CM Punk made his triumphant return to wrestling after a seven-year absence on Friday, August 20, signing with All Elite Wrestling, and his arrival proved a massive ratings success for the upstart company.
According to Nielsen figures, Friday’s episode of AEW: Rampage brought in 1.129 million viewers, 692,000 in the key 18-49 demographic. Those numbers equated to a 0.53 rating, the highest an AEW program has achieved since the AEW: Dynamite premiere in October 2019. The show finished second for the night on cable, trailing only the NFL, and was up 75 percent in the demo and 53 percent in total viewers from Rampage‘s debut episode the week prior.
“You could feel the joy and unabashed enthusiasm for CM Punk on Friday’s Rampage episode — that type of fan connection is what it’s all about,” said Brett Weitz, General Manager TBS, TNT and truTV. “Tony Khan [AEW’s owner] continues to elevate the AEW Franchise with smart choices that come from a deep passion and appreciation for wrestling.”
CM Punk infamously walked out of WWE in 2014 following disagreements with the company. After his departure, he began training in MMA, having a brief run in the UFC. He’s also written several comic books and picked up various acting roles, including a guest spot in the new Starz series Heels. In 2019, he joined Fox Sports as a panel member of the studio show WWE Backstage — the program was canceled in late 2020.
The debut of CM Punk in AEW was met with a thunderous reaction from his hometown Chicago crowd in the United Center on Friday. There was an outpouring of emotion from both fans and Punk himself, who promised that he is back full-time, with the intention of helping out the younger talent on the AEW roster. This will start with rising star Darby Allin, who Punk challenged to a match at the upcoming All Out pay-per-view on September 5.
“It was an emotional moment that created a memory of a lifetime,” Khan said of Punk’s arrival in AEW. “I’m grateful for the support of wrestling fans worldwide! I’m also grateful to TNT, who gave us amazing support promoting AEW Rampage: The First Dance, and wrestling fans responded with unprecedented massive viewership on Friday night, as well as new all-time highs for live fan attendance and merchandise sales. We look forward to CM Punk’s first ever live interview on AEW: Dynamite this Wednesday, and we’re only getting started.”
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT
AEW Rampage, Premieres Friday, August 13, 10/9c, TNT