AEW releases CM Punk ‘with cause’ after physical altercation at All In PPV event in London

CM Punk, real name Phil Brooks, has been fired from All Elite Wrestling just over two years after returning to wrestling by signing with the company. AEW shared the news on social media Saturday afternoon. Brooks’ firing, which was described as “with cause,” comes after his second backstage physical altercation during his time with the promotion.

Brooks reportedly got into a fight with “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry at AEW’s record-breaking All In event at Wembley Stadium in London.

Brooks and Perry had a prior argument when Brooks reportedly tried to talk Perry out of a planned spot in a match in which Perry intended to use “real glass” and would result in his being written off of television for a week. Punk reportedly told Perry the spot was too dangerous.

After wrestling on the All In pre-show, Perry spoke into a camera, saying, “It’s real glass, cry me a river.” This led to a confrontation between the two before Brooks opened the pay-per-view with a match against Samoa Joe. Rumors have swirled about the extent of the physicality of that confrontation, though most reports have suggested Brooks punched Perry.

“The termination follows a weeklong internal investigation of an incident occurring back stage at AEW — All In London on Sunday, August 27,” the AEW statement read. “Following the investigation, the AEW Discipline Committee met and later convened with outside legal counsel before making a unanimous recommendation to [AEW CEO Tony] Khan that CM Punk be terminated with cause.”

Brooks retired from wrestling in a messy split with WWE in 2014 before making a return to wrestling when he signed with AEW in August 2021.

The following May, Brooks won the AEW world title but suffered a broken foot that sidelined him until August. One month later, after defeating interim champion Jon Moxley in the main event of All In to unify the titles, Brooks made comments at the post-event press conference stating that roster members and AEW executive vice presidents The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega had spread rumors about him. This led to a situation where Brooks and trainer and friend Ace Steel legitimately brawled with the Bucks and Omega.

All involved in the brawl were suspended and Brooks chose to undergo surgery on his tricep after tearing it in the match with Moxley.

Brooks returned to action in June, appearing on the debut episode of AEW Collision, a new Saturday show that was planned to largely feature Brooks. Just months later, Brooks’ time with AEW is over.

“Phil played an important role within AEW and I thank him for his contributions,” Khan said in the AEW statement. “The termination of his AEW contracts with cause is ultimately my decision, and mine alone. Of course, I wish I didn’t have to share this news, which may come as a disappointment to many of our fans. Nevertheless, I am making the decision in the best interests of the many amazing people who make AEW possible every week — our talent, staff, venue operators and many others whose efforts are unsung but essential to bringing our fans great shows on television and at arenas and stadiums throughout the world.”

2023 WWE Payback live stream, how to watch online, start time, card, matches

WWE heads to Pittsburgh on Saturday night for Payback. It’s an interesting card, featuring four title matches and hosted by WWE legend John Cena.

There are four title bouts scheduled for Saturday night, headlined by Seth Rollins defending the world heavyweight championship against Shinsuke Nakamura. There is one other match on the card carrying a stipulation as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are set to defend the undisputed WWE tag team championship against Judgment Day’s Finn Balor and Damian Priest in a Steel City Street Fight.

Plus, one of the big featured matches pits Becky Lynch against Trish Stratus inside of a steel cage. After months of Stratus taking shortcuts to get the better of Lynch, “The Man” will finally be in an environment with no easy escapes for her WWE Hall of Fame opponent. Although, you can expect Stratus’ protege Zoey Stark to play a role in the match in one way or another.

Also, Cody Rhodes will appear on an edition of “The Grayson Waller Effect.”

Below is how you can catch all the action on Saturday night.

Watch 2023 WWE Payback
Date: Sept. 2, 2023
Location: PPG Paints Arena — Pittsburgh
Start time: 8 p.m. ET
Watch live: Peacock

2023 WWE Payback match card
World Heavyweight Championship — Seth Rollins (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Women’s World Championship — Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Raquel Rodriguez
Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus (Steel Cage Match)
Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship — Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Damian Priest & Finn Balor (Steel City Street Fight)
LA Knight vs. The Miz
United States Championship — Rey Mysterio (c) vs. Austin Theory

WWE superstar surpasses 35-year-old mark held by Honky Tonk Man

Gunther is the longest-reigning intercontinental champion in WWE history, breaking a record that stood for 35 years. Gunther officially surpassed Honky Tonk Man on Friday.

Gunther successfully defended the intercontinental title against Chad Gable on Monday Night Raw, clearing the final hurdle between him and the record. He has now held the intercontinental championship for 455 days and will extend that record at least through the week.

History made.

