It is now more than a year since CM Punk defeated Alberto Del Rio for the WWE title, and in that time frame, there may never have been a WWE champion who has been as critiqued, criticized, cheered, booed and misunderstood in some instances than the current titleholder.
As an ECW champion once, the world heavyweight champion three times and the WWE champion twice, Punk has cemented himself as one of the greatest champions in this company, but it is this current reign as champion which has really defined him as a top wrestler in the WWE.
From the time he dropped his famous "shoot interview" until now, we as fans have loved and hated him like no other wrestler, ever.
This includes John Cena, Hulk Hogan and any other wrestler who has grown tired on the WWE Universe as a champion and a longtime solution to title reigns when there have been other competent performers who could have carried the flagship.
CM Punk is a true enigma, a hero to some with his words and his style, a villain to others with his attitude and his appearance. He is the antithesis of Cena and The Rock and a small resemblance to the beginnings of Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Punk represents many great wrestlers all rolled into one.
Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and even Harley Race can all be seen in Phillip Jack Brooks. He transcends the decades and brings the show of past years to the fans. And when he's "on" and performing like he does, there are few others who can sell a match like it is the greatest thing ever created.
Watch matches with Cena, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and R-Truth from 18 months ago, and you see a man who helped his opponents get over in the business. He is a true performer, who broke the stereotype that Vince McMahon created, insisting the world champion must be a "big hulking wrestler."
His words stung, his demeanor was sullen and he has bitched and whined and complained and it all made sense because we all bought into his character. His legacy is cemented in the fact that he can command attention like Austin or Jericho or Michaels or any other WWE Superstar of the past.
And fans are either cheering him or booing him. There is no “in the middle” with him like Cena who is the Tim Tebow of his generation.
Punk is as much an important part of the new “era” of wrestling as Degeneration X, Mr. McMahon, Steve Austin and the “Montreal Screw Job” is to the business. That has to do with the growth of Punk’s character and the direction this company is moving. While writers are still in “PG” mode, the degree to which writers are “pushing the envelope” means we will see Punk push the edge as well.
This can only help cement his legacy even more, which is a good thing for the WWE.