Hell must have frozen over because on last week’s edition of WWE Backstage, the beloved fan-favourite, CM Punk, made his long-awaited return to WWE programming. The ‘Best In The World’ is back after leaving abruptly nearly six years ago following several frustrations with the company.
Before Punk’s departure from WWE, he was marking his name in the history books as the longest-reigning WWE Champion, a three-time World Heavyweight Champion, and the first and only two-time Money in the Bank holder in WWE history.
While all of the WWE Universe, myself included, would love to see “The Second City Saint” back inside the squared circle, there haven’t been any announcements to suggest that he’ll make an in-ring return. Punk has fought some of the biggest and brightest superstars in WWE such as Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, The Rock, Triple H, and who could ever forget his ultimate nemesis, John Cena. But only a few of those matches can go down as his very best.
Here are the five best CM Punk matches, and a short preview outlining the events leading up to the match. Make sure you drop your own personal favourites down in the comments below.
5. The Best vs. The Beast: CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar – SummerSlam 2013
The story began in his hometown of Chicago at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Punk was mere seconds away from winning his third Money in the Bank briefcase with nobody in his sights to stop him. With his fingertips touching the case, a ladder crashed right into Punk, he looks down to see his own manager, long-time friend, and advocate, Paul Heyman, the one smashing his head with the ladder.
Why would Heyman screw Punk and break up a decade-long friendship? The answer was quite simple; because Heyman knew his best friend couldn’t beat “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. Now that Lesnar had returned after an eight-year hiatus from the company, Heyman dropped Punk like a bad habit. In the following weeks, Punk would stand up to Lesnar claiming he had no fear, only to be victimized by “The Beast Incarnate.”
This was a very exciting match that saw Punk and Lesnar beat the hell out of each other with steel chairs, kendo sticks and tables. Lesnar even sold a ton for “The Second City Saint”, as Punk came surprisingly close to defeating “The Beast Incarnate”. Heyman distracted his former best friend long enough for Lesnar to deliver a thunderous F5 to pick up the victory. Punk walked out as a much bigger star after going toe-to-toe with Lesnar.
4. CM Punk vs Randy Orton – Extreme Rules 2011
At the 2011 Royal Rumble pay-per-view, “The Viper” Randy Orton challenged The Miz for the WWE Championship and was minutes away from headlining WrestleMania 27 before The New Nexus came down to interfere. After disposing of the four rebels, Orton dropped the champion with an RKO and then Punk, the leader of Nexus, hit the GTS and dragged Miz over Orton to retain.
This was a perfectly-written storyline all about Punk getting revenge on his rival for punting him in the skull two years ago. “The Viper” cost Punk his World Heavyweight Championship so the egocentric leader took the WWE Title away from Orton. The two rivals had a great match at The Show of Shows but their highly-intense rivalry was far from over.
While Punk didn’t win this brutal match, what he did accomplish was proving that he can get as vile and vicious as “The Viper”. Both rivals beat the crap out of each other with steel chairs and kendo sticks, and the ending saw Orton hit a Super-RKO from the top rope to be the last man standing.
3. CM Punk vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 29
This build-up was incredibly well-written as “The Best in the World” was not technically in the main event of WrestleMania 29, but he was challenging to break The Undertaker’s 20-0 undefeated streak, which on any ‘Mania was the real main event. The reason why this storyline was brilliant was that it blurred the lines between fiction and reality.
The Undertaker’s long-time manager Paul Bearer had recently passed away and it was utilised as the driving force behind Punk’s mind games towards his opponent. On the March 11th edition of RAW, “The Deadman” was paying tribute to Bearer and the egocentric Punk interrupted. The self-proclaimed “Best in the World” offered his sincerest condolences to The Undertaker for his loss at WrestleMania.
Over the next few weeks, Punk would continue to mock and torment “The Deadman” by stealing his symbolic urn and blasting The Undertaker’s brother Kane with it. On the go-home show for WrestleMania, Punk came out to The Undertaker’s eerie music, dressed as one of the druids. In my opinion, this was one of the best-written segments of that era. It manifested an enormous amount of heat for Punk and it also gave “The Deadman” a ton of sympathy.
At the pay-per-view, the obnoxious heel did everything in his power to infuriate The Undertaker, going as far as performing ‘Old School’ and slapping him in the face. It was the perfect game of cat and mouse until “The Deadman” finally got his revenge with a thunderous Tombstone Piledriver to silence his rival, and keep his undefeated streak intact with an impressive 21-0.
2. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho – WrestleMania 28
Two of the most talented superstars of all-time battled over the richest prize in WWE and for the right to call themselves “The Best in the World”. How we got to the match was absolutely incredible as the fan-favourite Y2J made his shocking return at the 2012 Royal Rumble pay-per-view, becoming the runner-up in the Royal Rumble match itself.
On the following night, Jericho came out to deliver a promo but instead just soaked in the cheers from the WWE Universe. He continued his silence until eventually revealing his true colours on the February 6th edition of RAW. He proceeded to cut a scathing promo on the entire WWE Universe and then-WWE Champion CM Punk, claiming he was a “Jericho Wannabe”.
Y2J proclaimed that he was a trendsetter in WWE and that he was “The Best in the World”, not CM Punk. The WWE Champion came down to confront Jericho and simply dropped his mic, hoisted up his title and walked away proudly. For several weeks, both rivals traded shots that got very personal, including a fantastic line about how Punk was swimming with sharks while Jericho was on TV “dancing with stars”.
At WrestleMania, both in-ring technicians delivered a five-star classic, proving who truly was “The Best in the World”. There were dozens of near-falls and counter-for-counter which made the match feel significantly exciting. Punk kicked out of a vicious Codebreaker for a long near-fall, Jericho attempted Walls of Jericho three times but the WWE Champion refused to tap-out.
With Punk’s third and final attempt he got his opponent to tap-out to the Anaconda Vise to successfully retain his WWE title. The two rivals also had another incredible match at Payback and their promos got insanely personal; it’s definitely worth checking out.
1. CM Punk vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank 2011
I honestly don’t know how anything else could top Punk vs. Cena from the 2011 Money in the Bank pay-per-view. “The Second City Saint” was unsuccessful in capturing the WWE Championship at the Elimination Chamber. So, on the June 20th edition of RAW, Punk demanded a title shot in his hometown of Chicago, IL.
Later that night, he would go on to defeat Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio to become the number one contender. Moments later, Punk would proclaim to the WWE Universe that his contract ends the day after Money in the Bank, and that he intends to leave as the WWE Champion. The following week, Punk would interfere in Cena’s table match against R-Truth and delivered the infamous ‘Pipebomb’ promo.
“The Voice of the Voiceless” berated and viciously tore apart the Cena and the McMahon Family while airing his real-life grievances on live television. Shocking doesn’t even describe this iconic promo. A humiliated and scared Vince McMahon wanted no part in the possibility of Punk leaving with the WWE title, so he suspended him.
“The Leader of the Cenation” refused to allow McMahon to do business like that and forced him to reinstate his challenger. McMahon told Cena that if Punk happened to win the WWE Championship and leave the company, he would fire him on live television. On the go-home RAW, the obnoxious and defiant Punk decided to negotiate a new contract with McMahon. The challenger for the WWE title delivered another scathing promo to his opponent claiming that Cena had become a suck-up and a corporate sellout; essentially becoming everything that he hates.
“The Voice of the Voiceless” played mind games with McMahon, making ridiculous demands for his new contract, such as: a private jet, ice cream bars, starring in his own movie, and finally to main event WrestleMania. All of this was a hoax as Punk exited the ring leaving Cena and McMahon infuriated at each other while he ripped apart his unsigned contract.
At Money in the Bank, both superstars delivered one hell of a wrestling match. The hometown crowd was red-hot for Punk and it created a hostile environment that Cena hadn’t heard since defending his title against RVD at ECW One Night Stand. Throughout the match, Punk would deliver counter after counter against Cena’s offense and even mocked his “You can’t see me” hand gesture.
Towards the end of the match, Cena delivered two Attitude Adjustments but only received near-falls. Punk levelled his opponent with a GTS that sent Cena outside. At this point, McMahon and John Laurinaitis came down the ramp. The distraction allowed Cena to lock in the STF for the second time. Johnny signalled to the timekeeper to ring the bell, reminiscent of the Montreal Screwjob.
Cena insisted on winning this match and retaining his title fair and square. When he returned to the ring, Cena was caught with a GTS for the shocking victory. McMahon was furious at ringside and stared in disbelief as Punk grabbed the WWE Championship and blew a kiss goodbye from the barricade. What an incredible ending to this amazing storyline.
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