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Everything You Need to Know About CM Punk's Survivor Series 2023 Return

The WWE Universe is still in shock over CM Punk's unprecedented return to WWE!

By Chris Phelan
CM Punk appears during WWE Survivor Series

Let’s get right into it: Hell has officially frozen over. 

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CM Punk is back in WWE.

While Survivor Series 2023 proved to be an unforgettable event on its own merits, the return of one of the most polarizing and popular WWE Superstars ever is rightfully stealing the headlines across every media outlet. No easy feat in a night where Randy Orton also made his triumphant comeback. The WWE Universe was treated to one of the most holy bleep moments in sports entertainment history at the end of Survivor Series 2023 on November 25 while the conquering heroes of the men’s WarGames match were celebrating their brutal victory over The Judgment Day. That's when the WWE Universe’s collective jaws fell to the floor.

If you had “CM Punk in WWE in 2023” on your bingo cards, it’s time to pat yourselves on the back because not even we saw this one coming.

Today, USA Insider is looking at the who, what, why, and how of the unexpected return of CM Punk.

Who is CM Punk?

CM Punk appears during WWE Survivor Series

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for years, you’re fully aware of who CM Punk is. However, newer fans may not be familiar with the man synonymous with controversy inside and outside the ring.

Debuting in WWE as part of the ECW brand in 2006 after many years of wrestling on the United States independent scene, CM Punk immediately made a splash. Touting the benefits and advantages his straight-edge lifestyle provided, Punk found his footing with a bold, confident, and cocky attitude paired with a high-impact in-ring style.

RELATED: From "Legend Killer" to Legend: A Look at the WWE Career of Randy Orton

In the mid-2000s, CM Punk stood out in the best way in WWE. He was indeed a one-of-a-kind Superstar, and the WWE Universe acknowledged this fact by supporting him throughout the early stages of his career. Some WWE Superstars have unbridled passion for pro wrestling, and fans saw the reverence and respect CM Punk gave the industry – for better or worse, CM Punk was the everyman that every fan saw in themselves.

Punk’s rise to the top of WWE was a genuine grassroots effort. Whether he played the villain or the hero, the WWE Universe never wavered in their support. A master on the microphone, CM Punk is responsible for what many historians and fans consider the most significant live-mic moment in wrestling history – the Pipe Bomb. 

In the early 2010s, there was nothing like CM Punk with a microphone in hand.

He parlayed his masterful microphone prowess and world-class in-ring acumen into a lengthy reign with the WWE Championship, holding the title for over a year before being defeated by The Rock at Royal Rumble 2013. 

When Did CM Punk Last Appear in WWE?

CM Punk appears during WWE Survivor Series

Before we look closer at the circumstances surrounding CM Punk’s WWE return, it’s important to note his last official WWE appearance: Royal Rumble 2014. 

While CM Punk was still as popular as ever with the WWE Universe, his performance in the Royal Rumble match left a lot to be desired – it was rumored he was battling severe injuries throughout the match and was ultimately eliminated by Kane in decidedly unceremonious fashion. Bizarrely, that was the last time the WWE Universe saw CM Punk in WWE – until November 25, 2023, of course.

In the blink of an eye, CM Punk was gone, leading to a myriad of questions and controversy regarding his WWE exit. 

Why Did CM Punk Leave WWE?

CM Punk appears during WWE Survivor Series

Truth be told, there is a litany of reasons CM Punk left WWE in 2014, ranging from personal to professional to legal – and going through all of these is pointless. Besides, countless pro wrestling websites have covered his departure ten years ago ad nauseam. Essentially, CM Punk wasn’t happy with WWE and vice versa, leading to one of the most acrimonious splits in wrestling history.

All you need to know is that CM Punk left WWE in 2014 – and his relationship with the company was so fractured many experts, fans, and fellow Superstars swore that Punk would never compete in a WWE ring again, making CM Punk’s shocking Survivor Series appearance all the more unbelievable. It’s more complicated than we could ever imagine, but until Survivor Series, nobody believed CM Punk would be welcomed back to WWE – and nobody believed CM Punk would ever want to return.

Where Has CM Punk Been?

