After 434 days, C.M. Punk's landmark reign as WWE champion came to an end at the Royal Rumble. While many hardcore fans are dwelling on the loss, it's easy to forget many of Punk's tremendous achievements throughout his title run.
The Second City Saint won the gold off of Alberto Del Rio at Survivor Series 2011, but at the time no one could have foreseen how extraordinary his run as champion would end up being.
Punk's reign was the seventh longest of all time and the longest in the last 25 years, or "the modern era,"
and likely has had more successful title defenses than anyone in WWE history.
Not only that, but the last time a WWE champion held the belt throughout an entire calendar year was Hulk Hogan's run, which began in 1984.
All told, C.M. Punk's WWE championship reign was one of the most significant in the company's history, and these are its top 10 moments.
C.M. Punk’s reign as champ kicked off at Survivor Series 2011 when he defeated Alberto Del Rio at Madison Square Garden. That PPV, you may remember, was headlined by John Cena and The Rock teaming to face Awesome Truth.
It's rare for a PPV's main-event to be an exhibition match, but understandable that the WWE championship would take a back seat in favour to The Rock’s long awaited return to in-ring action.
Things returned to the status quo at the following PPV which was main-evented by a triple threat TLC match featuring Punk, Alberto Del Rio and The Miz for the WWE championship.
Not only that, but John Cena was completely left off the card.
It seemed like the torch was finally being passed from Cena to someone else; all of the responsibility was on Punk, Cena wasn’t there to carry any weight.
It was an exciting way to kick off a championship reign and it felt like the winds of change were finally blowing
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the harbinger of things to come like we thought it was.
Paul Heyman is beloved by a large part of the hardcore wrestling fanbase and despised by almost everyone else.
It made sense, then, for him to be Punk's right hand man following his heel turn at Raw 1000. Aligning Heyman with Punk made many fans instantly hate C.M. Punk just that little bit more.
Heyman has been an excellent asset for Punk throughout his heel run, even though he himself rarely got involved inside the ring.
All Heyman had to do was introduce Punk as YOUR reigning, defending WWE champion of x-amount of days and hold the title above his head while Punk cut a promo and the two would draw huge heat.
Whenever he got involved on a greater level, such as his promo with The Rock prior to the Royal Rumble, we always got a terrific promo, and the boos for Punk just got louder and louder.
Sure, C.M. Punk lost this match, but the fact that he was only the second person in the company to face The Rock in singles competition since his return substantiates his standing in the company.
All good things must come to an end, and while many have gripes with the man ending Punk's historic title reign being a part-time performer, there's no shame in losing to The Great One.
There are other complaints that could be brought up about the match; the fact that Punk lost despite help from The Shield made him look a little weak, and the swerve finish was somewhat unnecessary.
However, there are very few ways Punk's title reign could have come to and end that were more spectacular than this.
It helps, too, that the match itself was excellent; far better than Rock's match with Cena last year, and probably better than their inevitable match at this year's WrestleMania will be.
One of the best parts of Daniel Bryan’s reign as World heavyweight champion were the various champion vs. champion matches we got between him and Punk.
They were all terrific matches, and a tease for a rivalry for the two down the road. Very few people, however, expected that rivalry to happen too soon.
After losing to Sheamus at Extreme Rules, Daniel Bryan won a “Beat the Clock” challenge to earn a shot at Punk’s WWE championship, which would kick off a three-month long feud between the two.
The two had other matches, including another epic bout (and I only use that word when absolutely applicable) at Money in the Bank, though that was plagued a little by the AJ Lee love angle.
Punk's match with Bryan at Over The Limit is simply a classic wrestling match. No smoke and mirrors and no overbearing storyline that intrudes on the action.
Those are incredibly rare, and this was a tremendous achievement even for two men who've been known as "the best in the world."
There are a very small amount of Superstars that WWE have booked to dominate an Elimination Chamber match, and C.M. Punk is one of them.
In 2012, Punk became the fourth person in the history of the WWE to retain a championship in an Elimination Chamber.