— WWE (@WWE) September 7, 2023
The Austrian superstar describes the professional wrestling ring as a “sacred mat” and has rejuvenated the intercontinental championship with such prestige. Gunther has delivered several show-stealing performances since defeating Ricochet for the title on June 10, 2022. His triple threat match against Drew McIntyre and Sheamus at WrestleMania 39 is considered one of the best in WrestleMania’s long history.

Honky Tonk Man’s status as the intercontinental king always bordered absurdity. The Elvis impersonator was a comedy character through and through, yet he lorded over a title generally awarded to technically gifted wrestlers and those on the verge of main events. Interestingly, both Gunther and Honky Tonk Man each have just one stint as an intercontinental champion.

Tampa Bay to host annual event in January to kick off new year

WWE is bringing one of its marquee events to Tampa Bay. The organization announced on Wednesday that the 37th Royal Rumble event will take place at Tropicana Field on Saturday, Jan. 27.

The promotion will spend a few days in the Tampa Bay area, including the Royal Rumble in St. Petersburg and WWE Raw in Tampa on Jan. 29. It marks the first time since 1995 that Tampa Bay will host the annual event. The area also hosted WrestleMania in 2021.

The upcoming event will feature a 30-man and a 30-woman Royal Rumble match, according to a press release from WWE. The winner of each rumble will receive championship matches at WrestleMania 40, currently scheduled for April 6 and April 7 in Philadelphia.

The Royal Rumble is one of WWE’s traditional “big four” events, more recently dubbed the “big five” to incorporate Money in the Bank. The other events in this bubble include SummerSlam, Survivor Series and WrestleMania. The inaugural Royal Rumble was held in 1988 as part of a televised event and subsequently became a standalone event in 1989. The Rumble traditionally serves as “The Road to WrestleMania,” a three-month season where that year’s WrestleMania card begins to take shape.

Last year’s Royal Rumble winners were Cody Rhodes and Rhea Ripley. Rhodes unsuccessfully challenged Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 39 Night 2. Ripley defeated Charlotte Flair to become SmackDown women’s champion. Ripley was subsequently crowned the inaugural Women’s world champion, a title she actively holds.

The Rock surprises with return to WWE SmackDown in segments with John Cena, Pat McAfee

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena unexpectedly crossed paths more than 10 years after their legendary set of WrestleMania matches. The face-to-face took place Friday night on WWE SmackDown following surprise appearances by The Rock and Pat McAfee in the show’s opening segment.

McAfee, who previously worked as a WWE commentator and part-time wrestler, opened the show without prior advertisement. McAfee was cut off by former United States champion Austin Theory, leading to a verbal back and forth. The brash, young Theory found himself at a disadvantage after McAfee introduced the evening’s second surprise, The Rock.

The Rock verbally tore into Theory, leading the crowd in a prolonged chant of “you’re an asshole” directed at Theory. The cocky superstar reached his boiling point and attacked. The Rock planted Theory with his signature spinebuster followed by a People’s Elbow. He then invited McAfee to put his own spin on the People’s Elbow.

Later backstage, The Rock embraced Cena, similarly a multi-time WWE champion turned actor. The former rivals headlined WrestleMania 28 and WrestleMania 29, going 1-1 in the two matches.

“Welcome home”

What a moment between @TheRock and @JohnCena 🙌#SmackDown

— WWE (@WWE) September 16, 2023
Earlier Friday, the “Black Adam” actor appeared on “The Pat McAfee Show.” Johnson confirmed there were plans for a match between The Rock and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39 that fell through. He also suggested it was possible he would fight Reigns at WrestleMania 40 next April in Philadelphia.

Perth, Australia to host annual PPV event in February

The Road to WrestleMania 40 will drive through Perth, Australia. WWE announced on Thursday that Elimination Chamber: Perth will take place at Optus Stadium on Feb. 24.

WWE returns to Australia for the first time since 2018 in what will be the company’s only pay-per-view event in the Asia-Pacific region in 2024. The announcement comes during arguably the most successful stretch for Australian superstars in WWE history. Women’s world champion Rhea Ripley — the first female Australian champion in WWE and second Australian champ, behind fiancee Buddy Murphy — is one of WWE’s most popular acts at present. Fellow superstars Bronson Reed, Grayson Waller, Indi Hartwell and Nia Jax were also born in Australia.

“I’m beyond proud to represent Australia every single time I step inside a WWE ring and to bring a Premium Live Event to Perth is a dream come true,” Ripley said in a press release. “Get ready Australia, because Mami is coming home.”

The announcement of Elimination Chamber rounds out WWE’s major event calendar for the Road to WrestleMania, an annual season that begins with the Royal Rumble in January and concludes with the titular showcase in April. The upcoming Rumble takes place in Tampa Bay and WrestleMania 40 will occur over two nights in Philadelphia.

