Tonight AEW Dynamite returns to Philadelphia for the second anniversary of the show. But All Elite Wrestling is bringing some people back with them that weren’t with the company the first time around, one of them being “The Best in the World” CM Punk.
CM Punk recently sat down with Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer to discuss his history in Philadelphia and All Elite Wrestling. When the subject of his beginnings with Ring of Honor and the Murphy Rec Center was brought up, Punk tried to explain just how important that building was to him and his career:
“You walk into that building on a Tuesday and you’re like ‘I don’t get it. This building ain’t nothing,’” CM Punk said. “But if you walk into that building on a Saturday night in 2002 when it’s filled with maniacs going crazy for all this gnarly pro wrestling, that’s what made it special. It’s not the building that makes it special. It’s the people who fill the building up. That’s what we had with Ring of Honor.
“You have to realize that this was a time before the internet. I’m not saying the internet didn’t exist but it existed a lot less than it does now. So being a kid from Chicago and wrestling in Philadelphia, it really felt special to me. You obviously want what you do to feel special to everyone else and that was one of the first times I felt like ‘Wow these people actually know who I am. They recognize what I’ve already done and they’re very happy to see me.’ I think that just goes back decades. Philadelphia has always been a hardcore pro wrestling city.
“If I could use one word that I think a lot of people in Philly love now is gritty. I’ve never been a pretty guy. I’m very genuine. What you see is what you get. The Philadelphia crowd is the crowd that loves the bad guys. They didn’t care so much about the characters. They appreciated the craft and the work that went into it. I think that’s possibly why they took to me so well. People who love wrestling appreciate someone else who loves wrestling.”
When asked about his return to professional wrestling with All Elite Wrestling, Punk believes the company shares the same spirit of Ring of Honor and the Murphy Rec Center in Philadelphia:
“I’m glad I found it. I’m glad it exists,” CM Punk said. “Because it is the exact spirit of that place. It has the spirit of Ring of Honor. It has the spirit of the Murphy Rec Center when it’s 115 degrees inside and fans aren’t getting out of their seats because they’re afraid that they’re going to miss something amazing.”
Survivor Series 2006 in Philadelphia was also talked about when CM Punk received a better reaction from the live crowd than his tag team partners that evening, which included Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and other big-name talents at the time. Punk went on to reveal just how much that moment meant to him despite the heat it got him backstage:
“Not only did it mean something to me then, it means something to me now. That’s just validation that you’re good at what you do,” CM Punk said. “A lot of times in this business, it won’t make sense to the people in charge what catches fire. But if the people in charge are smart and have a brain in their head, they’ll recognize it and just go ‘Alright, this is what the fans want, we’re just going to give it to them.’ That kind of backfired on me at that point in Philly because that wasn’t the case. That’s not what happened.
“People were mad because ‘We don’t understand. Why’s this kid over?’ Then they’ll use the crutch of ‘Oh, it’s just internet fans.’ Yeah, OK, 18,000 people packed the place and they’re all just internet fans but whatever. It means something to me now because it was validation. Like ‘Yeah. My hard work is paying off. Yeah. People are seeing me and the things that I’m doing and people like me. Let’s go.’ Now I’m in a spot where if that happens, it’s embraced. It’s not picked apart and told why 18,000 screaming people are wrong. Now we’re just like ‘Yeah, those 18,000 screaming people were right.’”
Are you excited to see CM Punk return to Philadelphia tonight for AEW Dynamite? What do you think he’ll do on tonight’s show? Let us know your thoughts by sounding off in the comments section below.