On Saturday night, just as it looked like Survivor Series was about to go off the air, CM Punk's music hit and the Best in the World's long-rumoured WWE return was finally made official.
Punk was fired by AEW earlier this year and fans immediately started speculating about him signing with WWE. There, he's unlikely to face the sort of amateurish backstage nonsense which plagued his time in Tony Khan's rival company.
Now, we have inside information about how WWE brought Punk back into the fold. PWInsider reports that he's signed a deal which is likely "several years in length," adding that it was made official shortly before Survivor Series began. There had been talks about waiting until Royal Rumble to debut him, but the concern was that the longer everyone involved held off, the greater the chance the news would leak.
Moving forward, Punk will be an active wrestler but likely not on a full-time schedule (it makes sense that WWE would want to use him as a Roman Reigns-like draw rather than a Superstar who appears weekly). According to sources within WWE, the deal is looked at as a "new beginning" for Punk and the company.
Meanwhile, PWTorch's Wade Keller is reporting that both Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre were given a heads-up about Punk's return; Dave Meltzer also believes that Rollins' meltdown upon seeing the returning WWE Superstar was likely a work in order to set up a future feud.
In fact, Rollins doubled down on that at a live event in Chicago on Sunday night when he addressed fans by saying, "You already know how I feel about that. I said as much last night. I'm not going to waste any more breath on somebody [Punk] that has been gone for eight years, has done nothing but try and tear this place down."
"Instead, I'm going to take my time, waste my breath, use my breath to talk about the people who have been here all along, that's all the people in the back who have made WWE the hottest ticket in town, and that's every single one of you who are here tonight in Peoria."
It seems likely WWE is trying to replicate what actually happened in AEW by making it seem like Rollins has a real-life, off-script issue with Punk which will then add a great deal of heat to a seemingly inevitable World Heavyweight title match between them.
Was Vince McMahon part of the decision to bring Punk back into the fold? Apparently not if Fightful Select is to be believed. Instead, Triple H and WWE President Nick Khan decided to enter contract talks with the "Real" AEW World Champion (he may have been fired, but he never lost the title).
WWE has also confirmed that we'll hear from Punk during tonight's RAW. Something tells us you won't want to miss this one...