CM Punk WWE Raw Warner Bros. Discovery Screen grab: WWE Raw

Taking to X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday afternoon, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter provided an update on WWE’s ongoing negotiations for the TV rights to its flagship show, WWE Raw.

Kind of.

“Things are changing greatly. Let’s just say things changed greatly with Raw negotiations from a few weeks ago,” Meltzer wrote. “And [CM] Punk is a huge part of the selling point.”

Meltzer’s post didn’t go any further than that, but many were quick to speculate that the longtime wrestling insider was referencing increased interest from Warner Bros. Discovery — which is currently the television home of rival promotion All Elite Wrestling (AEW). And while Meltzer hasn’t given any confirmation (or denial) that’s what he was hinting at, there are some easy dots to connect in favor of that theory.

After all, CM Punk — who made his surprise return to WWE last month — clearly had fans at WBD during his two-year run in AEW. In fact, the addition of AEW’s second primetime show, TNT’s AEW Collision, was largely seen as an attempt by the promotion and its broadcast partner to pacify Punk, who had reportedly been involved in a shoot (real) backstage altercation following the All Out pay-per-view in 2022.

Punk’s influence in AEW was such that he even reportedly had the ability to determine who was and wasn’t allowed to be at the building for Collision episodes. And while it’s unclear how much of a role WBD had in Punk obtaining such power, it’s a safe bet that AEW owner/president Tony Khan wouldn’t have enabled him if he didn’t think it would have paid off in the company’s next TV deal.

Of course, it never came to that, with AEW firing Punk for cause after he was involved in another backstage altercation this past August. That opened the door for the 45-year-old star to make his return to WWE, which he had left on sour terms in early 2014.

Thus far, Punk’s return to WWE has been nothing short of a success, especially when it comes to the ratings. But considering that “The Best in the World” has only been on three WWE television shows since his return (two episodes of Raw and one of SmackDown), it’s hard to imagine his return as truly moved the needle in negotiations — unless it’s with a potential partner he’s already familiar with.

Sure, that could be NBCUniversal, which has a longstanding relationship with WWE. But it’s hard to imagine NBCU — which has already reached a deal to air SmackDown starting next fall — wasn’t already involved in the bidding for what is currently its flagship show.

And then there’s Fox, which actually hired Punk to be a panelist on FS1’s WWE Backstage show in 2019. While the network is allowing SmackDown — which it has aired since 2019 — to leave next year, is it possible that Punk’s return has given Fox pro wrestling FOMO?

Perhaps, but not likely.

Rather, the simplest — and most intriguing — answer is that Punk’s return to WWE has increased WBD’s interest in Raw, which it has been linked to even before Punk’s return. While Warner Bros. Discovery currently airs three weekly AEW shows, those contracts expire next year, and curiously, there haven’t been many recent updates regarding a renewal. It’s also worth noting that just this week, WWE settled an antitrust lawsuit that had been filed by another wrestling promotion, MLW — a case that might have looked a lot different had WWE replaced AEW on WBD.

If there’s a suitor who Punk’s return has piqued the interest of — as Meltzer’s post implies — WBD makes the most sense.

In his debut promo on Collision in June, Punk said that WBD CEO David Zaslav refers to him as “One Bil Phil,” a reference to a potential $1 billion TV deal AEW was rumored to be in talks for. That deal never came to fruition — or at least it hasn’t yet.

Maybe it still could. And maybe it won’t be with AEW.

[Dave Meltzer on X]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.