CM Punk: Ranking His 7 Best WWE Opponents Thus Far
In his six years in the WWE, CM Punk has worked with a wide variety of opponents.
He's stepped into the ring with Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers, including Edge, Triple H, Batista and The Undertaker. As you might expect, that's resulted in Punk putting on an endless line of great matches throughout his storied career.
Punk has shown the ability to work well with guys of all shapes and sizes, and he's had some classic battles over the years that have helped him get to the level he's at today.
But just who are Punk's best opponents? Who are the guys he almost always delivered the goods with?
While this is certainly up for debate, please allow me to offer my thoughts on the superstars who Punk has worked best with. Here are my rankings of Punk's seven best opponents of his WWE career so far.
7. John Morrison
It was a tossup between John Morrison and Randy Orton for this seventh spot, but I ultimately chose to go with Morrison.
While Punk and Orton delivered a pretty good match at WrestleMania 27 and a great Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules, I don't think they ever quite reached the level that most expected two superstars of their caliber to reach during their feud in 2011.
Punk and Morrison, on the other hand, may not have delivered any "Match of the Year" contenders during their extended rivalry, but they faced each other more times than I care to count and consistently put on some really good to great matches.
Morrison was Punk's biggest rival on the now defunct ECW brand, as Punk won his first World title in the WWE by beating Morrison on an episode of ECW in 2007 and has faced him a boatload of times since then.
These two have tangoed on Raw, SmackDown, ECW and at big-time pay-per-views like SummerSlam and Survivor Series, showing some fantastic chemistry along the way.
We may not have gotten that epic match between Morrison and Punk, but of all the rivalries on this list, Punk and Morrison's resulted in the most matches and, perhaps more importantly, some very good ones, too.
6. Chris Jericho
The feud that seemingly everyone wanted to see finally took place earlier this year.
Chris Jericho returned to the WWE this January, and he eventually made his way into a feud with WWE Champion CM Punk that led to a match between the two at WrestleMania 28—one of the most anticipated matches in recent memory.
The match had such high expectations that many fans were left disappointed by it, but I think that's a little unfair because Jericho and Punk still put on a great bout that probably hovers right around four stars or so. Just to make sure they wouldn't "disappoint" anyone again, however, Punk and Jericho made sure to blow the roof of the building at the following PPV, Extreme Rules.
Jericho and Punk battled in an absolutely epic Chicago Street Fight, which ranks among the very best matches of both men's career. I thought that we might see another classic battle or two between these two, but sadly, that never happened.
Still, we got two awesome matches between Punk and Jericho in one of the biggest feuds of the year.
Punk and Jericho also went one-on-one in a number of often forgotten matches over the years, including a big Raw match (with Batista as the special guest ref) in 2007, a King of the Ring tournament match that same year and a big match on SmackDown in 2009.
5. Dolph Ziggler
CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler are two of the very best in-ring performers in the WWE, so does it really come as a surprise that they work extremely well together?
Of course not.
The chemistry between Punk and Ziggler is as amazing as you would expect, with these two looking like they've spent the last five years wrestling each other on house shows. Though their feud in late 2011/2012 was often overshadowed by Punk's ongoing feud with John Laurinaitis, it didn't really matter much because they delivered multiple memorable matches.
Punk and Ziggler had what was hands down the best match of the night at the 2012 Royal Rumble, but the match that topped even that came on Raw on Nov. 28, 2011 in a champion vs. champion match that was an unbelievable display of both athleticism and technical ability. That match was arguably the best TV match of the entire year.
Unfortunately, though, Ziggler and Punk haven't really had a drawn-out rivalry that's resulted in a boatload of great PPV matches. But they have faced off a decent number of times, executing their bout to perfection on each occasion.
They had an awesome main event on SmackDown last month, a really good WWE title match on Raw back in January and a couple of good bouts toward the end of last year.
Here's to hoping the WWE has it happen again in the near future.
4. Rey Mysterio
One of the better rivalries of 2010 took place between CM Punk and Rey Mysterio.
The then-heel leader of the Straight Edge Society, Punk had done some pretty malicious things to Mysterio and his family, which ultimately led to a match between the two at WrestleMania 26. The match itself was solid, but only got about six or seven minutes, so it didn't steal the show like many thought it would.