WWE’s upcoming excursion to Australia continues the company’s increased effort to host major events globally. In 2023, WWE held annual shows in Canada, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, England, and a non-televised special in India.

Matt Riddle, Dolph Ziggler among more than 20 superstars released after new TV deal announced

The WWE roster is thinning out following a new television rights announcement in the aftermath of a major merger. Matt Riddle, Dolph Ziggler, Shelton Benjamin and Mustafa Ali are among the WWE superstars that have been released following the company’s announcement of a TV deal for SmackDown, according to multiple reports.

Riddle, a one-time UFC fighter who won multiple titles in WWE, announced his release Friday: “Just wanted to inform everyone that I’m no longer with WWE. Thank you for the memories and opportunities also thank you to all the fans for the support and love you give me every time I go out to the ring. See you all soon.”

A five-year stint with WWE began in NXT where Riddle became a fast-rising star who earned promotion to the main roster. His greatest success came teaming with Randy Orton as RK-Bro, an odd couple babyface tag team that twice won the Raw tag team championship. Riddle also held the United States title and NXT tag team championship (with Pete Dunne). However, multiple behavioral issues — including a recent public outburst at a New York airport — made him a liability for WWE.

Ziggler is a former two-time world heavyweight champion and Money in the Bank winner who was coming up on 20 years with the company. Benjamin was a multi-time titleholder who confirmed announced his release. Elias shared a tweet reflecting on his WWE journey.

From Drifting onto the scene..

To WrestleMania with John Cena & The Undertaker..

To Millions around the world for years Walking With Elias..

A #1 ITunes Album

& To being my own younger brother (ZEKE)

while traveling the world..

It’s been a blast.

God is Good!

— Elias (@IAmEliasWWE) September 21, 2023
Mustafa Ali, Emma, Madcap Moss and former WWE women’s tag team champion Aliyah were among superstars who publicly confirmed their releases on social media. Ali’s release was arguably the most surprising considering he was scheduled to face Dominik Mysterio for the NXT North American championship at the No Mercy event on Sept. 30. More cuts are expected throughout the day. Below is a list of all the confirmed and reported superstar releases that will be updated as news emerges.

WWE superstars released this week
Matt Riddle
Dolph Ziggler
Shelton Benjamin
Mustafa Ali
Riddick Moss
Top Dolla
Rick Boogs
Dana Brooke
Dabba Kato
Ikemen Jiro
Yulisa Leon
Quincy Elliott
Bryson Montana
Kevin Ventura-Cortez
Daniel McArthur
Alexis Gray
Brooklyn Barlow
Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald
WWE announced Thursday morning that SmackDown would move from Fox to USA Network beginning October 2024 as part of a five-year deal between WWE and NBCUniversal. WWE will also host four NBC primetime network specials as part of the arrangement. USA Network currently airs Monday Night Raw and NXT on Tuesdays, both of which will reportedly move off of the network, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The latest string of releases comes after the launch of TKO. TKO is a media conglomerate created by Endeavor, which merged WWE and UFC parent company Zuffa. WWE and UFC continue to operate as separate entities but do so under the banner of TKO. The new company officially launched on Sept. 12 with a valuation of $21.4 billion. Endeavor controls 51% of TKO and WWE shareholders own a 49% stake.

More than 100 employees, most of whom were off-camera WWE staff, were laid off earlier this month as part of budget cuts, according to PW Insider.

Adam Copeland expects to end full-time career with AEW, says retirement was a ‘real option’ after last match

The Adam Copeland experience in AEW is both a sprint and a victory lap. It’s a concentrated effort to quality, creatively fulfilling work with his best friend. Edge and Christian can rest on their WWE laurels, but Copeland and Christian Cage are about to cook.

Copeland made his All Elite Wrestling debut at AEW WrestleDream in Seattle on Sunday to oppose Cage and his pupils. The video of Copeland’s debut drew nearly 7 million combined views on Twitter and YouTube in the first 24 hours. The familiar notes of Alter Bridge’s “Metalingus” not only signaled Copeland’s arrival but also his final rally. He wrestled his final match for WWE in August where many thought he would walk away from the ring for good.

But professional wrestling retirements rarely stick. Still, Copeland is fairly confident that his run with AEW will be his last as a full-time performer.

“I think that’s a very safe thing to say because I know how much work it’s going to take to be able to pull it off,” Copeland told CBS Sports. “I know that. I’m not in any way trying to fool myself into thinking I’m just going to trot through this whole thing.

“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. I enjoy hard work. I always have. It’s how I’m wired. It’s what I was born with. It’s in my DNA. So that’s super fun. But I’m also a realist and I understand that I’m not going to be able to maintain it for a super long time.”

