You'd be forgiven for still trying to catch your breath after the first Double Or Nothing PPV announced AEW as far more than a "T-shirt company" but they're already looking ahead to what comes next.
The answer to that, in the most specific terms, is another PPV - namely, All Out, which will come to Chicago's Sears Centre on August 31st, as revealed by the company during Double Or Nothing. After All In sold out the same venue, you can expect lots of interest on tickets again, particularly after Double Or Nothing's success surpassed even the most enthusiastic ones. Tickets for the event go on sale on June 14th.
But there's something particularly of note in that announcement, isn't there? Those stars look awfully familiar.
Could this be AEW playing into the repeated rumours that they're looking to sign CM Punk to join fellow former WWE stars Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley? It's been as big a part of the AEW conversation since it became a thing as the rivalry with WWE has and them using iconography from Punk's WWE branding for a PPV in his hometown cannot be accidental. It's provocative.
Would they be interested in signing him? Of course they would, Chris Jericho said as much not so long ago to Chris Van Vliet, though he did offer the caveat that he's very much “not so much a free agent as he is a retired wrestler." And both Cody Rhodes and Nick Jackson have spoken about the possibility in the last few days too. Here's Rhodes (quotes via PW Mania):
“I would say what I would say to Punk, wrestling fans never gave up on CM Punk. It’s an unbelievable connection that he accrued for the fan base and himself. So I can say for that reason that the door remains open for CM Punk at all times.”
Jackson very much toed the same line as Jericho, but then he would, wouldn't he?
“I wanna be honest in my gut I feel like he’s done with pro wrestling so unfortunately I don’t see it happening.”
But then Jon Moxley's WWE departure was also "a work", so what does anyone really know?
We do know that Punk returned to wrestling - albeit under a mask - at MKE, but that might not have been anything other than the perfect occasion for him to pay homage to part of his own wrestling past. After his appearance, MKE founder Silas Young spoke to Busted Open Radio to explain the run-in, and his take on it seems to stick in line with Punk being retired. It was merely a one-off because of the situation and the fact that it couldn't have happened again:
"It made sense with the match being with Ace Steele and having Dave Prazak involved, those guys are longtime friends and they broke in the business [together]. Punk had maybe his first match in that building. That building has had wrestling for years, a lot of guys got their start there. Unfortunately it's going to be torn down early next month so we were the last event there. I think it's just one of those things where he wanted to pay a little respect or a little homage to it."
Fundamentally, it wasn't an indication of anything. Maybe.
Whether AEW have actually got him lined up or not remains to be seen, but they're co-opting his imagery to provoke speculation at least and that's a masterful way of assuring that All Out markets itself. Honestly, it's impossible not to be impressed with pretty much everything they're doing.
With repeated assurances that we're likely to see even more stars joining the Rhodes-led, Tony Khan-backed revolution, a sparkling new TV deal (with particularly good benefits for Uk viewers) and a plan to rival Vince McMahon directly, the future is looking very rosy. And it's no disservice or disrespect to WWE to mention that rivalry, given how much it was part of the narrative before, during and after the event. AEW clearly want this to be the story and McMahon knows from experience what good competition does for the product.
He might not be quite so impressed with his own superstars talking about it - even in a tongue-in-cheek fashion - but you can't win them all when you foster a culture built on the importance of social media these days.
So what do you think: will CM Punk really turn up at All Out in Chicago in August?