CM Punk is a champion again in the industry in which he first became a star.
Eight years after parting ways with the WWE and four years after venturing into the UFC, Punk captured the All Elite Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship with a victory over Adam “Hangman” Page in the main event of AEW’s annual Double or Nothing pay-per-view Sunday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
This is the first time in nine years that Punk, 43, has held a professional wrestling title. He was most recently the WWE World Heavyweight Champion in January 2013, a belt that he famously wore for 434 days.
Punk and Page engaged in an entertaining, hard-fought contest, that saw both performers hit plenty of their signature spots (including utilizing each other’s finishing maneuvers) while riling up a voracious Vegas audience. This was the seventh scheduled championship defense for Page, whose reign had already included thrilling encounters with veterans like Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, and Lance Archer after taking the title from Kenny Omega this past November.
In the end, the story of the match portrayed Page as a champion who appeared to be torn between wanting to win the match and wanting to humiliate the highly venerated Punk. Page’s downfall came after teasing that he would hit Punk with the title belt, deciding against it, and then falling prey to Punk’s “Go 2 Sleep” finishing move.
Punk appeared to legitimately be in tears following the win, which was the culmination of his decision to return to professional wrestling following a seven-year hiatus that was caused by an acrimonious departure from the WWE.
Watch his emotional reaction to becoming AEW champion above.
Punk is well known to MMA fans for signing with the UFC six years ago and going winless at UFC 203 and UFC 225, and he wasn’t the only former UFC fighter to shine on Sunday.
Current BKFC competitor Paige VanZant was also successful in what was her first-ever pro wrestling match. VanZant teamed with veterans Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page in a mixed tag match against the trio of Tay Conti, Sammy Guevara, and Frankie Kazarian.
While the more experienced wrestlers handled most of the match, VanZant had her moment in the spotlight in the middle of the contest as she showed off her MMA skills with a double leg takedown and then her newfound pro wrestling skills as she connected with an impressive spinning DDT.
Putting her in the ring opposite skilled performers like Conti and Guevara proved to be a wise choice as VanZant looked like a natural in her first match. Her team eventually won when Sky pinned Kazarian. VanZant’s husband, Bellator middleweight Austin Vanderford, was shown in the crowd cheering loudly in celebration.
Watch more of Punk and VanZant’s big nights below:
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