We thought it would never happen. But last week it did… kind of… So to mark the unofficial WWE return of CM Punk, and given that Survivor Series weekend is coming at you from Punk’s home of Chicago this weekend, I thought now was as good a time as ever to bring back one of the signature post types of my blog. Sure a lot of you will know of the pipebomb, his cult-hero status and his acrimonious departure from WWE. But lost amongst some of that is how good a wrestler Punk was. It’s funny that you maybe wouldn’t say he was the GOAT at any one particular aspect of the in-ring stuff, but he was a solid 7-9/10 at all the little bits that make up a great wrestler. So join me as a I countdown the 10 times CM Punk showed how good he was between the ropes. Here is my run down of the 10 best WWE matches of CM Punk.
10. CM Punk vs Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match – Extreme Rules 2011
This was a match from the period I wasn’t really following the product. But in my research for this list it was certainly a pleasant surprise when I did watch it. It’s another example of when Randy Orton is motivated to put on a show, he’s one of the greats. As you can expect given the stipulation they both used all sorts of weapons in this one and there was so much to recap I’ll try and tell you the highlights in note form: match began with Punk smashing Orton’s body with a kendo stick, Orton launching Punk into a chair he had placed between the ropes in the corner and Punk went absolutely flying into the chair and went through the chair almost onto the floor (it looked horrid to take as a bump), Punk hitting a GTS for a 9 count, Orton hitting an RKO for a 9 himself, Punk placing Orton’s head into a chair and throwing him into the ringpost. Later Punk would try another GTS on the announce table, but Randy hit an RKO that Punk got up from at 9 but stumbled back down. Orton then set up for the Punt Kick, but Punk got out the way and dropped Orton down onto the ring steps. For the finish Punk went to the top rope, but Randy hit him with a load of shots with a kendo stick to Punk’s back, and then hit an RKO off the middle rope. And this was enough to keep Punk down for the 10 count and end this feud with a bang. And this was just the opener of that PPV! Good stuff.
9. CM Punk (C) vs Daniel Bryan in a No Disqualification match for the WWE Championship with special guest referee AJ Lee – Money In The Bank 2012
So by this point AJ Lee had chosen the affections of Punk over former boyfriend Daniel Bryan, and she then found herself here refereeing a match between the two for the WWE Championship. Naturally once again with these two guys, they put on a really good match. Despite the fact it really was a lot about AJ Lee it was still really great to watch, Lee got took out a few minutes in and replaced by Mike Chioda, Punk and Bryan brawled and fought in the meantime, such as a trade of kendo stick shots before Bryan hit Punk with a tonne of kendo shots to the back. Eventually AJ Lee came back to referee, the story seemed to be AJ wanting to decide who was going to win herself at various points, she dropped a chair in the middle of the ring and had both men try and crawl to it first, Bryan and AJ argued at different points and at another point CM Punk went to launch Daniel Bryan into a chair in the corner he had set up, but AJ Lee stepped in so he couldn’t do it. In a great-looking spot Daniel Bryan used a kendo stick to help him add pressure and force to the Yes Lock as AJ Lee smiled on… Punk escaped though and threw Bryan into the corner. CM punk would later hit his GTS but took so long to go for the pin as he was hurt that it was enough time for Bryan to kick out, this made Punk get mad at AJ Lee. To win the match Punk used a table and placed Bryan on it, and after a brief brawl Punk hit a back superplex to send Bryan through the table and then got the pin. AJ Lee counted it but wasn’t happy, with the idea that she wanted to be the deciding factor in the win and she wasn’t. It was a silly story but regardless the match was really good.
