A year ago today, the Summer of Punk reached its climax at the 2011 Money in the Bank pay-per-view. CM Punk ultimately defeated John Cena and left through his roaring hometown crowd as the new WWE Champion.
It all started on June 27, 2011, when Punk sat cross-legged atop the entrance ramp and cut one of the best-worked shoot promos in the history of wrestling. In a few short minutes, Punk turned the wrestling world upside down, making himself the business' hottest commodity in the process.
Fans around the world eagerly anticipated Cena versus Punk. When it came time for the main event on July 17, excitement was at an all-time high.
Cena's entrance rang through the All State Arena, but was quickly drowned out by a unanimous chorus of boos. Conversely, the opening riff of "This Fire Burns" was met with a crowd pop that would make The Rock and Steve Austin blush.
As expected, Cena and Punk wrestled a phenomenal match. Punk, as expected, gave it his all and delivered a memorable performance. Cena truly stepped up and met Punk's technical wrestling prowess with his own rarely exhibited mat wrestling skill.
In the final stretch of the match, Vince McMahon made his way towards the ring and sent John Laurinaitis to call for the bell and end the match. Cena ended up leveling Johnny Ace with a stiff punch to the face.
Upon reentering the ring, Punk caught Cena with the GTS and pinned Cena to win the WWE Championship.
In a last-ditch effort, Vince called for Alberto del Rio to cash in his Money in the Bank title shot. Punk put an end to that by dropping del Rio with a kick to the head before the match could start.
With just over an hour left on his contract with the WWE, Punk walked through the Chicago crowd as the new WWE Champion.
During his absence from the WWE, Punk made cameos at Comic Con and an independent wrestling show. No one knew where the free-agent WWE Champion would show up next.
After weeks of nearly flawless booking for the Summer of Punk, the WWE made the controversial decision to bring Punk back after two weeks.
As fans, it's easy to criticize the WWE for not letting the anticipation build up over a longer period of time. However, who can blame the WWE for wanting to strike while the iron is hot? Without doubt, Punk was the biggest name in the industry. With SummerSlam just around the corner, it's understandable that the WWE would want Punk in the main event.
Many fans were irked by the way the Cena versus Punk program, and the Summer of Punk, concluded at SummerSlam 2011. After retaining the WWE Championship, Punk was attacked by Kevin Nash and then lost the title when del Rio cashed in.
After investing so much in Punk and making him the center of the wrestling world, the WWE let his flame slowly die out after his quick return to the company.
A whole year later, it's easy to look back and criticize the way the Summer of Punk played out. Instead, I would rather look back fondly on the memories that Punk created. I will never forget sitting in awe as Punk unleashed his first pipebomb on the wrestling world. I will never forget the epic July 17, 2011 Money in the Bank PPV that was highlighted by Punk's legendary win.
For me, the Summer of Punk was one of those programs that made years of being a wrestling fan worthwhile.
So, instead of criticizing, I would like to thank. I would like to thank CM Punk, the WWE and all those that contributed to these amazing moments.