On one side of the ring is the voice of the voiceless and the best in the world. On the other side of the ring is the salt of the earth and the man who will say he’s better than you, and you know it. This is the tale of CM Punk and MJF and their journey to face one another.
The recount the stories of both men in their journey to getting to their blowoff meeting was unique. However, before addressing their eventual meeting, it is crucial to first look at both men’s careers. From there is an exploration of their respective journeys, leading them to face one another.
For fifteen years, CM Punk captured the attention of fans. He did so with his ability on the microphone and what he could do in the ring. Whether it was his time in IWS Mid-South or later Ring of Honor, CM Punk had become a highly talked about and decorated athlete in the industry. During his time in Ring of Honor, Punk built an alliance with Colt Cabana as the Second City Saints and had one of his most memorable feuds with Samoa Joe in a trilogy of matches still discussed today.
Of all his angles during his time in Ring of Honor, there is no mistaking his infamous Summer of Punk, where he faced Colt Cabana in his farewell match, but it was played into a storyline.
From here, Punk would join the WWE and join their ECW brand. While ECW wasn’t a final destination for Punk, it would be a starting point. Over the next nine years, CM Punk would lead factions, hold the World and WWE Championship, and once again recreate his Summer of Punk and unveil the infamous pipe bomb. Each of these factors made him one of the most beloved personas in wrestling at the time. Fans couldn’t seem to get enough of Punk.
However, on the night after the Royal Rumble in 2014, Punk would leave the company to pursue other interests. However, his time in wrestling or sports entertainment would end in 2014.
CM Punk and MJF
For Maxwell Jacob Friedman, he rose up the ranks competing on the independent circuit competing all over North America. At no point did he ever believe he wasn’t better than anyone else. And more importantly, they knew it. Television audiences first became aware of MJF during his time in Major League Wrestling leading The Dynasty. But MJF was also becoming more in demand in All Elite Wrestling. He would work out the balance of his contract with MLW until he finally settled on his time in AEW.
During MJF’s time in AEW, he has been nothing short of phenomenal. He’s had notable feuds with Cody Rhodes, Sammy Guevara, and Chris Jericho. MJF was unmatched on the microphone since his arrival in the promotion. After being removed from Jericho’s Inner Circle faction, Friedman would form his own group, The Pinnacle. MJF has also been the go-to talent in the promotion to give a scathing promo at any point in time.
Maxwell was set to battle a man that was earmarked much like himself as a cornerstone of AEW as one of the promotion’s Four Pillars in Darby Allin. MJF defeated Allin at the 2021 edition of Full Gear. After that, it felt as though no one could equal MJF…until now. After a seven-year absence in the ring, CM Punk returned to wrestling and joined AEW in August 2021.
‘Allow me to introduce myself, I’m…
On the first edition of Dynamite after Full Gear, MJF stood in the ring with Shawn Spears and Wardlow only to hear the familiar sound of Cult of Personality ring in the overhead speaker. This led to Punk coming down to the ring to a huge ovation. As Punk stood in the ring, taking in the adulation, MJF proceeded to stick his hand out, introducing himself to Punk.
Punk did the unthinkable. He stood there, looked at MJF’s hand, laughed, and proceeded to leave the ring. The Voice of the Voiceless managed to shut up the Salt of the Earth without uttering a single word. It was a remarkable feat.
On November 17th, Punk and MJF would go face to face once again. In this instance, the two not only exchanged words but threw out some of the most scathing and direct comments about one another during this exchange. With comment after comment appearing to take a dig at the history of either man, their background, or achievements, it left AEW fans celebrating this 20-minute exchange between both men.
Unfortunately, it would ultimately conclude with an apparent battle between the two, only to see MJF leave the ring as fans would jeer in unison. In fact, their exchange was so effective that it appeared to have a trickle-down effect with reference to this exchange appearing on the WWE’s Raw program.
“We gave them no choice but to speak about us…We were the talk of the world. I don’t know if you know about this app, YouTube. But Google it, a lot of videos pop up every point three seconds there are probably thousands of videos that pop up. We were numerous uno, number one, in the world. That’s the power of CM Punk versus MJF.” – MJF in regards to his promo with CM Punk.
