We're told that many WWE talent expect to speak with higher ups and gain some assurances about Punk and how he will be in the company moving forward.
As far as AEW, Tony Khan seemed more concerned Saturday night about losing Kastuyori Shibata than CM Punk heading to WWE. The majority of reactions we’ve gained within AEW is people asking about how the reaction within WWE has been. The answer to that is much more tepid than originally expected, just as was the case when Punk came back to AEW for Collision. In both WWE and AEW, there had been people that had said they didn’t want to work with him and would consider leaving, but we heard of no release requests from people in AEW and now WWE connected to it.
CM Punk has returned to WWE, to the shock of many even in the company.
CM Punk returned at Survivor Series, at the end of the show in a closely guarded, and quickly put together secret. Fightful was told on November 19 that CM Punk and Triple H had a very productive, hour-long conversation that mended fences between the two. Word from Punk's side of that conversation reflected that of what Triple H said at the post-show press conference. Fightful had posted in our Punk FAQ that Punk had claimed there were some conversations. To clarify, at the time, the Punk/Triple H conversation was single sourced, and not appropriate to run. We did note to WWE reps the information we'd heard in an effort to confirm it.
Triple H confirmed Fightful's previous reports that talks had not happened between the two sides until rumors heavily died down, and it actually didn't look like a deal was happening. At the post-show presser, Triple H said that any reports of a deal prior were purely speculation, and that it came together very quickly. WWE confirmed the official agreement happened today, and sources near Punk claimed that as of Saturday morning. no contract was signed.
Punk had told select people close to him that the return was happening.
Minutes before Punk appeared, a section of backstage was cleared out, but Punk was seen in plain sight. We're told that Triple H took over producing the show himself at that point, called for the copyright graphic, and then also personally called for CM Punk's music to hit, per Cory Brennan of Fightful
Producers, referees, staff, talent, and even head writers on the creative team were not told. Fightful's Cory Brennan had heard word that Triple H, Bruce Prichard and Michael Hayes needed to discuss a change to the main event, but we weren't told specifically if that was Punk related.
As it pertains to the main event talent being upset, there are numerous talent on the roster in general upset, just as there are some excited, curious and about every emotion. Talent were pulled aside before the WarGames match and told that CM Punk would be returning at the conclusion of the show. At least one talent claimed legitimately to be upset by the return of Punk, and both Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins looked visibly angry.
We haven't confirmed whether or not those were actual reactions, but they were at least claimed to be, for obvious reasons. Seth Rollins had to be restrained by Michael Cole, Corey Graves and others. Backstage, Seth Rollins was in gorilla and had to be ushered away by Triple H and Michael Cole, as he was looking for CM Punk. We're told that Punk looked confused and it was an awkward scene. One person noted that this was likely a work by Seth Rollins that he didn't feel the need to let CM Punk in on..
Drew McIntyre was said to have been visibly upset backstage, leaving the venue, slamming the locker room door and cursing as he left. McIntyre specifically had been frustrated by some spots in the match not happening as planned among other things, and that it wasn't part of a work, and that he was selling to the back to maintain some professionalism.
Due to the nature of the situation and pro wrestling, obviously we're cognizant of the possibility of both of these being a work.
WWE reiterated that any perceived references from the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, or on commentary were not with the knowledge this deal was in place. "Whether it be Nakamura, USA Network twitter account, or anyone that said he was coming back prior to last week, none of them knew because Punk didn't know," said one source close to Punk. "He even said himself that nobody claiming that they knew the situation fully really did."
There was one top talent that told Fightful that they understood the surprise aspect of the situation, but felt like Triple H could lose some trust among many people that he worked to build it with.
The reactions weren't all negative, we're told that the reactions of some were filmed for possible digital content, and there were at least a couple of CM Punk's old friends that greeted him upon returning backstage. Kofi Kingston and Bayley were among some of the names that we heard of.
There were top WWE talent asking some in AEW if Punk was involved in the AEW devil storyline as recently as the last month or so. Punk was never discussed for that. While the Punk appearance was a closely kept secret in WWE, Punk had told or at least hinted to a couple of close friends that it was happening.
WWE ended up using renders from Punk’s last run in the company, and the same Titantron video from that era. We asked a source at Peacock about the playlist of Punk content that was added, and were told that takes relatively no time to put together. There were some guidelines given on how to address Punk chants for Smackdown and Survivor Series, which was to ignore them as best possible.
We can confirm that there was a real offer put together for CM Punk by IMPACT/TNA, as Ibou of WrestlePurists mentioned recently. Fightful spoke to several associated with the company this weekend that said he was well liked during his visits there, and we’re told the door remains open. There had been some friends of Punk’s that thought that was a real possibility before talks with Triple H started. Those close to him fully believed he would wrestle again, and when it looked like the door wasn’t open for a return, it seemed like an option if Punk wanted it.
Some additional notes
CM Punk has made his WWE return, and we'll go through some of the news circulating.
- Regarding Drew McIntyre, he was legit upset after his match, but it was related to things broader than CM Punk. We'll work to find out more. As far as Seth Rollins, most people in the company believe he doesn't like CM Punk, but is wise enough to capitalize on that by working heavily.
- Those we spoke to claimed that Vince McMahon wasn't involved in the decision making of CM Punk coming back to WWE, and instead it was a Nick Khan/Triple H call. Vince McMahon had once shot the idea down of CM Punk coming back to the company when Fox wanted him for Smackdown.
- For those asking about what the AEW reaction has been, there's been almost none that we've heard from. Tony Khan was more concerned with the immediate future of Katsuyori Shibata Saturday ngiht.
- There was talk of Punk being a "free agent," but he is scheduled for WWE Raw.
- Much of WWE Raw was already planned without CM Punk, so rewrites for the show are in order to fit him in.
- Regarding any references on TV or Shinsuke Nakamura, Punk was not planned to be brought in when those started. The angle could certainly be adjusted to include Punk, but it wasn't at the time. There aren't many people who know what Nakamura's current program is.
- While there was word elsewhere that CM Punk and Triple H's talks all happened within the last week. At least as of the Sunday prior to Survivor Series, we'd heard of them having a conversation to "mend fences."
- PWInsider noted that Punk had been made an offer by TNA Wrestling. Ibou of Wrestlepurists had said this weeks ago, and it's true. We'll have more on that this week.
- Many in TKO actually found out while watching WWE Survivor Series.
- The claim from those within WWE is that it's a multi-year agreement. We still haven't confirmed that the deal has been physically signed, though some other outlets have reported that.
- Fightful's Corey Brennan has heard that Triple H was anxiously telling the cameraman on headset to get a shot of CM Punk from behind with the crowd in the background. This is why the approach on that shot was a little awkward
- WWE used Punk's old titantron video for his appearance.
- For those asking about Peacock having a CM Punk playlist ready, we're told those don't take long to put together.
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