Heading into Money in the Bank 2011, questions surrounded CM Punk and his status with World Wrestling Entertainment.
It was well known that Punk was not happy with his spot in the company and was heavily considering leaving the sports-entertainment empire.
On June 27, Punk sat at the top of the Monday Night Raw stage and cut a scathing promo in which he discussed his frustrations with WWE, his bosses and the way that he had been disrespected over the course of his career there.
It was a moment that instantly made Punk the hottest commodity in the sport. Social media exploded with support of the Chicago native and, suddenly, he was on an array of sports and entertainment television and radio shows discussing the promo.
There were still questions surrounding his status with the company, however, and those questions made his upcoming match against John Cena at Money in the Bank, a show held in Punk's hometown of Chicago, that much more intriguing.
The match was the talk of the wrestling world and the performers involved would not disappoint the fans who paid their hard-earned money to see how it would play out.
Punk and Cena put on a wrestling clinic in front of a rabidly pro-Punk crowd. The drama was heightened by a series of nearfalls that kept the audience guessing and a sense that the bout was deserving of a WrestleMania main event.
Late in the bout, Mr. McMahon and top stooge John Laurinaitis made their way to the ring, seemingly to prevent Punk from winning the match and leaving the company with the WWE title.
Cena, an honorable competitor, prevented it and paid for it. As he returned to the ring, he caught a Go To Sleep from Punk and had his shoulders pinned to the mat.
The fans inside the AllState Arena exploded as their hometown hero had accomplished his goal of winning the title.
McMahon attempted to have Alberto Del Rio rush the ring and cash in his newly-won Money in the Bank briefcase, but Punk delivered a stiff kick to Del Rio's head and escaped the ring.
The image of Punk blowing McMahon a kiss before taking off through the crowd with the title is iconic.
Christian def. World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton by disqualification to win the title
Alberto Del Rio def. Rey Mysterio, Alex Riley, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger and R-Truth to win the Raw Money in the Bank match
Mark Henry def. Big Show
Divas champion Kelly Kelly def. Brie Bella
Daniel Bryan def. Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater, Kane, Sin Cara, Sheamus, Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes to win the SmackDown Money in the Bank match
How It Changed History
The 2011 Money in the Bank pay-per-view featured the rise of two Superstars who are marquee talents for WWE today. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are two of wrestling's most popular performers and saw their road to the top of sports-entertainment begin that July.
Punk would win the WWE Championship again at the Survivor Series in November and embark on a title reign that lasted 434 days, the longest in modern WWE history.
Bryan, on the other hand, would capture the World Heavyweight title in December as a result of cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on the Big Show. He would hold the title until WrestleMania 28, becoming one of the most entertaining heels during that period.
After a lengthy tag team pairing with Kane, which saw Bryan embrace his comedic side, he earned a major push and has been involved in the top angle in the sport since this past summer.
The event also saw the rise of the aforementioned Alberto Del Rio, who captured the Raw Money in the Bank briefcase. He would cash it in successfully on Punk the following month at SummerSlam, winning his first WWE title.
Money in the Bank saw WWE take three tremendous in-ring competitors and feature them heavily, putting them over some top stars en route to major pushes. Much in the way he did with Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in the '90s and Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit in the 2000s, Vince McMahon gave three skilled technicians the opportunity of a main event push.
All three men have been integral parts of WWE programming over the last two years and their success at Money in the Bank has a lot to do with it.