On 27th June 2011, CM Punk was fed up. In three weeks , his WWE contract was expiring and Punk was planning on leaving with the WWE Championship. John Cena had just been put through a table by R-Truth and thus CM Punk was free to speak his mind without being interrupted by anyone. For five minutes and fourteen seconds, CM Punk aired his grievances about the WWE, and no one was safe.
Punk went after everyone, from the departed Rock and Brock Lesnar, to Vince McMahon and his family. He mentioned New Japan and Ring of Honor, as well as referencing the recently released Colt Cabana, something which was never done in WWE. But most importantly, he spoke the truth. And whether you cheered or booed Punk, you knew where he stood. And that’s what makes The Pipebomb stand out. In an era of overly scripted, cookie-cutter promos, The Pipebomb felt real.
PUNK CONFRONTS MCMAHON
Two weeks later, CM Punk met with Vince McMahon in the middle of the ring to negotiate a contract. However, for CM Punk, it wasn’t about signing the contract, he wanted a chance to rip into McMahon face to face. He tore into Vince over the firings of his good friends Luke Gallows and Colt Cabana and forced Vince to apologise to him, something which only twenty minutes ago would have been unthinkable.
John Cena then came out to stick up for his boss, but Punk shifted his focus to John, claiming he was no longer the underdog he liked to portray himself as, but was the ‘New York Yankees’. The segment ended with Punk tearing up the WWE contract, signalling that he was going to leave at Money in The Bank. The match was set. CM Punk vs John Cena, in CM Punk’s hometown of Chicago.
JOHN CENA VS CM PUNK: MONEY IN THE BANK 2011
CM Punk enters Chicago as a God. All night long, even during matches that didn’t involve CM Punk, the fans chanted his name. Punk was one of them. A rebel. An outsider. A punk. Punk revelled in the adulation he received from his hometown crowd as he plainly sat, cross-legged in the middle of the ring whilst the crowd went nuts.
Conversely, John Cena had entered enemy territory. He was Owen Coyle returning to Burnley, Sol Campbell returning to Tottenham, Johnny Damon returning to Fenway Park. The reaction to Cena was comparable to all of those, and Cena knew this. He didn’t play to the crowd like he usually did, simply marching to the ring and holding up the championship which proclaimed him ‘Best in The World’.
The match was a classic. Going down in history as one of the greatest WWE matches in the last 30 years, Cena and Punk wrestled a clinic for over thirty minutes. Both men went back and forth, with both men hitting finishers on one another. Punk seemed to have a counter for everything Cena tried, and after Punk hit a GTS, Cena rolled out of the ring showing his experience at the highest level. At that point, Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis, both men who CM Punk had targeted in the build-up to Money in The Bank, walk down the ramp. As John Cena locks in the STF, Vince McMahon orders John Laurinaitis to ring the bell, but Cena decks Laurinaitis, preventing him from doing so. As he rolls back into the ring, CM Punk hits a GTS and covers Cena. 1. 2. 3. CM Punk is WWE Champion.
From then on, anarchy plays out. Vince demands Alberto Del Rio come down to the ring and cash in his Money in The Bank briefcase, but Punk roundhouses Del Rio in the head and escapes through the crowd, not before blowing Vince McMahon is symbolic kiss. Vince’s fears from 1997 had come true all those years later, his WWE Champion was leaving the company with his belt.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Later, CM Punk would rejoin WWE, and both Cena and Punk would act as the polar opposites of each other. Whilst Cena was the ever-positive hero to the children, Punk was the snarky, anti-hero workhorse that the ‘hardcore’ fans would rally behind. The pair would face off multiple times over the years, with their final encounter coming on an episode of RAW on 25th February 2013. At this point, The Rock had returned to the WWE and beaten CM Punk at the Royal Rumble, ending his historic 434-day reign as WWE Champion, and John Cena was defending his match at Wrestlemania with The Rock, that he had earned by winning the 2013 Royal Rumble.
Both men know each other so well at this point, that neither man’s signature offence will work. Cena misses the running shoulder tackle; Punk misses the high knee. Punk counters the side suplex; Cena counters the top rope elbow drop. Neither man is able to gain momentum, and this forces both men to go outside the box for offence. CM Punk, desperate for the chance to main event Wrestlemania, goes for a piledriver in an attempt to break Cena’s neck, and actually hits it, spiking Cena into the canvas. However, it’s Cena that ultimately reinvents the wheel most, as he hits a hurricanrana followed by an AA for the win. Cena vs Rock II is scheduled for Wrestlemania.
That was the last time that Cena and Punk wrestled before CM Punk departed WWE in 2014, mirroring his feelings in 2011 that he was burnt out and treated poorly. Should Punk choose to return to in-ring action, it seems inevitable that his path would once again cross with Cena as the two are still polar opposites. Whilst Cena has been successful in his attempts to branch out from WWE, Punk’s outside ventures went extremely poorly, leading to his return to WWE TV, albeit in an inactive role. Punk and Cena will always be opposites, and opposites attract.
“I think it’s because I’m real. Inside and outside of the ring, what you see is what you get. I’m CM Punk.”CM Punk (1st December 2006)