Copeland wrestled his last WWE match on Aug. 18 in a first-time encounter with Sheamus. The match took place on an episode of SmackDown in front of Copeland’s family and his billed hometown Toronto crowd. Copeland teased retirement at the time, saying, “I don’t think I can make it another full run to get here again for a match” but also suggested a new “main residence,” fuelling speculation of a move to AEW. Copeland insists that he genuinely grappled with the idea of retiring after his last match.

“As I got closer to the end of the deal, retirement was a very, very real option. It was not off the table…” Copeland said. “I really sat with the idea of retirement because I truly thought like, ‘Man, WWE gave me that night. I don’t know how that gets topped.’ And that’s still in my brain.

“But I guess now it’s like, ‘OK, how can I try and top it in this new environment.’ Honestly, that Toronto show was a send-off of that character and it was the perfect way for that character to go out. Wrestling a guy that I’ve never wrestled that I always wanted to. It was just so much fun in there. That night, I’ll never forget it. I’ll always have that night with me. I told Sheamus that too. That will be one of the most special nights in my career, always.”

It’s easy to become jaded when you’ve achieved everything that Copeland has: 11 world championships, two Royal Rumble wins, King of the Ring, Money in the Bank and a WWE Hall of Fame ring to accompany dozens of other titles. There were two things — secondary to the support from his family — that pushed Copeland over the edge to get back in the ring: a lifelong friendship and a creative palette cleanse.

“If we could end this together, that’s the dream,” Copeland said of working with Cage, real name Jay Reso. “I sat down with my girls and I’m like, ‘OK, so what does dad do, girls?’ What do I do? And I laid out the scenarios for them. Lyric said it and then Ruby agreed, ‘Go be with Uncle Jay and have fun.’ And that doesn’t mean that I’m not having fun in other places, but they know the most fun I’m going to have is with my best friend of the last 40 years.”

Speculation ran rampant for months that Copeland would join AEW, but he says the deal came together less than two weeks before his debut. Copeland’s wife, fellow WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix, was another key player in his decision to make the switch.

“It wasn’t until my contract was up on [Sept. 21]. It wasn’t until then,” Copeland said. “So it was really, really quick to get everything done and get everything dialed in. Figuring out so many things like getting with Alter Bridge and getting the music and doing all of those things. There were nine or 10 days.

“I didn’t know immediately, but I thought that’s where I wanted to go. I really thought that working with Jay again was what I wanted to do and how I pictured it in a perfect world. Beth said, ‘What’s your perfect world? ‘I was like, ‘My perfect world is that I end my career with Jay.’ So suddenly that perfect world looked like it could be there. It’s tough to pass that up.”

A night to remember#AdamCopeland #RatedRSuperstar@EdgeRatedR #AEWWrestleDream

— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) October 2, 2023
Copeland was forced to retire in 2011 due to severe issues stemming from past neck injuries. Cage retired in 2014 due to concussion issues. Both wrestlers made remarkable comebacks and are still performing at an elite level weeks from age 50. The lifelong friends have had uniquely entwined careers even when they were apart. Cage is arguably doing some of the best work of his career as TNT champion. Copeland certainly noticed that while suffering from writer’s block in WWE.

“I kind of got the sense there wasn’t really a plan [for me in WWE]. I get it because what else do we do? What else is there to do? And after 25 years I’ve literally done everything there. So what do we do? It wasn’t anybody’s fault,” Copeland said. “I was coming up against creative walls too. I was having a hard time coming up with ideas and that’s not usually the case. I think they were too.

“There was also the conundrum that I was contracted for 10 matches a year. I offered to do more, but to their point, it wouldn’t feel quite as special, which I understood too… It just felt like neither one of us really had any ideas and that’s never been the case before. So when you look at that and then I look at my best friend over there having the time of his life, at a certain point, once I thought, ‘You know what, I still have a window here where I can do this and I don’t feel like I’m maximizing that.’ I think that was really what it boiled down to.

AEW president Tony Khan revealed at the WrestleDream post-show press conference that Copeland would be appearing in a regular capacity for the promotion. Copeland will appear on Wednesday’s episode of “AEW Dynamite” and Saturday’s “AEW Collision” ahead of his first official AEW match on Oct. 10. Copeland is keenly aware the clock is ticking and he isn’t shying from it.

“I want to try and maximize what I still have left,” Copeland said. “If that’s one year, if that’s two years, I want to do it as much as I can while I still feel like I can. I know that’s going to be hard and I know that’s going to take a lot of work physically. I know there’s a different fallout now, but I know all of those things and I really just want to weigh the glory of this thing as much as I can.”