Three hundred and sixty-five days.
There are those that would have sworn the days of title reigns lasting that long had come and gone. The last to hold the World Wrestling Entertainment Championship that long was John Cena, who held the title from September of 2006 until October of 2007. His was a special case in that the company was heavily pushing him as the new face of the company, and only an ill-timed injury was able to derail the leader of the Cenation's momentum.
Since Cena's historic reign, the championship has changed 28 times. Twenty-eight. That is an almost astronomical number of title switches in only a five-year span. In 2009 alone, the title switched nine times. Last year, from July 17 until August 14, four different Superstars held the championship.
In a world where attention spans are shorter than they have ever been, the fact that CM Punk has enjoyed as long a title reign as he has is a testament to Punk, to the patience of the creative team and to Vince McMahon's willingness to stick to the plan rather than act irrationally and switch things on a whim.
Over the course of CM Punk's year-long reign, there have been a number of moments and matches that have defined what, one day, may be looked upon as one of the great title reigns of all time.
Join me as I relive the top 10 moments of our champion's current reign, according to the order in which they occurred.
New York City. The historic Madison Square Garden. Where it all began.
CM Punk entered the 2011 Survivor Series as the challenger to then-WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio. Punk was coming off a disappointing fall following what was a momentous "Summer of Punk II," while the title-holder was in the middle of a push that the company seemed hell-bent on making sure it succeeded.
While the result may not appear to be much of a surprise now, there was a very distinct question at the time as to who would leave the hallowed halls of MSG with the gold.
Punk and Del Rio stole the show that night, delivering a tremendously sound, technically-fueled wrestling match that was completely different from everything else on the card. Each man would attempt to put the other away with their trademark finish, but at the end of the day, it was Punk locking in the Anaconda Vise that proved to be the difference. Punk would win the title for the second time and celebrate his victory with the New York fans, all the while Hall of Famer Howard Finkel announced the victory.
It began an improbable run that last to this day.
The night after Survivor Series, CM Punk entered the Giant Center in Hershey, PA for his first Raw of his second WWE Championship reign. He would almost immediately be targeted by then-interim Raw GM John Laurinaitis, who booked him to defend the title against Dolph Ziggler.
What resulted was the free TV Match of the Year.
Punk and Ziggler tore the house down, each man wanting to stake their claim as the best. In the end, the new champion was able to defeat the very game challenger, putting him away with the Go To Sleep for the victory.
The match proved to be a sample of the great in-ring action fans would come to expect from the new champion and sign of things to come, as Ziggler and Punk would compete on a number of other occasions, including a title bout at the following January's Royal Rumble.
When Chris Jericho returned to WWE in January, fans immediately wondered how long it would take to get to the inevitable showdown between he and WWE Champion CM Punk.
The answer would be two months.
At WrestleMania 28, Punk and Jericho took to the ring in the semi-main event position, the WWE title on the line, and delivered a classic wrestling match. There were no frills, no pre-match concerts, no gimmicks involved. Two of the very best in-ring workers of this or any generation took to the ring, underneath the bright lights, and proved that wrestlers can still thrive in a generation so obsessed with the entertainment side of the business.
CM Punk would leave Miami with his title intact, but the feud between him and Jericho would be far from over.
One month after a very good WrestleMania title match, CM Punk and Chris Jericho would enter the Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago, Illinois for a Street Fight with the WWE Championship on the line.
In the weeks prior to the bout, Jericho had made his rivalry with Punk personal, using insults of his father and sister to play mind games with the champion. Punk would respond, pretending to be intoxicated in order to catch Jericho off-guard and send a message prior to their title bout.
At Extreme Rules, Jericho and Punk improved upon their WrestleMania match and contested a very stiff, brutal, hard-fought and emotionally-charged Street Fight. They battered and bruised one another with a number of weapons, and the use of Punk's sister early in the match called back perfectly to the accusations Jericho had made weeks earlier.
The match was the first time that the champion was tested in a hardcore element, the TLC match the previous December not withstanding. It proved Punk was a versatile performer who could deliver in that type of match should he be called on to do so.
After a hardcore Street Fight against Chris Jericho, Punk was challenged by one of the great in-ring competitors in the business, former World Champion Daniel Bryan.
