Every Friday, I analyze past storyline that were altered by real-life instances, including injuries, suspensions and more. In this series of articles, I predict what would have happened in the angle had it gone as originally planned.
July 25 marked the two-year anniversary of one of the most monumental moments in recent wrestling history. Not only was it the night that Zack Ryder scored his first televised win in singles competition and Triple H brought Jim Ross back to commentary, it was the night that saw CM Punk return to WWE after a mere eight days.
In the weeks that preceded that year's Money in the Bank pay-per-view, CM Punk claimed he would defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship and leave the company with the title in tow as soon as his contract expired.
At the event, Punk was a man of his word by doing just that. He scored the three count over Cena, snatched the WWE title belt and walked out of the Allstate Arena as an unemployed champion. At last word, Punk had not re-signed with WWE, and everyone believed he wouldn't be back for another few more months.
WWE went as far as to refrain from mentioning The Second City Saint's name the next night on Raw. On that episode, a tournament took place to crown a new WWE champion.
Although Rey Mysterio emerged victorious as the new titleholder, he was forced to defend the strap against John Cena later in the evening. Sure enough, Cena regained the gold that night to become WWE champion for a record-setting ninth time.
Immediately following his courageous victory, a strange song hit the arena, which was later identified as "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour. Many members of the Internet Wrestling Community knew this as the song Punk used while in Ring of Honor.
About 30 seconds passed before Punk emerged from the back with all-new attire and everything. As he entered the ring, he came face to face with Cena, proudly holding the prestigious prize high above his head to close the show.
As awesome as the moment was, some say that Punk returned far sooner than he should have. That's a hard point to argue with, especially considering the amount of money this angle could have equated to had it been dragged out longer.
I understand that WWE saw money in bringing Punk back for an undisputed WWE Championship match at SummerSlam, but why not save the marquee match for Survivor Series or Royal Rumble instead?
The Straightedge Superstar went five straight years without taking a single break. He even worked while he was injured in 2010.
The whole reason why Punk wanted to leave the company in the first place was because he was burned out. Giving him an eight-day vacation wasn't the solution, as he continued to appear on every episode of Monday Night Raw from that point forward.
It wasn't until this past April that Punk finally received time off from the squared circle. He remained off WWE television for a solid two months before returning at June's Payback pay-per-view.
Anyway, it's safe to say that bringing Punk back to WWE a mere eight days after Money in the Bank was a major mistake. His hot comeback fizzled out quickly, as he dropped the belt to Alberto Del Rio at SummerSlam a few weeks later and failed to win it back in subsequent months.
Punk's push was curtailed that fall, but it ended up being worth it. He captured his second WWE Championship at November's Survivor Series and embarked on one of the longest WWE title reigns in the last 25 years.
If CM Punk returned in late 2011 instead of that summer, would he still have had that lengthy reign as champion?
Furthermore, Punk's absence would have meant that Cena was still the flagship show's top babyface. Instead of taking place on the July 25th edition of Raw, Cena vs. Mysterio for the WWE Championship would have taken place at SummerSlam, but I imagine the result would have been no different.
Alberto Del Rio would have cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Cena instead of Punk, allowing them to feud over the title for the remainder of the year. Kevin Nash would have never returned to double cross The Voice of the Voiceless, meaning Nash and Triple H wouldn't have feuded that fall.
In retrospect, Punk's return in the summer of 2011 made a huge impact on multiple storylines at the time. Of course, what's done is done, and there's no changing the past, but it's still something interesting to think about.
Thanks for reading and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on CM Punk's 2011 return and how it should have been handled. Also, mention include any potential topics you would like to see analyzed in upcoming editions of WWE Flashback Friday.
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