POLLOCK'S UPDATE: CM Punk leads AEW into Collision

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2023/06/16/pollocks-update-cm-punk-leads-aew-into-collision/

POST IT NOTES

**Rewind-A-SmackDown is live at 10 p.m. ET tonight with a review of SmackDown from Lexington. Wai Ting and I will also speak about the CM Punk interview on ESPN, the allegations against Conor McGregor, and Wednesday’s viewership for Dynamite. Plus, your calls and feedback with live access to all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**On Saturday, we are launching our new Collision review on the POST Wrestling Café. The regular hosts of the show will be Kate from Montreal & John Siino. For the premiere episode, I will be joining Kate & John on Saturday night immediately after Collision airs.

**The N.W.A. Podcast returns on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET with Nate Milton, Andrew Thompson, and “The Groom” Kris Ealy.

**The latest edition of The Wellness Policy covers “Science Communication” with guest Leah Elson joining Wai Ting, Jordan Goodman & Neal Flanagan. Elson chats about science literacy and her book There Are (No) Stupid Questions…in Science.

**This week’s Rewind-A-Wai goes back to June 2011 with a big look at Ring of Honor following its sale to Sinclair Broadcasting. We review Best in the World from the Hammerstein Ballroom with Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards, the return of Kevin Steen after six months, Christopher Daniels’ last night with ROH, the “Go Fight Live” era, and lots of notes after the sale to Sinclair and plans for the future of the company.

CM PUNK LEADS AEW’S LAUNCH OF COLLISION

All eyes are on the launch of AEW Collision this Saturday centered around CM Punk’s return to the company after nine-plus months on the sidelines after All Out.

The show is of utmost importance with two additional hours of prime-time real estate on TNT and an ability to strengthen its pitch for its next round of television negotiations. It is imperative that the show is seen as equal to Dynamite and with Punk being the centerpiece, it has a chance. The early indicators of Saturday being a stronger night to draw than Wednesday have not borne out with a good number for Chicago but soft sales in Toronto, Hamilton, Regina, and Calgary. Beyond the ticket sales, the real numbers that will determine success or failure won’t be out until next week with its television performance and while the premiere should be a strong one out of the gate, it’s more important what the show is averaging one month from now and maintaining the initial wave of curiosity and momentum.

From all accounts, there appears to be zero closure from the events of All Out involving the key parties with CM Punk stating as much to ESPN nor an expectation that it’s a direction they will head toward, at least not now when legal restrictions have been introduced and they are dealing at that level. It’s a wild comparison but the principle applies with the explosion of Vanderpump Rules this season. A reality-based program that was struck but a “real life event” involving three cast members in a real-life love triangle that was capitalized upon and exploited for maximum interest as the audience understood “this was real” and involved characters they have followed on the series. The series exploded this year based on the idea that real conflict trumps manufactured issues and it’s the bedrock of professional wrestling that skirts the line between the two. In this example, the audience doesn’t need to be convinced because they bore witness to the events unfolding in real life and has created a cloud over CM Punk’s head upon his return.

Beyond the Punk and Elite drama, is the viability of two more hours of professional wrestling and whether a breaking point is coming for WWE and AEW fans overloaded with weekly programming? While it’s easy to tell fans to “pick and choose”, it’s often found that breaking your weekly viewing habit makes it easier to skip all entirely. One of the appealing factors for AEW at its launch was a minimal two-hour commitment each week and a quarterly pay-per-view investment. Moderation is the antithesis of the business today where television content is more valuable than ever in professional wrestling and it’s all about hours of production that can be bargaining chips to the highest bidder.

The industry has drastically shifted from October 2019 when AEW launched during a period where fans were starved for an easily accessible alternative with a growing percentage of fans being turned off by the WWE product. In 2023, WWE is connecting with its audience at a greater rate than years past while also getting younger and demonstrating an ability to grow its audience year-to-year that is outpacing the declining cable homes in the country. More importantly, the WWE’s audience satisfaction has grown exponentially and the need for a strong alternative has lessened.

Saturday nights are going to be a challenging one for AEW given the sports competition in the fall, weekly UFC programming, and the big one being a monthly WWE premium live event. The first head-to-head battle with WWE will be on August 5 with SummerSlam (Money in the Bank will be an afternoon show on July 1) followed by Payback on September 2.

This week, Tony Khan has stated outright he is not splitting the brands, although for maximum impact – keeping CM Punk exclusive to Collision is a smart strategy that makes Saturday night your one outlet to see the performer weekly. It will be clear immediately based on whether Punk is included on next Wednesday’s episode of Dynamite from Chicago, which would likely generate disappointment from fans if he’s not on the show – even though he hasn’t been advertised, but is a logical expectation for a fan in Chicago that bought a ticket to an AEW show in the market days after his return.

