When CM Punk walked onto an All Elite Wrestling stage for the first time at Rampage: The First Dance in August of 2021, few would have guessed his tenure in AEW could have led him to an alliance with the tag team FTR. Yet their collective faction, simply dubbed CMFTR, have become one of the most popular groups in all of professional wrestling today.
CM Punk, Dax Harwood, and Cash Wheeler are three real-life friends who adore the sport of professional wrestling. Their style and old-school match psychology is a blast from the past. Lastly, they’re also probably the three biggest Bret “The Hitman” Hart fans on the AEW roster.
Let’s take a look at their run so far. This is CMFTR: Modern Day Hitmen.
CMFTR: Modern Day Hitmen
The story of CMFTR truly began on the March 23, 2022, edition of AEW Dynamite, with CM Punk vs. Dax Harwood set to open the show.
First They Fight
This was Punk’s first match since defeating MJF in the infamous Dog Collar Match at AEW Revolution. Harwood reigned as one-half of the ROH and AAA Tag Team Champions, alongside Wheeler but also began to wrestle more frequently in singles bouts.
Prior to their Dynamite match, Punk and Harwood had shared the ring on two previous occasions in multi-man matches. Punk and Jon Moxley defeated FTR on the Feb. 9, 2022, Dynamite and Punk, Sting, and Darby Allin bested The Pinnacle (FTR & MJF) the prior November.
CM Punk and Dax Harwood’s one-on-one match marked the start of a winning streak that would lead to the former’s opportunity at AEW World Champion ‘Hangman’ Adam Page come Double or Nothing 2022.
The matchup earned praise from fans and wrestlers alike, specifically for it’s ‘old-school’ feel and pace. The climax of the match saw Punk attempt the GTS (Go To Sleep), only for Harwood to counter into a Sharpshooter, shades of Bret Hart. Punk countered by rolling Harwood over and into his own signature submission, The Anaconda Vice, to secure the submission victory.
Speaking to Mike Johnson at PWInsider, Harwood reflected on the bout.
“As a tag team, Cash and myself have done that time and time again. That’s a little bat on the back to us. Wednesday night was something…I don’t like giving the magic away too much, but it was something I was extremely proud of for a lot of different reasons.
The match, just talking about it, gets me a little emotional because of how much it meant to me. I wanted to impress Bret and I wanted him to say, ‘this is the kind of wrestling I look forward to, and I want to put out.’
I also want fans today to say, ‘holy sh*t, that was a different kind of match than I’m used to, and I liked it.’ On top of that, I wanted the boys and girls in the back to watch the match and say, ‘this is a different approach to what I thought I knew, and maybe we can implore some of those tactics in our matches as well.’
The match, sentimentally, meant a lot to me. When I got to the back, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, a future Hall of Famer, came up to me and said, ‘You are the perfect professional wrestler, and I’ve never said this before in my career, but that was the perfect professional wrestling match.’
That’s all the validation I needed. Bret Hart texted me before the match and said, ‘I cannot wait to watch this match.’ That was pretty cool too.”
Cash Wheeler also weighed in on his partner’s performance.
“I just want to say, the match was incredible and I hope that, not just aspiring wrestlers, but anyone in wrestling that wants to get better and learn, I hope they watch that match because it was that good.
Regal gave the advice the other day, ‘the best wrestling matches are when the two or four wrestlers are trying to outsell the other.’ Both guys sold their asses off the whole match and made everything mean something.
Even the superplex, they built for that for over two minutes instead of doing 13 things off the top rope and getting up from all of them to move on to the next.
They tried to outsell each other and the match was better because of it. That’s why people should go back, watch, and understand that it’s not about just getting your shit in.”
Punk would also go on to speak highly of Harwood, both on social media and television.
“My wrestler of the year so far. #FTR.”
CMFTR: Modern Day Hitmen
CM Punk would go on to defeat ‘Hangman’ Adam Page, becoming the fifth AEW World Champion in history at Double or Nothing. Three nights later, CMFTR would team up for the very first time.
New AEW World Champion CM Punk and ROH Tag Team Champions Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler opened the June 1, 2022 Dynamite to face The Acclaimed’s Max Caster and The Gunn Club’s Austin and Colten Gunn.
The nearly 12-minute long six-man tag team match was fairly one sided, with Punk drilling Austin Gunn with a GTS, and FTR following it up with a Shatter Machine for the win.
