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If CM Punk Goes 'All In,' Crowd Exceeding 10,000 Is Attainable

March 7, 2018
Kevin Eck is a former member of the WWE creative team and now blogs about pro wrestling for PressBox. 

We know the date. We now know the location. But one big question remains unanswered:

Is CM Punk "All In?"

It was revealed on the March 5 episode of the "Being The Elite" YouTube series that the "All In" independent pro wrestling show will be held in Chicago at Sears Centre Arena. It had previously been announced that the event would take place Sept. 1.

For those unfamiliar with "All In," the idea for the event began last May when The Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer answered a question on Twitter about whether Ring of Honor could sell out an arena with 10,000-plus fans. "Not any time soon," Meltzer said. In response, Cody Rhodes -- one of ROH's top stars -- tweeted: "I'll take that bet, Dave."

As it turns out, while ROH talent will be appearing on the show, "All In" is being financed solely by Rhodes and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson). In Rhodes' tweet to Meltzer, he added: "Put The Bucks and I on the card and three months to promote."

Rhodes' confidence is admirable. It's also understandable given the impact that he, The Young Bucks and their fellow Bullet Club members have been making in pro wrestling despite not working for WWE, the global leader in the business. However, I'm in the camp of those who believe the goal of 10,000 fans probably is unattainable without another major star on the show, preferably one who has had a run on top in WWE. The list of wrestlers who fit the bill is an extremely short one.

Punk, unquestionably, is at the top of it.

To put into context how difficult it is for any U.S.-based pro wrestling company other than WWE to fill a 10,000-plus-seat arena, Meltzer said it hasn't been done since WCW did it "probably in 1999 or 2000."  ROH, which has been in existence since 2002, has never even drawn 5,000 fans. It has sold a company-record 4,621 tickets for a 5,700-seat building for its Supercard of Honor show in New Orleans April 7, Meltzer reported last month.  

Speculation about Punk -- who has not wrestled since he walked out of WWE in January 2014 -- returning to the ring at "All In" heated up a couple weeks ago when he trolled fans on Twitter. Punk wrote: "Recently, a lot of people have been asking me if I'm 'in.'" He then immediately tweeted an image of a Chicago Cubs logo and wrote: "You know I'm in. #EverbodyIn #cubs @cubs."

Punk, who first rose to prominence in pro wrestling during his run in ROH from 2002-2005, is friends with The Young Bucks, who have been attempting to lure him out of retirement. Addressing the subject in an interview with Rolling Stone in November, Matt Jackson said: "He knows that there's an offer there and he knows that I'm the first phone call that he should make if he decides to get back into the business. He's told me that; he says when or if or ever he does decide to possibly get back into it, I'll be the first guy he calls."

The other former WWE wrestler whose name frequently comes up in regard to "All In" is Daniel Bryan. WWE doctors forced him to retire in February 2016 due to concussion issues, but the 36-year-old Bryan, who plays the on-air role of general manager for WWE's "SmackDown Live," has made it clear he wants to get back in the ring despite WWE's refusal to medically clear him. He has said several concussion specialists told him he could resume wrestling. 

However, even though Bryan and Rhodes have teased the possibility of wrestling each other on social media, it appears that won't be happening, at least not at "All In."  Meltzer has reported that Bryan's WWE contract expires at the end of September, which would be several weeks after the event.

So with Bryan presumably unavailable, I don't think there's anyone out there other than Punk who has the box office appeal to fill Sears Centre Arena, which just so happens to be in Punk's hometown.

The obvious question is whether Punk, 39, has any interest in stepping back into a wrestling ring. He's currently under contract with UFC and has said he wants another fight in the Octagon after suffering a quick and decisive loss in his MMA debut in 2016. It's also no secret Punk was disillusioned with the wrestling business when he left WWE. In addition to parting with the company on bad terms, Punk is being sued for defamation by WWE doctor Chris Amann.

That said, I don't think Punk doing a one-off match at "All In" against someone such as New Japan Pro-Wrestling star Kenny Omega, who will be appearing on the show, is that far-fetched. What better way for Punk to stick it to his former employer than by making his much-anticipated return to pro wrestling at "All In" rather than with WWE?

Punk undoubtedly knows that if he ever works for WWE again, he'll come off as a hypocrite and a sellout. Conversely, he'll enhance his legacy as a nonconformist if he helps "All In" sell out.

Catch "The Hot Tag" every    Wednesday    on PressBoxOnline.com, and follow Kevin Eck on Twitter,  @KevinEck_WWE .