AEW World Championship history: Every title change to date

See the full AEW World Championship history, including every title change from when it was first awarded on Aug. 31, 2019 to date.

The AEW World Championship has only been in existence since 2019, but it’s already become one of the most prestigious titles in pro wrestling. The rapid ascent of All Elite Wrestling has something to do with that, but it’s also due to the high caliber and pedigree of the wrestlers who have held the championship.

So far, the men who have called themselves AEW World Champion include former world champs from other promotions, a man who made his breakthrough to main event status since his arrival in AEW, and a couple of all-time greats.

Let’s take a look at the complete AEW World Championship title history from August 31, 2019 to date.

Most recent update: Sept. 23, 2022

Might AEW be better off without CM Punk?

CM Punk could be gone for good from AEW, but maybe that’s not the disaster it would have seemed a few months ago.

Back when Bill Simmons didn’t have a multimedia empire and was simply a columnist, he used to write often about the Ewing Theory: a concept created by one of his friends when the New York Knicks played better without Patrick Ewing, who in the 1990s was the team’s best player.

Might AEW be on the verge of testing the Ewing Theory in pro wrestling?

It’s not a perfect fit because CM Punk isn’t far and away the company’s top star. But by all accounts, he has moved the needle for AEW quite a bit since he arrived last year, in terms of ticket sales (especially in the Chicago area), merchandise sales, and overall credibility, though that last one is pretty subjective, to say the least.

What isn’t up for debate is that Punk is one of the most well-known stars on the AEW roster, one who even lapsed wrestling fans recognize. And now, as more time passes since Punk’s post-All Out press conference rant and the subsequent fight that involved Punk, his friend Ace Steel, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, it’s becoming more and more possible that the wrestler and the company might actually part ways for good.

This week, Wade Keller of PWTorch came right and said that he thinks Punk is done in AEW (h/t to WrestlingNews.co for the transcription).

I am not expecting CM Punk to wrestle in AEW again. I’m not saying it’s 100% sure thing but everything is pointing in the direction of some sort of buyout of his contract.

On the surface, that would appear to be a disastrous end to a marriage between performer and promotion that would have lasted only a little more than a year. AEW CEO, GM and Head of Creative Tony Khan has spoken frequently about what Punk has meant to the company since he joined, making his loss seem like a big blow.

But maybe not. Fightful Select reported Wednesday ahead of AEW Grand Slam that the company had another talent meeting ahead of its New York show, and that its sources said the mood in the locker room had been better as of late.

A longtime AEW talent that we spoke with said the last three weeks have been much more laid back than how things were in the weeks that led up to AEW All Out. Another veteran claimed that the locker room has been the best over the last three tapings than it’s been in quite a while.

One AEW source we spoke used the term “addition by subtraction,” but wouldn’t specify who they meant specifically in that regard.

It doesn’t really have to be said. Though the Bucks and Omega remain suspended as well, the person who they’re almost certainly referring to is Punk. Here’s where the Ewing Theory applies: Even if AEW takes a short-term hit in terms of ticket and merch sales, could it actually be better off in the long run if Punk leaving means a more harmonious locker room?

You definitely can’t rule it out. Punk’s injury status means he wouldn’t be available to wrestle until 2023 anyway. Those months will pass quickly, but they’re long enough for AEW to realize that maybe it doesn’t need Punk after all, and that the company might be better positioned for future success without him.

That would have seemed a silly notion just a few months ago, but it’s looking more and more possible by the day.

Some of the suspensions from the All Out fight are over

Not for CM Punk, Kenny Omega or the Young Bucks, though.

Some of the participants in the infamous altercation after the AEW All Out press conference are back to work — just not the biggest names involved.

Fightful Select provided an update on some of the people who were said to be part of the fight that had CM Punk and Ace Steel on one side against the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega on the other.

Michael Nakazawa, Pat Buck, Christopher Daniels and Brandon Cutler all had their Brawl Out suspensions lifted after only one week. Pat Buck was backstage at AEW Dynamite, while Daniels and Nakazawa were already on a planned trip to Japan, but will now participate in matches for AEW at Tokyo Game Show.

The presumption, also backed up by Fightful Select, is that these four were suspended pending an internal investigation into the events of that night, and have since been cleared of any serious wrongdoing.

Of course, those also aren’t the names fans most want to know about. The fates of Punk and Steel remain “uncertain,” though in Punk’s case there is somewhat less urgency, even though he’s at the center of the whole situation, since he is injured and not expected back in 2022.

Omega is in Japan, where he’s posted pics of himself eating and catching up with old friend and former tag team partner, Kota Ibushi.

The Bucks are, by all accounts, at home, and their popular “Being the Elite” YouTube series is also on hold.

