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Comparing Brock Lesnar and CM Punk's Historic WWE Championship Reigns

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterMay 11, 2018

Credit: WWE.com

Brock Lesnar may soon add CM Punk to his list of victims as WWE's universal champion.

Figuratively speaking, of course. Punk is no longer a WWE Superstar, instead looking to make his way as a UFC fighter. Lesnar, though, is fast approaching Punk's record as the longest-reigning champion of the modern era.

 As of Friday, The Beast Incarnate has held the universal title for 403 days and counting; Punk was WWE champ for 435 days, per WWE.com.

Their respective reigns couldn't be more different. Yes, Paul Heyman served as an advocate for both champions and each held the gold for over a year, but that's where the parallels end.

Punk was the centerpiece of Raw when he was WWE champion from Survivor Series 2011 to Royal Rumble 2013. He was a workhorse titleholder who faced a varied set of contenders. Lesnar has largely been a disappointment while clutching tight to the Universal Championship. Weeks go by with no sign of the big man, leaving WWE to lean on the intercontinental title as Raw's central prize.

Nothing shines a light on the disparity between the two reigns like putting the numbers side by side.

                 

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Numbers

Since his return to WWE in 2012, the company has booked Lesnar as a special attraction, a monster who rarely emerges from his lair to do battle. That has given his matches an added buzz. The strategy, though, leaves a championship in stasis to a degree once he wins it.

Brock Lesnar, universal champion.
Brock Lesnar, universal champion.Credit: WWE.com

Punk put the WWE Championship on the line 21 times on TV and PPV, including six times on Raw, per CageMatch.net. Lesnar's reign has featured only six defenses.

The Beast Incarnate hasn't wrestled on TV at all. He's shown up and brawled from time to time, but WWE's premier show has seen zero action involving the Universal Championship since Kevin Owens defended it against Braun Strowman in early 2017.

WWE asked Punk to be a fighting champion. It has presented Lesnar sightings as rare, an additional reason to tune in.

A look at each man's CageMatch.net profile reveals just how different their workloads have been. Lesnar has wrestled in 16 total matches as champ. Punk stepped into the ring over 200 times during his lengthy reign.

             

Matches

Punk's long title reign sometimes veered in odd directions. His feud with Raw general manager John Laurinaitis and brief issues with the semi-retired Jerry Lawler weren't particularly fun. 

The self-proclaimed Best in the World, though, delivered some thrillers when he held the title.

Punk's battles with Daniel Bryan, The Rock and Chris Jericho are all worth revisiting. 

The critics largely praised his in-ring work during his reign. Wrestling Observer Newsletter founder Dave Meltzer rated five of Punk's matches as champion four stars or higher (h/t ProFightDB.com):

  • CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. The Miz: TLC Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2011 (4.25)
  • CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan: Over the Limit 2012 (4.5)
  • CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan: Money in the Bank 2012 (4.25)
  • CM Punk vs. John Cena: Night of Champions 2012 (4.25)
  • CM Punk vs. The Rock: Royal Rumble 2013 (4)

By comparison, Lesnar has two such matches to his name. At least year's SummerSlam, he battled Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe in a Fatal 4-Way bout that Meltzer rated 4.75 stars. Lesnar vs. AJ Styles at Survivor Series a few months later garnered a 4.25-star rating.

Several of The Conqueror's other contests were hyped-up slugfests that ended in a hurry.

Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe at Great Balls of Fire and Lesnar vs. Strowman at No Mercy looked promising but were deflating in the end. Blame their brevity and lack of variety in part. WWE was seemingly focused on making Lesnar look like an overwhelming force, and that led to less dramatic bouts.

Against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 34, Lesnar added another clunker to his resume. SB Nation writer Marc Normandin called it "a significantly worse version of the Lesnar vs. Randy Orton match from SummerSlam 2016."

On the other hand, Punk's WrestleMania title defense—against Jericho in 2012—was one of the highlights of the event. Geno Mrosko of Cageside Seats described Punk vs. Jericho as "damn near a classic."

           

Legacy

Punk's 435 days as champion were a showcase of a star. His reign put him front and center on Raw each week, first as the antihero babyface and eventually as a braggart, conniving heel.

Not every story worked, but The Second City Saint was the lead man in a variety of narratives.

Punk's use of The Shield as mercenaries intrigued at points. His feud with The Rock led to some tense moments and the exchange of verbal haymakers. His rivalry with Jericho was off the mark at times, focusing too much on an alcoholism-centered family drama.

Lesnar's recent rivalries have all essentially been the same. A big, bad man is looking to be the one who stands up to the alpha male.

WWE @WWE

#TheBeast domesticated #TheBigDog as @BrockLesnar walked IN and OUT of #WrestleMania as #UniversalChampion! @WWERomanReigns @HeymanHustle https://t.co/yZfn1LZzSl https://t.co/hL6EIiMzNH

Punk's character evolved, with the championship acting as a catalyst for him to shift his moral code. There has been no such movement with Lesnar.

And while fans celebrated Punk's reign, many have to be waiting for Lesnar's to be over.

Thanks to some controversy at the close of the Greatest Royal Rumble's main event, it looks as if Reigns and Lesnar's feud over the universal crown is set to continue. That's a development that has many fans groaning.

Miami Herald columnist Scott Fishman, for one, sure isn't a fan of the idea:

Scott Fishman @smFISHMAN

When you see the #Raw preview hinting to another chapter in Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar. #WWE https://t.co/G9oMXqPgKD

There were low points and misses during Punk's reign, but there wasn't anything as collectively rejected as Lesnar's issues with Reigns.

Should Lesnar pass Punk's 435-day mark, WWE is going to rewrite history the best it can and paint his reign as a dominant, unforgettable stretch. Inactivity and disappointment, though, have been its hallmarks instead.

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