After seven years away from the ring, CM Punk is back in professional wrestling.
Punk returned Friday night with All Elite Wrestling, appearing on Rampage in his hometown of Chicago. AEW never announced Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, would appear on the show but teased it on several occasions.
Punk’s “Cult of Personality” music hit at the top of the show as the crowd erupted. What followed was one of the loudest and most sustained reactions ever in pro wrestling. Punk leaped into the crowd on his way to the ring after taking several breaks to soak in the moment in front of his hometown crowd.
Punk had been talking with AEW founder Tony Khan for a year and a half and would have returned sooner, he said, if not for the pandemic.
“I knew I couldn’t debut if there was no people in the building,” Punk said. “I always say timing is everything. There were a lot of happy accidents along the way to make this possible.”
Punk — his real name is Phil Brooks — was released from WWE in 2014 after a lengthy public dispute with CEO Vince McMahon. He is a three-time WWE World Heavyweight champion and former WWE champion.
Punk will officially step back into the ring at AEW “All Out” on Sept. 5 to take on Darby Allin in Chicago.