“Do I have everybody’s attention now?” CM Punk asked the live crowd and the television audience on a live edition of Monday Night Raw.
That question sent shockwaves through the wrestling world.
Punk had a few rubs with fame earlier in his career, but was always treated as a second rate superstar. He had been defeated in many high profile matches and used as a place holder for other stars to feud with while waiting for their chances to move up the ladder. In the summer of 2011, CM Punk seemed to be on his way out of World Wrestling Entertainment, but in one interview, everything changed.
As Cena was recovering in the ring, Punk marched to ringside and grabbed a microphone before heading back up the ramp. He took a seat at the top of the ramp and began to cut a scathing promo. He talked about how he was being treated; how his accomplishments seemed to go ignored. He broke many barriers, saying things about WWE chairman Vince McMahon and his family that most would expect to result in instant termination of his contract. He told the world that is contract was up at midnight after the upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view event, even going as far as to claim that he was going to win the WWE Championship on that evening and leave the company with the title.
The show closed on that evening with the microphone cutting out on Punk, who then began screaming and riling up the fans.
The following week, Vince McMahon made a rare appearance on Raw and declared that CM Punk had been suspended indefinitely. Punk’s scheduled pay-per view-opponent, John Cena, petitioned for Vince to lift the suspension throughout the show. Cena told Vince that he was not afraid of Punk, and that he even respected him for standing up for what he believes in, even though he doesn’t agree with Punk.
By the end of the night, John Cena got his way, largely due to threatening to walk out if Punk wasn’t reinstated, and the match was back on.
CM Punk came to Raw the following Monday and had a public contract negotiation with Vince McMahon. Punk forced Vince to apologize for suspending him and threw out a list of crazy demands that he would have to meet if he wanted CM Punk to re-sign with the company. Punk wanted to star in movies, take Vince’s private jet to every show, and wanted his face on ice cream bars. The negotiations ended when John Cena made his way to the ring and confronted CM Punk, causing Punk to tear up the contract and warn Vince to kiss the WWE Championship goodbye. Vince then informed John Cena that if CM Punk wins the WWE Championship, then he would be out of a job. The next stop would be Money in the Bank.
The night of the pay-per-view, Vince tried to negotiate a new contract with Punk to no avail. Vince reminded Cena that his job was on the line. The match was the main event of the evening. CM Punk made his way to the ring first; his hometown of Chicago giving him a hero’s welcome. He soaked up the adoration of the crowd as the commentators were left speechless, expecting the fans to boo Punk. John Cena made his way to the ring second, being greeted by a hostile crowd, who were holding up signs that read “If Cena wins, we riot”.
The match was extremely competitive, starting out with neither man able to get the upper hand on the other. Cena landed an early attitude adjustment, but only got a two. CM Punk battled valiantly against the multiple time WWE Champion, but eventually found himself locked in the STF in the center of the ring. It would have been a safe time to count Punk out, but to the surprise of everyone, he managed to reverse the STF into the anaconda vise, nearly getting the win before John Cena scurried to the ropes.
Punk took control of the match, nailing several hard shots on the champion and getting a few near falls. Cena countered a clothesline attempt into another attitude adjustment, but Punk refused to stay down. Cena picked him up off the mat and was about to hit a third finisher when Punk countered it into the go to sleep, but a bit of bad luck resulted in him connecting on Cena’s chest and knocking him to the floor. Punk looked panicked as he rolled out of the ring and hoisted him back into the ring.
Punk was about to slide back in to finish off Cena when he saw Vince McMahon making his way to the ring, accompanied by John Laurinaitis; the executive vice president of talent relations. Punk glared at the two for a moment before shaking his head and rolling back into the ring. Cena made use of the distraction and applied the STF on Punk the moment he got back into the ring. As Punk struggled to get out of the hold, Vince sent Laurinaitis to ring the bell, hoping to screw Punk out of the match, but Cena saw him and broke the hold, sliding out of the ring and leveling Laurinaitis with a right hand. He then told Vince that he would do this on his own and rolled back into the ring.
As soon as Cena stood back up, Punk hoisted him up over his head and got good connection on a second go to sleep, rolling Cena up and winning the match. The crowd went wild as Vince panicked, grabbing a headset from one of the announcers and calling for Alberto Del Rio, who had just won a championship contract at a time of his choosing earlier in the night, to come and cash his chance in. Punk looked nervous as he saw Del Rio running to the ring, but the moment Del Rio stood up inside the ring, CM Punk kicked him in the head, knocking him unconscious before he could cash in his championship opportunity. Punk then grabbed the championship belt and hopped onto the barricade at ringside, blowing a kiss goodbye to a troubled Vince McMahon before leaving through the crowd.
A month before these events took place, CM Punk was penned to put over the champion before quietly riding off into the sunset. As the evening came to a close, CM Punk left the wrestling world with one question: “Do I have everybody’s attention now?”