Two standouts of the Ring of Honor promotion, there was a time that the very idea of two smaller competitors battling over the WWE title would have been laughed at. But on that night in May, they stole the show with one of the finest displays of technical wrestling seen in any promotion this year. Punk and Bryan introduced the type of in-ring work they became famous for in ROH and in independent promotions across the country and delivered the best match on a show that otherwise would have ranked among the worst in a while.
Both men continued an improbable year, which saw them remain important and featured performers throughout, perhaps no more so than in the months that followed.
Especially when the lovely AJ Lee was factored into the equation.
The summer months of 2012 featured a storyline in which AJ Lee had become tired of the constant verbal and mental abuse from boyfriend Daniel Bryan and had begun looking elsewhere for the affection she deserved—no, needed.
She targeted both Kane and WWE Champion CM Punk, putting in motion a three-way rivalry over the company's top prize that would culminate with a triple threat match at No Way Out in June. Punk would leave that show with his title in hand, but that would not be the end of the saga.
While Kane would be excluded from the next title bout, Punk would once again be faced with defending his title against Daniel Bryan, this time at July's Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Another successful defense for Punk would bring about the end of the multi-man storyline involving AJ.
A month later, the WWE Champion would have a very noticeable change in attitude.
With The Rock in the house to help celebrate Raw's 1,000th episode, CM Punk decided to take it upon himself to make an immediate and newsworthy impact.
Feeling disrespected by the spotlight placed on Dwayne, as well as John Cena, Punk caught The Rock with a big clothesline, followed by the Go To Sleep, which left the "Great One" unconscious in the center of the squared circle.
It was a moment that signaled a heel turn for Punk that would make him the company's top villain and hinted at an eventual title showdown between he and Rock at Royal Rumble.
The defining rivalry of this generation, John Cena versus CM Punk, added its latest chapter in September at Night of Champions, when Cena challenged Punk for the WWE Championship in the evening's main event.
The battle was a Match of the Year candidate, as both men traded their high-impact offenses, even hitting multiple finishers on one another without being able to keep the other down. The finish, a controversial one, came when John Cena delivered a German suplex from the top rope, bridging to pin Punk. The referee, however, counted both men's shoulders to the mat and determined that the bout would end in a draw.
It was an unsatisfactory end to a great wrestling match, but it continued the trend of great matches between the two stars in the industry. An injury would sideline Cena for two months, putting to end any chance for a rematch inside Hell in a Cell.
They would meet again in a Triple Threat Match at Survivor Series, a match won by Punk.
On the September 3, 2012 edition of Raw, CM Punk officially aligned himself with Paul Heyman.
The partnership with Heyman was key to the success of Punk's heel turn and also echoed a statement from the champion's monumental shoot promo from June of 2011. In that promo, he admitted to being a "Paul Heyman guy" and revealed to the world that Heyman's support of him garnered him heat with management.
Still a very popular star, Punk needed that one last element of his act to truly get the people to turn on him and accept him as the top villain in the industry. Paul Heyman was that element, and when he revealed himself as the driver of the car Punk had hopped in after attacking John Cena, the wheels were set in motion for the main event scene for the rest of 2012.
Three hundred and sixty-four days into his title reign, CM Punk faced the challenge of two very different competitors at the 2012 edition of the Survivor Series.
John Cena was a man he knew very well and had competed against a countless number of times over the last three years. Ryback was a dominating force that had destroyed all competition put in front of him, and if it were not for crooked referee Brad Maddox at Hell in a Cell, may very well have won the WWE Championship from Punk.
The match was an action-packed affair that saw Punk and Cena momentarily work together to put Ryback through a table, only to pick up where they left off at Night of Champions, exchanging finishers in a desperate attempt to put the other away.
Ryback would make one final surge, but the debut of Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins led to Punk pinning a lifeless Cena and retaining his title.
The match was the final hurdle between CM Punk and a one-year title reign, a run that could only be considered absolutely unlikely when he forced Alberto Del Rio to tap out a year earlier.
With a potential showdown with The Rock at January's Royal Rumble on the horizon, the next reign to be surpassed is Cena's 180-plus day run.