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It’s time for the yearly CM Punk rumors, but this one might be a little more concrete

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CM Punk and Chris Jericho in 2012.

CM Punk and Chris Jericho in 2012.
Image: AP

This has been wrestling Ahab’s quest for seven years now. He is the white whale, if the white whale had Living Colour playing wherever he went. Which probably would have made him way easier to find, and been a much easier book to read. But I prattle on, and we’re not here to talk about Moby Dick or the hours we all wasted just so we could truthfully claim we read it. No, it’s time for CM Punk rumors!

Ever since WWE released Punk over seven years ago, whispers of a return have populated the dark spaces and back alleys of wrestling fandom. You hear this every year or so, that he’s supposedly in talks with someone, even though Punk himself couldn’t be more adamant that he’d left the business behind. They’re always far more out of hope than expectation, but they’re always there.

But today, Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com, perhaps the most plugged-in guy in the business, started shaking the wrestling world down to its studs when he broke a story on Punk’s ongoing talks with AEW. Sapp was at pains to point out nothing has been signed, no date confirmed, or anything like it. Just that “serious” talks had taken place, and that some higher-ups in WWE believe Punk could be headed to their competition.

Even just whispers about actual talks are something like breaking new ground, as Punk has never shied to hide how much he’s done with wrestling. It’s been well known that both WWE and AEW and everyone else under the sun would call, but that Punk would never answer.

Whatever hidden rebel leader you think of, that’s what Punk means to wrestling fans. He’s the name they cry when things in WWE don’t go to their liking, he’s the one who they are sure will come in to save the business. That’s what happens when you’re one of the best talkers in the game, as well as one of the best in-ring workers, and carry yourself with a fan’s attitude. Punk always talked and wrestled as if he were just some guy who somehow got inside the ropes and was going to live out his dream the way he wanted before security realized what was going on. That’s why he’s still one of the most popular names in wrestling, despite not being wrestling in seven years.

If — and it’s a blimp-sized “if” — Punk were to come back and come back on AEW, it would be hard to see it as anything other than a seismic shift in wrestling. While the added eyeballs would certainly push Dynamite into Monday Night Raw numbers ratings-wise, perhaps the bigger factor would be the statement it makes on where wrestlers go when they just want to have storylines and matches they think are cool. WWE will always be able to throw the most money at wrestlers, and there’s nothing wrong with taking that cash in a business that can be cruel, in which careers can end instantly with one bad spot.

But for those who have either made their money or don’t care about it as much, Punk ending up in the rebel company will be the biggest sign about where they need to be. Not that Jon Moxley or Chris Jericho or Miro or a few others jumping to the new company were non-events. But this would be something else entirely.

WWE’s creative has been in the toilet for a while, as we talked about yesterday. SmackDown is miles better, but is still basically Roman Reigns-centric. If you’re not involved in that, you’re still on the perimeter for the most part. AEW, at least for the men, has a few different avenues open to regular TV time and exposure, and has a new show on Fridays premiering in a month. And just about everyone gets a chance in AEW.

It’s also allowed its biggest stars to do what they want, in a good way. Moxley got to go back to his indie, rugged, downright dangerous/unhinged persona. Kenny Omega and The Bucks got to flower out the asshole nature of The Elite on these shores instead of Japan. Chris Jericho is… well, Chris Jericho. And they’ve gotten to feud with rotating opponents and various types of matches, instead of running the same match with one opponent for weeks in a row. The creative possibilities are just so much more varied and spring-loaded than in WWE.

There are still so many ways for it to not happen, and this is the main one:

While Punk lived out his dream, ever since it has always felt like wrestling needed him more than he needed it. And while both AEW and WWE would offer him a two-flat full of cash tomorrow to get him back, the idea of there being a number that would coax Punk back into the ring goes against everything that made him so loved in the first place.

Still, the thought of the opening chords to “Cult of Personality” blaring out at All Out, the crowd turning into some sort of collective, raucous sludge, with Twitter exploding have been too much of a siren song for wrestling as a whole to ever completely dismiss. If Punk’s return were to happen, and he went to AEW, well then, WWE might even take notice and admit it has to change things.

