What Effect Could CM Punk Have On AEW’s business?

On the latest edition of Wrestlenomics Radio, Brandon Thurston and Chris Gullo discussed AEW running another Chicago show, this time at the United Center on August 20 for the second episode of Rampage. The event sold over 10,000 seats in presale and sold out quickly on Monday.

On the July 28 episode of Dynamite, there were many CM Punk references throughout the show as a report came out that Punk is in talks with AEW for an in-ring return. The most clear reference for many fans was in a Darby Allin promo that was played after the announcement of the United Center event on for AEW Rampage on August 20.

Allin said, “I’ll be in Chicago. You know I’ve been around a lot of men in this world that have laid claim to how they’re the greatest, and there’s only one place to really prove that, right here in AEW, even if you think you’re the best in the world.”

Thurston and Gullo discussed what they will be looking out for when it comes to the United Center show and the future ahead.

Brandon Thurston: Let’s try to look ahead here. Let’s say CM Punk debuts on the August 20 Rampage. He doesn’t wrestle, probably, but maybe he wrestles by the time he’s on the All Out pay-per-view. Maybe that’s CM Punk’s first professional wrestling match since early 2014 at the Royal Rumble.

If he wrestles on the pay-per-view, All Out on September 5, what is that going to draw? It depends greatly, obviously, on the rest of the card. It depends greatly on who his opponent is. It depends on how it’s promoted, what the angles are promoting it and the sentiment around the match, but I think it’s reasonable to expect maybe he wrestles Darby Allin just because why else would you have Darby Allin do that promo saying, “even if you’re the best in the world,” on Dynamite after the United Center announcement.

I could see CM Punk being interested in wrestling somebody Darby Allin. That adds up to me. What does he draw on pay-per-view? At this point, the biggest AEW pay-per-view is Revolution at about 135,000 buys.

Chris Gullo: What do you think? Do you think it breaks 150?

Thurston: Yeah, I think it does. Again, it depends greatly on the execution and the other context. All Out did roughly 90,000 last year. Maybe 175,000 to 200,000?

Another thing I wanted to talk about in this context is the viewership. I think they do have CM Punk. I think they would be insane to do anything other than already have CM Punk under contract and then book and advertise this United Center with hints all around that CM Punk is going to be there. I think they have CM Punk. If they didn’t have Bryan Danielson, I don’t know why Tony Khan would say “no comment” in relation to both of them in an interview that he did recently.

Gullo: If he’s going to be there, and just thinking previously about how Turner didn’t want AEW to not advertise debuts of major talent and all that, do you think they advertise by the 13th, the first Rampage, “Hey, next week, CM Punk will be in the United Center.”

Thurston: I don’t know. I think that’s a calculation that’s debatable. Which way is there more interest? You’re already going to sell out the building. You don’t need it for ticket sales. Is there more buzz and talk that leads to stronger viewership by leaving it strongly implied or by being explicit? I think if the reaction was weaker, yeah, just make it explicit.

Gullo: But people will tune in expecting it and not have to have it out there publicly.

Thurston: If Bryan and Punk are on their way to AEW, I want to think about how that affects TV ratings too, especially in September.

I know AEW’s not really competition to WWE, but ratings between Dynamite and Raw might get closer than ever. Raw will be against Monday Night Football in September. Meanwhile on Dynamite you might have the addition of Punk and Bryan and whatever other momentum they have, assuming that they continue to be at least as well booked and well produced as they are currently.

Excerpts from Wrestlenomics Radio were edited for clarity.

Jason Ounpraseuth has covered pro wrestling since 2019. He co-hosts the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also an independent pro wrestler and trainer. For more, see our About page.

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