AEW shows real-life backstage CM Punk, Jungle Boy Jack Perry fight that got WWE star fired

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WWE fans were proclaiming the Attitude Era was back a few weeks ago with The Rock’s bloody beatdown of Cody Rhodes.

Well, now we have our WCW, too. At least for one week.

AEW, the leading competitor to the pro wrestling behemoth, made the surprising decision on Thursday (AEST) to air footage of the real-life backstage fight between CM Punk and young wrestler Jack ‘Jungle Boy’ Perry at their massive All In event at Wembley Stadium last year.

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The company has notably been quiet on the series of backstage incidents which ruined Punk’s otherwise successful run in the company – first, his fight with The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega at All Out 2022, and then his dispute with Perry which led to his firing.

The 2022 incident, which followed Punk suffering a triceps injury in his main event match, has not been discussed publicly due to reported nondisclosure agreements signed by the parties involved.

But it was believed Punk attacked the Bucks first, punching Matt Jackson, while his friend and former AEW staffer Ace Steel threw a chair that hit Nick Jackson, before biting Omega and pulling his hair.

Punk wanted to turn that incident into an on-camera feud to make some money, but the Bucks were not interested, and when Punk returned to AEW a new TV show – Collision – was effectively created because of and for him, allowing him and his allies to appear at separate tapings to the Bucks and their camp.

Yet Punk still got involved in a dispute after Perry wanted to involve the real glass of a rental car’s windshield in an injury angle on Collision, with Punk and others inside AEW telling Perry it was a bad idea.

At the All In event, during a match early in the show, Perry was involved in a spot using glass, then saying into the camera “it’s real glass, cry me a river”.

Punk, hearing these comments, confronted Perry backstage and the pair fought – that was all that was known for sure until Thursday’s edition of Dynamite.

That was when AEW showed actual footage of the fight.

Punk, preparing for his match with Samoa Joe, can be seen going up to Perry with the pair then talking for 30-45 seconds.

Perry did not appear aggressive, even fixing his hair in the seconds before Punk got aggressive, pushing and then attempting to choke Perry before the pair were pulled apart.

Punk can then be seen going over to the gorilla position where AEW boss Tony Khan was sitting, knocking some monitors, and according to Punk’s own account told Khan “you’re a clown, I quit”.

Punk’s account, told to a former journalist turned WWE fan, was full of exaggerations about the incident to make him look less bad. And it was this discussion of the incident that clearly led AEW to showing the fight.

For months AEW has tried to take the higher ground, not talking about the incidents with Punk publicly or privately, while Punk happily spoke to media members on background to give his side of the story and then spoke directly about the fight last week.

It seems clear Khan and the Bucks were simply sick of only one side of the story being told, and wanted to prove Punk’s truth wasn’t the whole truth.

The problem is, showing the footage was never going to convince anyone they were right. Punk’s fans – mostly just WWE fans – will watch the footage and see what they want to see. Punk’s critics will say the footage was unsurprising because it’s already very clear Punk is incredibly bad at dealing with criticism and conflict.

Showing the footage publicly felt like a move out of the WCW playbook; an attempt to pop a TV rating with no actual storyline reason.

Eric Bischoff, who has turned a couple of years of success into decades of relevance and now makes money criticising AEW (mostly incorrectly and saying things he knows aren’t true), would’ve been proud.

AEW attempted to turn the footage into a storyline by framing it around the upcoming Young Bucks vs FTR (fka The Revival) match at their Dynasty pay per view.

The Bucks, in character, claimed they were distracted by the Punk fight in their roles as executive vice presidents which is why they lost and pointed to the well-known friendship between FTR and Punk.

The problem here is that the Bucks are the heels in this feud. So what is showing the Punk footage supposed to do, in storyline? Make us like FTR and, thus, Punk?

If anything it made Perry, who has been suspended from AEW and wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling (with AEW’s blessing) calling himself ‘The Scapegoat’, actually look like a scapegoat because other than wanting to do something dangerous and getting a bit snippy with his on-air comment, he really did nothing wrong.

He certainly didn’t attack a colleague backstage for the second time, like Punk did, warranting his firing.

And let’s be clear – Punk is in the wrong here. AEW may not completely be in the right but Punk was a disruptive backstage presence who preached wanting to make amends for a past dispute with the Bucks, yet reportedly rejected the idea outright with his former friend Colt Cabana, when Cabana approached Punk backstage at an AEW show.

He has been hypocritical at many times throughout this process.

But for whatever reason in the current internet wrestling landscape, AEW and Tony Khan have become the bad guys.

Some of it is the very partisan nature of a wrestling war, with WWE fans becoming evangelists and not understanding why people would like the other company.

Some of it is former wrestling figures, like the aforementioned Bischoff but also Jim Cornette, making money by spreading disinformation and hatred about AEW.

The company is nowhere close to folding because of the Khan family’s incredible wealth, and looks likely to be drawing a profit once a new TV deal is signed in the coming months; their attendance has been poor at times recently but their TV ratings are solid, always in the top few shows for the night on cable.

More to the point, they’re inarguably a success, more so than any competitor to WWE since the heyday of WCW.

Yet the general narrative online about AEW is that they’re failing, because that’s what the likes of Bischoff and Cornette falsely claim.

Khan, who is the most online person you’ll ever see, clearly doesn’t enjoy taking all of this constant criticism and sometimes lashes out – sometimes fairly, sometimes not, but nowhere close to what Vince McMahon did over his decades in charge of WWE.

The simple fact is AEW looks cold right now because WWE is hot, and it’s always hard to be the No. 2 wrestling promotion when the No. 1 company is going so well.

AEW’s peak, in late 2021 with Punk involved, was right when WWE had driven off its most fans due to years of confusing bookings – when the wrestling audience more broadly was at its most disgruntled.

Now WWE fans love the product, and AEW has fluctuated between trying to be a true alternative with a pro wrestling focus – and the in-ring action has always been better than WWE, since the company was founded – or a second sports entertainment promotion.

MJF’s controversial reign as champion and angles involving Adam Cole were more befitting WWE than what AEW was thought to be.

Originally published as Backstage AEW fight that got WWE’s CM Punk fired shown on live TV in bizarre scenes