Here I stand, watching two of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time wrestling for the company’s biggest prize. Thing is, this prize is wrapped tightly around my waist. Life is puzzling sometimes. Just eight days ago, I wrestled the match of my career in front of my hometown.
The moment was bittersweet for me. Despite defeating the face of the company, embarrassing the boss, and narrowly escaping with the Championship, the memory of my first WWE pay per view in Chicago attached itself to my unique train of thought like a leech to the human anatomy.
It was WrestleMania 22. The Allstate Arena located in the northern section of Chicago, Illinois.
Instead of the moment being a natural part of nostalgia, to this day, the moment lives in infamy. Can you blame me? Instead of performing, I was booked in what can be described as a “minor appearance” by WWE Management. The WWE Champion had this bright idea to utilize a “mob” style entrance for the event.
And who did management place in the entrance as a gangster? That’s right, me, the hometown hero himself.
As I stared at the 17,000 in attendance, I made myself a promise that day. One day, I would be the center of attention. One day, I would step out of the shadows and perform in front my people in the Allstate Arena.
One day, I would bring the WWE Champion down.
My ill fated quest began on July 4, 2006. For weeks, WWE Management hyped my debut by having me tape vignettes displaying my lifestyle and my addiction to professional wrestling. It can be argued that I was all talk and my debut would go unnoticed by the WWE Universe.
After a few weeks, the date for my debut was set.
August 1, 2006.
From the start, it was as if I was being “fed to the dogs”. My debut would take place on the shows signature arena. The Hammerstein Ballroom was undoubtedly ECW’s homeland. Paul wanted my debut to be in front of the original ECW fans.
I guess this was Paul’s way of protecting me.
The goose bumps associated with my debut led me to rushing to the ring. To my surprise, there were a large amount of fans anticipating my debut.
My match flowed smoothly. I remained the center of attention by utilizing some moves I picked up during my time in Ring of Honor. This didn't stop fans from utilizing the overrated chant to describe my performance. I quickly silenced the chants with a shining wizard/bulldog combination.
After a Muay Thai combination, I finished off the legend with the anaconda vice.
Backstage, Paul Heyman smiled as if he had just watched his first son being born. Naturally, I was ecstatic and felt as if I made a real connection with the audience. Unfortunately, the higher ups didn't share my opinion.
Despite the general distaste for me and my straightedge lifestyle, Paul Heyman was able to keep this would be sinking ship afloat by establishing me as undefeated. As time passed, I was placed in angle where I would feud with another wrestler because of his girlfriend’s infatuation with me.
As most predicted, the feud didn’t do anyone involved any favors. Other than added a few wins to my streak, the angle was absolutely pointless.
After a few months of singles matches, I was briefly placed into the ECW Title picture. Paul Heyman had this idea where I would submit ECW Champion, The Big Show, with the Anaconda Vice. Heyman wanted to establish me as a future star but Vinnie Mac was against the idea.
At ECW December to Dismember, I was the first to be eliminated from the Extreme Elimination Chamber. At this point, it was obvious that Vince and WWE Creative were preparing Bobby Lashley as the new face of extreme. It was also obvious that Vince had a strong distaste for me and everything I stood for.
The next day, Paul Heyman informed me that he was leaving the WWE.
His decision wasn't surprising. The Evil Genius created ECW and without him, One Night Stand would've been a flop. Heyman was the proverbial “sitting duck”. Vinnie Mac took ECW and molded it in RAW and SmackDown’s image.
Paul Heyman was against this from the start. I've always considered Heyman the only support I had backstage and without him, I would be back in Ring of Honor in six months.
When Heyman officially exited the WWE, I was on my own. Every member on the WWE Creative team hated my guts. I was a self made Superstar. Unlike the rest of the WWE Roster, I wasn't a WWE Creation and that ate McMahon up inside.
As the weeks passed, my undefeated streak was ended at the hands of Hardcore Holly. My frustration set in when I was placed in a vulnerable position throughout the majority of the feud. Despite my ludicrous booking, lead writer, David Lagana, was said to be my only supporter backstage.
Despite my knowledge of this, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before Vince McMahon gave me my walking papers.
However, things changed when WrestleMania 23 rolled around.
I was the only ECW Superstar in the Money in the Bank ladder match. To my surprise, Shawn Michaels saw potential in me. Shawn’s words changed my standing with Vince and WWE Creative. I didn't win MITB that year but I was satisfied with my role in the match.