But that could never happen. Could it?

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Harness racing selections: Sunday, August 1

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Two meetings to look at on Sunday, with my attention at Marburg and Cranbourne.

The best bets for the respective programs are down below.

Marburg

Best bet: Race Two Number 1 Mustang Dude
The best on the card, and quite comfortably too. His recent runs have come at Redcliffe, placing three back after getting the box seat sit. The last couple have been plain but he hasn’t been helped by barriers. He gets the inside gate this time around and has enough early speed to hold up and prove hard to get past.

Next-best: Race One Number 1 The Last Starfire
He gets a perfect set-up here to bounce back into the winners’ list. He hasn’t won in a tick under 12 months, but the set-up here looks ideal with the lead his for the taking with a positive steer. He led and felt the pinch at Redcliffe last time but he does get such an ideal scenario here. A soft lead on a track where if you lead, there’s a good chance you’ll win.

Value: Race Three Number 6 Okanes Devil
I’m happy to have a small speck each way on this mare. She hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in recent times, but she did run a game fourth here three-back when attempting to lead throughout. She draws inside the second row and follows out a fast beginner, so should she land leaders back, she’ll be dangerous.

Cranbourne

Best bet: Race Four Number 2 Ultimate Me
He went 2/2 at Cranbourne and I’m confident he makes 3/3 with Chris Alford to steer. He spanked them two-back at Melton before going to Maryborough and was game in defeat when second in a fast mile rate. I suspect he finds the front and will take a power of beating from there.

Next-best: Race Seven Number 7 Here Comes Kyvalley
He’ll need luck in the run from outside the front row, but he’s a smart trotter that will take beating on current form. He snagged back last start at Kilmore and worked to the line well when second in a race dominated on speed. If he gets the right run in transit, he’ll take beating.

Value: Race Three Number 1 Mister Macedon
A lightly-raced four-year-old that has done little wrong in his career to date, placing in 11 of 14 career outings. His latest run came last Friday night at Tabcorp Park Melton when wide with cover late and working to the line strongly. He can hold a forward spot from the pole and each-way at double figures appeals.

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David Blough, Lions rooting on Melissa Gonzalez will warm your heart

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David Blough and Detroit Lions teammates cheer on his wife Melissa Gonzalez

This is the type of viral social media content we are here for. Obviously, the whole global pandemic has made things especially difficult for the Olympics to happen in the first place. They were postponed by a year. Even though we have a vaccine for COVID-19, many of the same health restrictions are in place, as the virus mutates and impact the livelihoods of everyone involved.

Though Blough is not excepted to play much in his third season out of Purdue, it is not like he can travel across the world in the latter part of July. He has a football season to prepare for. While he would have loved nothing more than to have been in Tokyo in-person, it is great to see he and his teammates root on Gonzalez, as she tries to fulfill her lifelong dream of winning Olympic gold.

Here is to Gonzalez being one step closer to becoming an Olympic medalist for Colombia this year.

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Blue Jays’ Manoah to start Saturday vs. Royals after activation from IL

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Toronto Blue Jays rookie pitcher Alek Manoah has been activated from the 10-day injured list and will start Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, the team announced.

In a corresponding move, the Blue Jays optioned Trent Thornton to triple-A to make room for Manoah.

Manoah had been placed on the 10-day injured list with a bruised back on July 21 after he slipped and fell down rain-soaked dugout steps at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. He successfully completed a simulated game and is hopeful to start against the Royals in the Blue Jays’ first home game at the Rogers Centre since 2020.

The rookie hurler was also out at the end of June due to a a five-game suspension he received after an ejection against the Baltimore Orioles on June 19.

Manoah, Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, has thrived in his first season, boasting a 2-1 record with a 2.90 ERA and 52 strikeouts across 40.1 innings.

Live coverage of Blue Jays vs. Royals begins at 3:07 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.

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