All of that is to say that how this all plays out in the end is anyone’s guess. While some observers feel it would be better for all involved if AEW cuts ties with Punk, his status as one of the company’s top draws makes that a bit more complicated calculus than it might be for someone else who had started the same kind of uproar. No one expects Omega or the Bucks to be fired, but if the investigation finds they were the aggressors, a longer suspension might be in the cards than initially thought.

In the meantime, as with all things wrestling, the show goes on. Death Triangle has already taken over as AEW World Trios Champions with Omega and the Bucks out, and the company will crown a new AEW World Champion at AEW Dynamite Grand Slam at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York this coming Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Roman Reigns, Kazuchika Okada, CM Punk top 2022 PWI 500

According to the latest PWI 500, Roman Reigns is the top star in all of pro wrestling, not just WWE.

It’s time to acknowledge Roman Reigns as the best pro wrestler on the planet.

For the second time, Reigns was selected No. 1 in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s PWI 500, its rankings of the top male pro wrestlers in the world. The list, which has been published annually since 1991, also gave Reigns the top spot in 2016.

Joining Reigns in the top three are Kazuchika Okada of NJPW and currently suspended AEW star CM Punk. Both are former number ones in their own right; Okada in 2017, Punk in 2012.

AEW and WWE each placed another wrestler in the top five, with Hangman Adam Page appearing at No. 4, followed by Bobby Lashley. It’s a career-best rank for Page, whose previous high was No. 33 two years ago, while Lashley slips just a few spots from No. 3 in 2021.

The top 10 for 2022 also includes AAA luchador El Hijo del Vikingo at No. 8, and former ROH World Champion Jonathan Gresham at No. 10. After Okada, the next highest ranking NJPW wrestler is Shingo Takagi at No. 11.

Perhaps the most bittersweet entry among this year’s top wrestlers is No. 9-ranked Big E. While it’s his first appearance in the top 10 after moving up four places since 2021, Big E is currently out of action following a broken neck sustained in March, and he told TMZ over the summer that he’s unsure if he will ever be able to wrestle again.

Other notable entries within the PWI 500 top 30:

  • Jox Moxley slips just a bit from No. 6 in 2021 to No. 12.
  • At No. 13, Matt Cardona is the top-ranked indie performer.
  • Josh Alexander‘s No. 14 ranking makes him the top Impact Wrestling star for 2022.
  • Last year’s No. 1, Kenny Omega, finds himself at No. 19 this year, in large part due to time he missed due to injury.
  • Current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Jay White of NJPW is sure to use his No. 23 ranking as even more of a chip on his shoulder.

The December issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated containing the entire PWI 500 is available now digitally, and will go on sale in print form soon.

AEW All Out 2022: Best photos of CM Punk vs. Jon Moxley for the AEW World Championship

See the best photos from the AEW World Championship match between CM Punk and Jon Moxley at AEW All Out 2022.

Before that press conference happened and CM Punk became the most talked about personality in all of pro wrestling, he had a heck of a match against Jon Moxley for the AEW World Championship in front of his hometown fans in Chicago.

Punk was injured during the match and his long term future with AEW is unknown, but for now his lasting in-ring memories will heavily feature this bout. Relive the action, blood and drama through some of the best photos from the main event of AEW All Out 2022. (Photos courtesy of All Elite Wrestling)

Neither CM Punk nor Christian Cage will be wrestling again in 2022

Maybe CM Punk and Christian Cage can be injury rehab buddies since they face similar recovery times.

Even if CM Punk is able to mend fences and return to an AEW ring down the road, it won’t be until well into 2023.

Lost just a bit amid all the well justified hoopla over Punk’s post-All Out press conference rant and the subsequent altercation he had with the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega was the fact that Punk was also injured that night. Initially, it was thought that he might have been hurt during the fight, but it turns out it occurred during his AEW World Championship match against Jon Moxley.

It was later reported to be “serious,” and Dave Meltzer clarified that during his latest Wrestling Observer newsletter, confirming that it’s a torn triceps which will require surgery. That means Punk will be out of action for around 6-9 months.

Christian Cage may be facing the same length of time on the shelf. While “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry referred to Cage being hurt during his promo this week on Dynamite, but Meltzer says now his injury may also be a torn triceps. That will put a serious damper on their feud, though with Luchasaurus also involved, Perry should have no trouble staying busy for the time being.

If Punk remains on the sidelines for the top end of the estimated recovery time, it’s possible he might not be cleared to wrestle again until June of 2023. That would mean he’d go an entire calendar year without wrestling anyone but Moxley, who he lost to on Aug. 24 in an AEW World Championship unification match on Dynamite, before beating him in the rematch at All Out on Sep. 4.

