On June 13, 2011, CM Punk was annoyed.
He was two years removed from a critically acclaimed feud with Jeff Hardy over the World Heavyweight Championship.
He was one year removed from a critically acclaimed feud with Rey Mysterio that ended in his head being shaved.
Punk had proven himself to be not only an effective heel on the big stage but one of the best bad guys in the business. But when it was time for WWE to pick someone to main event WrestleMania 27 against John Cena, the WWE didn’t pick Punk.
They chose The Miz.
The Miz was the safe pick. He spoke the way WWE liked. He dressed the way WWE liked. He was the guy that could go on the Today Show and be trusted not to kick up any fuss. Meanwhile, despite coming into WWE around the same time as the Miz, CM Punk was still seen as an “indie guy.” He was a tattooed rabble-rouser that didn’t fit the clean-cut image the WWE wanted their top guys to project in 2011.
Instead of main eventing WrestleMania against John Cena, Punk lost to Randy Orton in the middle of the show. The next month, Punk lost to Orton again in a Last Man Standing match. A few weeks later, Punk would be losing a tag team title match alongside Wish.com Batista (Mason Ryan) at Over the Limit. It was announced soon after that John Cena would defend the WWE Title in the main event of the Capitol Punishment PPV against the recently crazed R-Truth. Yes, R-Truth had a main event WWE Title match.
This all brings us to June 13, 2011. This All-Star episode of Raw – sponsored by the underrated WWE game of the same title – had Stone Cold Steve Austin in charge for some reason. For the main event, he booked John Cena to go one-on-one with CM Punk. Sounds like a good matchup.
“You gave me a match with John Cena, and I wanna thank you because…you just set into motion something that is gonna change the landscape of the WWE forever. And that’s the bottom line because CM Punk said so.”
JUNE 13, 2011
CM PUNK DEF. JOHN CENA
You could tell these two had great chemistry by the fact that they barely did anything here and still had a fine Raw main event. Punk worked over Cena the entire time, with the crowd engaged for all of it. Punk had his fanbase vocal, especially against the Golden Boy. Cena threw the shoulder blocks and hit the Protoplex before R-Truth’s voice called out over the speakers.
Truth was in the crowd, pointing out all the Little Jimmies around. This was before Little Jimmy became R-Truth’s imaginary friend, you see. He came up to one little kid in Cena gear and offered him some water, referencing a few weeks back when he dumped water on a parent in Cena gear. Cena was distracted, allowing Punk to hit the Go To Sleep and pin John Cena clean in the middle of the ring. Truth then hit Cena with a water bottle and laid him out with his move before standing tall with the WWE Title.
WWE CAPITOL PUNISHMENT
JUNE 19, 2011
CM PUNK DEF. REY MYSTERIO
After Santino Marella got tackled by the security for a Barack Obama impersonator, we cut to Josh Matthews in the back with Punk.
“I’m the only honest one here. I’m the only real one here, and after I beat Rey Mysterio in Washington DC, I’m gonna do the most honest thing the WWE Universe has ever seen.”
This was a rock-solid midcard match on PPV, which stood out particularly here on this dire card. The three-match run coming up to this match was: Alex Riley def. The Miz, Alberto Del Rio def. Big Show in an extended angle, Ezekiel Jackson def. Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Title. This wasn’t exactly WrestleMania 17, and that made this 4-star match the equivalent of a freshwater lake in the middle of a desert.
Punk and Mysterio had great chemistry as well, chemistry that was never fleshed out in a big-time main event scenario. These two had a nice little midcard feud the year before which cost Punk his hair, but by the time Punk reached main event status, they were over Mysterio as a top-line name. Which is a shame because this match had some of that great chemistry on display. Punk worked Mysterio’s midsection after hitting an alley-oop into the barricade as the announce team of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Booker T worked over my ears.