The three people to do it before him were Triple H, John Cena and Edge; not bad company for the Straight-Edge Superstar.
Some will note that Daniel Bryan became the fifth man to retain gold in the Chamber, but he did so in a far less gallant fashion; he entered the chamber last and only eliminated one other entrant: Santino Marella.
Punk, on the other hand, entered the chamber first, eliminated R-Truth, literally kicked Jericho out of the match, and pinned Miz with a GTS to retain the WWE championship.
Ryback was an unstoppable force in the summer when he was slowly working his way up from local jobbers to the WWE’s midcard.
A feud with then Intercontinental champion The Miz was teased, but when John Cena was taken out of the main-event picture due to needing elbow surgery, Ryback was chosen to take his place.
Having Ryback go over Punk to win the championship was a little hard to imagine, but it was clear that WWE were big on Ryback, so it was equally, if not even harder to imagine Punk go over Big Hungry.
Ultimately, “renegade referee” Brad Maddox would interfere on Punk’s behalf (for reasons that still haven’t really been explained) and Punk would score a roll-up victory on Ryback, ending his 38-match long undefeated streak.
Punk was never able to defeat Ryback without considerable help, but ending Ryback’s undefeated streak is yet another gem in C.M. Punk’s crown.
A few years ago, the prospect of C.M. Punk facing Chris Jericho for the WWE championship at WrestleMania would be nothing more than a purely hypothetical dream match for hardcore fans, but it happened, and it delivered.
The rivalry that these two had wasn’t perfect; the build-up to their match wasn't at the level it could've been and was plagued by the extraneous element of Jericho's bashing of Punk's family.
That doesn't take anything away from their outstanding match at the Grandest Stage of Them All.
It’s unfortunate that, despite being for the WWE championship, their bout was overshadowed by “Once in a Lifetime” and the “End of an Era” from a promotional standpoint, but they were still given over 20 minutes of ring time, so we really can’t complain.
The two would go on to top this impressive effort at the following PPV in a Chicago Street Fight, but this was a great WrestleMania moment for C.M. Punk.
Punk was now the top heel in the company, so his nemesis was undoubtedly the company’s top babyface, John Cena.
A feud with Cena is a huge obstacle for any champion; we know that WWE doesn’t like John Cena to lose, and he’ll only ever lose clean if it’s absolutely necessary.
Given that, we got all we could hope for when C.M. Punk and John Cena fought to a draw at September’s Night of Champions PPV.
After the match was over Cena was laid out by Punk, letting the WWE Universe know that if anyone is Cena’s kryptonite, it’s C.M. Punk.
On Jan. 7, The Rock returned to Raw for the first time in over six months to kick off his quest for the WWE championship.
It was The Rock's grand return, but C.M. Punk stole the show.
Rock's microphone prowess in undeniable, but on this night, it wasn't quite on the same level as C.M. Punk's.
By the time The Rock made his entrance, Punk had already ensnared the WWE Universe with one of his pipebombs. Sure, Rock got some massive pops from using his catchphrases and got the crowd to chant "Cookie Puss," but Punk's micwork felt more dynamic and organic.
There would be times in the weeks that would follow where it was Rock who impressed more than Punk during their verbal altercations, but on Jan. 7, 2013, Punk proved that when it comes to mic skills, he's one of the best ever.
C.M. Punk accomplished two impressive feats on the 1000th episode of Raw.
Firstly, he became the first man in the history of WWE to have a Money in the Bank contract cashed in on him and retain his title,.
Secondly, he was able to switch from the company’s No. 2 babyface to it’s top heel with a flying clothesline and a GTS.
Credit should go to The Rock and the creative team, but this was Punk's moment.
It’s also worth noting that it was on this night that The Rock announced he would compete for the WWE championship at the Royal Rumble.
Not many people would have suspected that Punk would keep the title through to the Rumble, but he did.
At the time the WWE Universe was dazzled by the appearances of various megastars like Undertaker, Triple H and Brock Lesnar, but looking back, it's no doubt that Raw 1000 was Punk's Raw.