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Brock Lesnar’s WWE Return Happened At Last Minute Due To CM Punk’s AEW Debut

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 28, 2021

One of the greatest weekends in wrestling history occurred as a result of CM Punk’s debut in AEW.

According to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via Wrestling Inc), Brock Lesnar’s surprising return to WWE at Summerslam last Sunday was in part due to Punk’s own debut on AEW Rampage last Friday.

After 16 months away from the company, Lesnar returned following Roman Reigns’ successful Universal Title defense against John Cena. Lesnar had an abrupt stare-down with Reigns, setting up a likely feud between the two.

Meltzer also cites WWE’s relationship with FOX and Cena leaving again as reasons for why “The Beast” returned.

Perhaps most importantly, the decision to bring back Lesnar was made to appease Fox. The network was reportedly unhappy about WWE not offering Punk “big money” to return. Meltzer states that WWE “felt the need to get Lesnar and (Becky) Lynch to SmackDown right away.”

While neither side will admit to it, it’s clear that both WWE and AEW are taking swings at one another.

Punk’s hometown debut in Chicago on Rampage led to the company’s best ratings since AEW Dynamite premiered on TNT in October of 2019. The cable rating of the August 20 episode posted a 0.53 rating in the 18-49 demographic, the highest since Dynamite’s first episode.

During his debut promo, the former WWE superstar took some subtle shots at his former employer — without mentioning the company’s name — while sitting in the same cross-legged pose that he used to cut his famous “pipebomb” promo.

“I cried because I knew I leaving a place that I love, and it was a home, and I knew where I was going. It wasn’t going to be easy for a guy like me,” Punk said. “Because I’m one of you. So I look at it like this. August 13th, 2005, I left professional wrestling. August 20, 2021, I’m back.”

The momentum following the debut of Punk similarly led to monster ratings for the company’s flagship show, Dynamite, this past Wednesday. Dynamite drew 1.172 million viewers — up from the previous Wednesday’s numbers of 975,000 viewers.

It drew a cable rating of 0.80 — the highest rating for a Dynamite episode since its debut back in October of 2019.

Meanwhile, the WWE touted its numbers from Summerslam, mentioning its record-breaking viewership, social media numbers and live audience attendance.

Despite AEW’s rise in ratings — Dynamite has now drawn over one million viewers in four of the past seven weeks — the WWE is still king in that department. For example, WWE Friday Night Smackdown drew 2.1 million viewers and a 0.57 rating in the 18-49 demographic for the final episode prior to Summerslam.

However, there’s a clear momentum shift — and it’s all in favor of AEW.

The internet and mainstream buzz of Punk’s long-awaited debut — there was even a reference to it during a Chicago Bears preseason game broadcast — has led to widespread interest in pro wrestling not seen since the “Monday Night Wars” years prior.

With AEW expected to return to Chicago once again for its “All Out” PPV on Sep. 5, it’ll be interesting to see the buy rate for Punk’s first PPV appearance. That’s not even mentioning the expected debuts of former WWE World Champions in Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt — whenever that may occur — adding even more buzz to the rising company.

The WWE did not follow up on Lesnar’s return at Summerslam in the most recent episode of Smackdown on Friday night. Instead, it looks like they’ll have Reigns bide his time until his feud with Lesnar with a potential mini-feud against former Universal Champion Finn Balor.

Lesnar has eight matches under his new contract with the WWE. The deal is expected to run through early 2023 and possibly into Wrestlemania 39 season.

Instead, it looks like they’ll pass through the Clash of Champions PPV in September before having Lesnar re-ignite his feud with Reigns in time for their next Crown Jewel PPV in Saudi Arabia in October.

As AEW debuts its new — and former WWE stars — in the coming weeks, along with riding the momentum of Punk’s arrival, it’ll be interesting to see how viewership numbers look heading into the new year.

While AEW will be able to rely upon Punk and its stars to be there week in and week out, the WWE will not be able to enjoy that luxury with their part-time main event stars.

And that may ultimately shift the momentum permanently in AEW’s favor moving forward.

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