The road to the CM Punk-John Cena Money in the Bank match began with a promo.
On the June 27, 2011 edition of Monday Night Raw, CM Punk shocked the wrestling world when he closed out the show with a scathing rant about his frustrations with all things WWE.
His vitriolic, passionate speech resonated with fans worldwide. Out of the blue, a new anti-hero was born.
CM Punk has always had a strong following, largely based on his work pre-WWE with promotions like Ring of Honor and IWA: Mid South. He won mainstream fans over with his run as champion in “WWECW” and became a major player in the WWE when he won the Money in the Bank briefcase two years in a row at Wrestlemania.
After finding his stride as a heel, CM Punk eventually found himself on the losing end of a feud with Randy Orton during the early part of 2011, all while leading the New Nexus, a stable that more or less failed horribly.
His WWE career was becoming stagnant and rumors of his departure began to swirl throughout the dirt sheets and Twitter.
Meanwhile, John Cena reigned atop the WWE. The face of the company since 2005, Cena remained incredibly popular with the younger segment of the WWE fan base; but the Cena hate from the rest of the WWE Universe continued to grow louder as each month passed.
Cena was in his eighth reign as WWE Champion. He was facing assaults from all fronts, The Rock had returned and shown up Cena at Wrestlemania XXVII, The Miz was seeking to regain his title and CM Punk had just earned the No. 1 contender spot for the upcoming Money in the Bank PPV in CM Punk‘s hometown of Chicago.
The “You Can’t Wrestle” and “Cena Sucks” chants seemed to intensify each week. When Raw hit Las Vegas for a special “Raw Roulette” episode, it seemed as though R-Truth, who had recently reinvented his career by turning heel, had more fan support during his tables match with Cena than the champ did.
CM Punk became involved in the match, allowing R-Truth to put Cena through a table and pick up the victory. Post-match, Punk sat down at the top of the entrance ramp and launched into what some fans have called the best promo ever.
It may be a bold statement, but Punk’s bitter, shoot-style rant certainly ranks up there.
Punk’s declaration that he would leave the WWE when his contract expired, coincidentally at midnight on July 18th, the day after the Money in the Bank PPV, with the championship had fans going wild with speculation.
The hype machine kicked into full gear. Vince McMahon returned to television and suspended CM Punk for his hateful speech. It took John Cena promising to put his WWE career on the line for Mr. McMahon to agree to reinstate Punk and give him his title shot at MITB.
After a series of some of the best promotional videos the WWE has ever done, which is another bold statement given how top notch the WWE is when it comes to video packages, the anticipation for MITB felt as high as it had for any non big-4 PPV in ages.
It was the Cena’s WWE career vs. CM Punk taking the promotion’s top prize and leaving with it.
The storyline would have packed just about any arena in the world but no atmosphere would’ve topped the rabid anti-Cena crowd that filled Chicago’s Allstate Arena to cheer on their hometown hero.
The moment the PPV took the air, CM Punk chants erupted throughout the arena. I’ll be damned if I can think of a hotter WWE crowd in the past few years.
Expectations were high and the outcome was in question. The anticipation heading into the main event was out of this world.
And to the delight of wrestling fans worldwide, Cena and CM Punk delivered big time.
Fans love to chant “You Can’t Wrestle” at John Cena. If you ever need proof of the contrary, this match serves as a perfect example.
Cena admittedly is not the most skilled technician in the ring and some will say that Punk outshined him and carried him through this classic. I don’t subscribe to that belief in the least.
In this business, it takes two to tango and when two performers are on top of their game the way that CM Punk and Cena were on this night, magic can happen.
Add the atmosphere of the Chicago crowd and the severity of what was at stake, and you have the makings of something special.
The storytelling and pace of the match was nearly perfect. It wasn’t the greatest technical masterpiece of all time, but it was a genuine example of what I enjoy about professional wrestling and why I continue to watch this stuff.
When McMahon and Laurinaitis made their way to the ringside area, the tension had built to a fever pitch. A series of close calls and near falls had their crowd eating out of Cena and CM Punk’s hands.
As soon as the head honchos appeared, everyone expected CM Punk to somehow be screwed.
Instead, Cena laid waste to Laurinaitis and returned to the ring only to walk right into CM Punk’s GTS. Three seconds later and the Allstate Arena exploded with excitement.
CM Punk did the unthinkable. He cleanly defeated the “Superman” of wrestling, John Cena to become the WWE Champion on his last night with the company.
A distraught Vince McMahon could do nothing but watch as Punk exited through the crowd, telling McMahon to kiss his belt goodbye as he celebrated with the masses.
He did exactly what he said he was going to do when he stunned the wrestling world on June 27th.
Feedback was instant thanks to social networking sites like Twitter, which was bombarded with tweets about the shocking outcome. The general consensus was highly positive. The buzz surrounding the WWE Championship and the future of CM Punk felt unreal.
The match earned critical acclaim and five-star ratings from nearly every top wrestling journalist. It was called an instant classic.
While many may say that the WWE dropped the ball with this angle at Summerslam and beyond, there is no denying that on that summer night in Chicago, the WWE created their most magical moment of 2011.