Mysterio came back after sending Punk to the floor and hitting an Asai moonsault to the floor. After some back and forth that included a 619 in the corner that sent Punk to the floor, Punk countered a traditional 619, snatching Mysterio up and hitting the Go To Sleep for the win on PPV. A nice little hidden gem of a match on a show with not much else going on. ****
After his wins on Raw and Capitol Punishment, Punk felt confident in naming himself the #1 Contender to the WWE Championship, specifically wanting the title match in Chicago at the Money in the Bank PPV. However, the Anonymous Raw General Manager – WWE’s version of the White Hummer Mystery from WCW – felt Punk disrespecting them, so they decided to put Punk in a three-way match for the title shot.
JUNE 20, 2011
FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE – #1 CONTENDER’S MATCH
CM PUNK DEF. REY MYSTERIO, ALBERTO DEL RIO
This is a Falls Count Anywhere match thanks to a fan vote, as this was Power To The People Raw. Fun Fact: they screwed up one of the votes on the show, causing people to believe that all the votes on the show were rigged. I’ve got some bad news for those people. Anyway, this was an energetic three-way dance here, with Mysterio shining in particular. There was one run where Mysterio hit a senton to Punk before hitting Del Rio with a dive that reminded me just how good Mysterio is at WWE TV matches. Mysterio hit the 619 and the splash on Del Rio, but Punk sent Mysterio into the post and stole the pin to win the match and earn the title shot.
“July 17th, 2011 will be the most historic day, not only in the career of CM Punk, it’s going to be a historic day for the WWE as a whole. Not only is July 17th the second annual Money in the Bank ladder match pay-per-view, it’s the night I defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship. And now, here’s that honesty I was talking about. That honesty that’s probably gotten me in trouble more times than I’d like to admit. The brutal honesty I’m known for. July 17th is the day my contract with World Wrestling Entertainment comes to an end. That means when the clock strikes midnight, the 17th becomes the 18th, Sunday bleeds into Monday, I am leaving. And trust me when I tell you, I am leaving with the WWE Championship.”
That brings us to June 27, 2011. Monday Night Raw came from the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. After helping R-Truth beat John Cena in a tables match, Punk took a seat on the stage and aired a few grievances.
“John Cena, while you lay there, hopefully as uncomfortable as you possibly can be, I want you to listen to me. I want you to digest this, because before I leave in three weeks with your WWE Championship, I have a lot of things I wanna get off my chest.
I don’t hate you, John. I don’t even dislike you. I do like you, I like you a hell of a lot more than I like most people in the back. I hate this idea that you’re the best – because you’re not. I’m the best. I’m the best in the world. There’s one thing you’re better at than I am and that’s kissing Vince McMahon’s ass. You’re as good at kissing Vince’s ass as Hulk Hogan was. I don’t know if you’re as good as Dwayne, though. He’s a pretty good ass-kisser. Always was and still is. Oops – I’m breaking the fourth wall. [Punk waves at the camera.] I am the best wrestler in the world. I’ve been the best ever since day one when I walked into this company. And I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. Yeah that’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy. You know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar. And he split, just like I’m splittin’, but the biggest difference between me and Brock is that I’m going to leave with the WWE Championship.
I’ve grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon’s imaginary brass rings that it’s finally dawned on me that they’re just that. They’re completely imaginary. The only thing that’s real is me. And the fact that day in and day out, for almost six years, I’ve proved to everybody in the world that I am the best on this microphone, in that ring, even on commentary. Nobody can touch me. And yet, no matter how many times I prove it, I’m not on your lovely little collectors’ cups, I’m not on the cover of the program, I’m barely promoted, I don’t get to be in movies, I’m certainly not on any crappy show on the USA Network, I’m not on the poster of WrestleMania, I’m not on the signature that’s produced at the start of the show. I’m not on Conan O’Brien, I’m not on Jimmy Fallon, but the fact of the matter is I should be. And trust me, this isn’t sour grapes, but the fact that “Dwayne” is in the main event of WrestleMania next year and I’m not, makes me sick!
