What on Earth is going on with CM Punk and AEW?

What on Earth is going on with CM Punk and AEW?
Wrestler CM Punk goes on expletive ridden rant after winning championship
All Elite Wrestling

All Elite Wrestling was launched in January 2019 and was considered to be the first big wrestling company to challenge the stronghold that WWE had on the industry.

Up until recently the harmony in the company would suggest that all was going according to plan. AEW is run by Tony Khan, who also owns Fulham Football Club and the Jacksonville Jaguars and after navigating the Covid pandemic went from strength to strength in later 2020 and 2021 bringing in some of the biggest names in wrestling.

Sting, Brian Danielson, Adam Cole and most notably CM Punk joined their roster and for the first time it looked like WWE's empire was starting to crumble. However, a few cracks have started to emerge in their foundations due to a dispute between CM Punk and what is believed to be numerous wrestlers.

Firstly, Punk, real name Phillip Brooks, returned to professional wrestling in August 2021, seven years after he walked out of WWE. His triumphant return was a special moment for fans who had possibly given up ever seeing him wrestle again and for months all seemed well with Punk as he reignited the wrestling world.

CM Punk Has Arrived in AEW! | AEW Rampage: The First Dance, 8/20/

12 months after this Punk regained the AEW World Heavyweight Championship for the second time on Sunday, defeating Jon Moxley in the main event of the All Out pay-per-view in his hometown of Chicago. As is custom, Tony Khan hosted a press scrum after the show had finished where the wrestlers took questions from the media, where Punk was the first to speak.

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What followed was Punk unloading his thoughts and gripes with wrestlers Colt Cabana and Adam 'Hangman' Page as well as Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks; a group collectively known as The Elite.

Punk, without being prompted began by talking about Cabana, his former close friend who worked in AEW prior to Punk's arrival but has subsequently been taken off their programming and transferred to Ring of Honor, another wrestling promotion that Khan owns. Cabana, real name Scott Colton, was closely associated with Punk during their days on the North American independent circuit in the early 2000s. They, however, fell out in 2014 after both of them were sued by WWE doctor Christopher Amann for $4 million for comments made about him on Colton's podcast.

The case eventually went to trial in 2018 where the judge ruled in favour of Colton and Brooks but by this stage, Brooks was refusing to pay for Colton's legal fees which is where the bad blood between the pair stems from.

Punk began the press conference by speaking about Colton. He said: "I haven’t had anything to do with Scott Colton [Colt Cabana] in almost a decade. Probably wanted nothing to do with him even longer than that. It’s f**king unfortunate that I have to come up here and speak on this when I’m on my time and this is a f**king business. Why I’m a grown-ass adult man and I decide not to be friends with somebody is nobody else’s f**king business. But my friends, if I fall backwards, will catch me. Scott Colton, I felt, never would have.

"My problem was I wanted to bring a guy with me to the top that did not want to see me at the top, okay? You [can] call it jealousy, you call it envy, whatever the f**k it is. My relationship with Scott Colton ended long before I paid all of his bills. I have every receipt. I have every invoice. I have every email. I have the email where he says -- and I quote, ‘I agree to go our separate ways, I will get my own lawyer and you do not have to pay anymore.’ That’s an email that I have. And the only reason the public did not see is because when I finally had to countersue him, through discovery we discovered he shared a bank account with his mother. That’s a fact. And as soon as we discovered that fact and we subpoenaed ol' Marcia, he sent the email ‘Oh, can we please drop all this?’"

Now at this point, it should be stated that Cabana is friends with the aforementioned Adam Page (real name Stephen Woltz) due to his association with the AEW faction the Dark Order, which Cabana used to me a member. He is also friends with the real-life tag team brothers Matt and Nick Jackson (Matthew and Nicholas Massie) The Young Bucks. Both of the Young Bucks are Executive Vice Presidents in All Elite Wrestling along with their friend Kenny Omega.

In the next part of Punk's rant he unloaded on them by saying: "Now, it’s 2022. I haven’t been friends with this guy since at least 2014, late 2013. The fact that I have to sit up here because we have irresponsible people who call themselves EVPs and couldn’t f*cking manage a Target and they spread lies and bullsh*t and put into the media that I got somebody fired when I have f*ck all to do with him, want nothing to do with him, do not care where he works, where he doesn’t work, where he eats, where he sleeps. And the fact that I have to get up here and do this in 2022 is f*cking embarrassing. And if y’all are at fault, f*ck you. If you’re not, I apologize.

"What did I ever do in this world to deserve an empty-headed f*cking dumb f*ck like Hangman Adam Page to go out on national television and f*cking go into business for himself? For what? What did I do? What did I ever do? Didn’t do a goddamn thing.
It’s not [Tony Khan's] position to make it very f*cking clear [that Punk didn't have anything to do with Cabana being moved to ROH]. There’s people who call themselves EVPs that should have f*cking known better. This sh*t was none of their business. I understand sticking up for your f*cking friends, I f*cking get it, I stuck up for that guy [Cabana] more than anybody. Okay? I paid his bills until I didn’t and it was my decision not to.

