Knotfest Wrestling is back and we have a very unique story to discuss. The return of CM Punk to television has brought a lot of drama and we're going to unpack it all. Plus a preview of tonight's wrestling on TV and news from around the wrestling world.
What's going on with CM Punk?
CM Punk is back on AEW television, but the most interesting part about that is everything that is going on behind the scenes. While the direction of CM Punk's storyline points to a feud with current interim AEW World Champion Jon Moxley, the first person that CM Punk talked about was not Moxley, but "Hangman" Adam Page.
Punk challenged Adam Page to come out right then, something that was not planned beforehand, according to multiple sources. When Page didn't come out, Punk said that Page's catchphrase shouldn't be "Cowboy Shit" but "Coward Shit." Punk was coming off like a heel.
He knocked Eddie Kingston, another wrestler with whom he's not currently feuding, saying that Kingston is maybe the third best Eddie he's ever wrestled. He knocked Moxley, saying Mox was always the third best member of any group he was in (a nod to Moxley's current faction, Blackpool Combat Club, and his WWE stint in the Shield with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins.) Those barbs made sense, and ultimately, Punk and Moxley sold me on their match. The match was initially planned for the PPV, but now has been pushed up to next week's AEW Dynamite.
But what the hell was with making Hangman look like a coward? According to multiple reports, there is some legit animosity between Punk and Hangman. Fightful reported that some backstage at AEW were worried that Punk wasn't even going to show up on Wednesday night because of his backstage issues.
Fightful noted that people backstage felt the segment was unfair to Page because he couldn't exactly respond. "Even if he was aware of it, what would he have done? Charged to the ring past Tony (Khan)? Interrupted a promo he knew he wasn't supposed to be a part of? There was no way Hangman could have 'won' in that situation."
Punk's issue with Hangman stems from a promo Hangman cut two weeks before their match last May at AEW's Double or Nothing, where Punk felt he was caught off-guard by some statements Page made. Page said in the promo (which you can watch below) "You talk a big game about worker's rights. Well you've shown the exact opposite since you've gotten here. I love this place, I care about this place. This is my home, and this Sunday at Double or Nothing, I will not – I will NOT be defending my championship against you. No, this Sunday, I will be defending All Elite Wrestling from you!"
While not officially confirmed, many believe Hangman's comments stem from Colt Cabana's sudden onscreen disappearance. Let's take a step back. CM Punk left WWE in 2014 after feeling burnt out, creatively stifled, and dealing with injuries. After Punk was fired on his wedding day, he went on Colt Cabana's podcast to offer his side of the story. Punk and Cabana had been close friends dating back years. The podcast got so much attention that it ended up crashing Cabana's podcast server.
WWE was not pleased with what Punk said in the podcast. During the podcast, Punk claimed that the WWE doctor, Dr. Chris Armann, did not properly treat an injury he had. Cabana was sent a cease and desist from WWE lawyers over what they claimed was defamation against Armann.The story goes that Punk told Cabana to keep the episode up and he would cover any legal expenses. Armann filed a defamation lawsuit against Punk and Cabana. Because Armann was not a public figure, the case was allowed to proceed. After a long and drawn-out legal process, Punk and Cabana were eventually found not guilty, but they were drained of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Cabana at one point was dropped by Punk's legal counsels, for reasons we do not know and had to retain his own counsel. After the trial, he was hoping to get the money back for paying that counsel. Punk refused to pay, even though Cabana claimed Punk would cover all costs in a text message exchange. At some point, Punk counter-sued and the two settled out of court. During that process, Punk revealed he paid $1,210,000 in legal fees. The two had a falling out ever since. You can see a more detailed recap of this aspect of the story here.
Flash forward to August 2021, when Punk makes his long-awaited debut in AEW. Colt Cabana has been a member of the AEW roster since day one, and in the last year has all but disappeared from AEW television. He is no longer out with the Dark Order and has only appeared on events under the Ring of Honor branding.
