Ahead of his maiden match on AEW Dynamite, CM Punk, one of professional wrestling’s biggest stars of the modern era, is happy. His well-documented hiatus from the sport in 2014, years before AEW even existed, has consistently been followed by speculation about his eagerly anticipated return to the ring.
That comeback occurred back in August when Punk walked through the AEW curtains for the first time to a deafening ovation at 'The First Dance' in Chicago. Competing against Darby Allin, a pillar of AEW at last month’s critically acclaimed 'All Out' PPV, Punk removed seven years of frustration and ring rust as he defeated Allin in a solid effort. Would AEW’s emergence on the wrestling landscape sooner have ended his sabbatical from his craft earlier?
“It’s a great question. One I’ve actually thought about, but I don’t think so,” said Punk when speaking exclusively to DAZN. “It happened at the right time and timing is everything.
"There’s a lot of stuff that I had to heal on my own. I'm happy AEW are around now because I really don’t know if I'd have gone there sooner.
“I’m not so worried about the past. I’m not so worried about the future. I’m worried about the present. That’s where I’m at now. I'm worried about the fans in the building. If they're having a good time. If they're going to tell their friends that they had a great time and they're gonna come back next time. I want to I want to make sure they're leaving with a giant smile on their face.”
One thing almost certain to put a smile on the faces of wrestling fans is Punk’s upcoming match with Bobby Fish. After enjoying a hectic start to his AEW career in matches against Sammy Guevara and Bryan Danielson, Fish’s run against elite opponents continues against Punk on Wednesday night. How does Punk feel about sharing the ring against one of AEW’s recent signings?
“I wasn’t paying attention to NXT or wrestling whilst I was gone," answered Punk. "I knew who he was and the group he was in but I can't say I’ve watched him too extensively.
"Looking at him now, he’s definitely an impressive person. I was there and to see him mix it up with Danielson a couple of weeks ago and it got the gears grinding here. He's somebody I can't wait to share the ring with.”
With Punk’s battle with Fish taking place amongst the background of AEW’s talent laden tournament to crown a new number one contender for the world title at ‘Full Gear’ in November, would the 43-year-old have fancied a shot at competing in the competition? World titles have never been far from Punk’s grasp and he maintains that the top prizes in AEW is very much a target for him.
“I would have loved to have been a part of it,” buzzed Punk, a twinge of excitement entering his voice when considering the possibilities. “Looking at the field and seeing the names that that that were in it, I definitely think I could have fit in there. It'll come. You know, it's not my time but it'll come at a later date.
“Looking at the bigger picture of things, the map that I have laid out in front of me, I know all the destinations. You know, there's so many people I wanna get in the ring with but knowing how much time I have, I know I'm going to get to all of them people.”