AEW by CM Punk Explanation of All Out Media Scrum Comments
Do you know why everyone spent Labor Day discussing CM Punk’s comments during an AEW press conference? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
AEW sold out the Now Arena in suburban Chicago for its annual Labor Day pay-per-view, All Out, on Sunday. Toni Storm was crowned the new interim Women’s champion, MJF made a surprise return (with a new, pricey theme song in “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones), an unexpected classic World Tag Title match, and CM Punk avenged his three-minute AEW World Championship loss on Dynamite by capturing the title in his hometown in a bloody brawl against Jon Moxley. It was an unquestionably exciting show with a lot of very good wrestling, and an hour later, no one was talking about it.
What they were talking about was new champion CM Punk storming into the post-match press conference and angrily firing direct shots at his former friend Colt Cabana, former opponent Adam Page, and various executive vice presidents (EVPs), which people assumed meant the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, who are both EVPs for All Elite Wrestling. So, what did he have to say? What made him say it? What does it all mean?
Falling-Out by CM Punk and Colt Cabana
Punk and Cabana both began training at the Steel Domain wrestling company in Pittsburgh around the same time; the “Steel” in the company’s name comes from Ace Steel, an AEW backstage producer who was part of Punk’s story line leading up to the title match on Sunday. Punk and Cabana were teammates and opponents in the Midwest independent scene earlier in their careers, and were stablemates in Ring of Honor as the Second City Saints with Ace Steel.
After Punk left WWE, their close relationship shattered. Cabana was the host of the groundbreaking wrestling podcast Art of Wrestling, where he interviewed wrestlers about their craft (think a pro wrestling version of WTF With Marc Maron). Cabana interviewed Punk after his departure from WWE, and he expressed his dissatisfaction with his booking and usage. Punk also accused WWE and one of its doctors, Chris Amann, of negligence. Punk claimed the company ignored a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection that became life-threatening after WWE doctors loaded him up with Z-PAK and sent him out to wrestle, causing him to “shit my pants on SmackDown.”
WWE and Amann sued Punk and Cabana for defamation, which Punk ultimately won. Cabana filed a lawsuit against Punk, alleging that the wrestler agreed to pay Cabana’s legal fees but then broke his promise. Punk’s response was that Cabana was greedy and trying to extort him; the two eventually settled their lawsuits.
The feud resurfaced in August 2021, when Punk joined AEW, where Cabana worked as a member of the Dark Order. Cabana eventually dropped out of that team and was added to the ROH roster. There were rumours that Punk had asked Cabana to be fired or transferred, which Punk blamed on Adam Page, the Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega during his fiery press conference on Sunday. Punk also made his first public statements in years about Cabana (né Scott Colton), stating that he is no longer friends with him.
“My problem was that I wanted to bring a guy to the top who didn’t want to see me at the top,” Punk explained. “You could call it envy. Envy is a term for it. Whatever the hell happened, my relationship with Scott Colton ended long before I paid all of his bills. Every receipt is in my possession. Every invoice is in my possession. Every email is in my possession. I have the email in which he states, and I quote… ‘I agree that we should part ways.’ I’ll hire my own lawyer, and you won’t have to pay anything else.’ I have an email like that. The only reason the public didn’t see it was because when I finally had to sue him, we discovered he shared a bank account with his mother. That is a proven fact.”
The Elite Beef and CM Punk
Adam Page, the Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega were also targeted by Punk. “What did I ever do in this world to deserve an empty-headed, fucking dumb fuck like ‘Hangman’ Adam Page to go out on national television and fucking start his own business?” Punk wondered. “What for?” What have I ever done? I didn’t do a single thing!”
According to the wrestling press, Page’s comment about going into business for himself refers to a promo he gave during their feud in May in which he said, “You talk a big game about worker’s rights, but you’ve shown the exact opposite when you came here.” That line is said to have been interpreted by Punk as a reference to his blackballing of Cabana, which he has denied.
“There are people who call themselves EVPs who should have fucking known better,” Punk continued. This nonsense was none of their concern. I get standing up for your fucking friends. I fucking understand. I advocated the most for that guy [Colton]. I paid his bills until I didn’t, and it was entirely my choice not to. When someone [Page] who hasn’t done anything in this business jeopardises the first million-dollar house that this company has ever drawn off my back and does it on national television, it’s a disgrace to the industry. This is a disgrace to the company. We’ve moved past apologies. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t dealt with, and you saw what I had to do, which was very unfortunate, lowering myself to his fucking level, but that’s where we’re at right now.”
It’s unclear what Punk meant when he said “the first million-dollar house” was in jeopardy. There were rumours that Punk was so enraged by the Page remark that he threatened to leave, but the veracity of rumours is sort of what this whole thing is about. Punk could also be referring to Page attempting to damage him as a babyface in order to hurt the match’s draw.
After returning from injury, Punk cut an unplanned promo challenging Page to an immediate rematch, and when Page did not appear, Punk said, “That’s not cowboy shit, that’s coward shit.” There were no plans for a Page vs. Punk match at the time, and there were no plans on the show for Page to appear and fight Punk, and it reportedly embarrassed Page and made him look bad that Punk extended an open challenge that Page couldn’t answer.
During his Sunday comments, Punk also verbally attacked Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, saying, “Now, it’s 2022. I haven’t seen this guy since at least 2014, late 2013, and the fact that I have to sit up here because we have irresponsible people who call themselves EVPs but couldn’t fucking manage a Target and spread lies and bullshit and put it in the media that I fired someone when I had nothing to do with it. I don’t want anything to do with him. I don’t care where he works or doesn’t work, where he eats or sleeps. It’s fucking embarrassing that I have to get up here and do this in 2022.”
The reference to EVPs refers to the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, whom he appears to blame for spreading rumours about him attempting to fire Cabana. There were also rumours that Cody Rhodes’ departure from AEW was motivated in part by his displeasure with Punk being placed above him; Rhodes was a member of the Elite group that helped found AEW.
This is clearly a fluid situation. Situations like this, like everything else in pro wrestling, must be taken with a grain of salt. Real-life beef has a long history of being turned into wrestling story lines, and story lines have a long history of morphing into real-life beef.
According to multiple news outlets, Punk went backstage and got into a fistfight with the Young Bucks. Eddie Kingston was recently suspended for a similar incident with Sammy Guevara, and if the reports are true, AEW is forced to choose between suspending its newly crowned World champion at the start of a big angle with MJF (who is fresh off working his own blurred-lines angle) and exacerbating the complaints of favoritism—which appear to be at the root of many of the locker room problems.
In the long run, Tony Khan may have to choose sides in a locker-room civil war between Page, Omega, and the Bucks—all of whom were instrumental in starting All Elite Wrestling and (with the exception of Page) hold positions in management—and Punk, the promotion’s biggest star and draw. Khan is well-known for his long, freewheeling, energetic, conversational postgame press conferences, and this appears to be a complete reversal of that business style.
Also, if Punk keeps the title, how will this affect his popularity among fans? His previously rapturous reaction in Chicago seemed a little muted, and it’s difficult to imagine the perpetually online AEW audience giving him a babyface reaction after he took such barbed swings at wrestlers who are such an important part of the promotion.
In the short term, I expect this to boost ratings on Wednesday as people tune in to Dynamite to see the fallout, but it will be interesting to see whether this ends up drawing money or splitting AEW apart.
Phil Schneider is a Death Valley Driver Video Review cofounder, a Segunda Caida blog writer, the host of The Way of the Blade podcast, and the author of Way of the Blade: 100 of the Greatest Bloody Matches in Wrestling History, which is available on Amazon. He can be found on Twitter as @philaschneider.