On screen, AEW is more or less stable; MJF in a feud with the Four Pillars that probably won't result in a title change, Wardlow is the new TNT Champion once more, CM Punk is nowhere to be found, and other than some drama between Taya Valkyrie and Jade Cargill over the use of The Road to Valhalla/Jaded – which are both really just versions of the Double Chickenwing Facebuster – which could result in a TBS Championship title change, there really isn't a storyline that reaches Cody Rhodes versus Roman Reigns-levels of drama.
Backstage, however, it's like Hollywood in the 1920s, with drama abound and a potential game-changing invention just over the horizon that could change the way the promotion operates moving forward in the form of AEW Collision, Tony Khan's Saturday night show that's reportedly coming to TNT this summer. Discussing what could be a future-defining summer for All Elite Wrestling, Dave Meltzer laid out what he's learned about AEW's new show and the return of Phil Brooks for TK's second attempt at “The Summer of CM Punk.”
“As things stand right now, the return of C.M. Punk is scheduled for a 6/17 show at the United Center in Chicago, which being a Saturday night show, is likely the debut of the new weekly show,” Meltzer said via F4W. “The rumor of the new show name is AEW Collision, based on a trademark the company took out some time back, when the talks with WBD for the new Saturday show got serious.
“At press time everything was not finalized, but the building is booked and it likely will be announced very shortly, when the Punk deal and the TV deal are finalized. Obviously with the building deal in place, the TV deal has to either be done or they must be almost certain of it. The decision on Punk returning was made many weeks ago, although there was a snag two weeks back that has evidently been worked out. Obviously being at the United Center, the show will be heavily promoted and have a theme name, which evidently has been decided upon.”
Meltzer then explained just how important Punk is to bring this new show into existence, with Warner Bros. Discovery reportedly very excited about getting his star power back onto their networks.
“We do know that he was extremely important in this deal, but whether the deal was incumbent on him, we’ve heard both ways,” Meltzer wrote. “One person outside the company has seen correspondence indicating that WBD definitely wanted him back and other things that have happened in recent weeks very much behind-the-scenes have indicated to us that Punk being back is, if nothing else, very significant in everything.”
Will this new show work out? Only time will tell; folks certainly thought the last two debuts of Punk were going to be game-changers for TK's company, and neither quite worked out the way AEW planned. Still, Collision and Punk aren't coming to fans in a vacuum, as the promotion is going to be making some other changes to help accommodate them.
AEW may impose a soft brand split to separate The Elite and CM Punk.
While Warner Bros. Discovery are reportedly happy to have CM Punk back in AEW after nearly a year on the shelf, one group who reportedly aren't into hanging out with “The Best in the World” are the Young Bucks, Nick and Matt Jackson, so much so that, according to Meltzer, the brothers have let it be known they have no interest in conversing with the former champion.
“As of the weekend there was no resolution to the situation and there are many situations and things involved,” Meltzer said via Cageside Seats. “Since I’ve been asked about this a lot, Punk has not apologized or attempted to make any direct amends to the Young Bucks, although those close to him said that’s because he’s been told not to have any contact with them and without any contact he couldn’t.”
So how can AEW fill out five hours of wrestling television if two of their biggest stars – let alone EVPs – refuse to talk to one of their other biggest stars? Well, according to Andrew Zarian on Wrestling Observer Live, the idea is simple: a soft brand split.
“The plans have been put in place to possibly have a tentative Saturday show to be the ‘soft' brand split. When I used that term yesterday on Mat Men, I was told that it's less soft than I'm putting out there. I guess there will be people that are predominantly on the other show, on the Saturday show.”
“I know for a fact that Warner has been told he's coming back,” Zarian said via F4W. “They are very much aware of the situation. He had recently said he is willing to return to AEW, and he wants to make it work. So, the issue here is that he's willing to work with The Elite members, I know as of the time I was told, and as of early this week, there was no intention on the other side, maybe Kenny a little bit more than the Bucks but I know they do not want to work with him. There's been no dialogue between the two sides either regarding sitting down and making this work.”
Will that plan work? Can AEW actually segregate Punk from the Bucks and keep both parties happy while subsequently keeping the drama at a minimum? Only time will tell, but as Eric Bishoff pointed out in his own pontification on Punk, sometimes backstage drama bleeding onto the screen isn't the worst thing, as AEW needs some intrigue to keep fans tuning in.