In the months that followed, I had become a prominent staple of the ECW Brand. I was placed in the middle of a tug of war between the New Breed and the ECW Originals. I even “turned heel” for a week because of it.
The turn was just a ploy for the premature demise of the New Breed. Being the Messiah I am, I systematically picked apart the New Breed. Elijah Burke fell to the GTS at Judgment Day 2007. On the other side of the tracks, Bobby Lashley was drafted to RAW.
Lashley was stripped of the ECW Championship, leaving the title open to ECW Superstars, like myself. WWE Creative decided to bring Chris Benoit in as a mentor to the newer ECW Superstars. At this point in time, ECW had become a platform for rising stars. Originals like Rob Van Dam, Sabu, and the Sandman had already departed the WWE.
Chris Benoit was supposed to shed some light on the brand. Creative set up a tournament that saw Benoit defeat Burke and me pinning Marcus Cor Von after the Go 2 Sleep. The match was set but the tragic events of that weekend altered the combatants.
Newcomer, Johnny Nitro, replaced Benoit. It was already predetermined that I would lose this matchup.
In the weeks that followed, Nitro went through a character transformation. Morrison was a hit backstage. Molded in the image of late rock star Jim Morrison, John created every aspect of the gimmick. After a plethora of title matches that saw yours truly defeated three times in a row, John Morrison tested positive for anabolic steroids.
Vinnie Mac used this as an excellent opportunity to capitalize on my straightedge gimmick. In what was labeled my “last opportunity”, I won the ECW Championship after defeating Morrison with the GTS.
Thing is, WWE Creative continued to book me as the underdog.
For example, my first title defense was against Elijah Burke. WWE Creative had Burke dominate me the whole match only for a win with surprise roll up. This was the typical “CM Punk” title defense until I found myself at odds with The Miz and John Morrison.
WWE Creative finally booked me as a “strong” champion when I decisively defeated both in a triple threat match at Survivor Series 2007. When it seemed as if I’d finally fallen into the good graces of Vinnie Mac, the WWE reverted to the typical CM Punk match.
It was the Holiday Season and my frustration with the WWE was at an all time high. Eventually, Chavo Guerrero defeated me for the ECW Championship. The event was a foreshadowing of the things to come.
Issues with the WWE Wellness Policy removed the RAW Superstar who was planned to win the MITB briefcase at WrestleMania. This was my big break. The WWE decided to have me win the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 24.
I must say, though WWE is bashed for their booking ways and the predetermined winners, to stand atop of the ladder and realize that in less than one year, I’d be the World or WWE Champion was arguably the most exhilarating feeling ever.
On the other hand, I realized my time on the ECW Brand was coming to an end. After sporadically teaming with Kane, I was drafted to RAW in the 2008 WWE Draft.
My first night on RAW turned out to be the night my professional wrestling career reached new heights. As Dave Batista clobbered Edge into unconsciousness, I was preparing to cash in the briefcase. As I stood in the middle of the ring, World Championship raised high above my head; the hardships I faced on ECW seemed like a thing of the past.
However, my reign would not come without criticism.
On air, I frequently spoke on the naysayers and my multiple detractors who felt my win was a fluke. Little did fans realize, it wasn’t well received backstage either. Despite the questionable actions of others, I continued my reign, successfully defending against the likes of Dave Batista and John Bradshaw Layfield.
At this point, the fairy tale I was living was coming to an abrupt end.
WWE Creative decided to take the World Championship off of me immediately. So Management set up an angle that saw Randy Orton incapacitate me with a punt. I “involuntarily forfeited” the World Championship that night.
Overall, I was disappointed with my first World Title reign.
It was as if I took one step forward and got pushed two steps back. Naturally, I feuded with Randy Orton and his henchman for awhile. WWE Management placed me in a tag team with Kofi Kingston.
Kofi was drafted to RAW with me in the draft earlier that year and I developed a friendship with him off air. I’d be a fool if I didn’t realize Management placed us together because they didn’t have any solid plans for our characters.
Despite this, I enjoyed my tag title reign with Kingston. The fact that we lost the titles at a house show displayed Vince’s attitude when it comes to the tag team division.
