John Cena and CM Punk have never once seen eye to eye—an image-friendly soldier for all the people versus an outspoken, rebellious voice of a forgotten legion—the good fight versus the war against the oppressor. Whatever the comparison, whatever the parameters, Cena has always been the favorite in a potential match against Punk.
In two weeks, they will face each other again, and it has never been clearer that CM Punk will emerge victorious.
Since "turning his back on the WWE Universe" as Jerry Lawler put it, Punk has shown a renewed sense of urgency as WWE champion. Punk is once again the "voice of the voiceless," asking the questions everyone on the internet has raised. Why doesn't the WWE Championship appear in the main event? Why does John Cena continue to overshadow CM Punk? What happened to that edge Punk had during the summer of 2011?
The answer to all of those came at SummerSlam and the weeks that followed. Punk seized opportunity after opportunity, tossing Cena out of the ring and pinning Show to retain his title in a match he was heavily favored to lose. He then confronted Jerry Lawler and settled business inside a steel cage, not only forcing Lawler to tap out but managing to flatten him with a rock bottom, sending a demand of respect all the way to Hollywood.
Last night, still wholeheartedly embraced by Chicago, Punk took a personal day (and still could not draw a severely negative reaction from the crowd). John Cena and Alberto Del Rio, both respective challengers to the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships, fought a grueling Falls Count Anywhere match to the back of the Allstate Arena, tearing apart interview sets and props in the process. Just when it looked like Cena would score the victory, Punk ambushed him with a kick.
Tossing an exhausted Del Rio on top of Cena, Punk once again taunted Cena and laughed as he left the arena for the second time that night.
Had this been the end of it, I would have already been convinced that Punk would retain his WWE Championship in two weeks. He has Cena's number, and despite the fact that Cena has only been back in the hunt for the title for a couple months, his passion for the championship was not as apparent when Punk first named Cena as the No. 1 contender. Cena reminded Punk about loyalty but did nothing to convince people that Punk could not emerge the victor.
I was all set to give CM Punk the edge at Night of Champions.
That was when we saw who had been driving him around Chicago.
Paul Heyman, manager and representative of champions, leered down at a fallen John Cena from the driver's seat and slowly pulled off into the Chicago night, his newest client in tow. The only thing that could have been going through Cena's head was "...damn. I can't do it."
Side note: someone nominate that cameraman for an Emmy.
We have been waiting for this pairing since the day that CM Punk debuted as part of the re-branded ECW in 2006. They are two men who embody the oft-forgotten spirit of wrestling, not entertainment. Heyman spent the last couple months crafting Brock Lesnar into the machine who may have ended Triple H's career in one match. With the combined powers of Punk and Heyman, there is absolutely nothing in the WWE that can stop them.
John Cena can talk all he wants about respect, but the type of respect CM Punk wants is something that Paul Heyman has demanded and received for decades. He gave us ECW and helped Brock Lesnar become WWE champion within six months of his first WWE match. A Punk/Heyman alliance is simply too much for even the likes of John Cena to overcome.
Once Cena loses at Night of Champions, people can begin to speculate as to who will finally defeat CM Punk for the WWE Championship. One thing I truly believe is that, much like the both times that Paul Heyman suddenly reappeared on Raw this year, nobody will see it coming.