"I’m trying to run a f*cking business. And when somebody who hasn’t done a damn thing in this business jeopardizes the first $1 million house that this company has ever drawn off of my back and goes on national television and does that, it’s a disgrace to this industry, it’s a disgrace to this company. Now, we’re far beyond apologies. I gave him a f*cking chance. It did not get handled, and you saw what I had to do, which is very regrettable, lowering myself to his f*cking level. But that’s where we’re at right now. And I will still walk up and down this hallway and say, ‘If you have a f*cking problem with me, take it up with me.' Let’s f*cking go."

An interview with Forbesearlier this month stated that Punk had nothing to do with Cabana being shipped to Ring of Honor.

Punk's problems with Cabana are well documented but his comments about The Elite appear to have taken fans by surprise. The first signs of a fracture were noticed in the build-up to AEW's previous pay-per-view 'Double or Nothing' where Punk faced former champion, Adam Page. In the build-up to that match, Page made comments about "worker's rights" and "saving AEW" from Punk which appeared to come out of the blue.

Punk would go on to win that match but broke his foot shortly afterwards forcing him onto the sidelines until August. When he made his return he was placed into a feud with reigning interim champion Jon Moxley but during his first promo back he called out Page and challenged him to an unplanned and unscripted rematch. When Page didn't answer the call, Punk implied that he was a 'coward.' In the wrestling industry, this is known as 'going into business for yourself.'

The AEW World Champion CM Punk is Back & Has His Sights Set on Jon Moxley | AEW Dynamite, 8/17/

Punk's animosity towards Page and the Elite doesn't appear to have diminished given his comments on Sunday and there have been confirmed reports of a 'melee' backstage after the press conference between Punk, his friend and trainer Ace Steel and the Young Bucks along with Kenny Omega. At one point during the presser, a security guard could be seen dashing out of the room to what many think was to deal with the brawl. Later in the scrum, veteran wrestler Chris Jericho could be heard telling Khan off mic that "some s**t went down."

Numerous details of the fight have since emerged with Fightful stating that Punk threw punches at Matt Jackson while Nick Jackson was hit in the eye by a chair that was thrown at him. Omega was also said to have been bitten on the leg by Ace Steel. It has since been reported by Fightful Select that the Bucks and Omega were 'extremely p**sed' about Punk's comments and 'threatened to walk'.

While there doesn't seem to be a dispute about whether the fight happened there is a disagreement about who started the fracas. As reported by Fightful: “Per the Punk/Steel side of things — After the scrum, The Young Bucks approached Punk’s locker room, and Punk wasn’t answering the door after having been in a long match, bloodied, and finished with an emotional scrum. The Bucks were said to have pounded on the door, with claims that they 'kicked the door down.'”

At the time of writing, Sports Illustrated are reporting that suspensions have been dished out to the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega as well as their friends Brandon Cutler and Michael Nakazawa. There are also suspensions for coach Pat Buck and Head of Talent Relations Christopher Daniels who were both in the room during the fight.

Justin Barrasso of SI adds: "Multiple sources have shared that Punk and Ace Steel will either be among those suspended, or will no longer be with the company by the end of Wednesday. Punk met with Khan on Tuesday, so the two had an opportunity to discuss how that exit could be handled." A third-party investigation has already been launched into what happened. Adam Page had already left the building hence his absence from the incident.

Prior to this and during the scrum, Punk made comments about his next opponent Maxwell Jacob Friedman aka 'MJF' by saying he's "tired of wrestling these pricks." He concluded the press conference by adding: "Name two people that that have made the most money off the name CM Punk. The first one is Vince McMahon, the second one is Scott Coltman. I hope you all have a good night. Please be more responsible with the news you get from certain people and just remember that we are human beings."

You can watch Punk's entire press conference below.

CM Punk, Swerve in Our Glory, Toni Storm & Chris Jericho Comment | AEW All Out Media Scrum | 9/4/

Up until now, AEW has conducted itself with little drama, with some dubbing the company 'All Friends Wrestling' due to the harmony backstage. Earlier this year, Cody Rhodes one of the company's former EVP's jumped ship and joined WWE becoming the first big name to leave AEW for its competitors. This isn't to say that Punk, Omega, Page or The Young Bucks would do the same if they left AEW but there would be huge demand for them if they did depart.

With WWE now under a new and better-received creative direction helmed by Paul 'Triple H' Levesque following the unceremonious departure of Vince McMahon, Tony Khan now faces the possibly the hardest period of his tenure as the founder of AEW so far: keeping his top stars happy and avoiding a complete collapse in relations and more importantly not losing his top figures to his biggest rivals.

Update: CM Punk has vacated the AEW Championship due to an injury he sustained doing a tope manoeuvre on Moxley during Sunday's main event. He will therefore need surgery and will be out of action for some time. Tony Khan confirmed this during Wednesday's episode of Dynamite where a tournament to crown a new champion was announced. In addition, The Elite have also vacated their newly won Trios Championship due to their involvement in the fight on Sunday.

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