CM Punk took to Twitter the very next day to confirm their stable name, CMFTR.
“One day I road my schwin bike to some dirt hills I used to jump and ride when I was a kid. When I got there, there were two kids on their bmx bikes.
They told me to leave. I didn’t. We scrapped. Black eyes. Bloody lips. Next day and the whole summer we rode bikes TOGETHER. CMFTR.”
Unfortunately, during the six-man tag team match, CM Punk broke his foot. This cut short the “Summer of Punk II” the company was advertising, forced an interim AEW World Champion to be crowned in Jon Moxley, and severed any chance of another CMFTR team-up in the foreseeable future.
Upon returning over two months later, Punk lost an AEW World Championship/AEW Interim World Championship unification match to Moxley. He then recaptured the AEW World Championship shortly thereafter at All Out 2022.
The infamous events of “Brawl Out 2022” would follow, with CM Punk and The Elite suspended from AEW.
CMFTR: Modern Day Hitmen
On June 17th, 2023, AEW launched their new weekly Saturday program, AEW Collision. The inaugural episode featured CM Punk’s AEW return and emanated from the United Centre in his hometown of Chicago, IL.
The main event of Collision’s debut episode saw CMFTR reunite to take on Samoa Joe and Bullet Club Gold’s Jay White and Juice Robinson. Not missing a beat since their last outing, CMFTR once again combined their GTS and Shatter Machine finishers to score the pinfall on Robinson.
The next Wednesday on Dynamite, Bullet Club Gold interfered in a tag team match between The Hardys and The Gunn Club. This prompted Ricky Starks, who had prior issues with the pair, to run down to the ring. The numbers advantage proved to be too much for Starks, that is, until FTR emerged, followed by CM Punk in his first AEW Dynamite appearance since All Out 2022.
This led to the main event of AEW Collision episode two on June 24, which saw CMFTR and Ricky Starks take on Bullet Club Gold and The Gunns in an eight-man tag team match. Unfortunately for CMFTR, Ricky Starks fell victim to Jay White’s Blade Runner and lost the match.
The next number of weeks saw CM Punk and FTR focus on their separate goals. For Punk, that meant a run to the finals of the Owen Hart Foundation 2023 Men’s Tournament Finals in which he lost to Ricky Starks.
Punk also declared himself “The Real World Champion”, since he never technically lost the AEW World Championship. The Real World Champion, who’s title features his signature straight-edge “X” in black spray paint, has already thwarted the challenges of Starks and Samoa Joe.
Meanwhile, Dax Harwoord and Cash Wheeler focused on defending their AEW World Tag Team Championships against the likes of Bullet Club Gold, Adam Cole & MJF, and Big Bill & Brian Cage.
Following their string of victories, CMFTR reunited once more on the August 12 edition of Collision to challenge Malakai Black, Buddy Matthews, and Brody King of The House of Black for their AEW World Trios Championships.
The incredibly back-and-forth Trios Title Match lasted for nearly a quarter of Collion’s runtime, clocking in at 26:54, with each of the six men getting their time to shine.
It seemed we were just moments away from crowing new champs as King was hit by a three-man Shatter Machine by CMFTR. FTR then managed to take Matthews out of the equation, and Punk nailed Black with a dive to the outside.
Dax Harwood scaled to the top rope, landing the flying headbutt on King to perhaps seal the deal. Just then, the camera cuts to ringside, where Samoa Joe was putting CM Punk to sleep with the coquina clutch among the fans in attendance.
This, combined with The House of Black’s Julia Hart jumping up on the ring apron, provided enough of a distraction for King to nail Harwood with a devastating lariat for the three-count.
Since that evening, all three members of CMFTR successfully defended their respective championships at AEW All In: London against Samoa Joe and The Young Bucks. Despite the stellar in-ring performances of the trio, much of the All In discussion has once again surrounded an alleged backstage incident involving CM Punk.
It remains to be seen if CMFTR will be able to capture those elusive AEW World Trios Championships, now held by Max Caster, Anthony Bowens and “Daddy Ass” Billy Gunn of The Acclaimed.
FTR were set to team with The Young Bucks against Bullet Club Gold and The Gunns on Sunday’s All Out Pay-Per-View. Meanwhile, CM Punk had yet to find himself on the card, though that could very well change come Collision this Saturday.