CM Punk appears during WWE Survivor Series

While CM Punk vanished from the public eye for eight years after his 2014 WWE exit, he didn’t stay away from the wrestling industry completely. He returned to pro wrestling in 2022 with All Elite Wrestling – the same company that allowed burgeoning megastars Jade Cargill and Brian Pillman, Jr. to sign with WWE earlier this year – where he captured their world championship on two occasions. 

Allegedly, behind-the-scenes drama marred Punk’s run with that company, eventually leading to his very public firing in September 2023. However, his exit immediately stoked speculation that CM Punk wouldn’t once again simply fade away into obscurity – and the WWE Universe immediately began buzzing that the multi-time WWE Champion would make his triumphant return home. 

At Survivor Series – against all odds – those fans got their wish.

Why Did CM Punk Come Back to WWE?

CM Punk appears during WWE Survivor Series

Only the man himself can give reasons why he returned to WWE at Survivor Series, but thankfully, it seems the WWE Universe won’t have to wait long to discover those reasons! WWE has already announced that CM Punk will appear on the November 27 episode of Monday Night Raw – a move that virtually guarantees a record-breaking television audience will be tuning in to hear what Punk has to say.

Is CM Punk back in WWE because he wants to mend personal fences? Is he back to win championships? Has he returned because he wants to give the WWE Universe more reasons to cheer (or boo) him every week? Only time will tell, but it goes without saying that the November 27 edition of Raw has been officially elevated into can’t-miss territory.

We still can’t believe CM Punk returned – even though we slyly alluded to the rumors during our recent Survivor Series coverage and Seth Rollins in particular (but oh boy, more on Seth in a moment).

Do Triple H and CM Punk Hate Each Other Behind the Scenes?

Triple H speaking into a mic

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: One of the more prevailing theories in WWE history has suggested Triple H and CM Punk have had a contentious relationship dating back to Punk’s early days in WWE. Many of Punk’s fans have believed their hero was “held back’ behind the scenes by Triple H, who wielded significant creative power even back during Punk’s rise to the top of WWE in the early 2010s.

However, judging by this social media post, Triple H and Punk have seemingly patched things up – or at least come to a common understanding:

Triple H’s “Mighty cold day in hell” message alludes to the two men’s strained relationship, but it looks like, in 2023, fences have been mended, and both parties are looking forward to unprecedented success. Triple H said as much during the post-Survivor Series press conference, declaring both men far removed from their respective pasts.

“You know, a lot of time has gone by, almost 10 years, right?” Triple H stated. “And if you are the same person you were ten years ago – ten years later – you’ve messed up. Everybody grows. Everybody changes, and I’m a different person. He’s a different person.”

It sounds like, for the first time in their professional careers, both men are aligned and looking forward to making history. After all, nobody can generate interest in WWE like CM Punk. At the press conference, Triple H revealed that he shares in the WWE Universe’s excitement over this mind-boggling return. 

“So, what’s next for CM Punk?” Triple H asked rhetorically. “That’ll be interesting, won’t it? I’m interested to see that myself. I know whatever it is, it will be talked about, it will be exciting, it will be a thrill ride for the WWE Universe no matter what it is, and I’m thrilled, we’re all thrilled to have him back here and to have him – it’s cliche to say – but to have him back home in WWE. It’s where he belongs.”

How Does the WWE Locker Room Feel About CM Punk?

Wwe Seth Rollins Mitb Matchup3

Predictably, it seems that the WWE locker room is divided over CM Punk’s reemergence – and the current World Heavyweight Champion may have inadvertently tipped his hand regarding his true feelings toward Punk.

Savvy members of the WWE Universe captured footage of Seth Rollins visibly angry at the end of Survivor Series (with the champion throwing some decidedly non-PG words in CM Punk’s direction), and social media is buzzing with rumors that Seth is not happy with what happened as the show went off the air. Seth Rollins has made his opinion about CM Punk known in recent years, and judging by what happened after WarGames in Chicago, many fans think Seth hasn’t changed his tune. 

It’s 2023, and CM Punk is officially back in WWE. We never thought we’d be writing those words, but here we are. It’s time to buckle up, WWE Universe – we’re all about to go on the ride of a lifetime.

We’re officially in uncharted waters – and wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Catch up on all things CM Punk and the WWE Universe on Peacock.