WWE Flashbacks Volume 9 Part 2: CM Punk Meets His Dreadful Destiny at SummerSlam
Hello and welcome to the ninth ever installment of WWE Flashbacks. In my last volume, I went back in time to remind you of the Bret “The Hitman” Hart versus “Stone Cold” Steve Austin feud that catapulted both Austin’s career and the beginning of the beloved Attitude Era.
Today, Flashbacks returns as part two of a four-part series reviewing the epic rivalry that CM Punk and John Cena have had and to foreshadow what is to come when they inevitably step inside the ring once again.
If you missed part one, click the given link to read how CM Punk held the WWE and its championship hostage.
June 25, 2011: He’s Back!
John Cena had finally regained his WWE Championship in a hard-fought match with the new champion, Rey Mysterio. Cena helped Rey up, and the two exchanged a hug before Rey exited.
Cena caught his breath inside the ring as an unfamiliar tune blared through the arena.
“Look in my eyes, what do you see? The cult of personality,” it said. Cena looked confused, as did the entire crowd of fans in attendance. Unless you had been following this man’s career from the start, there’s no way you knew what was coming next.
Out stepped CM Punk from the back with the WWE Championship around his waist. He extended his arms then made his way down the ramp.
Cena raised his title above his head, only for CM Punk to raise his title higher. Punk chuckled and pointed to the nameplate, which had his name on it, as opposed to the empty nameplate on Cena’s gold.
August 1, 2011: Two WWE Champions?
After the dismissal of Chairman Vince McMahon, newly appointed Chief Operating Officer Triple H had a decision to make: Who was the rightful WWE Champion?
This question had never come about before, as there had never been two WWE Champions in the more than 50 year history of the title.
Just as Triple H began talking, the ever-raspy voice of one Mr. John Laurinaitis interrupted. He said he was the Vice President of Talent Relations, a job he replaced Jim Ross in. His job was to sign and deal with the talent.
When Triple H questioned him, he told him that he had been a part of WWE’s corporate structure much longer than he had. After working with Vince McMahon for ten years, he knew what he would want Hunter to do: strip John Cena of his title, which cued Cena’s entrance.
“The Champ is here!” Jerry Lawler proclaimed, but was he going to walk out of Raw as the champion?
Cena, like Punk in weeks previous, wasted no time in trashing Johnny Ace. He called him a yes-man and believed the reason he wanted to strip him of the title was because at Money in the Bank he knocked his teeth down his throat.
Ace told Cena he was out of line and that he was not basing his decision on Cena’s unprofessional behavior but on how Punk had already defeated Cena for the title. In response, Cena suggested he punch Laurinaitis once again, and Triple H didn’t mind the possibility himself. Laurinaitis, though, ducked between the ropes and left the ring with his tail tucked firmly between his legs.
Cena then started to work on Triple H. He said if he can be stripped of his title because Punk beat him once, he should be able to strip Triple H of his COO job after beating him at WrestleMania 22 and run the joint himself.
Triple H said he wasn’t stripping Cena of anything, as he had a legitimate claim to the holy grail of the WWE, bringing out CM Punk.
Punk asked Triple H if not stripping Cena of his paper championship meant that he was going to strip him. Was the WWE going to revert to the happy-go-lucky status quo where they put smiles on people’s faces, and he goes to find a urinal to go throw up in?
Triple H demanded the two stop whining about the situation like babies and that Cena not call him “Hunter." He was his boss now. He stated that at SummerSlam, one match between John Cena and CM Punk would crown the undisputed WWE Champion.
Raw went off the air with a battle of the bands-esque finish. One man would raise his title in the air as his music hit, and then the other would respond by doing the same thing.
This wasn’t going to be decided by crowd reaction or a game of one-upmanship, though. It was going to be determined in the ring at the most important SummerSlam ever.
August 8, 2011: Signing on the Dotted Line
Triple H asked Punk and Cena to cut to the chase. Punk, with his feet already comfortably placed on the table, said he thought everybody knew the match was already official and that this contract signing was just for show. If they were going to cut to the chase, why not just flip the table over and start beating each other up, or make this thing entertaining?
A little later, Punk said he felt like a movie star about to pitch his big clip. He was actually going to cut to a clip of a big movie star, and it wasn’t Triple H from The Chaperone. “How’d your movie go?” Triple H asked Punk, to which Punk replied, “It went straight to DVD just like yours.”
He cut to a promo The Rock had cut on John Cena earlier that week, mocking Cena and eventually calling him a phony. Punk said he agreed with most of the things in the clip, though the irony was Dwayne was just as big of a phony as Cena was.
