CREDIT: All Elite Wrestling

On Saturday night, WWE will present the 37th annual Survivor Series Premium Live Event.

With a pair of WarGames matches, Randy Orton’s return from injury after 18 months away, and reportedly the biggest WWE crowd in the storied history of Chicago’s Allstate Arena, the level of excitement heading into the event is off the charts.

One glaring question still hangs over the entire event, however: Will CM Punk show up?

In the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer said that while WWE has denied Punk showing up, but it could be a well-kept secret

“Of course the biggest question regarding the show probably involves C.M. Punk. If WWE was to bring in Punk, this night or Smackdown the night before would be the place to debut him. We’ve seen no evidence this is happening and those close to the situation have denied it, but it is possible it’s a well-kept secret.
We do know that one of the key reasons they made sure Orton’s name was out and didn’t do a surprise was the idea that it would lead to people expecting Punk in that spot and they wanted that shut down. If Punk isn’t there the last thing the company wants is Punk chants during the show. From the start we were told that while there is negativity about Punk, they are not completely opposed to it if the idea is it’s something they have to do in regard to fan response. While every creative head has their plan, this creative side is not looking at being combative with the audience like Vince McMahon often was.”

Punk, a Chicago native, worked for WWE from 2006-14, when he walked out on the promotion and was subsequently fired over a series of disagreements between himself and the office. After a seven-year hiatus from wrestling, Punk signed with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) in 2021 where he worked until September 2023 when he was fired from the promotion.

Meltzer’s second point is arguably more interesting than his first. Since Punk’s departure in 2014, crowds have regularly chanted his name at WWE shows. For most of that time, Vince McMahon was the sole decision maker both creatively and from a business standpoint. Over the past few months, due to WWE’s merger with Endeavor to form TKO and McMahon’s legal issues that has shifted to where Paul “Triple H” Levesque is now in charge of the company’s creative direction. While it’s believed McMahon still has to sign off on Punk’s return from a business standpoint, it’s not as far-fetched as it would have seemed in the past.

For much of Punk’s hiatus from wrestling, WWE was seen as the only worthwhile promotion in the United States from an exposure and financial standpoint. While companies like IMPACT Wrestling and Ring of Honor both existed, they were never seen as serious competitors to WWE. The emergence of AEW, specifically after signing CM Punk, however, led to a massive business and ratings boom for the company, and showed that WWE’s lead in the market share may be dwindling.

Since WWE was “the only game in town” for much of the time, the fans chanting CM Punk’s name didn’t make a difference, as McMahon was going to do things his way regardless of what the crowd thought. As we’ve seen from Levesque’s time at the helm of creative and as Meltzer notes, he would rather embrace what the audience wants and let that guide him instead of doing things his way regardless of how the fans react.

In an interesting bit of timing, Living Colour released a remastered version of its 1988 hit “Cult of Personality” on Friday. Punk used the song as his entrance theme in both WWE and AEW.

Will Punk make his return to WWE after a near decade-long hiatus? We’ll find out on Saturday. But it’s certainly noteworthy that Meltzer’s not ruling it out.

[Wrestling Observer Newsletter] [Haus of Wrestling]