CM Punk is no longer the AEW Champion. After winning the title at Sunday’s All Out pay-per-view, Punk was officially stripped of the title at Wednesday’s AEW Dynamite by company president Tony Khan. The new champion will be crowned on Dynamite in two weeks. Khan also stripped Kenny Omega and “The Young Bucks” Matt and Nick Jackson of their titles at Wednesday’s Dynamite.
This was followed by explosive comments made by Punk during the press conference after the AEW All Out show, sparking an actual backstage fight involving Punk, Omega and the Young Bucks.
Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, went on a profanity-laced tirade against “Hangman” Adam Page, Matt and Nick Jackson, and Scott “Colt Cabana” Colton. Punk criticized The Young Bucks, who are active performers and executive vice presidents of AEW, describing them as “irresponsible people who call themselves EVPs” who “couldn’t fucking drive the target”.
The affair turned violent after a media scrum. According to several wrestling publications, a fight broke out between CM Punk and AEW producer Ace Steel on one side and the Jacksons and AEW EVP Kenny Omega on the other. As a result, AEW suspended The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, according to Sports Illustrated. CM Punk and Ace Steel’s punishment – suspension or termination of their contracts – will be determined. Complicating matters, CM Punk reportedly injured his triceps in his match against Jon Moxley.
Pac and The Lucha Brothers defeated Orange Cassidy and The Best Friends to win the vacant Trios Championship. Featuring Jon Moxley, Hangman Page, Chris Jericho, Bryan Danielson, Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara, the tournament will crown the new AEW Championship. It will culminate on the September 21st episode of AEW Dynamite.
AEW was contacted for comment but did not immediately respond. Here’s what you need to know.
What happened between CM Punk and Colt Cabana?
CM Punk and Scott “Colt Cabana” Colton have been known to be good friends for many years. Cabana has had a long career as an independent wrestler, most notably appearing for Ring of Honor before signing with AEW, and pioneered industry podcasts with his Art of Wrestling podcast series.
The most popular episode of the Art of Wrestling podcast featured CM Punk in 2014. In it, Punk detailed his controversial departure from WWE, including health issues that he claimed were not properly addressed by WWE’s medical staff. WWE ringside doctor Chris Amman sued Punk and Cabana for defamation, a case he ultimately lost.
But that was just the beginning of the legal proceedings for Punk. Cabana sued Punk for $1.2 million, claiming that Punk had broken a promise to pay Cabana’s legal fees in the Amman case. Punk countersued and the issue was settled out of court a year later.
Punk or Cabana have not said much about their elimination, although it was a topic of discussion among wrestling fans when Punk debuted in AEW last September. When it was revealed that AEW founder Tony Khan was planning to not renew Cabana’s contract, there was speculation that Punk had something to do with it. CM Punk strongly denied the allegations.
Cabana has since been moved to Ring of Honor, the wrestling promotion that Khan bought earlier in the year.
What does Hangman Page have to do with it?
CM Punk defeated “Hangman” Adam Page to win the AEW Championship at Double or Nothing in May. In the build-up to their pay-per-view clash, Punk and Page had many storyline confrontations. Punk took exception to comments the site made in one segment.
“You talk a big game about workers’ rights, well, you’ve shown the exact opposite since you got here,” Page said, seemingly hinting that Colt Cabana may be fired for Punk. Page and Cabana were in the same Dark Order faction on TV and are probably friends in real life. Page also said in the promo that off-camera moments make a champion and that he wants to protect AEW from Punk.
As always in professional wrestling, the line between reality and fiction is not clear. It’s also unclear exactly what comment Punk was protesting.
Following his victory against Page at Double or Nothing, Punk suffered a leg injury that sidelined him for over 2 months. During that time, Jon Moxley won the Interim AEW Championship, setting up a future clash with Punk. But when Punk returned on the August 19 episode of Dynamite, the first person he talked about wasn’t Moxley — it was Hangman Page.
