I spent the day before CM Punk’s debut in AEW anxiously texting my friends because wrestling, especially in America, is a mechanism for disappointment. We’re so used to our favorites being ignored, or squashed in 30 seconds to bolster whatever pet project the WWE has decided to throw their weight behind. Punk accused Vince McMahon of punishing people for actually liking professional wrestling in his 2011 pre-Money in the Bank contract negotiations (the initial mention of the CM Punk Ice Cream Bar), and in the years since, it’s only gotten worse. How could anyone be blamed for expecting the worst on August 20th, conditioned by years of contempt?
Instead of a bait and switch, we got an obviously moved Punk, enthusiastically welcomed back to wrestling by his hometown. He’s clearly speaking from the heart, but it’s a cannily crafted re-introduction—one with echoes of his infamous final heel turn in Ring Of Honor (“If I could be afforded the time to tell all of you a little bit of a story…”). However, this time he’s embracing wrestling instead of turning his back. The ice cream bar functions in a similar way—an unactualized idea used as a cudgel in a faux-contract negotiation has become a way to break down the walls between fan and wrestler—remember eating wrestling themed desserts as a kid? CM Punk does.
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All of this makes the quality of the actual ice cream bar almost immaterial—as a symbol, it’s a clear declaration that AEW and Punk have much different ambitions than the WWE. Luckily for everyone involved, however, CM Punk didn’t scrimp when he tapped Logan Square’s Pretty Cool Ice Cream for the manufacture of the bars. Founded by Dana Cree (the former executive pastry chef of One Off Hospitality Group/author of Hello, My Name is Ice Cream) and Michael Ciapciak (owner of Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits), Pretty Cool has been serving up high quality iced treats since 2018.
Chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream is practically the platonic ideal of ice cream treats, and the execution here was simple but exceptional. The richness of the custard-style ice cream helped cut the brightness of the Madagascar vanilla nicely, complimented by the sweetness and crunch of the chocolate shell. The combination evoked simpler summers of chasing down the ice cream truck, or badgering your parents to pay for a Summerslam PPV broadcast for you and your friends. The hand-made bar was also surprisingly resilient to the hot Chicago summer, holding together for the entire time of consumption.
When your ingredients are good, you don’t need to overcomplicate things. Just let them shine. It’s true for ice cream, and for long-awaited returns of beloved wrestlers. Thankfully, that was the case across the board at the United Center. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.