Triple H. The Rock. Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Undertaker. John Cena. These are some more recent wrestlers who, by many, are acknowledged as some of the best wrestlers of all time.
Each one either is already, or someday will be WWE Hall of Fame inductees. Each one won championships, tournaments, and awards from WWE and elsewhere. But when the best wrestlers of all time are being discussed, one name creates as much controversy as any ever has: CM Punk.
Based on the accomplishments of CM Punk, he belongs in that discussion. And if he retired today, he would belong in the WWE Hall of Fame.
The debate over CM Punk has played out on B/R articles and in their comments over and over. Some fans hate him and think he's overrated. Others believe Punk can do no wrong, and that he should never lose the WWE Championship.
Fact is, CM Punk is one of the best wrestlers the business has seen in a long time. And whatever you think about him, you can't deny his accomplishments.
CM Punk has won a vast array of championships for numerous companies outside WWE. He is a former IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Champion, among many other titles won for Independent Wrestling Alliance, International Wrestling Cartel, Mid American Wrestling, and Steel Domain Wrestling.
But he is most known for his pre-WWE work in Ring of Honor. In Ring of Honor, CM Punk won the ROH Heavyweight Championship once and was a two-time ROH Tag Team Champion with Colt Cabana. His feud with Raven is legendary, especially his promo on Raven and Punk's reasons for hating him.
While his Ring of Honor career was not in itself Hall of Fame-worthy, it was a preview of things to come in WWE. In 2005, he was signed to a developmental contract with WWE. He was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling, where he won every championship in the promotion. In 2006, He debuted with WWE on ECW, and he arrived on the biggest stage of his career.
After his time on the independent circuit, he quickly made an impact in WWE. And not just in the ring. CM Punk brought his excellent microphone skills with him, and quickly set himself apart.
The fact that Punk even got into WWE is impressive, since Triple H and Shawn Michaels allegedly tried to keep him out altogether (according to the Best in the World DVD). But Punk broke in, and immediately got to work.
CM Punk has won numerous championships in the WWE, including the ECW Championship, World Heavyweight Championship, and the WWE Championship, which made him the 19th Triple Crown Champion in WWE.
It only took Punk 203 days from his debut to win a Triple Crown, the fastest ever in WWE history. He's the only WWE Superstar to win a Money on the Bank Ladder Match two years in a row, and then successfully cash in.
In all, he has won seven World Championships, including the Ring of Honor Heavyweight Championship once, the ECW Championship once, the World Heavyweight Championship three times, and the WWE Championship twice, including his current reign.
That reign is one of the most impressive reigns in the history of WWE. As of this writing, CM Punk has held the WWE Championship for 412 days, which is the sixth-longest WWE Championship reign ever, and the longest in the past 25 years.
In an era of quick feuds and short storylines, CM Punk has managed to hold onto the WWE Championship for longer than nearly everyone else in WWE history. And to do it in this era is even more impressive.
Aside from the title reigns and accomplishments, CM Punk has reintroduced excitement among the hardcore fan base who had grown tired of "Super Cena," as some call him. No example is better than his epic worked-shoot promo back in June of 2011. Each time Punk is on the mic, he's gold.
Put aside all the fanboy praise, the hype from the hardcore fans, and the adoration of the Internet wrestling community, and what you have in CM Punk is a wrestler who has won at every level.
CM Punk overcame his physical stature (Triple H called him a "skinny fat kid"), worked his way into the WWE, and has been one of the most accomplished and celebrated WWE Superstars over the past five years.
His accomplishments are far greater than many who currently enjoy WWE Hall of Fame membership. And his success at the highest level arguably has led directly to an infusion of new talent from the independent companies, like the Shield.
You may not like CM Punk, or you may love him. But when we look back 15 years from now, most fans will remember CM Punk as perhaps "the Best in the World." CM Punk, if he retired today, would be in the WWE Hall of Fame. He deserves to be there. He's earned it.