Since leaving WWE five years ago, CM Punk has rejected all wrestling overtures as he's been involved in other projects. The door has seemingly been shut in regards a return to wrestling but that door may have cracked open just a bit when Punk agreed to be a guest at Starrcast III in his hometown of Chicago.
Wrestling Inc's Raj Giri joined Ryback's podcast, Conversation With The Big Guy, where The Big Guy talked about what it means now that Punk is showing up at Starrcast.
"He's done signings before and it is in Chicago, and he's always been open to meet and greets at different times. I remember seeing him at a Long Island one that he did for UFC that he did back a few years ago, which I think was his first open public signings since leaving WWE. I'm sure that those guys [AEW] have made it known that they are open to signing him. In pro wrestling, guys can wrestle well in their older age, but he has been out of it for a while and I don't know. I think it's just him taking a signing," said Ryback who then cautioned that this meet-and-greet is just that: a meet-and-greet.
"I think it's good but CM Punk has millions of fans that do love him still and going and doing a meet and greet is totally different than being a pro wrestler. I think this is something that people have a hard time to understand and it's something, which I will briefly discuss what I have gone through, but CM Punk gave it his all and tried something he really wanted to do which was pro wrestling and got really burned out on. It's very easy for that to happen in the WWE environment and I think once you are there and you see what it is, the accomplishments almost are out of your control."
Ryback then said that CM Punk fought his way to the top of WWE for a period and likely made lots of money. Once you've reached that level of success and fame, then you may no longer have the desire to fight, both literally and figuratively, again and that's what Punk may be realizing.
"CM Punk has a pretty good nest at home," stated Ryback. "He has a pretty good foundation and has made a pretty good amount of money, and I don't know what he has done investment-wise but he could be set for the rest of his life; I don't know. Then all of a sudden at 40 years old I am going to turn it on and to try and be the best and to be at the upper level of pro wrestling; I don't know. I think he has done it where he has the confidence to do it if he wants, but I think this is just one of those things to do a signing and meeting his fans.
"To tie it in, I had to shut it down in order to heal. I am super competitive and it was the toughest thing that I had to do. My reasons were completely different. I had to, I had no choice, otherwise it would have been game over. Him, I presume he is healthy but mentally it is really a hard thing to overcome if you have checked out. He has achieved everything that he wanted to achieve outside of main eventing a WrestleMania, again out of his control to a large degree, and the UFC thing and losing two fights, you have to understand what that does to a person mentally."
Ryback added that he thinks Punk could return to the ring and be successful as he doesn't question Punk's ability. Rather he doesn't know if Punk wants that wrestling spotlight on him again as much as the fans want it.
"The fans have to understand that they have to put themselves in his shoes, and I have had my disagreements with him, but you have to put yourself in his shoes and understand that this guy has mentally gone through a lot and has been frustrated, as well as putting up with a lot of bulls**t too, as all pro wrestlers do," said Ryback. "He has done things that I don't necessarily agree with, but at 40 years old to all of a sudden get that hunger again?
"...He has to do it at an upper level and he has to have that hunger to do it again and I don't know, only he will know that.
"I have heard The Young Bucks talk about it to welcome him with open arms, and maybe they believe if he comes around it that itch will come back, which is very possible. If anywhere he is going to go, I think AEW with that schedule is the most welcoming of all the situations for him. So, I would personally think it would be a great move if he was able to go back and maybe he does do a surprise appearance there and hits the GTS and cuts a promo and to see how the reception is, but obviously being in Chicago he is going to have a great reception there regardless."
You can check out Ryback's comments about Punk in the video above. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Conversation with the Big Guy with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.