With rumors swirling that CM Punk could rapidly return to AEW in the next few months, the wrestling world has been ablaze discussing how Tony Khan could re-incorporate him onto weekly television and who he could end up feuding with down the line, from “Hangman” Adam Page to The Elite. In one fell swoop, AEW could get the shot in the arm they've been desperately seeking, garner headlines far exceeding the wrestling world, and hopefully recapture some momentum in the eyes of hardcore fans who have become more and more enthralled with WWE's product.
And yet, the idea of bringing Punk back to AEW is far from universally appreciated, as some notable and vocal skeptics have been voicing their concern that the prospects of unleashing “The Best in the World” into the scripted world of professional wrestling can only lead to one outcome; an outcome similar to what happened in Chicago last fall. One of those skeptics is none other than Eric Bischoff, the former head honcho of WCW who has appeared in WWE and AEW over the past few years. Discussing the prospects of Punk returning to AEW on his Strictly Business podcast, Bischoff noted that, while Punk could bring drama to TK's company, it probably isn't the right kind of drama.
“Don’t give a f**k. Who cares? This is just such drama for the sake of drama. It’s a good thing that this drama is actually taking place because there’s nothing worthwhile watching AEW,” Bishoff declared. “It is what it is, and if you’re a fan of AEW, god bless you, go with god, enjoy the product. But it’s flat, it’s boring. There’s nothing going on except for the drama outside of the ring. If Tony Khan had the ability to somehow manufacture a fraction, a small fraction, an infinitesimal amount of the drama that’s taking place outside his company and figure out a way to integrate it inside his television product, it would be another situation. But it’s not. When the drama outside of your company far exceeds the drama that you’re able to create inside your company, if you’re a scripted wrestling company, you’ve got a problem, and I think this is indicative of a much bigger problem.”
Does AEW need some extra drama added to their on-screen product? Yes; while MJF is certainly a heat magnet, his feud with the Four Pillars isn't particularly dramatic, and neither are the current angles for any of the other title belts for that matter either, from Jamie Hayter and Britt Baker vs. The Outcasts, to Powerhouse Hobbs versus Wardlow, or the non-existent feuds for the World Trios, Tag Team, or International Championships for that matter either. Still, going all-in on Punk might serve as a short-term fix for a longer-term issue, as Bischoff commented on further.
Bischoff believes CM Punk is better off away from AEW.
Digging into the issue with keeping Punk in AEW despite his obvious issues with the promotion, Bischoff noted that, while Punk does have the leverage, his return might only garner a month or so of goodwill, which probably isn't worth the price of admission.
“Look, CM Punk’s got leverage. Two of the cosplay executive/members of the executive committee, whatever they were, executive vice presidents, got into a physical confrontation with him,” Bischoff added. “CM Punk’s got leverage and god bless him for using it. I don’t blame him. He’s a smart guy. I don’t particularly think he’s that talented. I think he’s overblown. I think he’s highly overrated. I think he’s been able to manage and create this persona that has somehow survived, and good for him for doing that. That’s an art form in and of itself.
“But in terms of what he can actually deliver in the ring, we’ve seen it, we’ve experienced it. It’s doesn’t live up to the hype of CM Punk. But hey, he’s got leverage. He’s probably got a multimillion-dollar lawsuit waiting in the wings, and attorneys that are more than willing to go after that. He’s probably getting a check every month. I don’t know what Tony Khan is paying him. I’ve heard numbers ranging from $4 million to $7 million dollars a year. So while he’s waiting in the wings for Tony to figure out what Tony is going to do and the attorneys representing Tony, he’s got all the leverage, and he’s taking advantage of it. Wrestling fans are right there, and they’re waiting for him. They’re there for him. It is what is. I think if he comes back, it’ll make a lot of noise. Everybody in the AEW world will be foaming at the mouth and can’t wait, they’re all excited. A month later, things will be right back to where they are right now, which is an average viewing audience of 850-900 thousand people. Nobody will give any more of a damn six months from now than they do today.”
Is Bischoff correct? Are chances of Punk messing things up simply too high to justify the positive bzz his return could generate? Honestly, it's impossible to know, but in the end, in the opinion of Bischoff, it's better to simply look at the signing of Punk as a learning experience and move AEW forward without the former two-time champion in the picture anymore.
“I know I wouldn’t take the risk of getting into the mud with this guy again. He’s a proven commodity, and it’s not somebody that I’d want to be in business with,” Bischoff concluded. “If I was Tony, I’d just eat the, whatever it is, however many millions of dollars a year he’s paying, just pay the cat off and chalk it up as a learning experience. You’re gonna keep learning, one way or the other. You’re either gonna pay this cat off and learn a hard lesson, and move on with your life, or you’re gonna let this festering wound continue to infect the rest of your business going forward, and you’re still paying him. I don’t get it.”