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WWE house shows don’t often create monumental buzz, but C.M. Punk was the center of attention on social media last night. Punk, who was making his first in-ring appearance for WWE since returning to the company, caused quite a stir and clips of fans entering the arena along with Punk’s entrance and match against Dominick Mysterio went viral on nearly every social media platform Tuesday night.
Punk was Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation lighting up MSG not just for his enthusiastic fans in attendance, but for also for those following along at home on various social media channels.
Punk wasn’t in the main event, but he was THE event. Last night was the type of night that shows why WWE brought Punk back after his troublesome and drama-filled tenure in AEW that saw him clash with The Elite, Jungle Boy, and AEW president Tony Khan, who said after his confrontation with Punk backstage at All In in London in August that he feared for his life.
The Punk in AEW and the Punk in WWE so far are too very different people. Everyone I’ve spoken to have noted his positive attitude behind the scenes. He’s visited WWE PC where he’s drawn rave reviews as well for his attitude and willingness to give back to wrestlers there.
MSG has often been the barometer of who’s hot and who’s not in wrestling. Punk, making his first in-ring appearance for WWE in over 10 years, had the crowd in the palm of his hand and judging by the clips online, Dominick Mysterio was the perfect heel along with Rhea Ripley helping him out at ringside to drive the crowd into a fever pitch to see Punk get the win over Mysterio.
The financial numbers backed up Punk’s social media engagement with Fightful reporting that WWE’s annual post-Christmas stop at MSG was the highest grossing non-televised WWE event in history. Think of all the stars that have headlined at MSG and Punk’s first match back topped them all in terms of drawing power.
So what does all this mean in the short term? Punk sure gave Triple H a lot of reasons to pause and think over his plans for WrestleMania one last time. It appears that Punk is on track to feud with Rollins heading into WWE’s biggest PLE of the year.
What if the way the MSG fans reacted to Punk last night gave WWE head of creative Triple H pause in terms of the apparent plan which would be for Cody Rhodes to finish his story and beat Roman. WWE already put that story on hold once with Reigns beating Cody in the main event of WrestleMania 39 thanks to tons of outside interference.
Could Punk be the one to dethrone Reigns and end his 1,000 day plus title reign? I don’t think so. Given Punk’s history, the safer route is to leave him in a feud with Rollins in a match that likely headlines night one of WM 40. Punk is very much still in his honeymoon period with WWE and we’ve yet to hear how he reacted to a situation he didn’t like backstage.
Maybe that situation never materializes and WWE simply doesn’t have the type of drama that prevailed behind the scenes during Punk’s time in AEW. If Punk didn’t carry such a big risk factor, I could see Triple H having him win the Royal Rumble and challenge Reigns to main event WrestleMania.
As hot as Punk is right now, Punk vs. Reigns is the biggest match WWE could put together. Cody Rhodes is a big star as well, but his journey to toppling Reigns doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal right now, which is due in part to the wheels not really starting to crank up the volume on his journey to WM 40 just yet.
Once WWE begins heating up the Rhodes vs. Reigns feud once again, there’s no doubt it will do huge business, but Punk vs. Reigns seems like it would be an unbelievable way to end WM 40: Night 2 this year. Cody Rhodes doing his best Captain America impersonation and saving WWE from Reign’s reign of terror is a really good story.
Punk dethroning Reigns right now feels like the biggest thing WWE could do short of bringing in Rock for WrestleMania 40 too face Reigns, which has about as much chance of happening as Lloyd Christmas had getting together with Mary in Dumb and Dumber.
WWE MSG was a fun night for wrestling fans to engage in the product and in Punk’s star power. It’s always fun to see someone like Punk cause such a commotion that it’s worth at least considering that he might give the company reason to change their direction.
As much as Triple H and Punk have appeared to be on good terms since Triple H helped to orchestrate Punk’s return to the company, it’s likely he’s going to wait longer than a couple of months before putting Punk in such a prominent position.
Contact Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on X @SR_Torch