Written by Graham Midgley
I want to preface this article by saying before CM Punk cut his now-legendary pipe bomb promo, I wasn’t much of a fan of Punk. I thought he was a self-important douchebag after his straight edge society days of trying to push his beliefs on us fans. However, it was his job, as a heel, to get me to hate him. So he did a good job because I hated him. When he took over the Nexus, he did nothing of note for me until winning the triple threat match to earn his title shot at MITB.
This had me supporting Punk because I hated Cena, as he was wearing thin on me. He felt forced on me and I wanted nothing more than to have him lose the title. It didn’t matter to who. What made me a fan of Punk, was like Austin before him, the rebellion he showed in this pipe bomb promo was amazing. It still goes down as my all-time favorite promo. It reeled me in like a fish on a hook! My mouth dropped further and further into the promo, Punk was rebelling against the ass kissers and yes men as he put and I about lost it when he said maybe it would be better if Vince was dead!
Who else had the balls to say stuff like this? No one! Cena should, being as he was the face of the company, but he was more like a 1-dimensional robot regurgitating the same crap over and over. So yeah I was now a Punk fan and the story of him going to ROH or NJPW with the title was like bait for a fish. Everything he said felt real whilst Cena by contrast in the following contract signing with Vince and Punk felt scripted and detestable.
Like I said, detestable because I pick my heroes and villains, not the WWE. I was disgusted with the continual forcing of John Cena down my throat. And there it was. The pipebomb. The greatest promo of all time. The story of CM Punk, speaking from his heart, marching to the beat of his own drum, something any man or woman would want to do against a champion of the corporate machine. It was simple and easy to follow and to me personally, those make for the best stories.
This is my all-time favorite entrance for a match. I can’t remember a single match entrance that had this much emotion in it. Before CM Punk’s entrance music even hit over the sound system, the crowd was roaring his name…it gave me goosebumps and still does now as I’m writing this. Sure it was Punk’s hometown but I don’t think even Flair got this kind of reaction in Charlotte. When Punk’s music hit (the last time we would that particular song), the place erupted, which I thought impossible as the crowd was already louder than anything I’d heard since Stone Cold Steve Austin returned at Unforgiven 2000.
I was blown away by it and you could see it in Punk’s face he was too…he couldn’t hide his smile at that moment. The thing that pissed me off was Michael Cole’s commentary and it did REALLY piss me off! I get that Vince wants a certain story told but it just felt like he was trying to cool Punk’s jets by having Cole label him a traitor. One man’s traitor is another man’s hero and to me, Punk was standing up for a dearly held belief. Even Jerry Lawler acknowledged the reaction of the crowd better which didn’t feel scripted so Vince still pushing that narrative got to me. All he should have been pushing was the story that Punk was leaving with the title if he won, there was the fucking story! Not some piss poor side story of Punk being the bad guy!
As Cena’s music hit and he was met by a chorus of boos, I actually mused that Cena wasn’t a bad guy, I certainly didn’t hate him, John Cena has done more for the wrestling community (particularly the be a star foundation) than anyone can even come close to. What I hated (and I feel a number of others feel) was for years Cena was pushed and pushed and pushed with little thought to anyone else. Punk hit the nail on the head when he laid all this out during the pipe bomb promo. What was interesting about Cena’s entrance was usually no matter how much crowds turned on him, he always acknowledged them with a salute. Now here, I had flashbacks to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13, he kept his head down and ignored the crowd even when he raised the WWE Championship in the air.
His only acknowledgment went to a Cena shirt-wearing fan in the front row who got his ring shirt. It fascinated me here as Cena never did this since he became the face of the company, maybe it was just the raw emotion in the building that got to him, it got to Punk so why not? Anyway, the pomp and ceremony were over with and all that was left now were two men who wouldn’t take their eyes off each other.
