There is nothing an employer despises more than an unruly employee, yet that is exactly what WWE owner Vince McMahon and COO Triple H were confronted with in the summer of 2011.
CM Punk decided to rage against the machine and became vocal about what he perceived to be stupid and petty political games behind the scenes, not to mention questionable business decisions regarding the pushing of certain Superstars ahead of other, more deserving ones.
So heightened were tensions between Punk and management that Triple H opted to return to the ring for the first time since his epic encounter with The Undertaker months earlier at WrestleMania, looking to take out his frustration on the Straight Edge Superstar at Night of Champions in September.
This is their story.
On June 24, in Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center for a special edition of Raw Roulette, CM Punk cost John Cena a Tables match against R-Truth and then proceeded to cut one of the most impassioned promos in WWE history.
Airing his grievances with management, he captivated audiences with brutal honesty and promised to leave the company with Cena's WWE title at Money in the Bank, which he did, much to the chagrin of McMahon.
The promo instantly elevated Punk to the top tier of Superstars in WWE and catapulted him into the mainstream. Suddenly, he was the talk of sports entertainment and even appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
At SummerSlam, Punk's championship reign came crashing down when Triple H's longtime friend Kevin Nash stunned the world by returning to WWE and dropping Punk with a jackknife powerbomb. That allowed Alberto Del Rio to come to the ring, cash in Money in the Bank and take the title from the Second City Saint.
Punk believed the attack to be some sort of grand conspiracy perpetrated by the COO. He lashed out with verbal assaults on The Game, wife Stephanie McMahon and Nash, inciting an anger within Triple H. Originally scheduled to be Punk vs. Nash at Night of Champions, Triple H eliminated Nash from the equation and booked himself against Punk, setting up a huge marquee match for the show.
Never one to miss out on an attempt to bury management even further, Punk added a stipulation to the No Disqualification match, stating that if he were to beat The Game, Triple H would resign as COO of WWE.
Just days from their huge contest, the elite performers had a face-to-face promo that really added even more heat to their rivalry.
Suddenly, the match had even more meaning, and fans could not wait to see the two egotistical performers clash in one of the biggest matches of the year.
Well, that didn't age well.
The Night of Champions 2011 match between CM Punk and Triple H is one of the most lethargic and overbooked brawls in WWE history. There is far too much punching and kicking, and the story is disjointed.
Early in the match, Triple H targets Punk's knee. Then forgets about in. Then he goes back to the knee 10 minutes later after fighting into the crowd, up to the stage and back to the ring. All the while the crowd is either disinterested in the action or does not know who to cheer.
The action picks up as the match goes on, but even then it never felt as though the competitors were on the same page, that they had anything remotely close to chemistry.
An elbow drop from the top rope by Punk onto Triple H and through the announce table was a great spot, one that Punk would bring out of mothballs two years later in his WrestleMania match against The Undertaker, but that one spot was not enough to make up for the utter disappointment that was the main event of Night of Champions 2011.
Even the run-in by The Miz and R-Truth was met with apathy by the fans.
The match and angle within were completely uninspired, something that was forgivable years ago because of the excitement surrounding the rise of Punk but today cannot be denied.
After their physical battle at Night of Champions, Punk and Triple H united as one to take on Miz and R-Truth at the Vengeance pay-per-view in October.
That match was again nothing special and really called into question the involvement of The Game, who was beginning to show his age and looked significantly slower than his younger, hotter tag partner. Some even questioned whether or not he was trying to leech some of the heat from Punk to get himself back in the spotlight.
By the time Survivor Series in November rolled around, Punk was back in the title hunt, challenging Alberto Del Rio for the WWE Championship. He would defeat the Mexican aristocrat at that show and embark on a 434-day reign.
Triple H would meet the man he once considered a friend, Kevin Nash, in a Tables, Ladder & Chairs match at the December pay-per-view of the same name.
Both men were better off having little or no contact than they were in the two months in which they were involved in the same storyline.
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