Whether his fans or critics agree, CM Punk is the most valuable asset to ensure Collision has a fighting chance of not being swept under the rug as a secondary program. But, the outstanding issues from All Out feel like the company is operating on a powder keg that could explode at a moment’s notice where even a mainstream interview involving Punk is cause for panic. If Punk’s words are accurate that he has had no contact with Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks since All Out on conditions of legal reps, then this is merely a band-aid to a larger unsolved problem that will inevitably rear its head.

Couple those factors with the realization that its star performer is closing in on 45 years of age and has endured two serious injuries over the past year with a lifetime of wear and tear in the industry, and years of training at the highest level for his MMA sojourn.

As always, AEW is under the sharpest lens of the microscope and Saturday becomes their latest focal point.

POST SCHEDULE

Tonight: Rewind-A-SmackDown with John & Wai (10 p.m. ET, Patreon)
Saturday: AEW Collision Review (Patreon)
Sunday: The N.W.A Podcast with Nate Milton, Kris Ealy & Andrew Thompson (7 p.m. ET)
Sunday: Wrestlenomics Radio

WRESTLING NEWS

**The debut of AEW Collision will air against the UFC Fight Night prelims on ESPN 2 as well as NCAA men’s college baseball on ESPN. The current lineup for Collision has CM Punk’s return teaming with FTR against Samoa Joe, Juice Robinson & Jay White, Wardlow vs. Luchasaurus for the TNT Championship, Toni Storm & Ruby Soho vs. Willow Nightingale & Skye Blue, Buddy Matthews vs. Andrade El Idolo, and the return of Miro.

**TSN 2 is listing a late-night airing of AEW Collision at Midnight ET on Saturday along its live stream of the show at 8 p.m. Additionally, TSN 5 is listing next Saturday’s show for a live airing at 8 p.m. for the show from Toronto. POST Wrestling is awaiting a response to TSN confirming these times and whether Collision will have a regular airing on television beyond these two weeks.

**Brandon Thurston reported on the quarter hours from Dynamite this past Wednesday. The show averaged 830,000 viewers and 391,000 (0.30) in the 18-49 demographic and ranked third among cable originals. In the breakdown, Dynamite did 891,000 viewers and 424,000 in 18-49 during the first hour and fell 13% in viewers and 15% in the demo to 773,000 and 360,000 during hour two. The 30-minute draw between MJF and Adam Cole performed well with the first quarter being the most-watched of the show, although dropped by 29,000 viewers in the second quarter but grew by 14,000 in the demo. The low point of the show for both viewers and the demo was the final quarter involving the ending of The Hung Bucks vs. The BCC and the surprise appearances during the final four minutes.

**Friday Night SmackDown is at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky with Roman Reigns appearing on the show to continue the story with The Usos. The following matches have been announced:
*Tag Team Gauntlet Match: Pretty Deadly vs. Ridge Holland & Butch vs. Cruz del Toro & Joaquin Wilde vs. Street Profits vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs.
*Zelina Vega vs. IYO SKY
*AJ Styles & Michin vs. Karrion Kross & Scarlett

**AEW Rampage was taped on Wednesday from the Capital One Center and includes Will Ospreay wrestling on the program, as well as Aubrey Edwards’ first match in AEW in a mixed tag airing at 10 p.m. ET on TNT tonight:
*Konosuke Takeshita vs. Bandido
*Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb & Kyle Fletcher vs. Best Friends & Rocky Romero
*Taya Valkyrie vs. Trish Adora
*Jeff Jarrett, Jay Lethal & Karen Jarrett vs. Mark and Papa Briscoe & Aubrey Edwards  

**WWE has added new dates to its calendar with live events on August 26 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and August 27 in Huntsville, Alabama. SmackDown will be held at the GIANT Center in Hershey on September 1, Raw is at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte on September 4 (Labor Day), SmackDown is at the TD Garden in Boston on September 8, Raw is at the Norfolk Scope on September 11 (the return of Monday Night Football), and Raw has been announced for the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre on November 6. Tickets for all these events go on sale Friday, June 23.

**House of Glory has a card at the NYC Arena tonight and is streaming on the Premier Streaming Network. The card includes Matt Cardona vs. Carlito for the HOG Heavyweight Championship, Charles Mason defending the Crown Jewel title against El Hijo del Vikingo, Alex Shelley vs. Mighty Mante, and Speedball Mike Bailey vs. Nolo Kitano in the top matches. John Siino is attending the show and will have a report tonight on the site.