8. CM Punk with Paul Heyman defeated Chris Jericho – Payback 2013
This show is more remembered by those who know for being the show WWE asked an injured and beat up CM Punk to come in for, because it was in Chicago and they needed him. And he did. Unsurprisingly the live crowd were super hot for this and it only added to the big match occasion. Punk was the ultimate babyface to the crowd and Jericho was hated. This was another occasion where CM Punk and a top star just went out and put on a BANGER of a professional wrestling match. They went back and forth all match and you really didn’t have any idea who was going to win as it went on. There were a few great nearfall spots; Punk coming off the ropes for a springboard only for Jericho to catch him with a Codebreaker, Punk turning a Walls of Jericho into a nearfall via a small package and later Punk trying to hit a huracanrana only for Chris Jericho to block the attempt and again hit the Walls of Jericho. The finish came when Punk got out of a half-crab by hitting a series of strikes to Jericho’s head, he followed up with a GTS, and then as Jericho stumbled to the corner of the ring Punk would hit a second GTS for the 1, 2, 3. Great stuff.
7. CM Punk (C) vs Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship – Over The Limit 2012
This came across to me as the least WWE match I’ve seen for some time. These two wrestlers had a ‘rasslin match and it was great. Submission holds, various strike-based moves and the whole time the crowd were chanting loudly for both guys (interesting point to me was the younger members of the audience seemed to shout for Punk, with the adult male voices seeming to be behind Bryan). Maybe it was juts me but it looked like these two guys were having the time of their lives wrestling one another, and whilst the story of AJ Lee and the upcoming love-triangle of sorts was still to come it made a nice change to just see two great wrestlers wrestling for the WWE Championship. A lot of wrestling is about the storylines sure (as many of this list are), but a good match is a good match and this was good, would’ve been great but the finish was odd to me. Daniel Bryan had the Yes Lock applied , only for CM Punk to roll over Brayn and pin his hsoulders to the mat for the win and to retain his title, however as the ref slapped the mat for the third time Punk began to tap, but the refs hand hit first so Punk got the win just in time before he had to give up. Bryan was annoyed as Punk celebrated, and it did lead to a three way involving Kane (who had attacked Punk the Raw prior to this show) at the next PPV, but it was a minor annoyance on what was otherwise a really good match. CM Punk vs Daniel Bray was very good… I know, you’re shocked aren’t you…
6. CM Punk (with Paul Heyman) (C) vs The Rock for the WWE Championship – Royal Rumble 2013
Come on now, CM PUNK defended the WWE CHAMPIONSHIP against THE ROCK… I couldn’t do a CM Punk best matches list and not have this in there could I? This was a great spin on a classic wrestling tale; CM Punk as the evil long reigning champion against literally the People’s Champion, the returning hero The Rock. For all the hype it had, and yes it was the match that led to TWICE in a lifetime at that year’s Mania and long term was maybe the result that led CM Punk to leave the company and denied him of his WrestleMania main event spot he craved so badly… but this match was everything you could want in a professional wrestling bout. Great drama, a hot crowd to go with it, and a great story in the match itself of Punk using every trick in the book to try and combat the valiant challenger. The finish here was excellent; to get around the pre-match stipulation set by Mr McMahon banning The Shield from getting involved, just as Rock was about to hit the People’s Elbow the lights went out… and in the darkness The Shield put Rock through an announce table and had vanished when the lights came back on… the genius plan from Heyman and Punk seemed to have ruined the dream of The Rock as Punk pinned him not long after to retain. But then… Vince came out and told Punk that he saw through his plan and was about to strip Punk of the title, until The Rock (still battered and exhausted at ringside following the attack) said he didn’t want it that way, and asked for the match to be restarted. Vince agreed and the match was back underway… and eventually The Rock DID hit the People’s Elbow, and he DID pin Punk to end his 434 day reign. The Rock was the WWE Champion, and the moment was made even greater by the false ending from before so just made the eventual Rock win even more special. A classic in how to draw a crowd in and get them to pop even louder. Great stuff all round here, aside from Punk not getting that Mania main event he and his title run deserved.