The following week consisted of MJF being on commentary while Punk would compete. He would continue to dismiss Punk, calling him ‘PG Punk.’ The man he once looked up to was no longer there. As the week’s followed, their feud appeared to resemble something not unlike the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels one in the late 90s where Bret Hart would be cheered in Canada and jeered in the United States and Shawn Michaels would be cheered in the United States and jeered in Canada.
The difference here being that Punk would provoke MJF’s hometown of Long Island, New York, mocking their hockey team in the process.
MJF would be unphased as he would win the Dynamite Diamond ring the following week. After the match, FTR would assist MJF in beating down on Dante Martin. This would bring out Sting and Darby Allin. It would then bring out CM Punk, who was tired of MJF ducking him. So on Wednesday, December 22nd, in a six-man tag match, FTR and MJF would face CM Punk, Sting, and Darby Allin, or so we thought.
On December 22nd, 2021, edition of AEW Dynamite, both MJF and CM Punk were finally set to cross paths. However, in sure MJF fashion, each time an opportunity presented itself for the two to be in the same ring against one another, MJF would scurry from the ring. Ultimately, CM Punk and his teammates Sting and Darby Allin would prevail, but MJF and Punk would at no point get physically involved with one another.
‘Done with Punk’
The following week would be the final Dynamite for 2021. On December 29th, CM Punk would take to the microphone to say address MJF’s claim that he was ‘done with Punk.’ He was moving on with aspirations of championship gold in front of him for 2022. It was a memorable promo by Punk in that he first welcomed Jim Ross and shared his thoughts on Brodie Lee and how it impacted him.
But he also was quick to share that he felt that MJF would talk a big game, but when push comes to shove, he doesn’t really want to face CM Punk. To which Punk was grateful to have teamed with the likes of Sting and Allin the week before. If both men were seeking to move on from one another, could this mean that they would never face each other? He would go as far as to call him a bigger waste of (Tony) Khan money than Tim Tebow. In the end, if MJF did want to capture gold, Punk said it would be unfortunate if someone would stand in his way, wouldn’t it?
On the first Dynamite of 2022, January 5th, 2022, MJF came out with the intention of simply competing against Captain Sean Dean. Little would MJF know, but the best in the world would have other plans for him on this night. Once in the ring, CM Punk would race to the ring in pursuit of MJF. As MJF left the ring, Punk would look at Captain Dean and proceed to hit him with a GTS. In the process, caused MJF to be disqualified because of the attack. MJF was livid at the attack as he has begun 2022, 0-1.
‘This is your future, Max’
Punk said that this is MJF’s future until he steps in the ring with him. MJF said that everything that comes out of Punk’s mouth is fake and induces bordem. He then says that without him, Punk isn’t relevant. MJF says that Punk isn’t the savior that he claims to be and the true waste of Khan’s money. Friedman then asked Punk does he wish he was Roddy Piper because he was talented enough to main event a WrestleMania. He then suggested that if he’s not respected enough, he’d maybe headline a Mania too.
CM Punk then said he just wants to kick MJF’s a**. So if Punk wants the match so badly, he will put CM Punk against…Wardlow the following week. Another week passes, and MJF then puts another obstacle in front of him as CM Punk continues to put on the heat. Punk then says the difference between MJF, him, and Roddy Piper is that they would fight anyone at any time, and MJF only puts obstacles in front of him.
On January 12th, 2022, CM Punk would face MJF’s ally and bodyguard in Wardlow. MJF would accompany Wardlow to the ring, but the true test is how would Mr. Mayhem do against the best in the world? Wardlow would come into the match with eighteen consecutive wins. The match itself was an absolute slaughter as Wardlow would batter and beat Punk from one end of the ring to the other. Then, he would hit him with his symphony of powerbombs, all at the command of MJF.
But as the match was approaching its dying moments, Wardlow’s resistance to hit him with a ninth powerbomb led to a small package roll-up and a defeat. MJF was livid at what had just transpired. Later on in the program, MJF would come out staying he was the only star in AEW today. He knew that CM Punk was in a world of pain. MJF then said Punk’s victory was a fluke as he assured him that he would pick up his first loss.
