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John Cena walked into a sea of proverbial sharks inside Allstate Arena in Chicago with all the odds stacked against him. He walked in champion, yet could walk out without a job and knowing he cost the WWE its championship of over 50 years. Knowing he let down the man who gave him his shot at glory in the first place, Vince McMahon.
Michael Cole listed off some of the greatest WWE Champions of all-time as the bell rang.
The two locked up and Punk got an early advantage with a headlock followed by an armbar. Cena reversed, getting Punk in a favorable position on the mat for a headlock of his own.
Punk fought his way to his feet and leaned his way against the ropes, forcing Cena to relinquish his hold.
Chants of "You can't wrestle," directed towards Cena began to pour down from Punk’s faithful hometown fans. Cena ducked a roundhouse kick narrowly that would’ve prematurely ended the match.
Punk took down Cena and nearly locked in the Anaconda Vise before Cena again reversed and utilized an armbar. When Punk got to his feet, Cena continued to twist the arm until he fell right back down to the mat.
It was a clever tactic for Cena, who was obviously trying to take the crowd out of things early on with a slow pace. It was just as odd though, considering Cena’s opponents are often the ones in that position. Cena was very used to being booed, but he was always accustomed to getting just many cheers from CeNation.
Cena would down Punk once more with a shoulder knock down, then Punk recovered and we returned to a lock up between the two combatants.
Just as minutes prior, Cena wrenched in his headlock and soon grounded CM Punk. The crowd was still going, but Punk was at least not able to use his best weapons, his legs, from the canvas.
Back to his feet, Punk was taken down with a shoulder block, but responded with a leap and hip toss to take down Cena. A dropkick and headlock of his own followed to pick up some momentum to the crowd’s delight.
A chain of reversals followed, beginning with a shoulder block from Punk. Punk tried the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but failed and instead ended up fighting out of an Attitude Adjustment and getting Cena in position for the GTS, but Cena also leaped out of harm’s way as the stalemate continued.
Punk gained the upper hand with a series of his trademark kicks and elbows to the champion. He’d back up when the referee counted though, realizing he couldn’t win the title by disqualification. This opened up an opportunity for Cena to go on the offensive with a bulldog and failed pinfall.
Booker T correctly called this match a chess match. These two men had been in the ring with each other before and were no stranger to one another’s offense. One mistake could change the complexion of the entire match, changing the landscape of the WWE in the process.
Punk battled out of Cena’s ground game, but was stiffly clotheslined upon getting up. He checked his nose and mouth for any blood as Cena went for another unsuccessful cover.
For several minutes, this theme continued. Punk was forced constantly to survive the submission holds of John Cena. The word pacing comes to mind, as this was a long match and both Cena and Punk wanted to have enough in the tank to last until the end.
Punk would nail a DDT off a failed Attitude Adjustment. He hoped to string together and sustain some offense for the first time on this night, something both men hadn’t succeeded at doing thus far.
Punk locked in head scissors on Cena, looking to wear down this powerful force much like Cena had wanted to wear him down earlier.
Cena hoisted Punk in the air, showcasing his amazing strength only for Punk to boot him from the ring quickly and gain a much deserved breather.
Punk placed Cena on the apron and leaped onto the second turnbuckle. The crowd cheered as Punk’s knee nailed Cena in the back of his previously surgically repaired neck.
He rolled Cena away from the ropes and went for the pin, but Cena lifted his shoulder at the count of two.
Punk backed Cena into the corner, kneeing him a couple of times before sending him to the opposite side of the ring. Punk attempted his patented knee to the face, but Cena moved out of the way and Punk’s shoulder connected with the steel post.
Punk was in full control of the match, targeting Cena’s injured neck though it wasn’t for long. Cena would suplex Punk to the outside as the tides turned and Cena fans began to allow their voices to be heard.
Cena rolled Punk back in the ring and hooked his leg, but Cena’s own leg, now injured, weakened him just enough to let Punk kickout.
Cena didn’t want to let Punk in on the injury, so without hesitation he hit a quick suplex.
Back-and-fourth, up-and-down, this thrilling affair was beginning to pick up its pace with no clear end in sight. Just when you believed one man to be down and out, they fought back. It was a battle of attrition.
Punk made his way back with a roll-up after Cena had begun his five moves of doom. Cena seamlessly picked up where he left off with a Five Knuckle Shuffle though, with Punk’s leg interrupting the maneuver and knocking him square in the head.
Cena hit a kick to Punk’s gut; Punk missed a knee in the corner. The crowd was now on their feet. Cena’s career was in jeopardy in the arena he had debuted in against Kurt Angle in 2002. It was in the same state in which CM Punk participated in John Cena’s WrestleMania 22 entrance, promising himself on that very night that he would one day be inside the ring and be the star himself.
