On September 2, AEW and Tony Khan announced that they had terminated the contracts of Phil Brooks (CM Punk) with cause.
Punk’s termination came following an investigation into the backstage incident at AEW All In at Wembley Stadium.
Following his departure, Bryan Danielson made his return to Collision, where he subbed in for Punk in a Strap Match against Ricky Starks at All Out in Chicago.
Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Bryan discussed CM Punk’s departure from AEW, and how it could be used to bring people closer.
“In any job, when you lose somebody who’s very important, or you lose somebody you really like working with, that’s hard, but everyone keeps doing the job. And any time there is loss or controversy or struggle inside an organization, it’s a chance to bring people closer. It’s also a chance to divide people. So you have this thing where you can use struggle to make your life worse, or you can use struggle to make your life better. When I lost my father, I came out on the backside. I was worse. Struggling with my depression, I’ve come out of it better. So how you approach something and how you learn from something, that’s what makes the difference.”
Bryan stood in for Punk against Ricky Starks at All Out, where the two went on to have a fantastic strap match, that many looked at as a breakout performance for Starks.
When discussing Starks, Bryan said:
“He’s been on the cusp for so long. I think why he hasn’t crossed over that barrier is because he needs the opportunities where he can cross that line to go from upper mid-card to the main event. He’s had opportunities, but we haven’t been great with the follow-through. In his promos, you can see the frustration, and it’s a very real frustration. I can understand that frustration, I’ve been there. He lets his heart bleed out on the screen, which is really important. He’s great at that, too.
“Look at what Ricky did in that strap match. I loved the physicality. That’s one of the things that draws me to pro wrestling, the idea that it’s physical. I like being in physical matches. I wasn’t sure if he would enjoy being in that physical of a match. But that’s one of the interesting things about being in the ring with somebody. Although it’s entertainment, there’s a lot you don’t know. A lot of the interactions and the fire-ups, those are very real. It was really fun for me to see his reactions to some of the things I was doing, and he was able to see my reactions, too. Those were visceral reactions, and I was very pleased with it.”
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