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Video: Former UFC fighter CM Punk returns to professional wrestling, signs with AEW

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CM Punk received a hero’s welcome after appearing at AEW Rampage in Chicago. 

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CM Punk at the weigh-ins for UFC 225.
CM Punk at the weigh-ins for UFC 225.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

CM Punk has returned to professional wrestling and signed with All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

The former WWE champion turned UFC fighter made an appearance at AEW Rampage on Friday night in front of a hometown crowd at the United Center in Chicago, where he received a welcome like no other. Loud chants of “CM Punk!” were heard in the opening seconds of the broadcast until “Cult of Personality” — a song by rock band Living Colour famously used by Punk as his entrance theme for several years — blared in the arena. Punk then walked out, took some time to relish in the moment at the top of the ramp and embraced his fans before grabbing a microphone to address them for the first time.

“August 20, 2021, I’m back. And I’m back for you!” said Punk, who proceeded to set up a match against Darby Allin that will take place on the upcoming pay-per-view event known as AEW: All Out in September. It is his first match in seven years following the completion of a nine-year stretch with WWE.

Punk was released from WWE in 2014 and opted to retire from professional wrestling after dealing with a number of health issues that included a potentially life-threatening staph infection. Punk spoke about allegedly being misdiagnosed by a WWE physician named Christopher Amann right before his release and was sued by Amann for defamation over his comments. Punk went on to win the lawsuit and was no longer involved with anything related to WWE by that point.

Punk focused his attention on mixed martial arts and announced that he had signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC at UFC 181 in late 2014. His professional and promotional debut was not immediate as he spent two years training under the tutelage of Duke Roufus of Roufusport in Milwaukee. Punk fought in the welterweight division and met Mickey Gall at UFC 203, where he was submitted in the first round with a rear-naked choke.

Punk fought again at UFC 225 in 2018. He lost a unanimous decision to Mike Jackson, but that result was later overturned to a no contest after Jackson tested positive for marijuana. Punk would not receive another fight and was unsure about returning to the Octagon, so he has not competed in over three years. He has since become a color commentator for Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) and will remain in that role while he wrestles for AEW.