After Creative axed the Kingston/Punk tag team, I was factored in to a tournament for a shot at the Intercontinental Champion. In the end, Rey Mysterio was victim to the GTS.
I was excited to feud with William Regal. Besides, isn’t it every wrestlers dream to feud with the wrestler that trained you?
After numerous matches, I defeated Regal for the Intercontinental Championship. Despite the fact that I’d just shattered Kevin Nash’s record as the fastest man to win Triple Crown, I still felt as if I took two steps back with this win.
I don’t expect most to remember my reign because I don’t either.
Eventually, I dropped the title to John Bradshaw Layfield while qualifying as a combatant in WrestleMania 25’s Money in the Bank ladder match. To be honest, I didn’t expect to win the briefcase for a second year in a row. It was as if WWE Creative saw a mistake with my first cash in and decided to fix it by putting the briefcase on me again.
After WrestleMania 25, I was immediately drafted to SmackDown in the 2009 WWE Draft. The move was probably the most satisfying news I received since the night I won the World Championship. SmackDown was the place for mid carders of my caliber.
John Cena and Randy Orton weren’t on SmackDown and the opportunities to excel were frequent. WWE Creative decided to take a different direction with my briefcase this time around. Instead of waiting months for an appropriate opportunity, I was booked to partake in a number of failed MITB cash in’s that established a heated rivalry with Umaga.
WWE Creative booked the feud exceptionally well with me and Umaga trading wins.
The program ended when Eddie Fatu decided against going to a WWE recommended rehab center. While Fatu was released, I was starting what would become the biggest push of my career. The WWE notified me that I would be cashing in my MITB on fan favorite, Jeff Hardy.
After I won the World Championship a 2nd time, the WWE began orchestrating a fully fledged heel turn for my character. To be honest, I was ecstatic. It was if Creative were allowing CM Punk to be CM Punk. I always felt limited when it was time to cut a face promo. My character isn’t meant to be a “happy go” face and my promo time suffered because of it.
My straightedge lifestyle clashing with Hardy’s “live in the moment” lifestyle made for must see television.
It wasn’t my choice to exploit the problems of Jeff Hardy but it boosted the popularity of Hardy while establishing me as the WWE’s top heel.
Before Hardy exited the WWE, Creative sprung up an idea for a feud with The Undertaker. Personally, I was anxious to test myself against a Superstar the caliber of Undertaker. When Creative inserted Vince McMahon, Teddy Long, and referee Scott Armstrong into the feud, I felt as if I had become a big deal.
The angle was executed perfectly but comments I made concerning John Cena and the way I dress led to another premature end to a World Title reign. It was obvious that the WWE were “teaching me a lesson” for holding myself in the same regard as John Cena.
After a plethora of losses to The Undertaker, Creative informed me that I would be incorporating my straightedge lifestyle onto weekly programming. The Messiah gimmick was strangely intriguing and the debuts of Serena and Luke Gallows were supposed to take the gimmick to new heights.
Despite my high hopes for the angle, booking constraints eventually led to its downfall.
A subsequent feud with Rey Mysterio was initially intended to reinvest some interest in the group. The feud revolved around my hair and Mysterio’s entry into the Straight Edge Society. By the time Over the Limit approached, the WWE Creative Team had lost any interest in the SES whatsoever.
Naturally, I was frustrated with Creative but agreed to be shaved bald for the sake of the angle.
Vinnie Mac was impressed by my performance at Over the Limit. WWE Creative drew up plans for a World Title win and subsequent feud with Jack Swagger. It was as if I was finally returning to prominence.
However, an arm injury scrapped the plans Creative intended to set in motion. Forced out of in ring action, I was kept on WWE Television through a feud with the Big Show. The WWE decided to kill off the Straight Edge Society and who better than the World’s Largest Athlete?
I wasn’t surprised by the releases of Luke Gallows and Serena. The WWE is strict on kayfabe while Gallows didn’t have any clear direction.
After being reduced to the Big Show’s personal jobber, I returned to the RAW brand. SmackDown needed a top face in Edge and RAW needed a fresh heel in me. Initially, I was set to feud with former foe in Daniel Bryan but a hip injury forced me out of in ring action.
At this point, the injuries were coming more frequent than I anticipated. My frustration was mounting but I was informed that I would be utilized for commentary. Like everything else I attempted, I flourished at the position. The fact that WWE Creative gave me the nod to break kayfabe and mention a number of real life events was an opportunity even I wouldn’t pass up.
