CM Punk's epic rise to the top of WWE during the summer of 2011 was born out of a struggle against the status quo.
Clawing his way to main-event status in WWE since first signing with WWE in 2005, Punk earned his WWE Championship No. 1 contender status defeating Alberto Del Rio and Rey Mysterio in a Falls Count Anywhere match on the June 20, 2011 edition of Raw.
With only three weeks remaining in his contract, CM Punk delivered what the Heyman Hustle would call “the most shocking shoot promo in years” on the June 27, 2011 edition of Raw. Interrupting a Tables match between R-Truth and John Cena, Punk countered an Attitude Adjustment just as R-Truth speared Cena through a table to get the win.
Scurrying to the locker room, R-Truth immediately left the scene, leaving an ailing John Cena to listen to fully take in what would become CM Punk’s first “pipe bomb” promo. At the top of the Raw stage ramp sitting cross-legged in a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin t-shirt, Punk addressed the WWE Universe, telling of his grievances with his employer.
Immediately after CM Punk’s controversial monologue, WWE chairman Vince McMahon suspended him.
In an update on WWE.com, it was revealed that "as of Tuesday, June 28, WWE and CM Punk have reached an agreement that Punk will fulfill his non-televised live event obligations for the remainder of his contract, through July 17. Furthermore, both sides have mutually agreed not to disparage one another."
The following week on the July 4th, 2011 edition of Raw, John Cena implored Vince McMahon to reinstate CM Punk. Cena’s reasoning was largely based on the idea that Punk had every right to say what was on his mind.
Finally giving in to Cena, McMahon reinstated Punk and put the WWE Championship match back on the Money in the Bank 2011 card.
McMahon only had one caveat. If John Cena lost the WWE Championship; he would be fired from the company. Cena accepted this stipulation.
Although CM Punk was back in WWE, he had not signed a new contract extending his tenure past midnight after the Money in the Bank 2011 pay-per-view event ended. This made for intriguing television, and in the weeks leading up to Money in the Bank, Vince McMahon would make every attempt to re-sign Punk.
One of the most intriguing aspects about seeing Vince McMahon in this role is that he had to try and acquiesce to CM Punk’s seemingly outrageous demands.
On the July 11, 2011 edition of Raw, Punk’s demands included his own jet as well as his lip-ringed visage affixed to WWE turnbuckles, souvenir cups and more. The Straight Edge Savior of milky desserts also petitioned for the return of the squared circle’s most beloved frozen treat.
CM Punk made the most of this opportunity to put the powerful Vince McMahon in an impotent position. McMahon was even made to apologize and give a quick “I’m sorry” to Punk. Not satisfied with this apology, Punk asked for another one, to which McMahon exclaimed, “I apologize you son of a bitch!”
Marching his way back to the top of the Raw stage again, Punk told the WWE Universe, Vince McMahon and John Cena, “Say goodbye to the WWE title, say goodbye to John Cena, and say goodbye to CM Punk.” Subsequently, Punk ripped up the contract that McMahon signed as Raw ended.
It would be a long six days of speculation and rumor as to what the Money in the Bank 2011 main event between John Cena and CM Punk would bring about. When the match finally happened before a sold-out crowd in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, 15,000 strong seemed to be boisterously cheering for Punk and booing Cena.
A chant for CM Punk started before his music even played, and when Punk arrived to the ring, he sat in the middle of it, taking in the cheers and chants from the hometown crowd. John Cena’s arrival to the ring conveyed all seriousness, as a loss would mean the end of his WWE career.
The match was a back-and-forth affair that kept the fans on their feet with every maneuver. Not having a clue as to who would win the match, the crowd followed each move with anticipation.
CM Punk was able to apply the Anaconda Vise and attempt the GTS. John Cena countered both and was able to perform the Five Knuckle Shuffle before Punk countered the Attitude Adjustment as the match progressed.
Later in the match, CM Punk kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment to the shock of the WWE commentating team. With the match going over 30 minutes in length, Punk finally hit a GTS that sent John Cena out of the ring. Realizing what had happened, Punk left the ring and rolled Cena back in.
Applying an STF to CM Punk, John Cena looked to be in control when Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis strolled down the ramp, stopping before getting to the ringside area. McMahon sent Laurinaitis to ring the bell and end the match making Cena the winner.
Not wanting a tainted win, Cena released the STF, not allowing the controversial ending to occur and letting McMahon know that he did not want to win the match that way.
Recovering from the STF, CM Punk picked up John Cena and finally hit the GTS for the triumphant and unexpected win. Not wanting to be outdone by the soon to be released Punk, McMahon sent Money in the Bank briefcase winner Alberto Del Rio down to ringside to cash in his WWE Championship contract and win back the championship for WWE.
Seeing what was happening, CM Punk kicked Del Rio in the head and ran through the crowd, but not before blowing a kiss to Vince McMahon on his way out.
With an extreme element of mystery hanging over the WWE Championship, Punk left a free agent and would not be seen on WWE television until the August 1 edition of Raw.
In the week between Money in the Bank and the July 25, 2011 edition of Raw, CM Punk showed up in the crowd at the Mattel WWE Panel at the San Diego Comic Con. This helped to make Punk’s dispute with WWE seem quite legitimate.
It would take WWE’s COO Triple H to bring back both John Cena and CM Punk. The feud between Cena and Punk would continue as both laid claim to the WWE Championship, with Cena defeating new champion Rey Mysterio (who defeated The Miz for the vacant WWE Championship in the finals of tournament) on the July 25, 2011 edition of Raw and Punk still having his championship from Money in the Bank.
CM Punk’s epic WWE Championship win at Money in the Bank 2011 catapulted him to main-event status. It also helped make WWE a place where surprises could happen at every turn, with answers leading to more questions.
It was a definitely a turning point in not only CM Punk’s career but also in WWE itself with Punk’s championship win. This moment has gone down as one of the most memorable in WWE of the past decade and beyond.
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