The Contentious Ten 07.18.11: CM Punk Career Highlights
Posted by Nick Bazar on 07.18.2011
From his WWE heel turn and the Summer of Punk to his Money in the Bank Ladder match wins and more, 411's Nick Bazar counts down the top ten highlights of CM Punk's career! Check out the full article to see what made his list and why!
Hello, and welcome to The Contentious Ten! My name is Nick Bazar, and I thank you for clicking.
Please Note: This was written before the Money in the Bank PPV.
Royal Rumble 2010
By the time Royal Rumble 2010 rolled around, CM Punk's Straight Edge Society was in full force. It all began when Punk "saved" Luke Gallows- the former Festus- from his addiction to pain medication. The addiction had scarred him mentally, turning him into a slow, hindered shell of his former self. From there, Punk would continue to spread his straightedge message until coming across a woman by the name of Serena. She was a "fan" who wished to be saved, and Punk obliged, shaving her head to symbolize her newfound purity. With his two minions by his side, Punk was more confident than ever and ready to head into the Rumble. While his goal to win would come up short, he did manage to turn a large portion of the match into The Punk Show, eliminating a good amount of people and preaching his message as he waited for the next entrant. It created a great atmosphere as the audience was begging for someone to eliminate him, and put an end to his sermon. Not only was this a memorable moment in the career of Punk, but it was a moment that will stand out in the history of the Royal Rumble match.
Only Two-Time Money in the Bank Winner
Wrestlemania 24 in Orlando, Florida will largely be remembered for the emotional Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair match, but it was also the night CM Punk won his very first Money in the Bank Ladder match. His fortune with this match wouldn't end there as he would go on to participate and win the following year's Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania 25. So, not only did he become the only two-time Money in the Bank winner, but he claimed possession of that briefcase two years in a row. When you consider that guys like Edge, Chris Jericho, Kane and even Randy Orton have failed to match or even break that record- having the same opportunity as Punk to do so- makes the accomplishment even greater. On top of that, Punk wound up scoring two World Heavyweight Championship reigns out of those two victories, cashing in on Edge and Jeff Hardy respectively. Not too shabby.
The reincarnation of the ECW brand in the WWE proved to be an incredibly beneficial gateway for CM Punk to make his long-awaited televised debut with the company. ECW on SciFi had just hit the air a couple months prior, and promised to deliver action unlike what Raw and Smackdown was offering. It was a place to highlight new, fresh talent, and give wrestlers that had never been given a proper chance on the two bigger shows a place to perform. Cue the vignettes hyping up a new straightedge character. He had piercings, long hair and tattoos, but his only addiction was wrestling. He had made a name for himself on the Independent scene, and was ready to show the world the future. Then finally, on August 1, 2006, CM Punk made his debut, defeating Justin Credible at the famous Hammerstein Ballroom. New fans welcomed the exciting young superstar, and long-time Punk fans experienced a moment they would never forget in the wrestling business. Punk had made it to the dance.
Feud With Raven
Just as influential to CM Punk's career as anything else on this list was his infamous rivalry with Raven. It opened the eyes of many to just how good Punk could be both on the mic and in the ring. He proved he could hang with a true veteran such as Raven, and showed even the most skeptical fans that he could hold up his end of the deal in an important blood feud. Not only that, but it went a long way in putting over his straightedge gimmick that he would be identified with for the rest of his career. Naturally, Raven was a perfect opponent. He had a well-publicized history with substance abuse, making him an easy target for Punk. The two would battle in a number of memorable brawls including a double dog collar match and a feud-ending steel cage match. They were brutal in the best way possible. Interestingly enough, both were working TNA shows at around the same time. However there, Punk aligned himself with Raven as part of an updated version of The Flock named The Gathering. So, whether they were pitted against each other in a bloody fight, or standing on the same side of the ring together as teammates, Punk and Raven had one hell of a history.
Feud With Rey Mysterio
It's the feud that got CM Punk his very first singles match at Wrestlemania. There is a difference between participating in a Money in the Bank match with five or even seven other people sharing the spotlight, and having a well built-up singles match with quite a bit of hype at the biggest wrestling show of the year. Having Rey Mysterio as his opponent was an added bonus, as Punk had stated various times beforehand that his dream match was against Mysterio. Who can forget Punk coldly singing Happy Birthday to Mysterio's daughter? The Mania match itself was good and added a great spark to the audience, but the biggest complaint was its short length. Fortunately, the feud wasn't over there, as they would go on to have multiple PPV rematches, the most memorable of which ended with Punk having his head shaved bald. The two had an obvious chemistry together, and it's the reason we know to expect a good match whenever they step into the ring to face each other.
