As we write this piece in early August (2021), there are a couple of things we can say for certain:
John Cena returned to WWE the previous month after more than a year's absence from the ring, culminating with Cena vs. Roman Reigns at SummerSlam. If The Champ wins there and becomes a record-setting 17-time World Champion... The Summer of Cena has the potential to become more than just a marketing gimmick or historical footnote.
CM Punk is rumored (as of this writing) to make his in-ring return for the first time in more than seven years after walking out and subsequently being released by WWE. While it's not confirmed yet, the strong money has The Best In The World making his AEW debut on August 20 during an AEW Rampage event in Punk's hometown of Chicago.
Summer of Cena vs. Summer of Punk. Who ya got?
Summer of Cena
Give Cena credit. When he came back to WWE from Hollywood, it wasn't as a one-off cameo, but rather a full commitment, including more than a dozen house shows, television taping and the SummerSlam PPV. Both parties could have probably gotten away with a few TV appearances here and there -- and probably for similar money as well.
For that reason (and the fact that WWE is severely lacking in star power at the moment), this Summer of Cena feels different and more effective than past returns. Add to that his return being perfectly timed to the addition of live crowds, and this could be a very memorable summer.
Summer of Punk
This summer actually has the potential to be the third Summer of Punk. The first was in Ring of Honor in 2005, where he worked as ROH Champion while under contract to WWE, trolling fans with what he may do with the title upon joining the evil corporation. The second was in 2011 when Punk left WWE with the WWE Championship... only to return a few weeks later and battle his championship successor, who ironically turned to be John Cena.
Will Punk actually debut in AEW? Will he instead show up in WWE? Will he return at all? And should he return to the ring, will it treated like the big deal fans are demanding? Lots of unknowns there, but these are the questions that keep wrestling fans up at night.
It should be an interesting summer... no matter how things pan out.