I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never quite understood the fascination with CM Punk.
CM Punk was a charismatic wrestling personality and a great storyteller in the ring but by the time he rose to stardom, my lifelong obsession with the squared circle was nearing the end. I watched him instead as the co-host of a short-lived TV show covering WWE programming and saw him on more than one occasion get physically destroyed in the world of MMA. Oh, and of course I followed him on Twitter, where he occasionally had some interesting takes on WWE. I was certain by 2021 that the hype was over and we’d never see Punk wrestle again but his return, this time for All Elite Wrestling, absolutely shook the wrestling world. CM Punk’s comeback happened to come right on the heels of Upper Deck, at the Nation Sports Cards Convention, announcing that it was now the official card company of All Elite Wrestling. Upper Deck even managed to release a timely Topps Now-style CM Punk card to commemorate his unexpected/expected return.
The card below, which was only available for a few days, did big numbers as you can imagine and brought some much needed attention to Upper Deck. Punk’s first AEW card should come as no big surprise, however, considering Upper Deck’s strong relationship with CM Punk. Punk has appeared on multiple Upper Deck products over the years from hockey sets all the way to Goodwin Champions. Looking at the card below, to me, there’s nothing special about it but it’s always good to see Upper Deck in the spotlight again after the disastrous decade they have had to face since losing the MLB, NBA, and NFL licenses. It’s fair to say, Upper Deck’s glory years are in the rear view mirror. Just how many years/months CM Punk’s return to wrestling lasts is also up in the air but at age 42, he could easily perform for another decade if he’s inspired and paid accordingly. With Punk, nothing is certain.
So after seeing Upper Deck’s first Punk AEW card I started wondering about Punk’s rookie. I assumed, wrongly so, that it came from those mid-2000 Topps wrestling sets that where everywhere but to my surprise it came from Pacific Trading Cards! Thanks to Punk’s long-awaited return, the hottest card in the hobby for at least one weekend, came from Pacific. Talk about a blast from the past. The craziest part of all this is that in 2004, Pacific was on its very last legs after losing the MLB license (and all others) due to sheer stupidity. This means that at the time of Punk’s Pacific rookie card release, Pacific was looked at by collectors in the same way we look at Upper Deck today. Pacific in 2004 was a shell of their former self on the verge of bankruptcy and shuttering down due to one controversy after another. The only real difference between Upper Deck and Pacific is that Upper Deck, thanks to investors, was able to continue producing trading card sets long after their demise in major sports while Pacific struggled until finally ending all business operations.
As for Upper Deck’s upcoming AEW set, I’m still a wait-and-see guy. I asked one of their employees what their chances are of getting Punk signatures in the set, even as redemptions. I was told it’s unlikely due to the timing “but never say never when it comes to Upper Deck or CM Punk”. I for one hope they can find a way to make it happen, not for collectors … there’s enough CM Punk autographs out there. I want this set to be a huge success for Upper Deck as a company. Now that baseball is locked up for an eternity by Fanatics, it seems all Upper Deck can fall back on is their unlicensed sports cards, the Marvel properties, and this now very hot AEW product. The last thing I want to see is Upper Deck go the way of Pacific Trading Cards. As a collector of 30+ years, I’m tired of seeing the companies I grew up on closing down for good. I’ve lived through Fleer, Donruss, and Pinnacle’s demise, I don’t think I could handle Upper Deck’s extinction. No sir, not after making it THIS LONG without baseball.