CM Punk returned to WWE at Survivor Series 2023 amid rampant speculation during the build-up. Punk appeared after the WarGames men’s main event.
WWE added to the drama, rumors and innuendo by teasing that Randy Orton was not going to be at Survivor Series. In a backstage segment, Sami Zayn told Jey Uso that Randy Orton wasn’t there yet, leading to loud “CM Punk” chants from the Allstate Arena. Fans chanted Punk throughout the men’s WarGames match. Ultimately, Orton stood for a return to WWE that was compromised by wrestling gossip. Still, Orton received massive backlash for his long-awaited return after 18 months.
With CM Punk long gone from AEW, speculation about his return to WWE has reached fever pitch heading into Survivor Series in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. Fans have dissected every angle of CM Punk’s possible return, and the rumors have only intensified thanks to a series of Easter eggs from WWE.
Seth Rollins has used terms like “best in the world” and “cry me a river” in recent promos. On a September broadcast of Raw, shortly after Punk’s Brawl In with Jack Perry, Cody Rhodes said of Jey Uso: “You’re looking at someone who’s been given a lot of second chances.” He is one of the best in the world, he deserves a second chance and I think we should give him time to show us that he has changed. Becky Lynch used cheeky terms like ‘catalyst for change’
And then there is Shinsuke Nakamura.
Shinsuke Nakamura served as WWE’s personal channel for CM Punk speculation. It’s almost as if the promotion is using Nakamura to gauge fan interest in a CM Punk return. Since Punk’s violent departure from AEW, Nakamura has used the Go To Sleep (Punk’s finisher) in several of his matches. Although the move didn’t initially garner much fan reaction, fans recently chanted “CM Punk” during Nakamura’s match against Akira Tozawa on the November 6 broadcast of Raw. Nakamura cut cryptic promos in recent vignettes, calling out a mystery opponent. With Survivor Series scheduled to emanate from Chicago, many fans were hoping the mystery opponent was CM Punk.
Although the stage seems set for a CM Punk return, reports suggest otherwise. In the latest issue of Wrestling Observer Newsletter (to Wrestling Inc), Dave Meltzer reiterated that there is no evidence of a CM Punk return. A notorious waffle maker, Meltzer added that anything is possible.
“Okay guys, I asked…. Everyone I can, in every way I know how. Nothing has changed. We will know one of two things when Survivor Series goes off the air,” a WWE insider wrote. @WrestleVotes. “It was either the biggest kept surprise in company history or it just wasn’t supposed to happen yet.”
WWE created a monster by co-opting CM Punk’s return rumors through clues on WWE programming. So much so that WWE announced Randy Orton for Survivor Series in advance so fans in Chicago wouldn’t think the mystery WarGames partner was CM Punk.
CM Punk’s hype grew so big that current and former WWE Superstars found themselves answering questions about Punk’s possible return.
“I mean, there are so many eyes on WWE television right now,” Johnny Gargano told the Battleground Podcast (h/t Wrestling Inc). “Obviously, every little bit helps. I mentioned earlier how Logan Paul took the United States Championship with him all over the world and brought new eyes to the product. So, I feel like “At the end of the day,” he added, “whatever it is that will get more eyeballs on WWE television, that’s the best decision possible. Whoever it is, whoever they bring in, whatever eyes they attract, I’m all for it!”
“One thing I learned during my time in WWE is that no one knows anything,” said “Top Dolla” AJ Francis. “Nobody knows what’s happening week to week on the shows – well, let me rephrase that – none of the talent knows week to week on the shows,” the former Hit Row member said. “Like every once in a while…I mean, obviously Roman knows. Roman will know, they’ll keep him in the loop. Roman is ‘the guy’, he’s the reason the company is doing so well right now. So he knows, but 99% of the roster doesn’t know what they’re doing next week, let alone at Survivor Series.”
Punk has been a trending topic on Twitter all week, and WWE had all the evidence it needed to suggest that Punk remains a star to a large segment of its audience. In the end, the rumors seemed to indicate a return of CM Punk to Chicago.
Punk returned after the WarGames main event and all is well in the wrestling world.
For the moment.
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