CM Punk began his meteoric rise with one promo in June of 2011. The Summer of Punk began, and it gave Punk that one thing he craved for: the top of the mountain.
Punk held the WWE title for 434 days, spanning between 2011-2013. His reign was the longest in the past 25 years, topping the 381-day record held by John Cena in 2006 and 2007.
He’s put on classic matches with Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan along the way. Ironically, it never would have happened without his shoot promo. Punk was about to leave until he made his grievances known, publicly attacking WWE officials and the infrastructure. It made him both an antihero and a commodity in the wrestling world.
This list sums up his greatest moments since his rise as a top star. The list documents his reign and is a timeline of Punk’s dominant reign. Here is the top eight greatest moments since CM Punk broke out as a top WWE star.
In 2009, CM Punk reached the main event in two pay-per-views as the World Heavyweight champion. During his reign as WWE Champion, he barely saw the main event.
His first main event as champion came at a pivotal time. Punk defended the title at TLC in a Triple Threat Tables, Ladders and Chairs match against Alberto Del Rio and The Miz. Punk retained, but the test was to see if Punk could draw. That task could have been harder thanks to Cena’s absence.
Turns out, Punk did well. The Wrestling Observer (via Wrestling News Source) reported TLC drew 182,000 worldwide buys. While down from the 191,000 in 2010, it proved Punk can draw money. Plus, it was his first main event without John Cena as the WWE Champion. For a B-show, it could have been a lot worse.
The longest reign in the past 25 years began in a fantastic match.
Punk took on Del Rio at the 2011 Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden. This was a solid, technical bout filled with drama and intrigue.
It was Del Rio who took the title from Punk after he returned at SummerSlam and defeated Cena. After a sneak attack by Kevin Nash, Del Rio cashed in his contract and took the title from Punk. Punk wanted revenge, and he got it.
Ironically, he made Del Rio tap to the Anaconda Vice. The crowd erupted, and Punk’s glorious reign began.
What was left for CM Punk to do after he lost his WWE title? It’s simple: End the streak of The Undertaker.
The Undertaker went 20-0 before this year’s WrestleMania. Their match was set, but the unfortunate passing of Paul Bearer was fuel for Punk. He played mind games on The Deadman, disrespecting him, Bearer and almost every wrestling fan. It’s why this match had high expectations, and it didn’t disappoint anyone.
Even though Undertaker won, Punk showed he could have a great match with nearly everyone on the roster. They had the best match of the night, telling an emotional story with amazing moments. It took two Tombstone Piledrivers to defeat Punk. However, Punk once again proved he belongs in the main event.
CM Punk entered WrestleMania 28 as the WWE Champion. However, he didn’t really have his WrestleMania moment. Granted, he won two consecutive Money in the Bank matches in which the result led to meaningless title reigns.
That would change come WrestleMania 28.
He took on Chris Jericho in a battle of who is truly the best in the world. It was a hard-hitting match that didn’t disappoint fans or the WWE. Jericho may have lost a step, but that night proved he's still got it. It was Punk’s night, however, as he made Jericho tap to the Anaconda Vice.
Punk joined an illustrious list of former WWE Champions who kept the title at the big show. Among those are Hulk Hogan, Diesel, Triple H, John Cena, Randy Orton and Eddie Guerrero. Punk joined that list and cemented himself in WrestleMania immortality.
Punk’s reign was in full swing by the time 2012’s Over The Limit hit. He had a plethora of great matches already as champion. Then came an old rival in Daniel Bryan, whom he wrestled throughout Ring of Honor. Even the WWE acknowledged their past and documented it on their website.
Their match at Over The Limit was superb. It was a glimpse of what both men could do. The ending came when Punk reversed Bryan’s "No!" Lock submission and rolled him on his back for the three-count. Punk tapped after the count, which only furthered Bryan’s feud with Punk.
This was the best match on that card and one of the best competitions of the year in WWE. It also created a domino effect. Later on that year, the rise of AJ Lee and Team Hell No began; all due to Bryan’s match with CM Punk.
The 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw culminated in a pay-per-view-quality match between John Cena and CM Punk. It ended with a shocking moment.
Though their match wasn’t their best, it still ranked top-notch. Cena seemed to have Punk beat as he locked in the STF. However, Big Show attacked Cena, causing the referee to disqualify Punk.
Punk didn’t help Cena, but The Rock came out to help. Rock hit the spinebuster on Show and was about to hit The People’s Elbow, until Punk cut him off with a clothesline.
Earlier that night, Rock revealed to Punk's face he would get a title shot at the Royal Rumble. Punk looked forward to it; he then sent a message of his own, which was the Go To Sleep after the clothesline.
It began Punk’s quest for respect as the best in the world. But his heel turn really took off when an old friend joined forces with the WWE Champion.
It was that shoot promo where Punk proclaimed to the world, “I’m a Paul Heyman guy.” It wasn’t until September 3, 2012 where that statement came to fruition.
Punk didn’t wrestle in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago. He did make an appearance screwing Cena in a No Holds Barred match against Del Rio. Punk hit Cena with a modified GTS on the hood of a car, jumped in and slowly pulled away. Paul Heyman revealed himself as the driver, and the crowd erupted in cheers again.
This began a new dimension of Punk’s heel character. They didn’t need each other; they just wanted to work with each other. Heyman added a new layer while putting Punk over in ways we only could guess. He added more credibility to an already-certified superstar.
Heyman would help Punk retain his title on a few occasions. He enlisted Brad Maddox and The Shield to help Punk win at Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series, respectively.
Paul Heyman and CM Punk truly created a deadly alliance. But what could be better than their union?
CM Punk didn’t become the main event until 2011’s Money in the Bank.
He took on John Cena in his hometown of Chicago. This was after his shoot promo, and Punk was set to leave after the show. The stakes could not have been higher for the wrestling world.
It was a fantastic match, nearly flawless. The crowd only amplified the atmosphere, cheering heavily for Punk while booing Cena out the building. Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis tried to help Cena win, but Cena didn’t want any of it. Punk capitalized and hit the GTS to capture the WWE title for the first time in his career. McMahon then had the Money in the Bank winner Del Rio try to take the title, but Punk kicked him.
Punk ran up the stairs, blew the goodbye kiss to McMahon and held the title up. It was an iconic moment that will stand the test of time. It was also the day CM Punk became a top star in everyone’s minds.