How John Cena vs. CM Punk Feud Elevated Both WWE Superstars to New Heights

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2020

How John Cena vs. CM Punk Feud Elevated Both WWE Superstars to New Heights

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    Credit: WWE.com

    While every era in WWE has had several standout talents who became synonymous with pro wrestling, there always seems to be a few who become more popular.

    In the '80s, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair were two of the top performers in the industry. In the '90s, guys like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart filled those roles. Once the Attitude Era kicked in, The Rock and Steve Austin became two of the biggest stars in the world.

    When it comes to the Ruthless Aggression era, which overlaps quite a bit with the PG era, CM Punk vs. John Cena was the biggest feud in the company.

    The Leader of the Cenation and the Straight-Edge Superstar represented two vastly different kinds of wrestling, which meant they also represented contrasting kinds of fans.

    Cena was the WWE guy. He served some time in the indies, but most of his career was spent working for Vince McMahon. Punk was the indy darling who represented the people who toiled away in small venues for a lot less money in front of a lot fewer people before reaching the big league.

    Everything about these two men was different, from the way they wrestled and the way they spoke to the way they dressed. They were polar opposites who managed to find the right kind of chemistry to raise each other to new heights. Let's look at why this feud was so important to the careers of both men.

John Cena Silenced His Critics

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    Cena was already the top dog in WWE by the time his feud with Punk began in 2010. He was a multi-time world champion with wins over some of the biggest names in the business.

    However, there was a large portion of the WWE Universe that was tired of him. Those fans felt he had been shoved down their throats for years while being a mediocre performer at best.

    His matches with Punk opened a lot of people's eyes. They were forced to see how versatile he was in the ring and how he could keep up with somebody who was known for their creativity like The Straight-Edge Superstar.

    "Cena sucks" chants were replaced with "This is awesome" whenever these two fought because they always managed to steal the show together, even if their interactions were brief.

    Without his feud with Punk, Cena may never have shaken the hate he was getting back then, which could have led to him being much less desirable to Hollywood.

CM Punk Became a Main Event Player

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    Punk was popular almost immediately when he arrived in WWE. He joined the revamped ECW in 2006 with a lot of hype because of his popularity in Ring of Honor.

    For the first few years, Punk was an upper-midcard talent who was known for his unique style both in and out of the ring. He became a three-time world champion on SmackDown before he and Cena ever had a singles match.

    While the World Heavyweight Championship was the top belt on the blue brand, it was always viewed as being beneath the WWE title. If Punk wanted to be a true main event star, he would have to move to Raw.

    The fans wanted to see The Straight-Edge Superstar become a WWE champion, which is exactly what happened when he defeated Cena at Money in the Bank 2011 in one of the most memorable matches in either man's career.

    Despite his popularity, Punk also had his critics who did not think he was worthy of being a top talent until he proved he could hang with somebody like Cena.Β Being the poster boy for WWE made the 16-time champion the perfect foil for somebody who prided themselves as a rebel.

    Believe it or not, Cena helped Punk ascend to main event status by helping him show the world that he was more than a few fancy moves and a catchphrase.

They Elevated Each Other in Many Ways

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    Cena is known as the master of the five moves of doom. This is not a good thing. People began saying this because it always felt like he relied on the same handful of maneuvers in every match (which can be said about many other top Superstars over the years too).

    While Cena helped Punk rise to the top, Punk helped him to show the world that he was more than just his signature moves. He was just as creative and skilled as anyone else, but it took the right opponent to prove it.

    The Straight-Edge Superstar practically forced Cena out of his comfort zone, and in turn, it led to the 16-time champion winning over many of his critics. The "Cena sucks" chants began to die down, and the WWE Universe began to feel comfortable cheering for him again.

    It takes two special talents to make each other better. Metal sharpens metal. They represented two different styles of wrestling but found a way to complement each other so that no matter who won their matches, both men came away looking good.

    They even brought out the best in each other on the mic. Even if you take Punk's infamous "pipe bomb" promo out of the mix, they still had fans eating out of the palms of their hands whenever they spoke.

    You know how some legends return for one match after they have retired and WWE tries to put them up against their biggest rival? If that happened with Punk, Cena would be the guy management would pair him with because their feud helped to define both of their careers.

They Defined Their Era

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    Every era in WWE history has been filled with many great wrestlers, but there always seems to be two people who rise above the rest to define their era.

    Hogan and Andre the Giant, Hart and Michaels, The Rock and Austin. These feuds carried WWE through years at a time. Punk and Cena were those Superstars for the late 2000s into the early '10s.

    Whether it was their classic MITB 2011 encounter, their followup at SummerSlam or their final encounter on the February 25, 2013, episode of Raw, they always left the crowd wanting more.

    It takes two people to have a 5-star match. Doubters couldn't claim Punk was carrying Cena because they both had to be at their best to have the kind of performances they had together.

    WWE struck gold with these two at a time when the product was suffering from a lack of creativity and new stars. Punk departed WWE in 2014, but he left such a lasting impression that six years later, CM Punk chants still echo through arenas, especially when the crowd wants to troll the McMahon family.

    Punk and Cena would have both been successful without each other, but none of their other feuds are as important to their careers. Let's hope we get to see them work together again in the future, even if it ends up being in a movie instead of inside the squared circle.

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