CM Punk coming to AEW wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision.
On August 20, 2021, CM Punk made his AEW debut on The First Dance edition of Rampage. This was his first time in the ring since leaving WWE back in 2014.
During a post-show media scrum, Punk was asked about the decision to return now and what has changed in the past couple of years. He said the following:
"I'll go ahead and spoil that I've been talking to Tony for probably a year and a half about this. Some girls are easy to get into bed. I am not. I need to do wined and dined. That's not, 'oh I need more money and less dates' and 'oh I need this and I need that.' It was literally just talking to Tony and getting to know him, and the more people that he employed that I knew, I'd ask them questions and they'd tell me things.
I've been in the game for a few minutes, you know, so I've seen that. I think I traced it back to, especially since the downfall of ECW, every six months to a year, somebody pops up, 'I have money, we're gonna have TV and we're going to use all the ECW guys.' This is not a slight on Tony at all. It's more of, it's more of a slight at me being a paranoid, neurotic, anxiety-ridden, very careful person, and I wasn't in a hurry. The pandemic kind of help that out, you know, and I knew I couldn't debut if there's no people in the building. So, I always say, timing is everything, and there were a lot of happy accidents along the way that made this possible."
Punk famously left WWE in January 2014 following the Royal Rumble and stayed away from the ring until his return on Friday. He went on to become a UFC fighter and star in a handful of movies before joining WWE Backstage in November 2019 as a special analyst before the show was canceled as a weekly show in June 2020 due to the pandemic. Punk did make two Independent appearances during his time away from wrestling, both times under a mask.
Fightful Select reported on July 21 that Punk was in talks for an in-ring return.
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