Eric Bischoff discusses CM Punk potentially returning to WWE.
Punk returned to wrestling, after he was gone for seven years, by signing with AEW and making his unforgettable debut on AEW Rampage: The First Dance on August 20, 2021. Over the next several months, Punk feuded with stars like MJF, Eddie Kingston, Hangman Page, and Jon Moxley, and he was featured as one of the top performers in AEW. Though he went down with an injury shortly after his world title win at AEW Double or Nothing 2022, he returned in August and ultimately won the title back from Jon Moxley, who had been the interim champion, at AEW All Out.
Punk reportedly suffered an injury during the match, and at the post-show press conference, he took heated shots at AEW's Executive Vice Presidents, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, leading to a reported brawl between the two sides. Everyone involved got suspended and stripped of their championships. While Omega and the Bucks returned to AEW at the Full Gear pay-per-view on November 19, Punk's absence continues, and his future with the company is up in the air.
Speaking with Steve Fall of WrestlingNewsCo, Bischoff was asked about Punk potentially returning to WWE. He replied by saying, "I’ve been around the business long enough not to make a prediction like that because anything can happen."
When Fall followed up by asking whether Punk returning to WWE would be a smart business decision, Bischoff stated that he didn't think it would be. He recalled Punk's arrival in AEW and noted that the character's rebellious nature might be appealing to fans, and Khan capitalized on Punk's fanbase for a brief boost. However, Bischoff described how the ratings quickly dropped off and returned to their pre-Punk levels.
“I don’t think it would be. I think CM Punk shit the bed. When Tony Khan brought CM Punk into AEW, he still had that mystique, the Pipe bomb mystique. He was this character that stood up to the man and walked away. There’s a rebel, rebellious quality in that character that I think the average American admires. So Punk had this mystique and still had his fanbase, and Tony Khan was able to take advantage of that. Over a very short period of time, that mystique began to just dissipate, it was like letting the air out of the ballon a little bit more each and every week. CM Punk came in and great ratings, and then, literally, the next week, started in a free fall back down to pre-Punk levels. You look at where AEW is in terms of week-to-week ratings, which is the only thing that we can have to measure that’s public because the financial information is all private, and we don’t really hear anything about the real financial information. We just get the top line stuff. But ratings is the data that we have that we can go, ‘Oh, okay. This is where this product is going.’ Flat-lined shortly after CM Punk got there. Flat-lined to pre-Punk levels," Bischoff said.
The WWE Hall of Famer described how some people might have tuned in and watched AEW when Pun arrived, but they stopped once the aforementioned mystique was gone. He then brought up the press conference after AEW All Out and wondered why anyone would want to hire a performer who bad-mouthed the man who writes his checks while they were sitting next to each other.
"I think that a lot of that has to do with people came, they were excited because of the aura and the mystique, they saw, and they went, ‘Eh. Not so much. Little bit, but eh. Nothing special.’ Then for Punk to conduct himself in the manner in which he did I think left a bad taste in not only the fans’ mouths, but why would anybody wanna hire a guy that’s willing to publicly disparage the guy that’s writing him a check every week when he’s right next to you? Why would anybody want to be in business with that guy?" he said.
Bischoff went on to describe how he might have handled the situation at the press conference after AEW All Out. He noted that Khan had his own microphone, and he could have stood up and stopped the scrum so he could deal with the matter privately. Bischoff stated that he thought it was "mind-boggling" that Khan sat there while Punk talked like that. The WWE Hall of Famer then emphasized his belief that, given the way Punk showed a clear lack of loyalty to his boss, he wouldn't hire him back if he was in WWE's position.
"Tony had a mic. He had his own mic. He could have grabbed that mic, stood up and said, ‘This conference is over. Thank you all very much. Shut down the audio.’ Boom, it’s over. Then sort it out. But to sit there and be thrashed and flayed like a fish by a guy that you’re writing a check to for more money, five times more money than he’s really worth, is mine-boggling to me. Again, I’m stubborn in some respects. I think the most important quality that anybody has in life is loyalty and integrity above talent, and if someone would be that disloyal and show that lack of integrity, I would never want to be in business with him. I don’t care how much money I could make because it’s gonna be a short-term win. You’re gonna win for a minute, and you’re gonna be sort. That’s been the pattern, hasn’t it? It’s a well-established pattern. So no, I wouldn’t hire him back," Bischoff said.
In a recent interview with Fightful, Bischoff discussed Khan, Punk's actions at the press conference, and the AEW product. Check out his comments here.
Bischoff recently discussed the ways that the wrestling business has changed. Click here to see what he had to say.
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