That’s assuming, of course, that Punk isn’t simply done with AEW after the fallout stemming from the press conference and everything that followed — which isn’t guaranteed, as AEW is said to be conducting an independent investigation into what went down. Regardless, it’s a sobering reminder that the company’s days of being able to call upon one of its top draws are going to be delayed for quite a while if they will continue at all.

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Regardless of discipline, CM Punk likely to give up world title tonight due to ‘serious’ injury

CM Punk suffered a “serious” injury at All Out, meaning his tenure as AEW World Champion is likely over whether he remains in AEW or not.

Here we go again.

As fans and industry observers await final word on whether CM Punk will be suspended or let go from AEW after his post-All Out press conference rant ended up sparking a fight with the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, another wrinkle has been confirmed by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer: Punk is probably too injured to continue on as champion anyway.

While several reports over the last 48 hours have suggested Punk was hurt in either his All Out match against Jon Moxley or the altercation later that night, Meltzer tweeted out that it was likely the former and that it was “serious.”

Meltzer later clarified that if the AEW World Championship situation is addressed on AEW Dynamite in Buffalo, it will be without Punk in attendance.

That comes as little surprise. Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated published a story Wednesday morning suggesting that every person thought to be involved in the fight was suspended, which was later backed up by additional journalists including Meltzer and Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp. The unresolved questions were mainly about what would happen to Punk, who just won back the AEW World Championship at All Out, and longtime trainer and friend Ace Steel.

In terms of the title, it may not matter what Punk’s final fate is for now. There’s also no small amount of irony involved because when Punk won the world title the first time in May, he almost immediately suffered an injury and was out of action for just over two months.

In that case, AEW let him keep his championship and had a tournament to crown an interim champ, which ended up being Moxley. Considering the uncertain future of Punk and whether he’d be on the shelf for an extended period of time even if he stays with AEW, that seems unlikely this time.

Expect the world championship situation to be given some clarity tonight on Dynamite, which is shaping up to be one of the most talked about episodes of AEW programming ever.

Report: CM Punk met with Tony Khan Tuesday, expected to be suspended or fired

According to Sports Illustrated, everyone involved in the fight after the AEW All Out press conference will be suspended.

The wild storm of speculation around the future of CM Punk with AEW could be cleared up today, and signs point toward either a suspension or departure for the AEW World Champion.

Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated filed a story this morning reporting that Punk met with AEW CEO, GM and head of creative Tony Khan Tuesday to discuss what happens next after Punk unloaded on Hangman Adam Page and the company’s EVPs, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, during a press conference after All Out in Chicago.

That led to a physical altercation afterward, including Punk, the Bucks, Omega and longtime Punk friend and trainer Ace Steel, among others. SI says that everyone involved will be suspended.

But it could be worse than that for Punk and Steel, who Barrasso says “will either be among those suspended, or will no longer be with the company by the end of Wednesday.” It was already widely believed that none of the parties involved in the fight would be on AEW Dynamite this week, with Wrestling Observer noting that other talent like Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley not expected to be on this week’s show had been called in.

If Punk is let go from AEW, it will mark a stunning end to a brief but eventful tenure that electrified the pro wrestling world when he returned from a seven-year absence in August of last year. Punk won the AEW World Championship twice, but if he’s gone, both reigns will go in the books without a single title defense: He lost his first while trying to unify it with an interim title held by Moxley a few weeks ago, and will give up his current one if he is fired.

In any case, the story that has gripped the entire wrestling industry may finally get some closure today, with the question now being whether a suspension or dismissal awaits one of AEW’s biggest stars.

CM Punk/Elite fight updates: ‘Fallout could be significant’

Will anyone be suspended or fired after the CM Punk-Elite fight following AEW All Out?

There are still many questions surrounding the events after AEW All Out this weekend. CM Punk made large waves throughout the wrestling world for his comments during the post-event media scrum, when he went on a rant to express his unhappiness with Hangman Adam Page and AEW’s EVPs, meaning Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks.

That was followed by a reported fight, with Punk and longtime trainer and friend Ace Steel on one side and the Bucks and Omega on the other. While numerous outlets have been working on getting a full picture of that altercation, no one from AEW has talked about it on the record so far, perhaps because of the potential legal implications.

Regardless, Punk’s comments were made where the whole world could see them (and still can, since AEW posted them to YouTube), and there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that some kind of dust-up occurred later that night. That means the biggest question yet to be answered is a big one: What happens next?

PWTorch ran an update today that offered some insight, with its sources saying “people are shaken up over what happened and believe the fallout could be significant in terms of suspensions, firings, and new edicts on public comments wrestler make.”

Fightful Select, which has been on top of the entire saga from the start, cited AEW talent saying they “don’t understand how Punk couldn’t be let go after this.”