Cena responded to Rocky before Punk reminded him that this was about their match and not his match with Dwayne at WrestleMania. Cena changed course, alluding to Punk’s issues with him, as well as the “smart fans” issues with him. He was a product of the system, he was too PG, he was the modern day Hulk Hogan. He alluded to it all. He said he wasn’t going to win over the Punk's millions of cult-like followers even if he increased his work rate or let his heel persona shine through.
He said Punk was right to compare Cena to the New York Yankees because just bringing up their names evokes a response. He wasn’t worried about the people who would ooze hate but was worried about the fans who stuck with him through good, bad and indifferent times.
He told Punk that after making all those demands, he was a phony by coming back as some underground voice of the voiceless. Triple H jumped in, adding that Punk was just a guy who held out for more money and a couple of perks but wouldn't negotiate face to face.
Punk was angered at the claims that he was gutless. He pointed out how Triple H had Johnny Ace do his dirty work for him when he called talents like Vladimir Kozlov, Harry Smith and Chris Masters over the phone and wished them well in their future endeavors.
He cut back to Cena, saying this was about them and the WWE Championship. It was easy for Cena to act "holier-than-thou" when he was sitting on top of a pedestal and his perspective was skewed. He said when he won the ECW Championship, Cena walked up to him and said “Congrats, champ. I almost gave up on you.”
The one who had given up was Cena. Punk said Cena was the one who moved out to California to become a "sports entertainer" because he couldn’t hack it as a body builder. He held up the WWE for opportunities Cena had been handed.
Punk said that seven years before Cena had won his first championship in WWE in Los Angeles, but in six days he was going to walk out of LA with absolutely nothing.
After Punk finished his rant and signed the contract, Cena sarcastically applauded before doing the same. He took his microphone and placed all the pressure on Punk. He said if he lost, he’d still go onto face The Rock, but if Punk lost, he'd be just another loud mouth, one-hit wonder. All of his newfound fame would go away in the snap of a finger.
“Good luck,” Cena wished Punk. Punk once more responded,“Good luck? Luck is for losers, John, and I’d much rather be a one-hit wonder than a phony.”
The two got confrontational, flipped the table and had a stare down until Big Johnny intervened. He backed up Cena before getting taken out by a roundhouse kick from Punk. Triple H backed Punk out of the ring when Cena elbowed him in the head, causing Trips to recover and push Cena as Raw faded to black.
August 14, 2011: Punk’s Dreadful Destiny
To view the match in its entirety, click here.
Cena and Punk made their entrances to a much more bi-partisan crowd. Instead of Chicago, Illinois like Money in the Bank, SummerSlam took place inside Los Angeles, California’s Staples Center.
The special guest referee Triple H lifted two WWE Championships above his head, a first for even him, a man who had held 13 world championships in his illustrious career.
Next, The Game searched both competitors before signaling for the bell. Punk and Cena locked up in a first-time and very possibly last-time scenario. Never before had there been two men simultaneously holding the WWE Championship.
Punk wrenched in his headlock off the lock-up and bounced off the ropes for a shoulder block. He went for a pin that Cena kicked out of with ease, but Punk’s goal was to tire Cena as quickly as possible. The more times he was forced to kickout, the less energy he would have.
Cena took Punk down with an armbar but was unsuccessful in keeping the Cult of Personality on the mat. He popped back up, and the two were at stalemate, not unlike many times during the previous pay-per-view.
Another lock-up resulted in a third stalemate early on as Triple H circled the ring. Many viewed Triple H’s position as COO and referee to be a possible conflict of interest. Would he allow business to get in the way of counting either man’s shoulders down for the count? Would past issues with Cena bubble to the surface? Would the harsh words from the mouth of CM Punk finally emerge and backfire on the Straight Edge Superstar?
Only time would tell.
Both Cena and Punk were walking on eggshells early. They didn’t want to be the one to make the first mistake and to end the match before it really got going. They knew this was a marathon, not a sprint, so they wrestled as such. They were going to keep it safe for now and save more high-risk moves for the closing minutes when the bout was going to ultimately be decided.
Booker T reminisced back to SummerSlam 2001 when one mistake on his part, which was simply losing his focus, cost him his match against The Rock. It wouldn't take much for Cena or Punk’s efforts to go down in vain if they made that one mistake.
A very technical wrestling match began to unfold to the thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world. As much flak as Cena has received for not being able to wrestle, he was wrestling a very submission-oriented style early against a man whose style reeked of the Indies. Booker T even admitted the match was too technical for his taste.
While Punk was better versed in submission maneuvers, Cena was the bigger man and could suck the life out of Punk by grounding him. Neither man could assert his dominance as the match neared the halfway mark, and the crowd became more anxious. Was the company man or the ultimate rebel going to prevail with the company’s top prize?