He would be giving the fans the match they’ve all been waiting for. Next week, there would be no more running and no more hiding, and that it would be CM Punk against another Pinnacle teammate in “The Chairman” Shawn Spears.
On the January 19th episode of Dynamite, we see “The Chairman” Shawn Spears sitting atop of the rampway before his match against CM Punk. Punk would come to the ring next to the delight of those in attendance. This would bring out MJF, who would sit on commentary before the match began. Spears was eager to please MJF as he stood on the apron and gain his approval. However, as soon as the bell rang, Punk immediately hit the GTS on Spears, leading to a pinfall and a three count.
Punk stood atop of the corner turnbuckle to which MJF attempted to slide in the ring and attack CM Punk from behind. Instead, CM Punk gets his hands on MJF’s Burberry scarf and leaves with that as a trophy of their confrontation.
The Best in the World vs The Salt of the Earth
The following week would be January 26th, and the first of two Beach Break shows for AEW. CM Punk would come to the ring ready to compete. Upon his entrance in the ring, Punk would address the recent exchanges between him and MJF. Punk said it’s been a long time since he had been in Cleveland. However, he was there to compete, and it was against MJF. Punk then encouraged fans to chant his name. CM Punk then said he was tired of talking about MJF and said, let’s do it tonight and fight him tonight!
Punk spoke about how he had gone through the Pinnacle, and he wanted MJF and wanted him now. This brought MJF out, who came to a series of you suck chants. He then plays the audience, insulting them at every turn. He then says he would face CM Punk next week in his hometown of Chicago. MJF spoke that this is a dream match, and fans are frothing at the mouth for it. He then says he will beat CM Punk and show fans the real Punk. The one that blames his failures on everyone else but himself.
MJF spoke about how Punk turned his back on the fans when he was scheduled to appear in Cleveland in 2014. He tries to convince the audience that Punk will betray them again. Punk responds by saying that if he didn’t come back, MJF wouldn’t have his brush with greatness that he is having right now. He said he never lied to the people and that the best thing he ever did was leave, and the best thing he did was come back and get back up.
CM Punk and MJF – ‘Oh, you always get back up, do you?’
This brings out FTR, Shawn Spears, and Wardlow, that came out and beat down on CM Punk. With MJF orchestrating this attack, Spears would strike a chair across the prone CM Punk. Harwood and Wheeler would then feed the battered Punk to Wardlow, who was apprehensive to hit a powerbomb on Punk but eventually does on a steel chair in the ring. MJF then sits across the chest of Punk cross-legged and says that the same place Punk’s career began will be the one where it ends.
On February 2nd, CM Punk and MJF finally faced each other in Chicago, Illinois. Their battle went over forty minutes in front of a televised audience. They battled each other inside and out of the ring, and in the end, it would be the salt of the earth that, with the help of Wardlow, would defeat the best in the world. This loss by Punk would be his first since returning to wrestling and joining AEW. His loss was significant. Regardless of how it happened, it was crucial to see that MJF could have finally put to rest this rivalry with CM Punk….or has he?
On the February 9th edition of Dynamite, Wardlow was coming out with props of CM Punk and MJF a week after Maxwell’s win. Justin Roberts announces FTR to the ring while Wardlow awaits them in the ring. After Tully Blanchard and FTR make their way to the ring, Shawn Spears is announced to the ring. Finally, MJF makes his way to the ring to announce share in his MJF appreciation night after defeating CM Punk the week prior.
MJF – The Conquering Hero
MJF is led to the ring upon a throne to the ring. Confetti is released from the ceiling once MJF arrives. Maxwell Jacob Friedman claimed to be better than the best in the world. He addressed how he was overcome with emotion twice in Chicago. He spoke of how he was better than Piper in Portland, Bret in Canada, and Punk in Chicago. This brought out CM Punk, who stood at the top of the rampway.
Punk spoke about how MJF’s win was as suspect as his spray tan. He then brings out Darby Allin and Sting. He spoke to Wardlow, saying he wanted a rematch, but then also said that he could leave these guys. Wardlow didn’t say a word, but the fans were clearly behind him. Dax Harwood said he had no problem having a six-man tag, but Max said. If he wants a rematch against MJF, then if he faces FTR with a partner of his choosing and needs to be a partner of his choosing.