Off that kick, Punk sent Cena to the outside, setting him up for a suicide dive to the floor. The crowd went into a frenzy for its hero, a hero that was headed towards victory. Its hero that was not only going to walk out of the arena WWE Champion, but he was going to walk out of the WWE as WWE Champion.
Punk tossed Cena inside the ring and went for a springboard crossbody, but an aware Cena rolled out of the way. Cena made it to his feet with assistance from the ropes and raised his hand to signal for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, a move that had failed him moments beforehand. It would work this time, but the Attitude Adjustment wouldn’t. CM Punk landed on his feet and countered with a series of lethal kicks to Cena that grounded him. Cena would power out of the upcoming cover at two.
Punk tried his GTS, Cena countered with an unorthodox gutwrench and pinfall that Punk would will his way out of. Cena’s injured knee would cause him pause and allowed Punk the time to recover and hit two knees along with the bulldog to the face of his opponent.
Punk headed to apron wide-eyed and waited for Cena to make it to his feet. When he did, Punk plunged onto the 240-pounder for the near victory.
Punk’s martial arts background came into effect as he kicked a dazed Cena numerous times before Cena ducked, dove and locked in the STF.
Punk clawed and scratched his way to the ropes to the dismay of Cole, Jerry Lawler and Booker T on commentary. Cena broke the hold right away. He’d soon be hit with a roundhouse kick to the head when trying to get back on offense.
Punk went for the cover; 1,2, Cena lifted his shoulder in the last possible second!
Punk went to the top rope and landed on the current champion with a crossbody but Cena rolled through and ended up having Punk in prime position for an Attitude Adjustment. This AA would be reversed into a GTS that was reversed once more into a STF. Somehow, Punk slipped his hand into Cena’s STF hold countered into the Anaconda Vise. The Allstate Arena was simply coming unglued at the possibility of Punk defeating John Cena.
Cena reached his feet and amazingly hits the Attitude Adjustment. Pinfall: 1,2, no! Punk kicked out. How is that possible? A move that has put countless superstars away in Cena’s legendary career couldn’t do the trick against CM Punk. It couldn’t put away Punk for what could have been the finishing bow to Punk’s WWE career.
Cena was now top rope-bound for the first time. He missed his leg drop which Punk countered into a powerbomb and a cover: 1,2, kickout. Could either of these men put the other away?
Punk was on the verge of tears now as the crowd climaxed, and even they were nearing exhaustion. This mentally grueling match had worn on for the better part of an hour.
This is one of those matches we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.” - Booker T
Punk staggered and stalked his way into the GTS, but Cena pulled himself to the ropes and out of Punk’s finishing move. He slammed Punk’s neck across the steel cables known as ring ropes to down Punk and give himself time to climb to the top rope. He again attempts his big leg drop, this time successful, though still unsuccessful when going for the win.
Cena was frustrated to the point of laughter. He didn’t know what else he could pull out of his sleeve to put CM Punk away. Could he put CM Punk away? Was it possible under these circumstances?
He stayed poised and was set for the AA in which he hit and Punk kick out of yet again.
He lifted Punk’s dead weight to go for an AA off the top rope, thinking perhaps that would do the job on a night that absolutely nothing else would.
Punk fought his way out with elbows to Cena’s temple and a huricanrana to the mat. Cena rolled to the corner so Punk couldn’t attempt a pinning combination, but Punk was able to hit his knee to the face and the bulldog. He would nail Cena with a GTS in the ribcage, causing him to fall through the ropes and out of the ring.
As Punk rolled Cena in the ring, Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis entered the arena to watch the company-altering finish for themselves.
Cena locked in the STF on a distracted Punk, affording Mr. McMahon the chance to call for the bell. When the referee didn’t see this, Johnny Ace neared the ring making the same call, but walked into a ring hand by John Cena. He wasn’t going to win this hard-fought match with something such as a screwjob. He said, “Not that way” to McMahon as the chairman blankly stared into the ring.
Cena slid into the ring and his way into a GTS. 1, 2, 3! “Oh my God, oh my God!” Michael Cole uttered as the look on Vince McMahon’s face was one of disbelief. A large chunk of the empire he and his family had built had just went up in flames.
Vince, in a state of panic, grabbed a headset and demanded the music be stopped and Alberto Del Rio cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase he had won earlier in the night.
Alberto sprinted down the ramp with briefcase in hand, but Punk hit a roundhouse to his head and offered his soon-to-be former boss a sadistic smirk.
Punk headed to the barricade where he met Vince McMahon, blew him a kiss and ran through the crowd.
To come in part two; CM Punk makes his epic comeback to the WWE and faces the newly crowned WWE Champion John Cena at SummerSlam in the first match ever with two WWE Champions. Did Punk again prevail and reign atop the WWE landscape? Or did Cena win his championship back and restore order to the chaotic nightmare the WWE had become?
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