After weeks and weeks of anticipation, AEW has officially announced the debut of Collision, the promotion's new Saturday night show, which will be coming to fans weekly starting in mid-June. Soon, fans will get two more hours of AEW television each week, the brand's massive roster will be split a bit more evenly, creating more guaranteed storylines for top-card talent, and the professional wrestling world will finally get to see the return of CM Punk, who has been absent from programming since the All Out 2022.
…or will they? That's right, after seeming like a slam dunk performer to headline the new show, Punk's status with AEW has been far less clear, with some suggesting he is off the show entirely for one reason or another.
Needless to say, after recapturing a bit of goodwill over the last month or so, Punk is starting to get back on the bad side of wrestling fans who are over the way the 44-year-old chooses to handle his business, but that doesn't mean “The Best in the World” doesn't have his supporters. Sitting down for an interview with Alfred Konuwa of Forbes, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin mentioned that he talks to Punk from time to time and believes he's one of the best around.
“Man, I just sent Punk a message last night. I didn't know he had torn his triceps. I haven't been following anything. I don't know what's going on with that. Me and Phil trade messages every here and there. We rarely talk, probably once or twice a year,” Austin said.
“I love the guy, and I don't even know if I mentored him because Punk's probably a lot smarter than I am. Great promo guy, great worker, he's got his own thing going, and we're just friends.”
Austin then turned his attention to the influence he's had on Punk's career. Though he can see a resemblance, he firmly believes Punk made his own career and deserves to be appreciated for what he does.
“I think I remember there's a picture of myself and him from Chicago, my favorite town to work in, my favorite building,” Austin said. “I guess he had come down to where we were all hanging out. Maybe he looked up to me back in the day, but I don't know if I so much mentored him because I think he paid his own dues. He learned it the way he did, and he got over on his own merits. The fact that maybe I could have been somewhat of an influence would be flattering if that were the case. But he's made his own career.”
Is Punk a bit of a “Stone Cold” clone? In some ways, yes; Punk is a big-time talker who hates authority and got over with the fans as a result. Still, if Punk isn't willing to play ball with Tony Khan's company, he likely won't be able to follow in his mentor's footsteps and headline a show like “The Texas Rattlesnake” did on RAW during the 90s.
Eric Bischoff thinks CM Punk is worse than Hulk Hogan.
While Austin is a big fan of Punk, his former boss, Eric Bischoff, is quite the opposite, noting on multiple occasions that he doesn't get the hype surrounding the “Second City Saint.”
Discussing the latest news that Punk may step away from Collision because of Ace Steel, Bischoff pointed out how selfish the former AEW World Champion has been over the past year, comparing him to a man the duo know very well, Hulk Hogan.
“Unfortunately, Tony will find a way to allow this to continue, and Punk will be back, which will be a big mistake. Who the f**k is Ace Steel anyway?,” Bischoff said via Cageside Seats.
“Just because he's a confidant of CM Punk's? Why is he allowed to jeopardize the network premiere of a brand-new show? Are you f**king kidding me? People say I'm just being negative when I refer to the dysfunction within the infrastructure and the business side of AEW, but this (is a good example). They bring him back and make him the focal point of an entirely new show, but he decides to wet the bed because his confidant isn't allowed at the venue. Who cares? Let Punk pay him. He's making $5 million dollars a year, or more than that. Let Punk pay him.
“All these hardcore wrestling fans and Punk himself is so anti-Hogan because (they think) he's selfish and what not. Punk is worse!”
For better or worse, professional wrestling has a long history of top-of-the-card performers imposing their will on a promotion, as Bischoff learned all too well in WCW. For Punk to pull that business when he isn't even with the company at the moment, however, is a really bad sign for how he'll act when he's back on top.