CM Punk as World Heavyweight Champion.
When ECW was first brought back in June 2006, the brand mostly consisted of ECW originals such as Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam and Sandman. When wrestlers from Raw and SmackDown competed on the Tuesday night program, they were largely resented (see: Batista vs. Big Show).
However, there was one newcomer who was immediately embraced by the hardcore fans of ECW. While he was straightedge, he claimed to have only one addiction: wrestling. His name was CM Punk.
The video packages promoting Punk all led up to his in-ring debut on the Aug. 1 edition of ECW, where he defeated Justin Credible. He’d remain undefeated in singles competition for another number of months.
Despite his growing popularity in ECW, Punk hadn’t won the ECW Championship yet. He chased John Morrison for the strap for all of summer 2007 but was unsuccessful.
It wasn’t until the Sept. 4 episode that Punk finally won the top prize in The Land of Extreme, only a small sign of what was to come in his illustrious career. It also during his time on ECW that he won the Money in the Bank Ladder match at WrestleMania 24, where he solidified himself as a future main event player in WWE.
Once he moved to Raw that June and successfully cashed in his contract to become the World Heavyweight champion, Punk became an instant star. Although he was lost in the shuffle on Raw during his world title reign, he would travel to SmackDown and engage in one of the best feuds in the past five years with Jeff Hardy.
Since then, Punk has had quite the career in WWE as a former three-time world champion, an Intercontinental champion and World Tag Team champion. He is also the only Superstar in history who can claim he won two Money in the Bank Ladder matches back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
While he may not currently be in the WWE (or at least for now), there is no questioning that Punk was by far the best thing to come out of WWE’s reboot of ECW. He was the focal point of the show for nearly two years before being promoted to the main shows and taking advantage of the opportunities he was presented with.
Similar to every other wrestler mentioned in the list, ECW served as the stomping grounds for Punk before he became what he is today. The brand may not have been as “extreme” as many people wanted it to be, but it surely played a part in the careers of many, helping form the foundation for the future.
Read the original version of this article on Wrestling Rambles here.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and “like” his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.