When CM Punk debuted the “Real” AEW World Championship – aka the AXW Championship – it was meant to ruffle a few feathers.
Sure, the idea behind the belt was sound, or at least sound-ish, as Collision was being positioned as the SmackDown to Dynamite‘s RAW, with a “main” title needed to give the Saturday-only performers something to fight for, but how would MJF, the real real AEW World Champion handle the situation? Would he take a hands-off approach, allowing Punk to do as he sees fit, or would he instead storm Saturday nights to shut that you-know-what with the fire only “The People's Jerk” can bring to the table?
Unfortunately, fans never got to find out the answer to that question, as Punk was fired with cause before he and MJF could mix it up once more, but in an interview with WrestlePurists, Adam Cole's best friend explained why he never challenged the Ring of Honor legend over his belt's legitimacy.
“I never commented on it. I'll tell you why. I am not exactly a company man. I almost got our company thrown off of Turner after I called Tony a f**king mark. So I won't sit here and tell you I'm a company man,” said MJF via Fightful. “I'm definitely pro-professional wrestlers. The fact of the matter is that Collision is really important. Collision's success is super important. So, at the time, having a guy of that stature having something that everybody in that show could be fighting for because, realistically, as much as Tony Khan wishes he can clone MJF, I can't be everywhere at once. I didn't have an issue with it. I thought it made all the sense in the world. Yeah, so to me, I wasn't sweating it, frankly.”
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it's easy for MJF to say he was cool with how things shook out, as he almost certainly never has to address it ever again, but had Punk remained a member of the AEW roster who knows, maybe he'd be heading to Collision to complain about the AXW title and force a “unification match” on Full Gear? Unfortunately, we may never find out, but hey, that would have made for one heck of an angle.
MJF reflects on his feud with CM Punk.
Discussing his AEW interactions with CM Punk further with WrestlePurists, MJF reflected on his program with “The Best in the World” and admitted that, while things maybe didn't shake out in the way either man would have liked, as, again, it felt like the feud had legs that could have propelled it into the future at a moment's notice, in the end, the “Salt of the Earth” is proud of his efforts and how his angle with Punker turned out.
“To me, it wasn't business. It was life. I know it was life to Phil, too, and I think that's why that rivalry is going to go down as one of the best of all time, and I'm proud of it. Am I proud of some of the s**t that I did during that time period? I don't know. I kind of got pushed to the edge, so I'm not going to just f**king sit here and tell you that I didn't mean anything I did because I did. I've grown a lot since then, both as a professional wrestler and a person,” MJF said.
“I think when I'm an old man and, God f**king willing, I find a woman to put up with my bulls**t that will let me impregnate them, and I'm sitting there with my kids, I can be like, ‘Hey, check out this Dog Collar Match. Check out this moment here,' because I feel like it's a rivalry that will stand the test of time.”
Will MJF's rivalry with CM Punk actually survive the test of time? Well, as the phrase would suggest, that will be found out in time, but even now, roughly 18 months after that fateful Dog Collar match, the bout already looks like a crucial chapter in MJF's career, as it proved he could not only hang with but thrive opposite one of the top stars in AEW. With “The People's Jerk” amassing unique win after unique win as a champion, one can argue that his program with Punk really laid the groundwork for the MJF title reign fans are currently loving and set a very high benchmark that the promotion has set as its new standard for championship excellence. If that is the feud's legacy, then AEW is better off for it.