Tony Khan Provides Details On The Process Of Signing CM Punk
AEW President Tony Khan has gone into detail about the lengthy process that led to AEW signing CM Punk after a seven-year absence from pro wrestling.
Rumours that CM Punk would be ending his seven-year hiatus from pro wrestling and signing with AEW began to gain traction in the summer of 2021.
Then when the company announced that the second episode of Rampage would be held in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, fans’ excitement went through the roof and the event sold out in minutes. Those who were able to secure tickets were not disappointed as Punk debuted to one of the biggest reactions in wrestling history and announced that he was indeed “All Elite”.
Speaking to Kenny McIntosh in issue 17 of the Inside The Ropes magazine, Khan explained the journey that began in 2018 and led to him eventually signing CM Punk.
“Well, we had to run a great business, keep it running, and really prove to ‘The Best in the World’ that this is a viable entity. I had a really good meeting with him Boxing Day 2018. We had a good chat and he seemed like a really, really high integrity person—I liked him a lot immediately. But he also was very open and honest with me and said that he wouldn’t feel comfortable coming back and being a guinea pig for a start-up company. He wanted to follow us and see how it went, but he was interested.”
“It then went into 2019 and we made history with the launch of AEW and had a very successful debut show with Double Or Nothing, where Jon Moxley made his debut and it was a huge pay-per-view audience and a great live audience in Las Vegas—it was a very special night in the history of this company.”
“Then, of course, we went through the summer and built towards the launch of Dynamite in October of 2019. Then as we were really getting as hot as we had ever been at that point, we had done maybe our best pay-per-view to that point, Revolution ’20, a couple of weeks later, the global pandemic shut down the world and the nature of wrestling tours really changed.”
Khan went on to talk about how he kept building his relationship with Punk during the pandemic and discussed his excitement at Punk tweeting a list of young stars in AEW he wanted to work with.
“I stayed in touch with CM Punk. I was really fortunate to build a friendship with him during the pandemic, talking with him on the phone, texting, and just staying in touch. The more we talked, the more it became clear that he really liked AEW. He liked watching it and he liked Dynamite and a lot of the young wrestlers that he was watching.”
“He eventually tweeted a list of young wrestlers he was watching and that he wanted to get in the ring and wrestle against. That list is now kind of canon and has been memorialised, but at the time that just got me really excited. I’m thinking, “Man, CM Punk watches Dynamite, he’s into the show and he likes a lot of our wrestlers.” It gave me a lot of hope that he would want to come to AEW and join us.”
Finally, when it was time to plan for a return to touring, Khan revealed that was when CM Punk wanted to be a part of it, leading to First Dance in Chicago.
“Then, as we had some light at the end of the tunnel and I was planning to return on the road and schedule arenas to go back and continue touring for AEW across all the great cities again, he wanted to be a part of it. It felt amazing to be able to make something happen that meant so much to wrestling fans all over the world. That was what The First Dance was all about.”
H/T to Inside The Ropes for the above quotes.