Punk called Hangman Page into the ring in an apparently unscripted stunt, then called him a coward for not accepting the challenge. “The apology has to be as loud and public as the disrespect,” Punk said. “And if anyone else has a problem with the champion, I suggest you go down.
Punk’s comments were picked apart by wrestling fans and the media, but were mostly overplayed by the time of All Out on Sunday. After the event came the media scrum.
What did CM Punk say after All Out?
AEW always holds press conferences after its pay-per-views, with founder and president Tony Khan taking questions from the media alongside top stars. Punk and Khan opened the All Out scrum after the show, and Punk was quick to address the lingering tension.
He talked about Cabana first, discussing their contentious history before focusing on Matt and Nick Jackson and potentially Kenny Omega. Punk claimed that AEW’s EVPs lied to the media by claiming that he was involved in the rumored expiration of Cabana’s contract. “She’s spreading lies and bullshit… that I fired someone when I have to fuck them all.”
Punk then spoke about Page’s comments in their May pre-Double or Nothing promo and said the fact that he had to make the statement was embarrassing. “What have I ever done in this world to deserve an empty-headed whore like Kat Adam Page to go on national television and go into business for himself?”
Punk said Page threatened AEW’s first $1 million house he’s ever pulled — referring to ticket sales from Double or Nothing — and said it was a “disgrace.”
“We’re way past apologies,” Punk said, adding that he gave Page, but “it wasn’t resolved and you saw what I had to do.” he said, referring to the way he called out Page in his comeback promo.
Punk also responded to Page’s statements in a recent Inside The Ropes interview, where Page said he doesn’t feel like he needs to take advice from veteran wrestlers. “Our locker room, for all the wisdom and brilliance it has, isn’t worth a shit when you have an empty-headed idiot who’s never done anything in business doing public interviews and saying, ‘I really don’t take advice. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’
Page and Cabana were the only people Punk specifically named. Matt and Nick Jackson were referred to only as “EVP”.
“If you’re an EVP, don’t try to put your premium face front and center and try to get your niche audience on the internet to hate them for some made-up, nonsensical rumor,” Punk said. “It really pisses me off… I’m trying to make fucking money, sell tickets, fill arenas and these stupid guys think they’re in Reseda.
Reseda, California, a California neighborhood that is home to Pro Wrestling Guerilla, a promotion that often featured The Young Bucks.
“I’m still going to walk down the hall and say if you got a fucking problem with me, take it with me. Let’s go fuckin’.”
What happened after the media scrum?
We don’t have an official account of what happened backstage after Punk’s comments. The Wrestling Observer and Fightful, two reliable pro wrestling networks, both reported on the brawl that took place between CM Punk, his trainer and AEW producer Christopher “Ace Steel” Guy, Kenny Omega, and Matt and Nick Jackson. AEW trainer Pat Buck and wrestlers Brandon Cutler, Michael Nakazawa and Christopher Daniels were also reportedly involved in the stoppage of the fight.
Punk reportedly lunged at Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson reportedly suffered a gash in the eye after Steel threw a chair at him. Steel also reportedly got into a fight with Kenny Omega, who is also an EVP, and allegedly bit him in the scuffle. Accounts differ on who started the fight. Some say it was Punk and Steel, others say it was Omega and The Young Bucks. Steele’s wife was also reportedly in the room.
On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated reported that Kenny Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson, Pat Buck, Brandon Cutler, Michael Nakazawa and Christopher Daniels were all suspended. According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, CM Punk and Ace Steel’s punishment is to be determined after an internal investigation is completed.
All of this puts AEW founder Tony Khan in a very awkward position. In the past few weeks, reports have surfaced that Eddie Kingston has been suspended for two weeks for confronting Sammy Guevara backstage. After the disagreement, Kingston punched Guevara in the face, earning him a suspension.
Khan now has to deal with a much bigger feud involving stars who are integral to AEW. Punk is the main star of the company and Omega and The Young Bucks are the headliners and executives. Punk became the AEW Champion on Sunday and Omega and The Young Bucks won the AEW Trios Championship.