With smoke already pouring out of Mount Brooks in the weeks leading up to ALL IN, it was only a matter of time before CM Punk erupted. Warning signs were everywhere, from his interview with ESPN in June, where he still expressed significant animosity to Adam Page and The Elite, to an incident where Punk supposedly banned Page, Christopher Daniels, and Ryan Nemeth from working AEW Collision tapings he was on.

It was a remark from Jack Perry, alluding to a backstage report that Perry wanted to use real glass for a stunt on Collision but was prevented from doing so by Punk, during the ALL IN pre-show that set Punk off. According to multiple reports, Punk got in some sort of physical confrontation with Perry, which according to Tony Khan, put production staff as well as himself at risk. That incident, along with what was discovered during a subsequent investigation, led to Punk being fired from AEW on Saturday.

The release was an unglamorous end for Punk, who returned to wrestling through AEW with incredible fanfare. His debut on an episode of Rampage in 2021 drew a massive 0.53 rating in the 18-49 demo, and his first match drew an estimated 215,000 buys on PPV, both records AEW seems unlikely to top.

Yet despite returning to pro wrestling with that fanfare and being warmly embraced seemingly by every AEW fan, Punk seemed committed to sabotaging his own success. His paranoia seemingly instantly took over, taking any slight that may have been directed at him and expanding it to a full-blown attack on his character. He mocked his detractors in his trademark “worked-shoot” promos and yet took any potential insult extremely personally.

The first eruption took place last year after ALL OUT, where Punk went on an unhinged rant against his various enemies in the company and then was involved in a physical fight in his locker room with the Young Bucks. That incident took months to clean up, with The Elite suspended for months and Punk, recovering from major surgery, off TV until the following June.

When Punk returned, he was essentially sequestered on his own show, and wrestlers that didn’t want to work around him, and wrestlers that Punk didn’t want to work around, were not asked to be on Punk’s show. That strategy only worked for a few weeks–almost instantly reports leaked out of Punk banning wrestlers from the building, including a major star in Page and the Head of Talent Relations in Daniels, as well as getting in confrontations with lower-card talent like Nemeth.

Certainly Tony Khan deserves a large amount of the blame for enabling this behavior by Punk and failing to find a suitable resolution to the conflict between Punk and his enemies. At the same time, it also seemed like keeping Punk on an even keel was an impossible task–his personality just wasn’t suited for operation in AEW and no matter what anyone would have tried, Punk would find grievances and ways to make enemies–a pattern that has followed him in seemingly every locker room he has ever been in.

Is this the end for CM Punk in wrestling?

For a star of his caliber, it seems impossible that his final match occurred at ALL IN, but Punk is not a typical wrestler. He spent nearly a decade of his prime years sitting on the sidelines after walking out of WWE. He does not seem motivated by money in the way most wrestlers are, and his flaming departure from AEW may have convinced him that he is done with wrestling for good.

If Punk were to return to wrestling, WWE could be a possible home, but many obstacles would prevent that from happening. Punk may hate WWE, although reports indicate he was interested in coming to the company last year but was turned down. There are rumors that prominent names, including Cody Rhodes, who left AEW while Punk was working there, and Kevin Owens, who has long-time animosity with Punk dating back to their mutual time in Ring of Honor, would not want to share a locker room with Punk.

WWE is also reportedly in a cost-cutting mode due to the incoming merger with Endeavor–with a hiring freeze potentially in place. There is also the risk of bringing Punk into a locker room–something WWE may see as unnecessary. For the first time in years, WWE seems confident in its ability to create new stars, and the company may view Punk as a risk that doesn’t need to be taken.

There is also the possibility that Punk’s drawing power has diminished. While he was certainly the most impactful draw in wrestling upon his return to wrestling in 2021, the novelty of Punk wrestling had worn off by the time he won the AEW World Championship last May. Since ALL OUT last year, which drew a dividing line between himself and The Elite, Punk had certainly run off some of his fans who were behind him when he returned to wrestling. Punk continued to encourage that divide during his time on Collision and his promos, an unnecessary move that Punk made in a desperate attempt to get The Elite to work with him.

With all of that being said, the history of pro wrestling tells us that if two parties believe they can draw money together, they will put all issues aside and work together, even if it is just for a brief period of time. Punk would surely draw based on novelty at first, even if it wouldn’t last.

That is true for AEW as well. While it seems unlikely today, in the coming years, it would not be all that surprising to see Punk return to AEW. Wrestling history is full of people having massive, career-defining disputes, then eventually working together once time passes and the opportunity to make money lures.

At the moment, Punk’s career seems over.

He’s flamed out of both WWE and AEW and appears to be sick of wrestling. His career will be one of constant controversy and unique circumstances. Wrestling has seen many top stars get derailed due to personal issues, but typically, that is due to substance abuse. Punk’s weakness was his paranoia and his inability to trust his co-workers. At times, that anger fueled his popularity as fans bought into his authenticity in speaking truth to power. That kind of behavior, though, is unsustainable and has eventually led to his downfall, cutting off a career that should have been a lot bigger than it ended up being.

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