Around the Loop: Will ‘Collision’ Lead To An AEW Brand Split?

Mark your calendars. In one week, the redemption tour of CM Punk begins.

There’s no need to recount the controversy surrounding Punk, which began at the infamous media scrum for last year’s All Out. Punk said mean things. There was a fight. Tony Khan said an internal investigation of the incident had been completed, but the results have yet to be released. Rumors of backstage finagling zoomed around the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) about what was happening with Punk, the Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega. Could they co-exist? For months, the intrigue around the AEW locker room was the subject of conjecture in the wrestling media.

None of that matters now.

Giving Punk what is, in essence, his own television show smacks of rewarding bad behavior. Punk embarrassed the company in that scrum. He got into a highly-publicized scrap with some of AEW’s executive vice presidents. Had that happened in a non-wrestling company, Punk would have been out on his ass in a heartbeat.

Instead, AEW is touting the premiere of Collision as “The Second Coming of CM Punk.” Collision‘s debut will take place at the United Center in Chicago, Punk’s hometown. There’s no question that Punk has a giant fanbase. Historically, the man is a ratings draw. Punk’s AEW debut on Rampage drew well over one million viewers. From a business perspective, putting Punk back on television makes sense.

But why on Saturday instead of AEW’s flagship Wednesday show, Dynamite?

What has been publicly announced of Collision so far points toward a brand split, a possibility Tony Khan has yet to confirm. “That’s frankly by design,” Khan said in a May media call. “We want to build that curiosity in and get people wondering… ‘What’s the future of the AEW roster, and what does this all mean going forward after Double or Nothing?’ It’s a really good question and something we’ll be excited to follow up on.”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so the saying goes. Seeing wrestlers who haven’t been in the ring for months will satisfy that short-term nostalgia for some. On the flip side, Collision sounds like a televised work/release program, a way for disgruntled workers to collect an honest paycheck while staying away from their perceived enemies.

Look: we all want to see Punk take on the Elite in the ring. That real-life conflict needs to be settled in front of a crowd. If that bout doesn’t happen, Khan is leaving money on the table. Book that match, with any partners or stipulations you can think of, and that’s a record-breaking pay-per-view. Let’s say those guys get committed to different series after a brand split. The chances of that match happening drastic go down.

Not only is the controversial Punk the star of Collision, but the announced roster foundation includes people who have allegedly caused difficulties in the locker room.

Thunder Rosa is set to return. La Mera Mera spent a lot of time on the injured list and has been doing Spanish commentary for Dynamite. Others in the women’s locker room accused her of sandbagging, particularly Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. On the reality show AEW: All Access, Baker complained about Rosa’s absence from the locker room while still holding the championship. Putting Rosa on Collision keeps Rosa away from Baker while still getting her back on television.

Andrade El Idolo is scheduled to come back, although he teased his exit from the company on social media in November 2022. He did much the same thing when he was in WWE, publicly complaining about his position within the roster. If an employee doesn’t want to be in your company, why would you attempt to keep them on? Andrade becoming a Collision mainstay would also potentially keep him away from El Faccion Ingobernables, the Dynamite faction he used to lead.

Former TNT Champion Miro has not appeared in an AEW ring since September 2022. According to reports, Miro rejected AEW Creative’s plans for his character and he chose not to return to the ring. There are no reports that Miro has heat in the locker room. Maybe the company came up with a storyline Miro agreed with. If so, then Collision could be Miro’s road back to the top.

Ideally, that’s the kind of show Collision could be. Bring some underutilized workers into the ring. Let them get back over. Make the show Saturday appointment television. Heck, the main event on the first show looks like a fantastic match.

At last, we’ll get CMFTR, and they’ll take on Bullet Club Gold and Ring of Honor Television Champion Samoan Joseph… sorry, Samoa Joe. It’s the Khan-jureverse in a nutshell, bringing AEW and ROH together in a slap-happy bout. But what will fill up the rest of that two-hour slot? Expect another pipebomb from Punk. There will almost certainly be appearances by the rest of the announced roster, the Breakfast Club of professional wrestling.

Will that be enough starpower to bring in the viewers? Only the quarter-hour ratings will tell. It would be surprising if the debut episode of Collision didn’t draw hundreds of thousands of eyes. Strong starts, however, don’t always portend staying power. It begs the question wrestling fans always ask: what happens next?

If AEW is headed towards a strong, definite brand split, then other popular stars will need to migrate over to Saturdays. It’s going to take more than CM Punk to make Collision a hit. As it stands, one week before the show’s debut, Collision looks more like a fender-bender.

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