CM Punk's historic WWE title reign featured a number of emotive performances on the mic and dazzling showings in the ring.
Punk won the WWE title from Alberto Del Rio in November of 2011 and held tight to it for over a year, for longer than John Cena's 380-day reign from September 2006 to October 2007. Those 434 days were filled with quality wrestling matches as well as moments where Punk proved he's one of WWE's best talkers.
Which of Punk's championships moments will be remembered longer and most fondly?
From his WrestleMania performance to his verbal tussle with Mick Foley, here are the best and most entertaining moments of Punk's title reign.
How was Punk going to escape this monster's wrath? Would Ryback actually win the WWE title?
While many fans may have predicted a murky finish, how could anyone see this coming? Referee Brad Maddox prevented Ryback from delivering the Shell Shock when he conked the big man in the family jewels.
A fast three-count later and Punk had survived in a most surprising way.
Ryback went on to punish Maddox for his actions and then smashed Punk atop the Hell in a Cell. Not only did the moment provide a compelling clip for WWE to play over and over, but it initiated the Paul Heyman, Shield and Maddox storyline.
Big Show, John Cena and CM Punk battled in a triple threat match overshadowed by the Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H match.
Big Show dominated much of the match, tossing both Cena and Punk around the ring with ease.
Just when it seemed like he was going to knock Cena out cold, a flurry of action changed everything. Cena ducked Show's punch and countered it into the Attitude Adjustment. Punk, the wily one that he is, shoved Cena aside and stole the win.
The ending not only thrilled but it left all three men looking strong.
Big Show came off as the monster who happened to be outnumbered. Cena seemed in a way the rightful winner. Lastly, Punk came out of the night with his title still in possession and looking mighty opportunistic as well.
At Raw 1000, fans saw DX reunite, The Miz win the Intercontinental title and John Cena fail to win the WWE title after cashing in the Money in the Bank contract.
The chaos following CM Punk and John Cena's title match became the catalyst for Punk's heel turn and the genesis of Punk's feud with The Rock.
"The Great One" came to the ring to help Cena fend off Big Show. While the fans were still in mid-cheer, Punk shocked them by clobbering Rock. Punk then stood over the fallen star to create an iconic image.
Credit John Cena and CM Punk for making their Night of Champions match a must-watch event with this war of words.
Night of Champions is a pay-per-view event that is not given the hype and focus that WWE gives SummerSlam and WrestleMania. Fans had already seen Cena vs. Punk several times.
Still, these two performers made the most of their moment together on Raw.
Punk claimed, "I am the best wrestler. I am the best talker."
Cena cut him off and told him he was going to kick his ass. The segment was powered by passion and two captivating performers.
They made fans slip toward the edges of their seats, listening intently.
Bret Hart faded into the background as Cena and Punk concocted sparks. Had Jerry Lawler not suffered a heart attack that same night there would have been far more talk about this fantastic performance.
There isn't a single moment that stands out in CM Punk and Chris Jericho's WrestleMania match.
It did though challenge the event's other big matches for the best of the night. Punk and Jericho weren't given top billing, but did everything in their power to show why they might have deserved it.
The action was highlighted by counters on counters, Punk leaping at Jericho and the grandness of the stage elevating their encounter.
After weeks of Jericho torturing Punk regarding his family life, Punk spent that night in Miami on the slow road to revenge.
Even though the WWE title took a backseat to Undertaker, Triple H, The Rock and John Cena, Punk and Jericho made it the centerpiece of their work of art.
Few moments captured the monumental nature of the task of retaining the WWE title amidst struggles and hungry challengers like CM Punk avoiding sure defeat at TLC 2011.
His Houdini-like escape created the match's lasting image.
Miz and Alberto Del Rio looked like they would be deciding who walked away with the WWE title amongst themselves with the champion handcuffed in the corner. Resiliency and creativity saved Punk.
Punk unscrewed his way free and the ring ropes fell limply on the mat.
He found a way to win despite poor odds, a trademark of his lengthy title reign.
The moment was far less about CM Punk and far more about an infusion of young talent, but The Shield's debut at Survivor Series 2012 is one of the most thrilling introductions to WWE ever.
Punk looked like he would lose to Ryback for sure. There was no rogue referee to save him this time. Ryback had just planted John Cena with Shell Shock. A pin and a title change seemed imminent.
Instead, three men dressed in black leaped into the fray.
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns went from NXT stars to WWE's newest thugs in one shocking moment.
The Shield took Ryback out of the match via a triple powerbomb through a table and Punk's reign continued on.
Mick Foley spoke to CM Punk on a September episode of Raw in what turned out to be buildup to a match that never happened, but a thrilling buildup nonetheless.
It looked like a Punk vs. John Cena match at Hell in a Cell was inevitable, even if Punk was trying to weasel his way out of it and Cena was just coming off elbow surgery.
Punk told Foley in reference to the fans, "The only thing I want out of them is to bring them to their knees."
He didn’t need to impress them by defeating a man he had already defeated. He didn't need to make a name for himself inside the brutal Hell in a Cell.
Punk blabbed on about how long he had held the WWE title before Foley cut in and gave a moving speech.
He said, "You want to be a statistic or you want to be a legend?"
Suddenly another Cena and Punk match felt like it mattered. It was set to be about more than the WWE title. It was going to be a match about destiny and legacy.
Cena's elbow wasn’t quite healthy enough when the time came and Ryback took his place inside the Cell.
Two masters of the mic, two of the greatest vocal performers in WWE's history faced off before their Royal Rumble WWE title match in the kind of showdown fans dream about.
The Rock entertained when he told CM Punk that his time as champ was up. He assaulted Punk with his usual array of catchphrases.
Punk countered with some of his best work to date.
He said, "You just graduated from the kiddy table. But you just bit off more than you could chew." A few moments later, he delivered a line that should forever be remembered.
"Understand when you step in the ring, your arms are too short to box with god."
Forget that the line wasn't original. Killah Priest used it in a song from 1998 for example, but there's no denying the electric energy that speech created.
From start to finish, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan put on a classic at Over the Limit.
Much has been made about whether or not Punk can be a draw in the way that The Rock and John Cena are, but Punk's showing at Over the Limit leaves no doubt about his ability to perform in the ring.
A blend of drama, technical savvy and bursts of high-flying action, Punk and Bryan brought out the best in each other. This was Punk's finest and most captivating title defense.
WWE will always need big stars and pretty faces, but it will also need great wrestling.
Long after the memory of 2011-2013 has faded, this match will remain impossible to forget. It's a reminder of the power of what two great performers can do in a ring after all the smack talk and soap-opera drama is over.