Ring of Honor was the place where CM Punk solidified his greatness to the hardcore wrestling fan. It gave him a platform to build on his reputation, and get people talking about Punk. As a result, his final match with RoH was obviously an emotional night, not only for Punk, but also for the fans who had grown to respect his talent and passion for the business. Add to that the fact that he was facing his best friend, Colt Cabana, in a two out of three falls match, and you can understand why Punk was overcome with emotion even before the opening bell. The ending with the RoH locker room coming out and hoisting him up on their shoulders in a show of their good wishes was the perfect ending. It signified the end of a great beginning to his career, and the start of what would ultimately gain him worldwide fame in the wrestling business.
Breaking The Fourth Wall
It remains to be seen how fans 10 years from now will look back on CM Punk's passionate Raw-closing promo in which he let out all his frustrations, but I really believe it will be in a positive light. Nowadays, when criticizing the current product, fans remember the Attitude Era with hopes of it getting back to that level. There is a chance that when we look back on the storylines playing out right now- not only in WWE, but TNA, RoH and even the smaller Independents- that we will realize how good we had it as fans. To put that in perspective, we have to keep in mind that Punk's work over the last several weeks has stood above much of the wrestling world in terms of quality and impact. He is what most fans have been talking about during a time when a number of great angles have been on fire (Randy Orton/Christian, the fantastic Destination X PPV, Kevin Steen's return to RoH, etc). When was the last time fans looked forward to a non-Wrestlemania PPV more than Money in the Bank? Hell, I was looking forward to MitB more than Wrestlemania 27- the main reason being the way Punk's departure has been handled.
WWE Heel Turn
This started back at Judgment Day 2009 when CM Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank privilege on Jeff Hardy. The fans in attendance were ecstatic that the Charismatic Enigma had regained the World Heavyweight Championship. The celebration was underway and Jim Ross was about to get a comment from the new champ. Then, you hear Punk's music and you know what's coming next- he's cashing in. Remember, Punk was a full-fledged babyface at the time, so technically, this was a face vs. face match. However, as is the case with these types of matches, the fans have to make a choice, and when Punk pinned Hardy's shoulders to the mat, they appeared to be more pro-Hardy than pro-Punk. Punk knew this, and likely expected it, making his over-the-top, "haha, I did it!" celebration even more obnoxious. From there, he would start to cheat in matches and even fake an injury. You could smell the turn coming, and when it finally happened, I know I was excited for this new chapter in Punk's WWE career. He picked back up his "Straightedge means I'm better than you" gimmick from years before, and it worked. It was a heel turn that- like Chris Jericho's- changed his character forever.
The Summer of Punk
CM Punk had finally been recognized by the WWE as someone they would like to invest time and money in, and the deal was ready. Punk was going to the WWE. He still had the summer to work dates for Ring of Honor, and in a great twist, managed to defeat Austin Aries for the RoH World Championship. What followed was a summer of taking on challengers and always finding ways to escape with the championship- he was taking the belt with him. It was a unique angle that was different from what we had seen in the past, and produced some of the finest work RoH has put out there in terms of storytelling. It also gave us some great matches and memorable promos that helped get it to that level. Not to mention, it was set up to leave RoH with a new champion, and there was they had a gaurrenteed special moment waiting for them whenever someone finally took the strap away from Punk. That honor was handed to James Gibson (aka Jamie Noble) who would serve as a great transition into Bryan Danielson's lengthy run on top.
Cashing In On Edge
Winning the World Heavyweight Championship in the WWE means that you have proven yourself to the right people, and they have built up a trust in you and your abilities to get an audience behind you. Sure, it's a fake title that's given to you, but for many wrestling fans and wrestlers moving up the ranks, it's a dream. CM Punk was a lifelong wrestling fan, and it's hard to imagine how he felt the night he took the championship away from Edge. It was validation for his years spent travelling the world and sacrificing his body for the wrestling industry. It was a legitimate mark-out moment for those fans who had followed his career from the early days, and even for those who had grown to love him through his time earning his way up the card in the WWE. It was, in my opinion, the greatest highlight of CM Punk's career.
Where would you rank CM Punk's win over John Cena at Money in the Bank? Being in his home town, in front of a fantastic crowd and putting together such a great match with an unexpected finish, it'd definitely be in my Top 3.
Listen to the latest edition of the 411 on Wrestling podcast! On the show, 411's Larry Csonka is joined by co-host Andrew Critchell to discuss the WWE Money in the Bank PPV, the big winners from the show, the Chicago crowd and CM Punk leaving with the WWE Title!
You can listen to the show on the player below, or you can download the show here.