His return comes as a shock to the wrestling universe. Punk previously left WWE in 2014 and alleges that no one from the company called him to return after his two month suspension finished. He cited health issues as the main reason for leaving, reportedly being unable to heal properly due to the grueling schedule of training and filming. Other sources cite creative differences as another driving factor.
Vince McMahon publicly apologized to Punk and said the door was open to work together in the future, but he rejected it in an appearance on The Art of Wrestling podcast, saying the apology was "insincere." Punk was briefly contracted under Fox as a special contributor and analyst for WWE Backstage in 2019, but production was paused due to COVID and eventually canceled entirely in 2021.
He made his AEW debut in 2021, seven years after leaving WWE. Despite being one of the company's biggest draws, he was suspended for comments made during a post-event media scrum after All Out in 2022, as well as a triceps injury he sustained during a match. He apologized and eventually returned in July 2023.
During the All In PPV in August 2023, reports circulated of an explosive backstage altercation between Punk and Jack Perry over the usage of real glass in a match. A month later, Punk was terminated for just cause.
Below, check out some reactions to Punk's return.