In his 14-year pro wrestling career, CM Punk has proven that hard work pays off, and he gives every aspiring wrestler who is clawing and scratching their way on the independent circuit hope. Punk has competed for a number of indy promotions, including:
- IWA Mid-South
- NWA Wildside
- NWA Cyberspace
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
- International Wrestling Cartel
- St. Paul Championship Wrestling
You get the point.
As a result of his tireless labor in the indies, he managed to get an opportunity for both TNA and ROH. In TNA, he was mainly used as Raven's flunkie in his group The Gathering, often teaming with Julio Dinero. However, ROH utilized him more to his optimal potential, thrusting him as a top name early in his career with the company.
His 2004 feud with Samoa Joe in ROH is one of the most notable feuds in ROH history, with their match at Joe vs. Punk II receiving a five-star rating by Dave Meltzer.
Seven years later in 2011, CM Punk received another five-star rating. This time, the match was with John Cena at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. This was CM Punk's second five-star match of the decade, which can only account for a total of 10.
Multiple championships and the longest WWE Championship reign in modern history would confirm his self-proclaimed "Best in the World" moniker, right? In the words of the esteemed Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend." Giving yourself that title results in comparing yourself to some very notable wrestlers who can also stake that claim while still proving to be better than them. I am not sure that CM Punk can do that successfully.
Here are five wrestlers that prove his claim to be arguable but ultimately false.
Note: Every reference of a "five-star" match directs to Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer ratings, which is one of the most reputable lists in the pro wrestling community.
There are a few names that could be discussed who could also lay claim to CM Punk's moniker but are not as convincing. These names are:
Karl Anderson: Phenomenal star who has more than honed his craft wrestling the top stars of Japan as well as competing in the states for PWG and ROH.
He has a series of impressive signature and finishing moves and could execute them at any given moment. He shows a great deal of agility for his size, which he also uses to his advantage.
Austin Aries: Developed a quick, aerial—but hard-hitting—wrestling style as a product of the independent circuit as well as ROH and TNA, similar to CM Punk.
He also has a natural heel persona, which has gained popularity throughout his years as a pro wrestler. Last year, TNA could not overlook his athleticism and awarded him the TNA World Championship. Aries is also the only wrestler who has won the ROH World Championship twice (as of this date).
Chris Jericho: Throughout his career, Chris Jericho has been involved in a number of amazing matches, dating back to his time in Japan and Mexico, to his runs in ECW and WCW and finally settling in the WWE since 1999.
Jericho's ability in the ring earned him the crown of the first-ever undisputed champion in 2001, and six world championships total.
Christopher Daniels: Such an underrated wrestler. Also a product of the indies, ROH and TNA, Daniels has shown his near flawless ring work for over 20 years. Even at 41, he is still better than a vast majority of professional wrestlers and continues to show it in his current TNA tenure.
Daniels was also awarded one of the 10 five-star matches of the decade, competing against Samoa Joe (who also has a strong case; he has been in three of the 10 five-star matches of the decade, a great accomplishment) and AJ Styles at the 2005 Unbreakable PPV. Surprisingly, he has yet to become a world champion for TNA or ROH. What a shame.
KENTA: During his time mainly in Japan and ROH, KENTA has proven to be one of the stiffest kickers and most impressive superstars in the pro wrestling industry. His work is definitely a huge tribute to his mentor, Kenta Kobashi, who, at 46, still had a strong case to be on the list before retiring earlier this year. KENTA really had an opportunity to showcase his talent in Pro Wrestling NOAH and is the current GHC Heavyweight champion.
Oh, and CM Punk's GTS finisher? Ripped it from KENTA.
Hiroshi Tanahashi is one of the most successful Japanese superstars in modern history. He is tied with the most reigns as IWGP Heavyweight champion and has participated in two of the 10 five-star matches of the decade.
In his 14-year pro wrestling career, he has defeated many notable names in the business, namely former NWA World Heavyweight champion Masahiro Chono and former WCW United States champion Kensuke Sasaki. He proved early in his career that he was worthy to be pushed and gained fan support due to his often impressive matches.
He has an ability to adjust to any style in the ring, as evidenced by his defeating Giant Bernard (Tensai) in a hard-hitting match in 2006 to win his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Speaking of hard-hitting, he was forced to vacate his world title due to fracturing his eye socket in a match with Shinsuke Nakamura at the G1 Climax tournament in 2009.