A number of fans and industry observers have noted that Eddie Kingston was recently suspended for getting into a backstage altercation with Sammy Guevara, one that didn’t seem nearly as serious as the Punk-Elite situation. It’s difficult from the outside looking in to say what the “correct” approach to discipline is, especially when there are conflicting reports about who started the fight, but not suspending or firing anyone sends a message in its own right.

Needless to say, the eyes of the wrestling world are on Tony Khan and AEW to see what fallout might shake out ahead of Dynamite Wednesday in Buffalo. We’ll update with the latest as it comes out.

How much backstage drama in pro wrestling is too much? AEW feels like it’s about to find out

Backstage drama can be the fuel for memorable pro wrestling storylines, but is the level of it in AEW simply too much?

In one of the calmer moments of the now infamous media scrum after AEW All Out, AEW CEO, GM and head of creative Tony Khan was asked if he thought successes like the show that had just taken place outside Chicago would be able to galvanize the company and help it move forward despite any tensions behind the scenes.

“There’s a lot of conversation about people not getting along, not liking each other,” Khan said. “I definitely think that it’s probably more apparent than ever that there’s a lot of that.”

Khan didn’t have much choice but to admit as much. Not after CM Punk, the company’s newly crowned world champion, unleashed a curse-filled rant during his time at the media scrum that did all but call out the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega by name. Later reports suggested that Punk and trainer/friend Ace Steel started throwing hands with those three, who not only are some of AEW’s top stars, but also its executive vice presidents.

In most professions, berating company executives by name and allegedly getting into fights with them is grounds for immediate termination, typically followed by lawsuits or criminal charges. While it remains to be seen what consequences may await for Punk (and everyone involved, for that matter), he remains, at least for now, AEW’s number one champion and arguably its highest profile star.

It’s no shock that some of the biggest personalities in AEW don’t particularly like each other, and it’s amusing when fans react with surprise that everyone in a young, growing business isn’t just hanging out enjoying each other’s company when they aren’t wrestling. Personality conflicts are inevitable in any workplace, in any industry, and the highly competitive, often cutthroat nature of pro wrestling only exacerbates the tendencies so common in other walks of life.

The difference is that in wrestling, those differences of opinion can be turned into the fuel for memorable feuds, the kind of stuff that fans remember years later. Khan is nothing if not a student of the business, and he has hammered home this point repeatedly. Even as some of his top stars were possibly scrapping elsewhere in the building early Monday morning, he took a glass half-full view of the tensions and talked about how they can be be turned into a positive.

“There are a lot of matches between people who probably don’t get along and don’t like each other, and it’s not always an easy road to get people in the ring,” Khan said. “But when you can get people in the ring to settle their differences … it can be really exciting.”

So far, AEW has done a masterful job taking real world grievances and turning them into storylines, the kind of angles that obliterate the lines between fantasy and reality. Take MJF, who made his return at All Out. Most observers agree now that he had very legitimate gripes about his place in the company, but AEW incorporated them into his character in such a way that his eventual reappearance was guaranteed to be red hot.

But the fact that MJF’s return was overshadowed this weekend by the explosion of other real world drama only underscores how narrow a tightrope it is that Khan and AEW are walking. What happens when talent simply refuses to work with each other? Already, it’s hard to imagine Punk working with Omega in any kind of meaningful program, despite being two top tier talents who would figure to be in the main event mix now that both are healthy.

What if the Young Bucks, two of the people who helped build AEW from a concept to a reality in the first place, decide the soap opera isn’t worth it and leave the company? Khan recently said he felt the AEW roster would be at its strongest point to date now that so many of its wrestlers are healthy, but that means nothing if he’s handcuffed by talent that doesn’t want to compete with each other, or worse still, doesn’t want to be there any more.

(It’s worth mentioning too, that a newly revitalized WWE surely looks like a much more attractive proposition to AEW wrestlers, even some who fled it at one point, than it did just a few months ago.)

On top of all that, what happens may force AEW fans to take sides in an unhealthy way. If Punk is suspended, as many seem to agree is warranted, it risks alienating his supporters and reinforces the perception that because the Bucks and Omega are executives as well as performers that they receive preferential treatment. If nothing happens, fans who are loyal to The Elite have reason to think that Punk is untouchable because he’s the company’s biggest current draw.

Maybe Khan is right, and everyone involved will calm down and realize that there’s more money to be made by sucking it up, accepting that there are people in the company that will never be their friends, and moving forward.

Maybe this is just another entry in the lengthy annals of backstage drama in pro wrestling, and will end up a footnote in the story of AEW’s success.

Right this second, though, those feel like big “maybes,” the kind you wouldn’t want to bank on.

“Sometimes you just have to take it and move on with business, and that’s a part of it,” Khan said.

For AEW’s sake, he’d better be right.