The audience admired my commentary but the real fireworks were yet to come.
It seemed as if my quest to bring down the Champ began with bias commentary towards all things John Cena related. When Cena finally ended his feud with Wade Barrett/Nexus, Creative decided I would take on a new stable.
Do in part to the booking of the Straight Edge Society; I was skeptical when I was informed that I would lead the Nexus. The angle was more successful than initially planned. The fact that I was able to go from 2010’s biggest disappointment to the WWE’s top heel in less than a month impressed WWE Officials.
However, the feud with Cena ended prematurely due to WrestleMania season. While Miz took Cena, I was placed in a feud with the next best thing in Randy Orton. WWE Creative revolved this feud around Orton punting me in the head three years before.
To protect Orton’s status, Creative booked Randy to systematically pick New Nexus apart. I wasn’t a fan of the idea, stating that the WWE were giving Orton more credit than he needed. The feud was red hot going into WrestleMania but I ultimately fell to Orton in three straight bouts.
Around WrestleMania, I decided that I would depart the WWE when my contract expired. Multiple years of the strenuous WWE schedule took a toll on my body. Simply put, I was burned out.
Unfortunately, the news of my impending departure linked online but eventually led to the biggest storyline of my career.
Unfortunately, the news of my impending departure linked online but eventually led to the biggest storyline of my career.
WWE Officials were doing everything in their power to keep me as an active WWE Superstar. While burnout was the leading factor in my departure, the fact that I wasn’t pushed as hard as other heels baffled me. I was dissatisfied with my position but the WWE Officials were vocal on retaining me as a WWE Superstar.
John Cena pitched a feud with me before I departed for the Money in the Bank pay per view. Vince McMahon accepted Cena’s proposal but wanted to “revolutionize” the WWE by doing so. After a short feud with Rey Mysterio, I was booked to become number one contender.
WWE Creative wanted me to “be myself”.
So I incorporated my rebellious ways into my promos and announced that I was leaving the WWE. The announcement sent shockwaves through the WWE Universe as I informed the audience that I was leaving with the WWE Championship.
The WWE later informed me that I was being allowed to “shoot” on Vince McMahon and the WWE. If only you could share my reaction when I realized that all the frustrations from ECW, RAW, and SmackDown would come out on live television.
I wrote notes on my wrist tape just to ensure that everything would be included in my “shoot”.
I turned the WWE upside down with my words while sticking to my opinions. It was as if I was saying what fans knew all along. The angle was proclaimed the “best “the WWE has produced in years. The subsequent suspension was spoiled due to a RAW double taping.
I was pleased with the way Creative handled this angle. My twitter account was unverified, Facebook fan page deleted, WWE Superstar profile removed, and the removal of my theme song from the ITunes store sold this angle to fans worldwide.
After John Cena forced Vinnie Mac to “rehire” me, I exposed Vince’s actions against me the week I returned. The segment was probably the most satisfying I’ve ever taken part in. Vince McMahon went to the extremes to retain me as a WWE Superstar and keep his championship intact.
Vinnie Mac isn’t one to be embarrassed.
At Money in the Bank, I wrestled a five star match in front of my hometown. I wrestled away the WWE Championship from John Cena, fulfilling promise I made five years before. As I “exited” the WWE with the most prestigious prize in their history, the exhilarating feeling of celebrating with my people is unmatched.
WWE Creative decided to push the envelope by incorporating “real” events into this angle. I crashed WWE’s appearance at the Comic Con while humiliating the new “chairman” of the WWE, Triple H. I was appearing at Chicago Cubs games instead of watching RAW. The WWE allowed me to appear at an Indy event with the WWE Championship to praise a wrestler who has overcome mental illness to pursue a dream.
Simply put, I’m ushering in a new era for the WWE. Like I stated numerous times before, this is the era of realism. I have returned to WWE programming as of Monday due to Triple H “resigning” me.
As I reminisce on the last six years of my career, it’s accurate to label my time in the WWE as bittersweet. Despite the numerous hardships, I’ve always remained who I am. Because of this, I can be CM Punk on television instead of another corporate creation.
I am living my dream as the “disputed” WWE Champion while remaining the person I am in the process.
I am the best wrestler in the world today.
I am CM Punk.