But the WWE made up for that by letting Punk and Mysterio tear the house down in a Hair Match at Extreme Rules and then letting them do the same with another fantastic bout at Over the Limit, which was that memorable Hair vs. Straight Edge Society pledge match.
The Extreme Rules and Over the Limit matches are definitely the most notable that Punk and Mysterio have had together, but they've also faced off on a number of other occasions, including at Armageddon in 2008, at Capitol Punishment in 2011 and on Raw earlier this month.
Not only did Mysterio prove to be one Punk's best opponents ever during this rivalry, but Punk also proved to be one of Mysterio's best opponents ever as well.
Whenever these two have stepped into the ring with each other (which has happened a lot), they've simply clicked better than most.
3. Jeff Hardy
CM Punk and Jeff Hardy apparently don't get along too well in real life, but their 2009 feud proved that real-life drama can definitely lead to a great storyline.
At least in my view, Punk and Hardy had what was undoubtedly the best rivalry of 2009—a true clash of styles with the ridiculously popular Hardy embroiled in an intense and bitter battle with the straight edge Punk.
Punk was such a despicable heel at the time, and almost anything that he did drew heat. As a result, the crowd was firmly behind Hardy in this rivalry and really wanted to see him kick the snot out of Punk.
Eventually, this rivalry culminated with one of the best matches of the year at SummerSlam, a TLC match for the World Heavyweight Championship that was ultimately won by Punk. This match was, naturally, the most memorable that Hardy and Punk ever had, but it wasn't the only great one between the two.
Punk and Hardy also tore the house down at Night of Champions (the PPV after SummerSlam) and during a couple of World title matches on SmackDown that year, including this fantastic cage match.
Up until about a year ago, no Punk rivalry produced the amount of greatness (in terms of either storylines or matches) that his feud with Hardy did.
2. Daniel Bryan
Many consider Daniel Bryan and CM Punk to be the top two wrestlers on the planet, which is why it was like a dream come true when these two started crossing paths in early 2012.
While Bryan was the World Heavyweight Champion and Punk the WWE Champion, these two met in a number of absolutely superb Champion vs. Champion matches on both Raw and SmackDown, which ultimately turned out be precursors to a full-fledged feud later in the year.
After Bryan's feud with Sheamus ended and Punk moved on from Chris Jericho, we got one of the most talked about rivalries in recent memory: Punk vs. Bryan for the WWE Championship.
What came next was, as you might expect, pure greatness. Punk and Bryan put on an instant classic at Over the Limit back in May, a match that is definitely the best pure wrestling match of 2012 and arguably better overall than Triple H vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania 28 was.
Not to be outdone, though, Punk and Bryan stole the show again with another amazing match at Money in the Bank, a bout that will probably rank in the top five matches of the year when it's all said and done.
The OTL and MITB matches are the ones that really stand out as extraordinary displays of wrestling, but going back to the start of 2012, Punk and Bryan have put on one of the best strings of matches in WWE history.
I could literally watch these two wrestle all day.
1. John Cena
The No. 1 spot was truly a tossup, with Daniel Bryan making a strong case to top this list.
But ultimately, I had to go with John Cena because—truth be told—he and CM Punk have had three of the best matches in the history of the WWE in one of the biggest rivalries the company has ever seen.
At Money in the Bank 2011, Cena and Punk had one of the most unforgettable bouts I've ever witnessed. A true five-star classic, I can't recall any better mixture of a great storyline, a fantastic crowd and amazing wrestling than what we got from these two that night in Chicago.
Of course, that wouldn't be the only unbelievable match between Punk and Cena. They followed up that MITB match with an almost-as-amazing match at SummerSlam, and more than a year later, they did the exact same thing at the 2012 Night of Champions pay-per-view.
Even some of the "forgotten" Cena/Punk matches (like their one on Raw in January 2011 or on Raw 1000) showed that the WWE's top two stars have an unparalleled chemistry that, despite Cena's limitations in the ring, has resulted in matches that people will still be talking about 10 or 20 years from now.
While it's easy to hate on Cena because he's not great if he doesn't have the right opponent, I have no problem with saying this: He's Punk's best opponent over, and Punk is his.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!