TW: Suicidal ideation

On September 2 2023, CM Punk’s contract was terminated with cause for All Elite Wrestling following an altercation that had occurred at AEW’s All In PPV a few days prior. This termination came after Punk reportedly sparked an altercation because of something said by “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry. This fight got bad enough that production people and AEW owner Tony Khan felt endangered. In fact, Punk reportedly lunged at Khan himself. 

This occurred about a year after Punk was suspended and left AEW television for about ten months following another incident he sparked at AEW’s All Out PPV 2022, where he verbally attacked multiple wrestlers who helped found the company and caused a brawl backstage that saw grown ass men biting each other. Punk was rewarded with basically his own show and supposedly the power to veto who appeared on the show with him.

As is the case with wrestling, as soon as Punk was terminated by AEW, rumblings occurred about whether or not he would go back to WWE, where he left in equally huffy fashion back in February 2014. This is despite multiple cases of Punk having pissed off multiple parties in the company, including the guy at the head of WWE creative, Triple H. And also, y’know, getting terminated for physically attacking his last boss.  

While in the past few months, these rumblings of Punk to WWE have been seemingly debunked by people like Sean Ross Sapp (or at the very least confirmed the two sides haven’t spoken in the while), it didn’t stop several days of fans speculating and getting excited at the prospect of seeing him back on their screens and the sheer amount of drama he would cause off their screens. This was fueled heavily by WWE Survivor Series this year taking place in Punk’s hometown of Chicago.

Even more recently, Punk was confirmed to be backstage at TNA/Impact Wrestling’s biggest show of the year, Bound for Glory. This is in addition to what appears to be an open door to be involved with NJPW.

All the speculation also made me personally pretty damn upset.

That’s because CM Punk almost certainly needs some kind of help for his mental health and all anyone can talk about is where he’s going to show up next, all while I’ve been forced to face 30 years of mental health problems that have caused my personal life to warp around me.

Around the time of the All In incident, a series of events sent me into a horrid spiral of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts that got bad enough, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Afterwards, I began an intense but incredibly enriching therapy program. I pushed against so much of it initially because it would get in the way of the work I was doing or was assigned to do. Clearly, the fractures in my mental state could no longer be ignored and people who cared about me made sure I got the help I so desperately needed.     

CM Punk does not need to be in AEW. He does not need to be in WWE. He does not need to be in TNA. He needs to be in therapy.

I say this not knowing anything about how he’s handled his own treatment of any mental health in the past, but I do know he has a wife who has an entire brand focused around it. AJ Lee is open about her bipolar disorder and speaks about it quite candidly in her autobiography, as well as being a huge advocate for mental health in general. So he very much has people in his life that are close to him that have at least some of the tools to help him. On top of that, I’m sure he was making absolute bank in AEW on both his megastar contract and monster merchandise sales. He’d have the monetary resources to afford some help for sure.

Of course, knowing how Punk has operated for most of his career, he does seem like the kind of guy who would be offered plenty of mental health assistance over the years and has refused to partake. Or if he has, he’s got so much willingness to believe that only he has the answers or whatever that it might not stick. 

All I’m saying is as “entertaining” as it could be to see him back on a screen or cause more backstage drama, it is impossible for me to look at any of these rumors with any kind of objectivity or lack of fury when this man has had everything handed to him for two years, still acts like a blubbering toddler, makes Instagram vagueposts in Comic Sans, and might get another chance somewhere when I have the overwhelming homework of renegotiating my entire worldview.  

Part of what drove me into the ground is defining myself by my work. As a freelancer and as a creator, this is a dangerous area I was more than susceptible to and I fell into the pit hard. Especially here in the American work culture, it’s easy to get wrapped up in only how much you or other people can produce or that you’re only worth something when you produce something. Hell, the way our financial systems and work cultures are set up, that sort of view is enthusiastically endorsed and outright celebrated. We are punished, often passively, for having the gall to say that we need a break or that something is too much for us to handle.

That’s also why seeing a man as apt for self-destruction as CM Punk show back up in the news cycle focused on where he might work next was a pretty provoking thing. Even as fans we’re sort of engineered to just keep going on and get swept up in the hype of what’s to come next. Comics can be much of the same, with comics creators and aspiring creators falling just as hard into the “production identity” pit as I did. Wrestlers are artists as well and I’m sure they can go through similar spells. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if AEW and ROH owner and booker Tony Khan isn’t leaning into some of this as well, being solely responsible for anywhere between 5-10 hours of wrestling programming every single week and recently having his own sort of breakdown on social media.

This isn’t me excusing anything about Punk’s actions, by the way. Shit mental health may not necessarily be anyone’s choice, but it is our responsibility. It wasn’t an excuse for my own habits and it isn’t for him either; being an asshole has consequences and when you’re an asshole that is an outright danger to possibly everyone around you, you get no condolences on the way down. When you leave a huge black mark on a relatively young company on your way out, it doesn’t win you any fans either. 

Now that some cold water has been put on those rumors, I hope Punk and anyone who considers themselves a fan of his considers the man. He made his bed, and he should have the time to lie awake and self-reflect in it. Even if history shows he’ll learn absolutely nothing from this. At least maybe KENTA will get some peace.