John Cena vs. CM Punk at Money in the Bank Reminder of a Better WWE 7 Years Ago

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2018

John Cena vs. CM Punk from 2011 represents everything the current WWE product should strive to recreate.
John Cena vs. CM Punk from 2011 represents everything the current WWE product should strive to recreate.Credit: WWE.com

This week marks seven years since one of WWE's all-time classic contests between John Cena and CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank 2011, and the WWE product couldn't be any more different today than it was back then.

Although the brand split was still technically in effect at that point, it was essentially on the verge of extinction. Despite that, Raw and SmackDown were much more must-see from week to week that summer season, especially heading into Money in the Bank.

In addition to Cena vs. Punk, the pay-per-view was built around two star-studded ladder matches: Big Show vs. Mark Henry in a battle of behemoths, and Randy Orton vs. Christian for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Emanating from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, the entire event had an indescribable energy about it. It marked the culmination of what had been a scintillating summer in which both brands offered several storylines that were worth investing in, with Cena vs. Punk chief among them.

The beginning of the road to Money in the Bank 2011 started out no different than any other with Cena vs. Punk being announced for the card in standard fashion.

Once Punk went off on the company in scathing promo at the end of Raw one night, though, the complexion of the card changed completely and fan anticipation for the event went through the roof.

No one had captured the attention of an audience quite like Punk did during that period, making every week of WWE programming more exciting than the last leading into Money in the Bank.

From the electric atmosphere in the arena that night to the exhilarating action to the sensational story being told, everything about the bout was virtually perfect.

What's interesting is that Punk and Cena had better matches against each other from an in-ring standpoint years later, yet they managed to catch lightning in a bottle in Chicago seven years ago.

It was such a basic angle that turned into something so much more thanks to not only the players involved but also by WWE capitalizing off the buzz they had.

Viewers had a reason to tune in each Monday night to Raw, whereas the opposite could be said about the current product, which has never felt more cold.

Worse yet, the Raw roster has much more star power today than it did in 2011, but WWE has seemingly become too complacent with how they tell stories and opted to instead go down the most predictable path possible.

As we observe the anniversary of the epic clash that was Cena vs. Punk, the WWE Universe is still recovering from the atrocity that was Extreme Rules on Sunday night.

Aside from being a longer (and consequently more draining) show compared to Money in the Bank, Extreme Rules took a business-as-usual approach and failed to get fans talking coming out of it.

Despite a handful of solid matchups, nothing happened at Sunday's PPV that would entice viewers to want to watch Raw the next night. Most matches hardly mattered and had zero stakes, and that was in addition to a mediocre buildup.

WWE hasn't lost the ability to tell those types of compelling stories, but perhaps the company doesn't feel the need to considering how they are flourishing financially.

Either way, Money in the Bank 2011 should serve as a reminder of how an event could and should be promoted, and not neglected like so many of WWE's shows in 2018 tend to be.


Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.