Despite that, he managed to bounce back, win the title again and have the second-longest reign in company history at 404 days. Comparatively speaking, Tanahashi as a competitor has proven throughout his career—and currently—to be a better overall wrestler than CM Punk.
Very similar to CM Punk, Daniel Bryan had to work incredibly hard throughout his wrestling career just to earn a noticeable spot in the WWE, in which he used his in-ring work to capitalize on the opportunity and become a top name in the business.
Maybe—well, probably—Bryan lacks the mic work held by CM Punk, but this is about wrestling, and Daniel Bryan exceeds Punk in that category.
Especially during his time in ROH, Bryan (as Bryan Danielson) used his small stature as an advantage, showcasing his quick, high-flying style coupled with his acute mat technique and submission skills. Throughout his seven-year career for the company, Bryan's matches with the likes of Christopher Daniels, Low-Ki, CM Punk, Austin Aries and Samoa Joe cemented him as one of the best wrestlers in the world.
Now, we see ourselves giving Daniel Bryan the title of currently being the most over Superstar in the WWE. Is it because of his mic work? Nope. His size? Nope. It's simply because people respect him so much as as a wrestler that he had to be recognized.
Of course, his "Yes!" chants are a big contribution as well. However, "Yes!" was not as popular when he won the World Heavyweight Championship. That was because he is so good in the ring.
AJ Styles has been the lifeblood of the TNA Wrestling company. From day one, he has proven to be arguably the best wrestler on the roster. He has won every championship possible in TNA and has put on so many incredible matches that it is easily to lose count.
AJ Styles showed how good he was by earning a five-star rating (as mentioned before) from his match at TNA Unbreakable in 2005 against Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe.
In 2004, AJ Styles became the first-ever holder of the short-lived Pure Championship, defeating CM Punk in the finals. This championship had to show how good a wrestler he was despite a number of restrictions (only three rope breaks, open-handed shots only to the face, title subject to change on a count-out or DQ), and he excelled.
The combination of AJ Styles' aerial moves along with his quickness and agility gives him an advantage compared to CM Punk.
Not only is Kurt Angle a better wrestler than CM Punk, at nearly 45 years old, he is still one of the best all-around wrestlers in the world. Taking advantage of his Olympic championship background, Angle decided to pursue pro wrestling in 1998.
There have only been a few wrestlers with the true "it-factor" that merits a significant push without much time spent as a wrestler, and Kurt Angle is unquestionably on the list (Goldberg and Brock Lesnar are the other two). His in-ring work earned him the WWE Championship in under a year of his television debut.
Throughout his career, Angle's in-ring work has earned him a total of 12 world championships, and he is a favorite of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, being awarded Most Outstanding Wrestler multiple times as well as both Best Technical Wrestler and Wrestler of the Year in 2002.
His feuds throughout his career with names such as Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho gave us the opportunity to see the best of Angle, and it is amazing to say the least. His overall intensity, mat technique and submission skills gives him the nod over CM Punk.
At only 25, Kazuchika Okada has been one of the biggest names in Japan over the past couple of years. Known as the Rainmaker, he has honed his craft and become one of the best wrestlers in the world. He is currently in his second reign as the IWGP Heavyweight champion.
To win the championship, Okada defeated multitime champion Hiroshi Tanahashi. So far, this amazing match is the only match of the year that has received a five-star rating.
Unfortunately, TNA dropped the ball with Okada. He mainly teamed with Kiyoshi, lost most of his matches and finally received a brief stint as the person behind the camera spying on "Pope" D'Angelo Dinero during his program with Samoa Joe.
Hopefully he has another opportunity to showcase his talent in the states without being underutilized. Since that is severely doubtful, it is probably best for him to continue to please the crowds in Japan. His tenacity, overall ring work and aerial/mat dynamic edges him on the list past CM Punk as a potential "Best in the World" candidate.
There is no dispute that CM Punk is a good wrestler. He has proven that throughout his career, especially during marquee matches in the WWE against names such as Chris Jericho, John Cena, The Undertaker, Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio.
These rivalries, along with many others, brought the best out of Punk, enough for us to see why he would call himself the "Best in the World." Punk prides himself on living up to that moniker, and he puts his best foot forward virtually every match. Many fans believe this to be true based on his in-ring work.
However, there are a list of wrestlers who would disagree.
The five listed—Hiroshi Tanahashi, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle and Kazuchika Okada—have proven that although they may not have better mic work and charisma than CM Punk (and the charisma factor can strongly be argued with a few of these names), they do have a better overall skill set in the ring.
So in conclusion, CM Punk is not the Best in the World.
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