An undeniable mystique and aura surrounds CM Punk every time he appears on screen for AEW.
That was especially noticeable this week Dynamite when Punk made a heartfelt promo about struggling with living and breathing, as well as the role the city of Philadelphia has played in his career. That raw energy resonates with him every time “Cult of Personality” catches on in AEW.
“It hits me on another level for many reasons,” Punk says. “I’m not the type to sit in the back waiting to get out. I run around backstage and mingle. There is a group of people, with constantly changing faces, always around. And just seeing the look on their faces hits me right in the chest.
“Wrestling is different. You shouldn’t be a ‘marker’ and you shouldn’t take pictures with anyone you share a locker room with. The culture is different in AEW. I get excited when Adam Cole’s music hits. I think he can see that on my face. There’s an excitement in the locker room, and then I see the fans, and it’s great. Every new city I go to, these people haven’t seen me in seven years. It’s like August 20 all over again for me.”
Of this week Dynamite hit a high note when Punk drafted a challenge for Daniel Garcia, the 23-year-old indie phenomenon currently tearing it up in AEW. Punk and Garcia meet on Friday night at rampage, which is an opportunity to see the present and future of professional wrestling share the ring at the same time.
“Daniel Garcia is light years older than his age,” Punk says. “He’s only half my age and I can only compare him to when I was that young. He’s in a better place than when I was that age. Everything builds on a great foundation, and he is very fundamentally healthy. He is trained by Pepper Parks [AEW wrestler The Blade], who is an excellent wrestler. He’s respectful, he listens, and he’s not corny and he’s not kissing… He’s everything I want in a wrestler on a television show.”
Garcia is in the midst of a remarkable week. He and Alex Shelley gave a clinic Thursday night for Beyond Wrestling’s season 3 debut of Unfamiliar territory, and – in addition to the pre-recorded match against Punk broadcast on rampage-Garcia will spend his Friday night wrestling the great Minoru Suzuki at West Coast Pro Wrestling’s No four-leaf clover show in California.
“Daniel Garcia, myself, Alex Shelley and Minoru Suzuki, those are four names you could place in four different generations of professional wrestling,” Punk says. “Minoru Suzuki, and then me, and I were in the Ring of Honor when Alex Shelley was the next generation. His f—— stable was Generation Next for God’s sake. He was like the next man. And that’s now Daniel Garcia. It’s crazy.”
Barely a month after returning to professional wrestling after a seven-year hiatus, Punk is embracing his role in AEW. He considers it similar to the way NHL legend Ray Bourque fitted into a hungry new team when he moved from the Bruins to the Avalanche and then filled in all the missing gaps on his way to winning a Stanley Cup in 2001.
“Ray Bourque, that’s exactly who I am,” Punk says. “You’ll have to google that if you’re not a hockey player, but that’s exactly who I am. I’m the f——old man on the team, and I’m here to score goals, block shots and do everything I can to help the team win. I’m there in the dressing room at those moments in between to help people on their way. That’s my role backstage.
“For me, that’s the story I want to tell on screen. I see some comments like, “CM Punk isn’t in the storyline.” Yes that’s me. The story is that I was gone for seven years and came back. I start at the bottom and work my way to the top. That’s the story.”
Punk’s wife AJ Lee, who created lasting moments during her time in professional wrestling, also made headlines this week with a comeback of her own. Women of Wrestling has announced that Lee will be an executive producer and color commentator as WOW relaunches on CBS affiliates in the fall of 2022, which is great news for the industry.
“I’m very excited for her,” Punk says. “She does what she wants to do. She will start writing and use her voice to do something she may not have thought she would get the chance to do again. They are not bumps and it is an opportunity to help nurture and grow the next generation of women in wrestling. That’s a perfect, perfect place for her.”
The wrestling industry continues to feel rejuvenated, especially with the return of Punk. And the match against Punk marks a unique breakthrough opportunity for Garcia. Although Garcia has struggled throughout the Indies, leaving a lasting impression in a match against CM Punk represents an entirely different level of greatness.
“It’s going to be damn professional wrestling,” Punk says. “I love that we did it in Philadelphia, which has always been super good for me. I remember my debut pay-per-view in WWE with 18,000 maniacs in Philly chanting my name, to where I am today. “This is where I need to be. This is where I belong, and we’re going to find out if Daniel Garcia belongs here.”
More Wrestling Coverage:
Justin Barrasso can be reached at: JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.