CM Punk: Nick Khan Originally Wanted Me To Return At Royal Rumble, He Thought I Had A Non-Compete Clause

CM Punk discusses his return to WWE.

In August 2023, CM Punk was fired from AEW after being involved in a backstage altercation with Jack Perry at the All In pay-per-view. Just months later, in November 2023, Punk made a shocking return to WWE, as he appeared after the Men's War Games match that pitted Drew McIntyre & The Judgment Day against Cody Rhodes, Jey Uso, Randy Orton, Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins.

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While speaking to Ariel Helwani on a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Punk talked about how the ball got rolling on his return, revealing that he got a call from Nick Khan during the week of Thanksgiving.

"Slight percentages over the years start that ball rolling, but to really get in. The action of it started the week of Thanksgiving. I had a CFFC show coming up. I got a call from Nick Khan, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you.’ ‘Cool. On my way to the gym. I have CFFC coming up. You want to talk Monday? Great.’ It was Monday, the week of Thanksgiving. Spoke to him. I think the call was more of, ‘we want to talk to you about coming back. We’d love you for Royal Rumble.’ They assumed that I probably had some sort of non-compete and were floored when I was like, ‘No, I’m ready to go. Let’s do it.’"

Punk went on to note that he didn't have a no-compete clause after being fired from AEW, stating that he could've signed a contract the day after All In.

"Yeah. Nick said, ‘I really wish I knew that.’ [Laughs]. I didn’t call or tell anybody. I just laid low for a minute."

Punk also went on to talk about how long it took for a deal to be struck after the inital phone call with Triple H.

"Every single minute of all those days. It was, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you about coming back.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘This is how I feel.’ ‘This is how I feel.’ ‘Great.’ ’I’d really love to talk to Triple H. Everybody calls him Paul. I’ll go to Barclays after this, ‘I was just talking to Paul,’ for the entirety of the conversation I’ll be like, ‘Why is Paul Heyman....oh.’ I always call him Triple H or Hunter. I spoke to him and that’s when the ball really got rolling. I asked him if he wanted to talk on the phone. He said, ‘No, I would rather FaceTime you so I can see you.’ ‘Oh, interesting.’ We just talked about a whole lot of stuff. Stuff that was, at one point, serious to bother of us that is silly now. We just laughed and buried the hatchet. Then, we started talking business. I was like, ‘It’s Thanksgiving, I don’t want to bother you. We can talk about it later,’ but the show was Saturday. It all got done very fast. My lawyer was not stoked to be working OT on Thanksgiving. He gets paid handsomely."

The 'Best In The World' was then asked by Helwani if he thought that a converdation with Triple H needed to happen before he returned to the promotion.

"I think there is a world where it didn’t have to happen, but we’re both men and we’re going to talk about stuff, especially when it comes to business. I do think it was important knowing where we wanted to go to talk about stuff and get it all out of the way."

Punk went on to state that he didn't know how long the call with Triple H was, also noting that he saw 'The Game' when visiting an episode of WWE Raw in May 2023.

"I don’t know. We chatted for a while. I saw him when I went to the building to visit people and I got thrown out. I saw him for a heartbeat there. Things happen behind the scenes in sports and they take on lives of their own. People run with it and people might not know the details and everybody thinks we hate each other, like on sight, fistfight hate each other. I don’t know if that was ever the case, but it’s what we needed to talk about. I saw him back in May. I think he had to make a phone call and somebody was like, ‘No, get him out of the building.’"

After stating that it was Vince McMahon's call to remove him from the building on that day, Punk explained how he ended up at the arena.

"Yeah. I did CFFC in Orlando or Tampa. I was on a flight back to Chicago and I was sitting next to Jason Jordan. I’m looking at him. He’s looking at me, he says hi. ‘Oh, he doesn’t recognize me. Okay.’ He turns and looks at me, ‘Holy shit, what are you doing here?’ I’m chatting with him, I see other wrestlers getting on the plane. There is a gap, a generation of people I’ve never met that started right after I left. My friend Bayley messaged me, ‘My friend Liv was on the flight with you. She said you were so nice to her. We have a show in Chicago, you should come visit.’ I’m throwing Bayley under the bus now. It’s all her fault. I laughed because I landed, went home, no wife, no dog, I had nothing to do. Yeah, I’m gonna go visit my friend Bayley. I went."

Punk went on to state that it felt good to visit and catch up with people like The Miz and Bobbt Lashley.

"I’m the old timer in the business and there is a show in town. I wasn’t trying to get a job. The few people that I saw before I got thrown out. I saw Miz, I saw Bobby Lashley, Baron Corbin. Everyone was nice and kind. That’s the only reason I went. Maybe for free catering."

Punk then noted that he was expecting to be asked to leave, despite the fact that he wanted to say hi to Bayley.

"No. I expected it. I wasn’t sure if Vince was there. I think he was doing stuff remote. This is between ‘Vince is gone, he’s back,’ I didn’t know the politics of things. I literally went to go say hi to Bayley."

Punk went on to talk about how people from AEW got mad about his visit to Raw.

"Oh yeah. I think the word ‘betrayed’ was used. I was like, ‘Alright, man.’ As a company, you’re allowing guys to go on the television show to do things. I went backstage to say hi to a friend.' It’s two completely different things. If you’re going to be mad about it, okay."

The conversation then shifted back to Punk's Survivor Series return, as Helwani asked Punk if he signed the contract with WWE after he appeared at the event.

"No, they would never, I don’t think they would allow me to even be on television without signing something. I’m literally on the phone with a lawyer, ‘Alright.’ Sign, go. I signed and then walked into Gorilla. It was like a crowded elevator. Everyone turns, looks, jaws on the floor. Then the world saw what came then."

Punk then went on to talk about some of the teases that were made in the lead up to his actual return, noting that only his wife, Nick Khan, Triple H, and lawyers knew about the situation.

"I’d be surprised if you needed more than two hands. I was in the same boat as everyone else where the weeks leading up to it, they were doing these weird things that too often seemed to be a coincidence. Someone uses the GTS. Someone says Best in the World. On their face, you go, ‘That doesn’t matter.’ I’m sitting at home going, ‘Should I be tanning?’ I haven’t spoken to anyone. I don’t know what’s going on. People are messaging me. ‘You’re coming back. We’re so excited.’ It’s just another day in pro wrestling where I’m a magnet for that stuff. I didn’t tell anybody. I think that’s why it was a secret and such a shock. My wife knew. Nick, Triple H, lawyers. That’s who knew on my side. I was in my car driving to All State, that’s why I told my family. ‘Hey guys, heads up, I’ll talk to you tomorrow. This came together really fast.’"

Punk was receptive to the clues that were dropped, as they scratched the wrestling booker part of his brain.

"Yeah, the wrestling booker in my head was like, this is the sweet spot. This is the business. This is what you do, but I wasn’t desperate for a job or anything like that, which makes it sound like I’m not grateful, which is the exact opposite. It’s been an absolute dream thus far. I can’t turn off the wrestling booker. That part is always going to be in motion."

Elsewhere in the interview, Punk said that nobody in AEW spoke to him for six months after All Out 2022. Learn more here.

Punk is set to appear at WrestleMania 40, as he will be on commentary for the World Heavyweight Championship match between Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre. Learn more here.

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