fun attraction who helps bring in viewers who aren’t already watching AEW programming every week. Attraction matches and putting over young talent are the two ideal uses of Wight at this point in his career. QT Marshall should offer little to no resistance as Wight destroys him at All Out.
Prediction: Paul Wight wins
Women’s Casino Battle Royale
Featuring 21 entrants in total, the Casino Battle Royale will determine a future challenger for the AEW women’s championship. Wrestlers will enter in groups of five until the final participant gets the spotlight put on them by entering on their own.
With all of WWE’s recent releases, there are plenty of options for that surprise final entrant. Ruby Soho (formerly known as Ruby Riott) would be the best choice out of those wrestlers. Soho would be such a valuable addition as AEW continues to bolster its women’s division. She could win the Casino Battle Royale and immediately be a credible challenger to Baker’s women’s title. Soho has the potential to reach a level in AEW that she never got to in WWE.
Soho should win the Casino Battle Royale if she’s in the match. If she’s not, Thunder Rosa is the standout candidate to win from AEW’s roster. But it would probably be best to delay Rosa challenging for the AEW women’s championship until it's time for her to defeat Baker and win the title.
Prediction: Ruby Soho wins
Orange Cassidy, Chuck Taylor, Wheeler Yuta and Jurassic Express vs. Matt Hardy, Private Party, Jack Evans and Angelico
This 10-man tag-team match will be part of Sunday's “The Buy-In” pre-show for All Out. The women’s Casino Battle Royale was originally set for the pre-show until being moved to the main card when PAC vs. Andrade El Idolo was postponed due to travel issues.
The babyface team getting the win here would be the right choice to kick off the show.
Prediction: Orange Cassidy, Chuck Taylor, Wheeler Yuta & Jurassic Express win
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