Ever since the November 17th edition of AEW Dynamite when CM Punk and Maxwell Jacob Freidman first planted the seeds of discontent, the resulting rivalry has become arguably the most talked-about feud in AEW history. Two top-tier mic wielders from different generations cutting each other deep with wars of words that you can’t help but watch with bated breath, wondering what insults they’re going to throw at each other next.
The fiery first verbal exchange between the two on November 24th was utterly captivating programming, no shackles or chains, just an all-out war between two masters of their craft; one so good that it led to a rather lame imitation on the following week’s Monday Night Raw between Edge and The Miz. For Punk it was another fantastic showing of verbal chops in his short time thus far in AEW, having already created magic with Eddie Kingston a month prior. For MJF, the segment was just another notch on the 25-year-olds belt that he can keep up with and even surpass pretty much anyone on the microphone in the industry.
With quotable lines such as “less famous Miz”, “PG Punk” and “needle dick” being carried on signs and chanted by live audiences two months later, the promo clearly left its mark, with only more fuel added to the fire in subsequent exchanges on December 1st, 8th, and January 6th, episodes of Dynamite. Even two months later, every time MJF and Punk share a spotlight is quite enthralling viewing. A true testament to their abilities as entertainers, however, the time is coming where words must turn into action, and they meet one on one in the ring.
Punk and MJF have built this want and need for a physical payoff to the rivalry expertly, with MJF ducking and dodging at every chance like a true cowardly heel. FTR took the bullet at the Holiday Bash, while this past week’s Dynamite saw MJF pit his long-term muscle Wardlow against Punk in his place, leaving just ‘The Chairman’ Shawn Spears to complete Punk’s gauntlet against the Pinnacle, with a final showdown with MJF surely not far behind. Or at least that’s what the booking would suggest, however, considering AEW’s next pay-per-view Revolution is not scheduled until 5th March, the burning question is can, and will, AEW stretch the story out for another two months? Or will they provide a more natural payoff to the feud on free TV in the next few weeks?
As much as MJF vs Punk deserves a marquee spot on a major PPV, the AEW booking team would be wise to avoid making the same mistake they made with the MJF and Chris Jericho program earlier in 2021. Striking while the iron is still hot is crucial as the crowd are still very much invested, however, without a cathartic physical altercation in the ring, MJF’s weasel-like actions could soon become stale. Importantly a match in the next fortnight doesn’t mean an eventual rematch at Revolution couldn’t still take place, perhaps with an added stipulation or extra stakes to keep things interesting.
Another potential scenario that could perhaps play into, or even replace the current Punk and MJF program is the inevitable Wardlow face-turn and feud with MJF and the Pinnacle. This has been teased repeatedly and is simply a matter of time before a Batista/Evolution style split occurs and ‘Mr Mayhem’ breaks out on his own. The fans are audibly starting to get behind Wardlow and his ‘powerbomb symphony’, so perhaps the prospective MJF match is the better long-term fit for Revolution on March 5th.
AEW’s quarterly PPV strategy can pose these booking predicaments, however, with TV events such as “Winter is Coming” and “Homecoming” hosting PPV level showdowns recently, there is no reason why MJF and CM Punk can’t see their conflict resolved on an episode of Dynamite or Rampage in the (hopefully) very near future.