CM Punk's sensational return to WWE has sparked a renewed enthusiasm among wrestling fans, particularly evident from the record-breaking viewership of his return video at the Survivor Series. This moment, hailed as the most-watched social event in WWE's history, also propelled a significant 30% surge in "WWE Raw's" viewership.
While WWE reaps the benefits of Punk's return, wrestling legend Booker T has voiced his concerns over its impact on AEW, particularly in the vital Chicago market. Speaking on his "Hall of Fame" podcast, Booker T emphasized the magnitude of Punk's departure from AEW.
"This is a huge blow for AEW's Chicago market," he stated. When CM Punk joined AEW, it was seen as a major coup, setting the stage for the organization's ambitious plans to elevate its presence, especially in Chicago. However, Booker T believes that AEW's ability to maintain its momentum in Chicago will be severely challenged without a star of Punk's caliber.
AEW's Missed Opportunities
Drawing parallels to his experiences during the WCW era, where "WCW Nitro" famously outperformed "WWE Raw" in ratings for 83 consecutive weeks, Booker T reflected on the missed opportunities for AEW.
He observed that AEW, despite never surpassing WWE in the ratings, failed to fully capitalize on Punk's star power. This oversight, according to Booker T, could have long-term repercussions for AEW, potentially forcing Tony Khan, AEW's President, to make difficult decisions about the future of the company.
"Sooner or later, I feel like Tony Khan will be doing the same thing [as Ted Turner] unless he keeps his mouth shut and just runs his company," he cautioned. The Hall of Famer further elaborated on the dual nature of Punk's move, highlighting its significant impact on both organizations.
"This is a bigger blow to AEW but also a huge win for WWE. They are both equal if it were a Road Warrior pop [laughs]. It was a huge blow [for AEW] just because of the build-up and how much they put into that thing — just for it to fall apart the way it did." This assessment underscores the high-stakes nature of wrestling's competitive landscape, where the movement of a single star like CM Punk can dramatically shift the balance of power between rival organizations.