Punk’s educated knees came into play, and he started to methodically wear down Cena. Many knees to the sternum and pin attempts, followed by leg scissors, would wind the leader of the CeNation. Cena broke out of the leg scissors and attempted the STF without much success.
Punk rushed to the apron to suplex him over the ropes; however, Cena refused and forced Punk to settle for a neck breaker against the steel cables known as the ring ropes.
Showing shades of Chris Jericho, Punk leaped to the top rope and nailed Cena with a dropkick to his back, knocking him off the apron and completely out of the ring in the process.
Punk caught his breath as Cena crawled his way back into the ring at five. He went for the cover and again failed. Back to work he went as he slowly gained support from the WWE Universe.
Cena soon fought his way back into the match, dueling it out by going back and forth with Punk with their signature moves. Cena went for many shoulder blocks, while Punk went for a couple knees in the corner. It looked as if Cena had won this exchange too. He signaled for the Five Knuckle Shuffle to the glee of the kids sporting his red shirt; however, Punk reversed into a Koji Clutch—a Japanese variation of the sleeper hold.
Cena powered his way out and locked in the STF. The STF, though, wasn’t applied properly, allowing Punk to wiggle his way out and into the Anaconda Vise.
Cena had to lift his shoulders from the mat and eventually powered his way back into the STF. Due to Cena again not hooking Punk’s back leg, Punk squirmed around and placed his foot on the bottom rope to break the hold.
Cena recovered and vaulted himself across the ring in hopes of clotheslining Punk to the outside, but Cena was the man who ended up on the outside. Punk had ducked and lifted Cena over and out.
Punk glanced to the outside, realizing and capitalizing on his suicide dive opportunity. John Cena was in deep trouble, but how much did Punk have left?
Triple H reached the count of nine before putting both men back in the ring to avoid the disastrous idea of a draw.
Cena and Punk met with a striking encounter in the center of the ring, an encounter that John Cena won. He nailed a dropkick and a Five Knuckle Shuffle on his fellow champion.
Cena lifted Punk on his shoulders for the Attitude Adjustment Punk, though he reversed into a roll-up. Cena kicked out, but Punk escaped a dangerous situation unscathed. Cena responded with a roll-up of his own. Punk bridged out and landed a roundhouse to the back of Cena’s skull.
1,2, kickout! A move that had ended many matches for Punk wouldn’t end this one. His main finisher, the Go to Sleep, also failed to put away Cena.
Cena splashed Punk in the corner and followed up with an unorthodox suplex into a pin. 1,2, no!
Cena reached the top rope only to meet the knee of CM Punk. Punk hit a bulldog off the second rope and rolled Cena for the pin. Cena still found a way to kickout.
Punk went back to well, launching himself at Cena with a springboard crossbody, but this time it missed Cena. Cena moved out of the way and locked in a perfectly applied STF. Punk still scratched and clawed his way to a rope break.
The two jockeyed for position to hit their finisher. Cena was the successful one. 1,2, kickout! Punk had kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment that had put countless hall of famers and former champions away!
Cena grew frustrated with special guest referee Triple H. He felt like that was a three-count. Despite this, Cena kept his poise.
Punk avoided Cena’s top rope leg drop and nailed the GTS! Was he going to shock the world once more? 1,2, kickout!
Punk favored his left leg as he willed his way to the top rope for an elbow to Cena’s heart. This didn’t put Cena away either. Punk now was reasoning with Triple H, something Cena tried to take advantage of with roll-up, but Punk wasn’t losing this match that easily.
One final exchange led to a high knee and GTS from Punk! Pinfall; 1,2,3! Cena’s leg on the bottom rope was missed by the inexperienced referee, costing him the match. CM Punk had somehow escaped with the WWE Championship for the second time in two months.
Both the commentators and Cena himself were furious at Triple H; nevertheless, the result was final. Cena exited the ring in disappointment as CM Punk joyfully celebrated.
Punk refused a handshake from Triple H, who instead just raised Punk’s hand. Triple H left the ring, leaving Punk alone and ripe for the picking of one Kevin Nash.
Triple H watched from the stage as Nash clotheslined and promptly Jackknifed the now undisputed WWE Champion. Hunter rushed back to ringside to chase down his friend, but Nash hightailed it through the crowd.
Trips stared on in disbelief as Mr. Money in the Bank, Alberto Del Rio, quickly made his way to the ring to cash in his briefcase. The bell rang and ADR hit Punk with a kick to the back of the head for win. Alberto Del Rio was the new the WWE Champion!
To read part three of this series today and much more of my work, please visit WrestleEnigma.com. Thanks.