All Elite Wrestling has opened an investigation between their top star and executive vice presidents, and the fall out could bring massive change to the company, for better or for worse.
Former AEW World Champion CM Punk was stripped of the title he won at Sunday’s All Out pay-per-view against Jon Moxley on Wednesday night’s Dynamite. AEW EVPs Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson and Kenny Omega — collectively known as “The Elite” — were also stripped of their trios championships that were won by PAC, Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero M of Death Triangle on Wednesday.
Punk and The Elite were suspended after reportedly fighting backstage after All Out following Punk’s comments at a press conference.
Punk, real name Phil Brooks, entered his All Out media scrum heated. He had called out Wrestling Inc.’s Nick Hausman and asked if he is friends with Scott Colten — who in the pro wrestling world goes by Colt Cabana. Hausman did not ask a question, and has gone on the record in the days after All Out saying he had not known Punk would call him out specifically. Hausman covered Punk and Cabana’s lawsuit against WWE ringside physician Chris Aman, who sued the former friends for defamation stemming from Punk’s comments made on Cabana’s podcast in 2014.
The two won the lawsuit, but Cabana sued Punk for $1.2 million, alleging Punk reneged on a pledge to cover Cabana’s legal fees for the Amman case. Punk countersued, and the issue was settled out of court a year later.
Not much is known after the incident, but the big thing was these series of lawsuits cut a tie between the longtime friends. When Punk signed with AEW, Colt Cabana later moved to Ring of Honor, a promotion bought by AEW President Tony Khan. This led to rumors that Punk had forced Khan to move Cabana out of AEW, which had many fans painting Punk as a villain.
This was likely the source of anger for Punk in the press conference Sunday. To add to that, Cabana has been a leader and role model to many independent wrestlers and AEW talent, as well, including Matt and Nick Jackson (The Young Bucks) and Adam “Hangman” Page. It was the latter who added more fuel to the fire for Punk.
Following Sasha Banks and Naomi’s alleged departure from WWE, announcer Michael Cole went on air to call the two “unprofessional.” Punk would send a tweet asking for wrestlers to maintain solidarity on incidents like this. The following Dynamite, Page called out Punk and called him a hypocrite for standing up for “worker’s rights.”
This was not an expected moment, but Page and Cabana likely grew close during their time in the Dark Order, and he probably wanted to stick up for his friend. Punk didn’t seem to like this and called out Page in another unscripted moment in August, when plans of a rematch were not followed through on.
Punk has admitted it was not the correct course of action, but at the All Out presser, he took out his frustrations on The Elite, who he claimed had planted stories in the media to paint him as a villain. Top outlets like The Wrestling Observer and Fightful have denied The Elite are their sources, but Punk seemingly had a course of action when he called out a media member.
“Now, it’s 2022,” Punk told reporters at the All Out press conference, as transcribed by The Wrestling Observer’s Josh Nason. “I haven’t been friends with this guy since at least 2014, late 2013. The fact that I have to sit up here because we have irresponsible people who call themselves EVPs and couldn’t (expectative) manage a Target and they spread lies and (expletive) and put into the media that I got somebody fired when I have (expletive) all to do with him, want nothing to do with him, do not care where he works, where he doesn’t work, where he eats, where he sleeps. And the fact that I have to get up here and do this in 2022 is (expletive) embarrassing. And if y’all are at fault, (expletive) you. If you’re not, I apologize.
“What did I ever do in this world to deserve an empty-headed (expletive) dumb (expletive) like Hangman Adam Page to go out on national television and (expletive) go into business for himself? For what? What did I do? What did I ever do? Didn’t do a goddamn thing.”
Following Punk’s press conference, an alleged fight broke out between Punk and his trainer and AEW producer Christopher “Ace Steel” Guy and The Elite. AEW coach Pat Buck and wrestlers Brandon Cutler, Michael Nakazawa and Christopher Daniels were reportedly also involved in breaking the fight up, according to The Wrestling Observer and Fightful.
AEW Chief Legal Officer Megha Parekh, who may or may not have been witness to this incident, is investigating the situation, but the big question the company must answer is whether Punk is worth all this drama.
From Punk’s perspective, he’s not wrong in saying the EVPs have been irresponsible in not getting out in front of the story and not protecting their top star. But Punk called out the EVPs in a public manner. How does that look to the rest of the roster?
Incidents like these are not uncommon in the world of pro wrestling. The difference is how public this all has become and how social media can magnify a situation.
Unfortunately, the power dynamics may mean Steel loses his job, especially if its true he bit Omega and grabbed his hair. As for Punk, he’s brought great business to the company and is largely responsible for their best-selling pay-per-view, All Out 2021.
So the answer might be yes, Punk is worth all this trouble if you’re looking at it from a business perspective. If a suspension and fine is the worst punishment that comes from the investigation, time will tell how this affects the AEW locker room.