On Tuesday night, CM Punk made his big return to WWE programming for the first time in almost six years, showing up toward the end of WWE Backstage on Fox Sports 1 and promising to come back to the program next week. As expected, it didn't take long for new details to circulate regarding Punk's appearance and what happened in the days — and hours — leading up to his return.
As reported by WrestlingNews.co's Paul Davis, the expressions on the faces of most of the WWE talents on set during last night's episode of Backstage suggested that co-host Renee Young was the only person who knew Punk was going to be present for the weekly program. While the status of Punk's tryout for Backstage was largely unknown after it was first reported that he auditioned for the show's panel, it was pointed out that Young didn't mention anything on set about the former WWE Champion's appearance in order to prevent the news from leaking out in advance.
As he himself said during his surprise return on WWE Backstage, Punk will officially be joining the program's panel next Tuesday, where he is expected to offer his take on current storylines and other developments within the company. However, the WWE on Fox Twitter account reportedly clarified that the ex-wrestler won't be a regular part of the show.
Although Davis wrote that WWE did "give their blessing" for Punk to work on Backstage, he reiterated that the retired wrestler's contract is with Fox, adding that there have been no talks regarding an actual return to the squared circle as part of the WWE roster. The WrestlingNews.co writer did, however, speculate that Punk's regular role on Backstage might "open the door" for discussions with WWE about a possible part-time comeback or a one-off match. He added that this could also be an opportunity for Punk's wife, former Divas Champion AJ Lee, to return to the promotion "in some capacity."Regarding the timing of Punk's deal with Fox, Davis claimed that the contract was signed just "a few days ago." He went on to cite unnamed sources, who said that the network wanted the "Straight-Edge Superstar" to sign the deal as soon as possible due to the dismal viewership figures tallied by Backstage in its premiere week.
For its debut episode last Tuesday, WWE Backstage drew only 49,000 viewers. However, as the New York Post predicted, Punk's return — and his penchant for controversial in-ring promos and off-camera statements — could provide some much-needed "buzz" to the struggling new program.