WWE Classic of the Week: John Cena vs. CM Punk from Night of Champions 2012

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2014

Credit: WWE.com

This Sunday, World Wrestling Entertainment presents its annual Night of Champions pay-per-view, available on both traditional platforms as well as the WWE Network (for the low price of $9.99, if you hadn't heard). The show will be headlined by a monumental clash between John Cena and Brock Lesnar for the latter's WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Cena is no stranger to major championship main events at the yearly September event.

As the franchise star of WWE, he has headlined countless editions of Night of Champions, most recently in 2012 when he squared off with CM Punk for the top prize in the sport.

Given the quality of their previous bouts, there was a great deal of pressure on the competitors to perform up to expectations. After all, the rest of the card was not particularly impressive, meaning that the success of the entire show would hinge on the quality of their championship battle.

Would they succeed in their attempt to save the show from mediocrity? Fans would get their answer in due time. But first, let's take a walk down memory lane and look back at what brought the two Superstars together for their Night of Champions classic.

The Background

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Raw 1000 was a night of celebration as WWE looked back on the rich history of its flagship show and celebrated the great moments and matches that had made the Monday night program the premiere destination for wrestling fans each and every week.

The main event of that night's broadcast was a WWE Championship bout between CM Punk and Cena, the two biggest stars of this era. The match was everything fans had come to expect from the two but was hindered by interference from both Big Show and The Rock.

Dismayed by The Great One's constant need to hog the spotlight and bask in the glory, Punk returned to the ring and planted The Rock with a big clothesline then flattened him with Go To Sleep, initiating a heel turn that would lead to the cementing of his spot at the top of the company, the main villain to Cena's pristine hero.

Punk voiced his outrage with what he perceived to be disrespect. As WWE champion, he felt as though he was not given the same respect and admiration that guys such as Cena and The Rock had been afforded.

With Cena and Big Show as top contenders, he would once again be put in a situation that did not grant him the respect of previous champions, as then-Raw general manager AJ Lee booked the WWE champion in a Triple Threat match at SummerSlam.

The match was quite good, as Big Show was booked like the unstoppable monster he was while Cena and Punk brought the work rate and ensured the overall quality of the bout.

Punk, proving himself the opportunist, capitalized on an Attitude Adjustment by Cena and pinned the giant to retain his title.

Naturally, this led to Cena believing he had a stake in the WWE Championship (what else is new), and a match between he and Punk was booked for the Night of Champions pay-per-view in Cena's hometown of Boston.

The Match

The Analysis

There is no pairing in today's wrestling world more capable of creating the purest form of drama in its matches than Cena and CM Punk. They know one another so well and have wrestled each other so often that they know exactly what the other is thinking, and thus, the matches develop so seamlessly.

They use reversals and counters, high-impact and signature maneuvers as well as heart-stopping near-falls to elicit the desired reaction in a way that only the true masters of the sport are capable of. Cena and Punk have the uncanny ability to force fans to the edge of their seats as they eagerly watch the action unfold.

That was the case with their Money in the Bank classic in 2011, their SummerSlam rematch a month later and their outstanding bout at Night of Champions. They revisited spots from their previous matches and built upon them to guarantee that fans were not exposed to the same repetitive spots that may have worked in the past but were now stale.

The finish was disappointing, as WWE opted to go with a draw so that neither Superstar lost his heat, but it was understandable. The company had booked itself into a corner with the match and didn't want either man to suffer a loss, so it went with the finish that it believed worked best.

At the time, it was considered a major booking snafu, as Punk could have benefited tremendously from the win, but in hindsight, it was probably the right decision.

The Fallout

Cena remained a top contender for Punk's title and was slated to compete against the Straight Edge champion at Hell in a Cell until an injury sidelined him for two months. Enter Ryback, who was surging and definitely over enough to fill the void left by the leader of the Cenation.

It took a refereeing controversy involving Brad Maddox to secure the WWE title for Punk as he became the first Superstar to defeat the "Big Guy."

At Survivor Series, Cena returned to the ring (and the title picture) as both he and Ryback challenged Punk in a Triple Threat match for the WWE title. Thanks to the debuting Shield, Punk was able to retain the title.

Cena and Punk would not really interact with each other again until the following February, when the right to challenge new champion The Rock at WrestleMania 29 was at stake.

On the February 25 episode of Raw, the Superstars delivered another five-star classic, with Cena emerging victorious and heading to the biggest show of the year.

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