Punk stood with Sting and Allin at the top of the ramp, trying to consider his options of who he would team with. So with FTR and Tully Blanchard in the ring later in the show. CM Punk came to the ring and had a partner. That partner turned out to be Jon Moxley! Moxley came through the crowd, much to the dismay of MJF and Shawn Spears watching in the back. As it would ultimately be, Moxley and Punk would be successful, leading to CM Punk having a rematch against MJF.
Will you be my Valentine?
As the February 16th episode of Dynamite began, CM Punk sat in the ring cross-legged with microphone in hand. He would have in front of him a box. Before he would take out the item of the box, Punk would share about some of the most dangerous matches he’s had that have left a part of him in the ring.
He also spoke about ‘Piper in Portland’ and how it meant so much that with two days removed from Valentine’s day, he proposed to MJF, ‘would you be my Valentine?’ But in reality, he was referring to Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine referring to the Dog Collar Match between Roddy Piper and The Hammer. Punk then calls MJF to come out as he says that he wants to say it to his face when he says it.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) February 17, 2022
He shows Maxwell the picture of him and Punk when MJF was a child. Punk said it was the greatest day of his life, but for him, it was just Friday. The threats by Punk left MJF speechless…MJF then proceeded to drop the microphone and leaves the arena. Punk proceeds to hold the Dog Collar high overhead, prepared for battle.
The Best in The World And You Know It
On February 23rd, MJF came out stunned those in attendance. With a promo that tugged at many a fan’s heartstrings, he spoke from the heart. He spoke of suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder as a child. Battles of racism and facing deplorable treatment because of his Jewish culture. He then spoke about his aspirations to be much like his hero, CM Punk as a child. MJF then spoke about how it all changed in January 2014.
When his hero quit, he thought, why shouldn’t he. So with that in mind, his personal pursuit of being the ‘best in the world’ came to an end until a few years later. It wasn’t until he saw a picture of Punk shaking hands with Bryan Danielson that he became enraged. MJF had given up on his dreams because the person he most believed in gave up on his. It is now MJF that resurrected his aspirations to be the best in spite of Punk.
This brought Punk out, asking him was it all true? With a single tear streaming down MJF’s face, he said its true and walked off to the back with his head lowered, leaving Punk dumbfounded, shaking his head in the ring.
With AEW’s Revolution set to take place on Sunday, December 6th, CM Punk would come out to address MJF’s outpouring the week before. First, he asked himself whether he was the bad guy. To that, he requested MJF to come to the ring and would then share with MJF all the bad that he’s done himself. Punk shared what he did to The Undertaker, Jeff Hardy, and Raven in the past. So while he was trying to be the good guy, Punk extended his hand, hoping for a handshake from MJF.
CM Punk and MJF – The Devil Himself
He received a hug that was reminiscent of the 11-year old boy who just wanted his hero to accept him. After their embrace, MJF would kick CM Punk low and beat him down mercilessly. Then, with the help of the rest of the Pinnacle, MJF would batter and beat Punk and hanging him in the process. Finally, MJF would refer to himself as the devil himself before the two men were set to face one another on March 6th, 2022.
On Sunday, March 6th, Maxwell Jacob Friedman would face CM Punk in their rematch. This time, however, as promised by Punk, it would be a side of him that he would have to dig into the past to bring out. As Punk came out to the ring, the sound of AFI’s Misteria Cantera would play on the overhead speaker, and out came the jacket-wearing basketball shorts sporting straight edge man that cut his teeth in Ring of Honor. His look and entrance clearly befuddled MJF.
As the match went on, the two men would batter and beat each other, causing both men to bleed. The white shorts of Punk would sport his blood. In the end, it would be the hero that MJF once looked up to that prevailed. The young upstart was outsmarted in the end. At every turn, CM Punk as bloodied and beaten he had been over these past few months had taught MJF a lesson he soon wouldn’t forget.
Much like the words of the late Roddy Piper this feud left MJF reminded that as soon as he thought he knew the answers, CM Punk would change the questions.