CM Punk's 'WWE Backstage' appearance generates buzz — and questions

Sporting News

Ever since CM Punk left WWE in January 2014, the prevailing thought has been that the odds of him returning in any capacity would be around "When pigs fly."

Well, perhaps the farm animal has grown wings, because the unthinkable happened Tuesday at the end of "WWE Backstage."

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Social media went into a frenzy at the sight of the former two-time WWE champion walking out the door to his entrance music, "Cult of Personality," and greeting host Renee Young. Thoughts of a return to the squared circle raced through the minds of fans and even a few of the marquee talents on the WWE roster.

Then again, people shouldn't be getting their hopes up just because Punk returned to professional wrestling in some capacity.

Punk will appear on the Fox Sports production next week and then periodically after that, which means he's being paid by Fox, not WWE. A source told Sporting News that Fox Sports told WWE of its plans to bring him in and that WWE backed the move. The same source also said that Fox Sports would have brought in Punk whether or not WWE supported the idea, but the network nonetheless wanted to give WWE a heads-up considering the relationship between the parties since Punk's departure.

Punk left the company in January 2014. In June of that year, WWE fired him on the day of his wedding to former WWE wrestler AJ Lee. In November 2014, Punk went on the "Art of Wrestling" podcast with then-best friend and current pro wrestler Colt Cabana and discussed the frustrations that led to his exit. He alleged that a WWE doctor committed medical malpractice while Punk was going through a series of health issues. Punk was sued for defamation after those remarks. In June 2018, a judge in Cook County, Ill., ruled in favor of Punk (real name Phillip Brooks).

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Punk had been steadfast about not coming back whenever the topic of a return to the ring for All Elite Wrestling or WWE came up. It was hard not to blame him. For close to two decades, he gave his blood, sweat and tears to an industry in which, for the most part, a performer is considered just a cog in the wheel that can be replaced whenever there are signs of wear. Why would Punk want to return to a situation that made him miserable and lose his passion for something he loved more than anything?

The ice started to thaw in April when he appeared at an independent wrestling event in Wisconsin. He came to the ring in a mask and executed his old finishing maneuver, the GTS, on a local wrestler, and then immediately left the venue to a waiting car. During an interview session at Starrcast III in August, Punk said, "I wouldn't not talk to them" regarding a possible return to WWE.

Now, here we are.

A return to wrestling would give Punk closure with fans and himself. It's difficult to imagine that he would want being chokeslammed through a table by Kane at the 2014 Royal Rumble to be the lasting image of himself, not after starring on a stage that allowed him to compete in the UFC, be featured in movies, work as a writer for Marvel comic books and meet his wife.

Maybe he really is done with wrestling and will just appear on "WWE Backstage" to critique the ongoing storylines on "Monday Night Raw," NXT, and "Friday Night Smackdown." He does enjoy being a commentator (he is also an analyst for Cage Fury Fighting Championships on UFC Fight Pass). These gigs allows Punk to fulfill three of his passions.

Would seeing him make a grand return to the ring at a WWE show be great for the industry? There's no doubt about it.

Punk doing "WWE Backstage" could be his way of checking out the landscape before making any type of commitment. He can watch all three main shows, see how things are going in the company and then make a rational decision.

While there are more questions than answers about a potential Punk-WWE reunion, there's a famous saying that rings very true as it relates to : "Never say never."

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