Dave Meltzer claims in the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (paywalled) that this is where the backstage issues with CM Punk and the other roster members started. "The big thing that started all this is that Colt Cabana is not in the Dark Order with no angle and stopped being brought to television." Meltzer writes. "He was going to be cut but Khan signed him for ROH. This is really the catalyst of everything although different people have different stories as to why it happened, including Page and Punk." Meltzer later added, "It feels like a number of people are close to their breaking point if things don’t get settled."
Bryan Alvarez noted on Thursday's episode of Wrestling Observer Live that there were people backstage furious at Punk after he "went into business for himself" by calling out Page on Dynamite this week, because of how much everybody likes Page backstage. Some friends of Punk's relayed to Alvarez that it was Hangman that started this to begin with and "they’re mad that you’re mad at CM Punk."
Voices of Wrestling reported that Punk told friends after that Hangman promo in May that he refused to lose to Hangman.
There is always the possibility that this is all an elaborate work, just a way to get more attention back on AEW and sell some tickets to Punk's first post-Moxley title defense, building up an even bigger feud with Adam Page. Multiple reporters have been told that by people backstage in AEW that isn't the case, but with the MJF incidents a few weeks ago, who knows? It sure does make watching AEW more intriguing.
PWtorch.com editor Wade Keller noted there are some who believe the initial issues were real, but perhaps they took these real issues and turned them into a storyline to create more buzz.
Keller added that AEW owner Tony Khan spent a lot of time with CM Punk on Wednesday. Keller said "I can report that Tony Khan went into Punk's locker room and spent a decent amount of time with him one on one
So now that you're all caught up, we'll keep you posted on any further developments. Here are some shady comments on Twitter from Punk's friends in FTR and his not-friend Eddie Kingston:
Tonight's TV Preview
WWE Smackdown at 8pm on Fox
- Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre will face off
- The Viking Raiders to hold ‘viking funeral’ for The New Day
- WWE Women’s Tag Team title tournament: Natalya & Sonya Deville vs. Zoey Stark and Nikkita Lyons
AEW Rampage at 10pm on TNT
- AEW World Tag Team Championship: Swerve in our Glory (Swerve Strickland & Keith Lee) (c) vs. Private Party (Isiah Kassidy & Marq Quen)
- FTW Championship: Hook (c) vs. Zack Clayton (the husband of J-Woww from Jersey Shore)
- AEW World Trios Championship tournament first round: Trustbusters (Ari Daivari, Slim J & Parker Boudreaux) vs. Best Friends (Orange Cassidy, Trent Beretta & Chuck Taylor)
WWE will be running a NXT vs. NXT UK When Worlds Collide premium live event on Sunday, September 4th, the same day as AEW All Out, and one day after the big WWE Clash at the Castle. Labor Day weekend is going to be a big one for wrestling fans!
NXT UK will soon be folding into a newly established NXT Europe. Look for NXT to do more touring in other European countries like Germany.
Shawn Michaels was recently promoted to WWE Vice President of Talent Development Creative. Michels oversees the NXT brand.
Kenny Omega finally made his return to AEW television this Wednesday but did not quite look 100% and looked rusty with some moves. Turns out that's all part of the storyline of Omega slowly rebuilding himself to past glory. I expect Omega and the Bucks to win the trios tag title tournament at AEW All Out. Omega tweeted after his match “The pieces aren’t all there yet but I refuse to burden the Bucks with my limitations. We have a real chance at this. I’ll be even stronger in round 2. I’ll surpass where I was at. I’ll surpass everyone.”
MJF is expected back on TV in the next few weeks, likely in time for AEW All Out.
Kris Statlander is out for almost nine months injuring her other knee (she was previously out with a knee injury.) The original plan was for her to beat Jade at the AEW Grand Slam show in her hometown of New York City.
Dave Meltzer reported that wrestlers backstage at New Japan do not think Kota Ibushi will be returning there.
Finally, here's a fun Macho Man clip to kick off the weekend:
Don’t forget, every Monday, at 7pm eastern, hosts Alicia Atout, Colin Young, and Jordan Olds will be talking about this entire insane week of on the Knotfest Youtube page.