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The 5 Greatest Moments of CM Punk's Year-Long WWE Title Reign

Adam WellsFeatured Columnist IVNovember 18, 2016

The 5 Greatest Moments of CM Punk's Year-Long WWE Title Reign

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    In the fast-paced, ever-evolving world of WWE, it is amazing to look at the calendar and see that CM Punk has been WWE champion for the last 12 months. 

    The controversial superstar won the championship from Alberto Del Rio at the 2011 Survivor Series and has kept the strap on his shoulder for an entire year. For some perspective, there have been six different Intercontinental champions, five United States champions and five world heavyweight champions since Punk won the WWE title. 

    Like everything in WWE over the last 12 months, there have been some great moments and some ridiculously ludicrous moments for Punk during this current reign.

    While the list of all the singular moments would take too long to list, we want to highlight the moments that have come to define CM Punk over the last year. His tale of success in WWE is one of the most unlikely for any top star in a long time, because of his size, demeanor, look and fact he was established long before he came to WWE. 

    As we celebrate one year of chaos, destruction, pipe bombs and everything else CM Punk has to offer as champion, here are are the five moments that stood out the most from the Best In The World. 

No. 5: Anything with Daniel Bryan

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    Admitting right out of the gate that this is a cop-out because it is too hard to pick a single moment or match that would do it justice, CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan was one of the best things WWE decided to do in 2012. 

    These two have a long, storied history that dates back to their time together in Ring of Honor. They provided some great wrestling matches that went largely unnoticed by the casual WWE audience because they don't pay attention to any other wrestling promotion. 

    The feud started with one of the best WWE matches of the year at Over the Limit in May. Punk and Bryan had 20 minutes to just have a straight wrestling match, and it was predictably great. They continued to work together on Raw and pay-per-view for the next two months. 

    Sure, WWE tried to inject some other players, like Kane and A.J., into the mix for reasons that still don't make sense, but everyone knew that when they paid to see Punk and Bryan in a ring together, they were going to get something special. 

    WWE doesn't often let wrestling do the talking on its shows (this is a company that is so paranoid of being labeled "wrestling" that it has to brand itself as sports entertainment), so it was refreshing to see two wrestlers battling it out over the biggest prize in the sport. 

No. 4: CM Punk and Chris Jericho Wage Verbal War

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    The start of 2012 was a very interesting time in WWE. We already knew the main event of WrestleMania, with The Rock and John Cena agreeing to a match a year ahead of time. Undertaker and Triple H were about to renew their rivalry from a year earlier. 

    And Chris Jericho returned to the company in order to bring about, as the promo videos said, the end of the world as you know it. While that promise ultimately left some fans feeling numb about Jericho's run this time around, his work with Punk leading up to WrestleMania was compelling. 

    Some of it veered off course, like when Jericho started talking about CM Punk's entire family history of drug and alcohol abuse. That was more melodramatic than a wrestling feud really needs to, or should, be. 

    However, the best promo between the two came on Feb. 27. It was just two proud and confident men talking about why they needed the WWE championship. All the nicknames and titles they gave themselves no longer mattered. 

    It helped establish the championship as an important piece of history that would cement the legacy of whoever held it, and gave Punk and Jericho a chance to do what they do better than almost anyone in the business today: Cut a money promo. 

No. 3: CM Punk vs. Mick Foley

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    In a case of two great talkers who understand the business elevating what could have been a lackluster promo, CM Punk and Mick Foley waged war on the microphone twice in less than a month. 

    The first time came at the end of September, when Foley wanted to know exactly what Punk was doing with Paul Heyman, who Punk joined forces with earlier in the summer. The second time came a month later when WWE was going to have two Survivor Series' teams captained by Punk and Foley before changing course a week later. 

    Regardless of the lack of booking continuity in WWE, Foley and Punk are proof that talent trumps everything else. There is a natural chemistry there that not even the worst writing team in the world can screw up. 

    It would have been better if these angles actually led to something, but as a singular moment, it was certainly as good as anything WWE has done this fall. Foley and Punk understand the rhythms and timing it takes to make a promo work. 

    That is a trait sorely lacking in today's WWE, where most performers are so accustomed to having every last word scripted for them and they are afraid to veer off course with something that would actually be more interesting to the audience. 

No. 2: The Punk-Heyman Unholy Alliance

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    One of the biggest surprises of the summer came when Paul Heyman made his return to WWE without Brock Lesnar. This time, the former ECW owner was put into an alliance with CM Punk, who once famously labeled himself a "Paul Heyman guy" during a promo in 2011. 

    Heyman is one of the great wrestling minds of this generation. He didn't have enough capital or business sense to make ECW work, but when you put him into a creative position backstage, good things are going to happen. 

    One of the best times in SmackDown history came in the early- to mid-2000s, when Heyman was in charge of booking the show. The wrestling and storytelling on that show was as good as anything WWE has done in a long time. 

    Of course, Stephanie McMahon didn't like it because it was smart and logical, and Heyman left the company due to creative differences. 

    A pairing of Punk and Heyman, though, almost made too much sense not to happen. These are two performers who hardcore fans know outside of WWE. It had the makings of being something along the lines of an Outsiders angle, though WWE hasn't gone that way with it. 

    Regardless of where the storyline with Punk and Heyman goes, seeing Heyman open the car door after Punk laid out Cena on Raw was an incredible moment. 

No. 1: The Heel Turn

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    Of the many moments that CM Punk has provided over the last 12 months, the one that will ultimately define this title reign occurred at the end of Raw 1,000 in July. 

    CM Punk was defending the WWE championship against John Cena, who cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase for a title shot on the biggest Raw of the year.

    After 20 minutes of back-and-forth action, WWE did what WWE does to get out of these main events when it doesn't want to put someone over: Have someone interfere. Big Show came charging to the ring, attacking Cena and just letting Punk lie in the corner. 

    Punk walked out of the ring before The Rock came out to help Cena. After everything was okay, Punk came back into the ring and delivered the GTS to Rock, who earlier in the show informed everyone that he would be receiving a title shot at the Royal Rumble in January. 

    There are two ways to look at this heel turn. On the one hand, it was a great singular moment for WWE. It gave the company something to build towards in January, and so far WWE hasn't changed plans because Punk is still champion and Rock is still returning in a couple months. 

    I likened this heel turn to something that you would see in a procedural drama, where the action had to take a certain turn in order to get people talking. In that singular moment, it was as good as it could be. 

    However, taken in the context of serialized storytelling, which is what WWE should be doing but doesn't because shows are written and booked on a week-to-week basis depending on what Vince McMahon wants this week, it did not have the impact it should have. 

    There were no hints that Punk was turning heel before this show. Just earlier in the night he was cutting a babyface promo on Daniel Bryan after Bryan got left at the altar by A.J. 

    For a story to have the full impact, you have to lay the breadcrumbs for the people to see. WWE decided on a whim to put Rock in a title match at the Rumble and Punk would make a great opponent. 

    Therefore, WWE needed to turn Punk heel and give him time as a dastardly villain before the Rumble. It was a great singular moment for Punk and WWE, but one that could have been executed better with the proper storytelling. 

    Since we are talking about just individual moments, it is hard to find a better one from Punk over the last 12 months than what he did at the end of Raw 1,000. 

    Check back for more on the WWE as it comes, and check out Bleacher Report’s Wrestling Page to get your fill of the WWE. For more WWE talk, check out Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot topics you just can’t miss.

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