CM Punk is back! Appearing for the first time in six years on any wrestling-related television program, The Best in the World looked feisty as ever in his interview with Renee Young on WWE Backstage, admitting that the world of wrestling is a “never say never” universe. While Punk denies any contact with WWE — his TV contract is with Fox — nothing will stop the armchair bookers of the world from desperately anticipating fantasy match-ups between the former champ and the best today’s WWE has to offer.
Full disclosure, I think a return in some capacity is inevitable, but how it shakes out will be largely up to Punk and probably Triple H. The opportunity for Punk to jumpstart the next generation of superstars is there, though. I’m going to choose a few people per brand who can match up with Punk on the mic and in the ring and maybe even benefit long-term from the rub, brother.
Let’s jump right in: It’s clobberin’ time!
Punk vs. Raw
The obvious match here is Punk taking on the guy who tried to start some Twitter beef with him, Seth Rollins. In-ring, this is a dream match. Two of the best in-ring performers going toe-to-toe. On the mic, however, Rollins can’t hang with Punk. Not the Rollins that currently graces our TV screens and spits pre-packaged, rah-rah promos, at least.
Another top-card guy who has never crossed paths with the Voice of the Voiceless on a stage like WWE is the Phenomenal One, AJ Styles. While this matchup doesn’t give anyone a rub for the future, this is a WrestleMania main event-level match that would put the cherry on the top of two Hall of Fame careers. Both can go in the ring, and Styles as a heel with The O.C. backing him up (think about Punk trying to recruit Gallows back!) would be MONEY.
A few more because I can’t help myself: Kevin Owens would be an amazing opponent for Punk on the mic and in the ring. Drew McIntyre vs. Punk would absolutely kill and Drew could go back to being a straight-forward badass. Punk vs. Andrade would also be amazing. Those two could burn the place down and Punk vs. Zelina Vega on the mic could be epic. Andrade is the next big Latino heel star and Punk could make him with one PPV match. Bonus: Mixed tag match between Andrade/Vega and Punk/AJ Lee!
Punk vs. SmackDown
SmackDown, unfortunately, has fewer Superstars in position for the "young guy vs. Punk" benefit, so I’m going with the guys who could move the needle the most. Punk taking on the other ultimate WWE guy in Roman Reigns parallels The Summer of Punk run against John Cena. Let Roman be Roman and the two could hit it out of the park. I know they went at it during the initial Shield days, but this Roman is the bastion of the company taking on the ultimate anti-establishment guy. SummerSlam main event for this one.
Both of the guys in the Universal Championship match at this year’s Survivor Series could really run with Punk. Daniel Bryan is in a similar position to Styles on Raw, where a run against Punk would simply add to his legacy. Bray Wyatt, however, has so much built up rage and creativity to build on. Punk’s days running The Nexus was an exercise in torturing the former Husky Harris before his repackaging and transformation. Bray Wyatt, now twisted into The Fiend, could pull Punk in a new direction as he faces the modern equivalent of The Undertaker.
Punk vs. NXT
This is where Punk should truly shine — a brand where his freedom and attitude will be celebrated and encouraged. There are at least 8-10 people on the black and gold brand who could benefit from a run against the Straight Edge Savior.
Adam Cole is number one on my list of dream opponents for Punk. Cole is in the best spot of his career, running NXT his way and beating anyone who gets in his way with the help of the dastardly Undisputed Era. He is in peak ring shape, can put on an amazing match against literally anyone, and is top 5 on the stick. Punk vs. Cole would be money.
I’ve got a thing for Punk taking on odder opponents, especially younger guys who could use that bump. Velveteen Dream and Punk would make an amazing tag team or have wonderful matches trying to outdo each other. Dream is already on his way towards being a top-tier Superstar, and could use that one big feud to elevate himself to the main event scene and eventually a title run.
Here’s a list of exactly why Punk would be a valuable addition to the on-air or developmental coaching staff for NXT: Pete Dunne, Johnny Gargano, Tomasso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, Rhea Ripley, Shayna Baszler, the list goes on. Punk’s history, style, and free-thinking approach to pro wrestling could elevate any and all of these Superstars whether or not he ever steps into the ring again. We are living in an unprecedented era of professional wrestling and the only thing missing is CM Punk.
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