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Long Term Benefit of Airing All In Footage Depends on Him

It would have been very easy to rip AEW weeks ago for needlessly airing the footage from the now-infamous footage of CM Punk and Jack Perry’s altercation at All In last August, because more than anything I believe most — fans and wrestlers alike — want to move past the incident and just enjoy wrestling.

Time and again, any reference from any party has only served to drag the individuals involved back into the muck of the situation. As we recall, during WrestleMania week CM Punk sat down with Ariel Helwani for an interview where the latter asked Punk about his side of the story to which he downplayed the incident and further characterized AEW as having a poor business model. The latter isn’t so much the point here as it is the ripple effects of Punk and Perry’s actions last year.

During that interview Punk stated he told Tony Khan the split brand concept that led to the birth of Collision was not going to work, functioning instead as a way to address the underlying problems deriving from All Out 2022 without actually talking about them in the same way you would usher dirt under a rug as opposed to sweeping it up or vacuuming it like adults would. In that you can definitely criticize the AEW leadership, and it’s something that anyone with a working brain could tell you was not going to work.

We also need to point out as well that Helwani has become stooge-adjacent in the last several years in how he has covered wrestling with a far-from-balanced approach. His bias against AEW here was as clear as his line of questioning was transparent. That in and of itself isn’t the point here, because again, I think if you can think critically of what you’re watching what I said above is fairly apparent with even a smidge of media literacy.

What spiraled out of it though arguably cast a negative light on Punk once the footage was aired on AEW TV. While you can be an apologist and downplay the footage, tacking on as well that Perry acted like a child last summer right up to All In, Punk’s actions on their own merit are difficult to defend. And Perry, for all his mistakes leading up to the event, was scapegoated in the fallout.

It’s going to remain to be seen if Perry learned anything of himself in his time away. At least up to now, as someone who’s watched AEW unwaveringly since day one, it’s felt at varying times there’s a lack of accountability, especially in how Khan handled Punk and the entire fallout from All Out 2022 right up to All In. The questions we have to ask here are what did Perry learn about himself while he was suspended? Furthermore, does he understand how his actions affected the company, and has he grown as a human? That’s something we will have to watch for amid his pairing with the Young Bucks and Okada.

“The Scapegoat”

Perry’s reemergence in January during NJPW’s Battle in the Valley U.S. show with an edgier look set the wheels in motion for his return to AEW last month. Tearing an AEW contract in half, attacking Shoto Umino and seemingly siding with Bullet Club subfaction House of Torture, Perry stood out, spoke to the camera and audience better than he did with his promos prior to his suspension and showed he put some work in while away. That needs to at least be acknowledged; there’s little comparison between his promos last year and what he’s doing now. That apparent emergence of his own confidence has made him at least a promo worth listening to both after NJPW shows and during AEW events. While he still has far to go before hitting an elite level, he’s really leaned into the character, and that aspect of his return meshes well with the message the heel Young Bucks and Okada are pushing within the latest incarnation of The Elite.

In this respect, his return at Dynasty to help the Young Bucks defeat FTR (noted CM Punk buddies to fit the “Scapegoat” narrative) seems like a perfect fit for this incarnation of Perry who a year ago we still called “Jungle Boy” and serenaded him with Baltimora hits — a song that predates his birth by about 12 years. This is a version you can begin to at least take seriously apart from the “woahs” and partnership with an intelligent dinosaur with a mastery of martial arts. That sentiment has only continued since with attacks on Kenny Omega and Eddie Kingston at the most recent U.S. NJPW show on May 11, with the promos around both characterizing his mission to “change the world” toward the vision of AEW and wrestling as a whole that drives this version of the heel Elite. For that to continue to work, looking at them solely as a trio set apart from Okada, the Bucks need to continue only being the sniveling, ratty little jerks throwing their EVP weight around like they run the company while letting Perry be a primary talker of the group. They should effectively function as Okada’s hypemen and Perry’s backup and have as little of the focus on them as possible outside of being douchebag EVPs and the company’s tag team champions.

Airing the All In footage was very risky, and depending on your opinion it was either middling and irrelevant or a non-issue, it was the night AEW jumped at least 13 individual sharks, or the moment they took control of the narrative Punk and Helwani set and tried to use it to make something positive out of it in reestablishing Perry and his new character. There may even be deviations within those, and how you interpret the chain of events from that point is up to you.

As of now I’d argue Perry is in a better place than he was a year ago, and what matters most is how he is depicted alongside the other three members of the Elite, and even more so whether or not he has actually learned anything from how he carried himself last summer to the extent he came off as a privileged nepo baby. He’s probably a good kid, but perception is everything and his aura is going to have that taint until it’s clear he’s evolved and learned from his mistakes.

That’s as important as what happens on screen on the microphone and between the ropes regardless of who he’s addressing or wrestling. He at least deserves the right to have that chance, but he shouldn’t be given carte blanche simply because of who he’s running with on screen at the moment. I’ve said before that both Punk and Perry were in the wrong last year, but as the veteran in the situation Punk acted in Perry’s best interest and he allegedly acted as has been reported. If anything, Perry in 2024 should want to prove that perception to be 100% irrefutably false.

Whether or not that happens is up to him.

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