Oh hey, let me get something straight. Those of you who are cheering me right now – you are just as big a part of me leaving as anything else, because you’re the ones that are sipping out of those collector cups right now, you’re the ones that buy those programs that my face isn’t on the cover of, and then at five in the morning at the airport, you try to shove it in my face so that you can get an autograph and sell it on eBay, because you’re too lazy to get a real job.
I’m leaving with the WWE championship on July 17 and hell, who knows, maybe I’ll go defend it in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Maybe I’ll go back to Ring Of Honor. Hey, Colt Cabana, how you doing? The reason I’m leaving is you people because after I’m gone you’re still going to pour money into this company – I’m just a spoke on the wheel – the wheel’s gonna keep turning and I understand that. But Vince McMahon’s gonna make money despite himself. He’s a millionaire who should be a billionaire. You know why he’s not a billionaire? It’s because he surrounds himself with glad-handing nonsensical douche bag yes-men like John Laurinaitis, who’s gonna tell him everything that he wants to hear. And I’d like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon is dead, but the fact is, it’s gonna be taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family. Let me tell you a personal story about Vince McMahon. You know we do this whole bully campaign—” [Transcription courtesy of Cagematch.net]
Punk was suspended and the title shot was vacated, with a new #1 contender to be determined on Raw. Alberto Del Rio won that spot, but John Cena had other plans.
Punk got his title shot back, but McMahon was determined to get Punk under control and under contract. That gave us a great main event segment with Punk, McMahon, and John Cena sporting a heavy Boston accent.
That brings us to July 17, 2011. The second annual Money In The Bank pay-per-view saw CM Punk challenge John Cena for the WWE Title in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
MONEY IN THE BANK
JULY 17, 2011
CM PUNK DEF. JOHN CENA
It’s the match that birthed this very website. It’s one of the most iconic matches in WWE history. This match defines the era of WWE, much like Steamboat/Savage or Austin/Hart. It’s an incredible moment in time in American professional wrestling history. This match is the ambivalent money machine looking at the people who make it move, and saying, “We hear you.” CM Punk being the Voice of the Voiceless was a catchphrase, but it also rang true. Talented names had been held down in that promotion for bureaucratic reasons for a long time. Meanwhile, guys who knew how to play the game got rewarded for it. Guys who curried favor with names on top got the opportunities over people who would do more with those chances. Did Punk end that? No, and he admitted it himself. He was only a spoke on the wheel, but it was when he spoke that we as fans felt heard. We felt like an active part of the show, the best way for wrestling to feel. And for one night, the unrelenting machine gave in and gave us a night to remember.
Bryan Danielson won the SmackDown Money in the Bank ladder match. Alberto Del Rio, the smark hope of 2011, won the Raw Money in the Bank. Christian won the World Heavyweight Title, albeit in the cheapest heel fashion possible. And then, there was this match. There were some slight flaws here. Their match from the 2/25/13 episode of Raw is slightly smoother as far as the in-ring goes, with a red-hot crowd in its own right. But this was so much more than a great Raw match. This was one of our guys. This was someone who had what it took to be THE guy in WWE, who had proven it on smaller stages, finally getting the chance to do it on the big stage and hitting a walk-off grand slam to do it. This match is incredible, and if for some reason you haven’t seen it before, do yourself a favor and watch it now. I promise it holds up. *****
CM Punk is the WWE Champion. CM Punk is the name on everyone’s lips. CM Punk is the star here. The business reflected it, with Money in the Bank 2011 doing 146,000 buys on PPV. (Numbers courtesy of Wrestlenomics.) That made it the most purchased WWE B PPV – any show not including the Big Four of WrestleMania, Summerslam, Royal Rumble, & Survivor Series – since Elimination Chamber 2010 over a year prior.
But what happened over the next four months, whether by design or by sheer incompetence, borders on criminal.
Over the course of this series, I will show you how WWE took this perfect night and tore it apart.
So begins the Bummer of Punk.