5. CM Punk with Paul Heyman vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 29
Of all the matches on this list, this is maybe the one I’m most familiar with. So as Punk didn’t get to defend the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania, he did get the next best thing; The Undertaker match. Following the death of Paul Bearer it was Punk and Heyman who mocked the passing in challenging Taker for his then WrestleMania undefeated streak, and also took possession of Taker’s coveted Urn. The match itself was great, Punk helped take Undertaker to maybe one of the last great matches of his long and illustrious career. They went just over 22 minutes, told an exceptional story, had a tonne of nearfalls with big move after big move from both guys, and the finish was great too; with the ref down Punk hit Taker with the urn and then did Undertaker’s traditional pin, only for Undertaker to kick out. They both then traded nearly hitting their finish with the crowd at fever pitch, until finally Taker hit the Tombstone for the win. Taker’s streak was up to 21-0, he had the urn back, and all was right in The Undertaker’s world… for another year at least…
4. CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy (C) in a TLC Match for the World Heavyweight Championship – SummerSlam 2009
It was pretty notable when you look back at the fact that Jeff Hardy and CM punk had a series of matches for the world title in WWE, and the fact this match main evented this PPV ahead of a John Cena vs Randy Orton WWE Championship match. Chances are if you liked CM Punk you liked Jeff Hardy so this was somewhat of a dream for fans at this time. Of all their matches this one is the best of them for me. Jeff Hardy of course is no stranger to these type of matches, and he didn’t disappoint here either, and neither did CM Punk. They used all the Tables, Ladder and Chairs to try and beat down eachother as Punk looked to make good on his pre-match promise to ‘end’ Jeff Hardy. This all the hallmarks of a classic TLC match, in that it was not one for the squeamish as both guys came crashing onto ladders and through tables and colliding with chairs in what was a brutal test of will and desire that went just over 20 minutes. In the most amazing spot Jeff Hardy climbed to the top of the tallest ladder I think I’ve ever seen, and hit a prone CM Punk with a Swanton Bomb through the announce table. It was a pretty spectacular visual but one I’m sure left both men feeling the consequences. They did the stretcher job for both guys and even put Jeff in a neck brace, as much as he tried to get off and back into the match. Punk crawled to the ladder only for Jeff to jump back into life to stop him… The finish of the match though was one of heartbreak for the LA crowd, as Punk desperately climbed the ladder and Jeff followed and tried to fight Punk off, the challenger hit Hardy with a stiff kick to his injured ribs that sent him crashing to the floor below, and CM Punk pulled down his newly won World Heavyweight Championship belt. A GREAT TLC match that Jim Ross rightfully called a ‘thrill ride for the ages’. The crowd in the arena did though go from stunned silence to jubilation as a returning Undertaker then appeared to confront the new world champion, but this was another night where CM Punk captured gold from a top babyface in a really good match.
3. CM Punk vs John Cena in a Number 1 Contenders Match for the WWE Championship – Raw February 25th 2013
So the idea here was that this was to decide who would face The Rock at WrestleMania for the title, so we all knew who was going to win of course… but I don’t think we expected them to put on a match, on regular weekly WWE TV no less, that was this compelling. The quote from the Bleacher Report recap of the match said “This wasn’t just the best match on Raw in years. It was one of the best WWE matches I’ve ever seen period.”. It was big move after big move, and was fitting given what was at stake. I really want you all to go and watch this because this was just a really really great wrestling match and if you don’t enjoy this match I don’t think you’re watching the right thing to be honest. There was a moment of controversy towards the end of the match; John Cena got hit by Punk with a Piledriver. That form of the move was outlawed in WWE and thus Vince McMahon was furious. Cena, given he was the top guy, took the heat for it. Cena kicked out of the piledriver, Punk later went for the big elbow drop but then bizzarely Cena did a move I don’t think I’ve seen him do before or since, a Huracanrana! It was an odd-looking one but still was just a shock to see Cena do that move… he then hit the AA for the win to set up TWICE in a lifetime at that year’s WrestleMania. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter review of the match called it “among the best matches in Raw TV history”. This was a classic.
2. CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman in a No Disqualifications Match – SummerSlam 2013
Billed as ‘The Best vs The Beast’ this was a match that came about following Punk’s former manager and long-term friend Paul Heyman turning on his former charge and choose to back the rather larger horse of Brock Lesnar. There was a lot of emotion going into this and expectations were high. It did not disappoint. We are used to in 2018-19 Lesnar having classics with guys smaller than him (Styles/Bryan/Rollins) and it began here against CM Punk. Lesnar rag-dolled and beat on Punk early on as the crowd tried to roar their hero back into it, Punk eventually getting Lesnar to the outside as the momentum began to shift. It wouldn’t last all that long as Lesnar beat on Punk and squashed every comeback The Best In The World would try. and then in the second half of the match, it went from good… to GREAT! Punk and Lesnar went back and forth with big move after big move in a classic sign of a Paul Heyman match, and from then on out the crowd were electric trying to will Punk to a miracle. At long last though CM Punk finally got his hands on his former ally, eventually putting Heyman in the Anaconda Vice submission and making him tap furiously… until Brock hit a few huge chair shots and then the F5 onto the chair for the win. This was a classic that if CM Punk had of win I’d have had down as about as perfect as this match could of been.
1. CM Punk vs John Cena (C) for the WWE Championship – Money In The Bank 2011 (if CM Punk won the WWE Championship, John Cena would be fired)
Often on his various podcasts, Conrad Thompson will tell his listeners to ‘go out of you way to watch this match’. Well… I’m telling you right now to go out of you way to watch this match. You’ve heard of the pipebomb from Punk right? Well this was the match that the pipebomb was leading to. The story here was essentially CM Punk’s contract with WWE was legitimately expiring, he was holding WWE ransom wanting his demands to be met, and so they made a story out of it. CM Punk was leaving WWE and wanted to hit them where it hurt the most, by beating their top guy on the way out and taking the holy grail of the WWE Championship with him. As a result a match for Punk was set up against WWE Champion John Cena, and the pre-match stipulation set by Vince McMahon was made that, given what was at stake and the possible disaster that could happen, it was announced if Punk won, Cena would be fired. Oh… and for good measure the match was in CM Punk’s hometown of Chicago. There about as much hype for this one as was humanely possible. What we got was absolutely extraordinary. CM Punk, the top heel in the company, got about as loud a babyface reaction as you’ve ever heard. John Cena, the biggest star and top babyface champion, got one of the most incredible heel reactions of boos from the crowd you’ve ever heard. The match itself was absolutely fantastic, and sure it’s the popular thing to hate on John Cena but who the fuck was the idiots chanting ‘you can’t wrestle’ to John Cena. This absolutely dispelled that myth once and for all. I don’t really want to talk about the move for move details of the match, just go out of you way to go and watch it. They went just over 33 minutes. And it was great great great stuff. The finish of the match was about as incredible as you could have had… In a clear call-back to “the incident in Montreal” When Cena had Punk in his STF submission Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis tried to get the bell rung to end the match and to screw Punk, but valiant superhero Cena went out of the ring and hit Johnny Ace, and told Vince that he wasn’t going to win that way, and Vince couldn’t get his dream result to be rid of Punk and to keep his company’s championship in house… but Cena got back in the ring, CM Punk picked him up, he hit the GTS, and he pinned John Cena in the middle of the ring 1, 2, 3. Vince’s worst nightmare had come true and his disgust was clear to see. CM Punk had won the WWE Championship to a thunderous reaction from a raucous Chicago crowd. Even Vince’s panic of trying to get Alberto Del Rio to cash in his Money In The Bank contract he had won that same night didn’t work as Punk just kicked him in the head. And then just as he claimed he would, CM Punk looked Vince in the eye, blew him a kiss, and then ran through the crowd with the WWE Championship in hand… This match well and truly lived up to the most hype a WWE match has had for many, many years. An all-time CLASSIC. A masterpiece and by a long way the best WWE match of CM Punk’s career.
and we never saw or heard from CM Punk in WWE ever again…