**AJPW has its big show of the month on Saturday at 3 a.m. ET at Ota Ward City Gymnasium as Yuji Nagata defends the Triple Crown against Yuma Anzai. The card includes Minoru Suzuki, Taiyo Kea & MAZADA against Jun and Rei Saito & Toshizo, Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi against Atsuki Aoyagi & Rising Hayto, and Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama against Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi. The card will be available through AJPW.tv.

**Pro Wrestling NOAH presents Green Journey in Nagoya on Saturday morning at 4 a.m. ET streaming on Wrestle Universe with the following card: Jake Lee vs. Takashi Sugiura for the GHC Heavyweight title, Timothy Thatcher & Saxon Huxley vs. Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura for the GHC tag titles, HAYATA vs. Dante Leon for the GHC Jr. Heavyweight title, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Go Shiozaki vs. Manabu Soya & Kenoh, Jack Morris & YO-HEY & Tadasuke vs. Chris Ridgeway, Sean Legacy & Daga, Naomichi Marufuji & Eita vs. Atsushi Kotoge & Daiki Inaba, Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr. & Yoshinari Ogawa & Kai Fujimura vs. Kaito Kiyomiya, AMAKUSA & Junta Miyawaki, Shuhei Taniguchi vs. Hideki Suzuki, Mohammed Yone & Alejandro & Super Crazy vs. Akitoshi Saito, Seiki Yoshioka & Stallion Rogers, and Hi69 vs. Hajime Ohara.

**The New Japan Road tour stops in Tokyo on Saturday with SANADA & DOUKI against Hiromu Takahashi & Yota Tsuji in the main event. The tour ends Sunday in Chiba with Blue Justice XII (produced by Yuji Nagata) with Nagata teaming with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Master Wato & Satoshi Kojima against All Japan’s Kento Miyahara, Yuma Aoyagi, Atsuki Aoyagi & Yuma Anzai (one day after Nagata vs. Anzai for the Triple Crown). Both shows are streaming on New Japan World.  

**The WWE stock closed at $102.72 on Friday. 

MMA NEWS

**Both Bellator and PFL have cards tonight with Bellator holding a significant show in Chicago and the main card airs at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime. The PFL’s main card is running on ESPN at 10 with the continuation of its season. The main event for Bellator 297 is a light heavyweight title fight as champion Vadim Nemkov (16-2) defends against former UFC fighter Yoel Romero (15-6). For most, the key fight on the card sees Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (24-7) challenge Sergio Pettis (22-5) for the bantamweight title. It’s a major historical event for Bellator as Pitbull is the current featherweight champion and is attempting to win a championship in a third weight class (he is a former lightweight champion). The main card is rounded out by Corey Anderson (16-6) fighting Phil Davis (24-6) and Daniel James (15-6-1) taking on Gokhan Saricam (8-1).

**The UFC has its latest card at the Apex in Las Vegas with a 10 p.m. ET start on Saturday night for the main card. The show is headlined by a middleweight fight involving past title challengers Marvin Vettori and Jared Cannonier. All fighters made weight on Friday with twelve fights scheduled. The prelims will air against AEW Collision. Below is the full card:

MAIN CARD (10 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)
*Marvin Vettori (19-5-1) vs. Jared Cannonier (16-6)
*Arman Tsarukyan (19-3) vs. Joaquim Silva (12-3)
*Christian Duncan (6-0) vs. Armen Petrosyan (8-2)
*Pat Sabatini (17-4) vs. Lucas Almeida (12-1)
*Nikolas Motta (13-4) vs. Manuel Torres (13-2)
*Nicolas Dalby (21-4-1) vs. Muslim Salikhov (19-3)

PRELIMINARY CARD (7 p.m. ET on ESPN 2 & ESPN+)

*Jimmy Flick (16-6) vs. Alessandro Costa (11-3)
*Cristian Quinonez (17-3) vs. Kyung Ho Kang (18-9)
*Denys Bondar (16-4) vs. Carlos Hernandez (8-2)
*Gabriella Fernandes (8-2) vs. Tereza Bleda (6-1)
*Dan Argueta (9-1) vs. Ronnie Lawrence (8-2)
*Moedestas Bukauskas (12-5) vs. Zac Pauga (6-1)

*****
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DOUBLE SHOT: Dark Side of the Ring – The Graham Dynasty
On this week’s Double Shot, John Pollock and Wai Ting continue their weekly look at Dark Side of the Ring with a review of Season 4 Episode 3, “Breaking the Cycle: The Graham Dynasty”.
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REWIND-A-DYNAMITE
John Pollock & Wai Ting review AEW Dynamite with a Title Eliminator between MJF and Adam Cole, plus Hangman Page & The Young Bucks taking on The BCC from Washington, D.C.
*****
POLLOCK & THURSTON: AEW President Tony Khan
John Pollock and Brandon Thurston chat with AEW President Tony Khan on the state of the promotion going into the launch of Collision.
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