Before I get to writing about what I felt on the two guys wrestling in the ring, I’m talking about the commentary (especially Jerry Lawler’s) and how much I hated the narrative being pushed! It’s not King’s fault personally as it did feel like it was produced and fed to him by creative. The narrative that people were brainwashed by Punk made me sick to my stomach. Fans can follow whoever they want, it isn’t brainwashing, it’s making a choice. Poking fun at Punk’s choice of refusing the contract to me is paramount to bullying, which makes me fucking sick.
Punk was right when he spoke from the heart about Vince, in this case, being one of the biggest bullies he’s ever seen. The majority of fans at this time CHOSE Punk. They chose him because they were sick of this narrative and through Punk were rebelling. That was the story! Rebelling against a system of being fed crap no matter what the cost, which in this case is the WWE championship. If Punk won and he would leave with it. As per the story. Alright, rant over I feel better now. Onto the match.
It was a psychological masterclass by Cena and Punk. The crowd and myself at the time (at home) were red hot for it, and Cena and Punk played into it. They kept the wrestling simple from the get-go, slow-paced and a mat spot with some chain wrestling. It actually reminded me a little of a typical Macho Man Randy Savage match, a slow build-up to start so when Cena suplexes Punk to the outside in front of his family and his friends, the crowd popped and so did I (even if it was Punk taking the hit). It was a good old fashioned wrestling match, not the same pace as Austin and Bret at Wrestlemania 13 but it had my complete attention, then and now. Cena for his part played it well. Cena went through the match and was bombarded with boos as he did his usual schtick. He knew what he was doing. He loved getting booed. I perked up when Punk blocked a 5 knuckle shuffle with a kick to the head, I didn’t see it coming as Cena’s 5 moves of doom rarely got countered. However, soon after Punk was back down and soon took the move on a 2nd attempt so my heart sank.
Another routine Cena victory and say goodbye to CM Punk. I’d just bought into the guy, something I hadn’t done since Austin retired and he was about to leave (yes I had completely bought the contract story). Then Punk kicked out of not 1 but 2 Attitude Adjustments, which again was a masterclass move because the crowd popped again!! Punk showed balls to kick out and carry on and Cena sold it brilliantly. I can’t actually state how great I felt Cena did in this match.
I still thought that Punk was going to lose at this point, as I said I had completely bought into the contract story and it was inconceivable that Vince would allow Punk to win in what I thought was his final match. Boy was I wrong (and never been happier to be wrong) because after Punk didn’t connect with the GTS right knocking Cena out of the ring, Vince and John Laurinaitis showed up and I was excited! Unlike the screw job in Montreal, the camera panned to Vince and Laurinitis so I knew a repeat wasn’t on. I actually laughed when Cena punched out Laurinaitis.
Then in the blink of an eye, Punk took advantage of and hit Cena with the GTS and 1,2,3 the match was over! I was marking out like a kid who just got everything he ever wanted for Christmas. I wasn’t alone, the crowd was in overdrive!! I thought they were loud before the match but after the collective cheer could be heard in Australia (ok a bit of an exaggeration but I want to get over how loud it was) and CM Punk was left in the ring as WWE champion!
CM Punk played to the crowd as do all victors but as this was his hometown, which made this celebration that much more special Punk was leaving with the WWE championship, yeah like a mark I had completely bought it. That went out of the window when Vince went to the headsets and called for Alberto Del Rio to get out there and cash in his Money in the Bank contract. This had me laughing because Punk hit Del Rio with a sidekick and tailed it out of there. He would then sit on the barrier blowing a kiss to a shocked Vince.
What now? Was Punk really leaving? I didn’t know, I’d just gone from being all in and bewildered at the ending, needing to find out what would happen next on RAW.
What happened not long after actually made me spit out my coffee laughing. CM Punk put his WWE title in the refrigerator. An image that will forever stick with myself and many others. I’ll end this by saying I might have been taken in hook, line, and sinker and this may not have actually been the end of the story but whatever it was, I had just witnessed a great build, a phenomenal crowd, and a gripping match. The drama and action in this match mixed with the crowd reaction make it second to none. I was taken on a journey of emotions and the ability to get me coming back for more.